Unified communication as a Service (UCaaS) goes beyond traditional unified communications (UC) offerings by letting organisations grow efficient workflows on scalable platforms. But why use UCaaS over a traditional UC solution?
If you haven’t already, we suggest giving our article on unified communications a quick read to familiarise yourself with the related solutions. The article helps make the case for unified communications in modern organisations, covering common features, and the benefits they enable when delivered through an integrated solution.
Organisations that are embracing hybrid work arrangements already know how important communication platforms are to enabling seamless collaboration. And while traditional communication platforms can go a long way to helping close geographic distances, an integrated solution makes communication that much more intuitive.
But there’s a barrier to entry for many organisations. While unified communications offers some great benefits, the process of getting started on your own can be overwhelming. Managing costs, measuring benefits and outputs – even the process of finding the space for additional hardware – all of these issues can bog down the process of a UC rollout.
This is where UCaaS solutions stand out.
What is UCaaS?
UCaaS is short for Unified Communications as a Service. From a business perspective, it operates similarly to other familiar managed services, including SaaS and PaaS.
UCaaS platforms provide a broad range of communication and collaboration applications and services in the cloud. Customers can access a range of integrated communications tools provided as a service over the internet without necessarily needing to purchase additional hardware or licenses.
The three main capability areas UCaaS solutions cover are telephony/VoIP, audio-video conferencing, and instant messaging/chat. Many solutions also include team collaboration features, such as screen sharing or real-time document editing. In some cases, contact centre software may also be offered as a separate solution or add-on product.
Organisations can access these solutions through a service provider. In this way, UCaaS blends a wide range of communication solutions into a scalable, full-featured communications platform that’s available on-demand.
Organisations often utilise UCaaS to provide employees with an integrated suite of communications tools to connect and collaborate from anywhere with an internet connection. This solution delivers a suite of interconnected apps and systems in an intuitive package that helps promote collaboration across your organisation.
Benefits of UCaaS
Enhanced collaboration – As more and more organisations transition to remote working, businesses and their employees increasingly rely on solutions like video conferencing platforms to support their online collaboration needs. In this sense, UCaaS platforms are not only unifying communication across businesses, but actively facilitating collaborative activities – to the point where UCaaS platforms are sometimes known by the moniker ‘collaborative meeting services’.
Cost control – In the same way that SaaS can save you from purchasing hardware to run specific programs, UCaaS pulls together a complete communication package and makes it available to your employees online. This outcome helps your organisation from sinking CapEx resources into assets such as on-premises PBX and also helps lower the in-house requirements for ongoing maintenance.
Communication insights – When delivered as a service, unified communication solutions can help improve access to information across an organisation while also collecting workflow statistics. Aggregated information from daily operations is made available for analysis via a dedicated portal. This insight makes it easier for you to make informed decisions about workflows based on analytical reports.
Improved opportunities for innovation – a cloud-based communications stack gives your organisation the flexibility and scalability it needs to adapt to changing demands quickly. You can scale up for busy periods and spin down when the need is low. Similarly, if there’s a new technology you want to embed in your workflows, UCaaS can make it as simple as clicking a button.
Built-in managed security – a growing concern for organisations engaged in supporting work-from-home arrangements is data security. When in-house, communication systems are relatively easy to manage. But when deployed off-site, it can be hard to know for sure that your communications are secure. With UCaaS, your provider takes on the burden of managing security as part of their service delivery – potentially saving IT personnel from many site visits to employees.
Increased integration with customised controls – while UC already goes a long way to improving the end-user experience, UCaaS takes it a step further. Employees and stakeholders can integrate a range of services into their UC platform, such as linking messaging platforms to employee calendars to remind users of upcoming tasks and meetings. The platforms themselves are also highly customisable, allowing organisations to design interfaces that meet workflow needs while still matching corporate branding requirements.
Uncomplicated communications – Rather than forcing users to manage a wide range of communication software for conferencing, calls, messaging and more, UCaaS solutions consolidate these services into a unified cloud platform.
Give your IT experts a hand – With the right UCaaS investment, you can give your IT team an all-in-one environment where they can control and maintain your communications stack. It’s also possible to automate repetitive maintenance tasks, freeing up these teams for more value-adding projects. Or if you prefer a zero-touch approach, a fully managed UCaaS solution can take away the hassle of managing communications services entirely – leaving IT free to focus on more value-adding activities.
Things to be aware of with UCaaS
You need high-speed internet – UCaaS relies on a high-speed internet connection to function correctly. This requirement is vital for real-time services such as video calls and conferencing. However, other valuable components such as presence and file-sharing also deliver sub-optimal performance if the internet connection available is anything less than excellent.
Switching requires excellent change management – while many employees may be familiar with individual elements made available via a new UC platform, they may not be familiar with all the features included in a UCaaS offering. Education and troubleshooting may be required to help your people get the best possible use out of your chosen solutions.
Your goal is to enhance workflows – while UCaaS offers the chance to consolidate many services into a single platform, the key focus should be on enabling better workflows. It’s tempting to roll as many solutions into one to streamline management. However, more advanced workflows that handle complex call flows or PABX routing may benefit more from integration rather than consolidating all activities into a single solution.
What’s involved in a UCaaS project?
Nearly every organisation and business model can make use of the benefits UCaaS provides.
However, UCaaS is particularly valuable for businesses that value flexibility, including adding new services without increasing capital expenditure.
Over the years, we’ve learned several vital lessons helping clients transition to UCaaS solutions. To help you decide for yourself, here are some of the critical questions we find it’s helpful to ask before making a decision.
Review the business communication tools you currently have in place – Do you know how your employees communicate on a daily basis? Sure, you may have a range of options available, but it’s important to know what they use for which purpose and the benefits they find when using their chosen channels. Some teams will use different channels for different purposes, while others may utilise one channel above the rest. Having a clear understanding of the tech stacks involved – the value they deliver to each team and the costs associated with them – will help you understand what your team needs to support their workflows.
You can tailor UCaaS solutions to suit your needs – Given the range of features listed by UCaaS providers, it’s easy to get swamped. There are many, many options – but you don’t have to use them all. Using the results of your review, see which features your teams are using and why. Use these figures to identify your core requirements. In cases where you can specify a need that is not covered by any of the UC solutions you currently have at your disposal, a good UCaaS provider will help you tailor communication features around your business needs.
Keep track of how your flows works – Even the most straightforward IT system in the world needs proper documentation. From a business continuity point of view, it’s vital to make sure you know how everything fits in together if you need to restructure or rebuild your systems. It’s also essential to have documentation when adding new tech to the stack. Unified communications solutions are no different. So it pays to have a documented understanding of how your UCaaS solution operates. Keep track of call flows, automated forwarding protocols, and other UC events that help make daily life easier. It’s also an excellent idea to keep a list of any significant phone numbers if you need professional expertise.
Communicate with your teams – When the time comes to upgrade your communication environment, you need to have your teams on board. As with any other project, you should draft a timeline that marks necessary actions, significant milestones, and highlighted benefits. Before undertaking any project, highlight the changes they can expect to see and ensure that your teams can access the resources they need to understand how to operate the new UCaaS systems. A phased rollout can help reduce downtime due to unforeseen complications and help inform other project operations later on. Your UCaaS provider should work with you to determine how to communicate these changes with your teams.
Is UCaaS right for my organisation?
As with many as-a-service solutions, UCaaS solutions can benefit organisations that need to overcome a range of friction points.
- Do you need to control costs more effectively? Your total cost of ownership can be much less for a cloud hosted PBX than a traditional PBX system, as you can avoid all the equipment, installation, and maintenance costs associated with traditional PBX solutions.
- Do you need more flexibility in your working arrangements? UCaaS lets your teams make and receive calls from anywhere as long as there is internet connectivity.
- Do your communication systems offer redundancy? Using a UCaaS solution can help make your telecommunication system more resilient. Since it is cloud-based, there is no single point of failure that could result in the disruption of your business communications.
- How scalable are your UC solutions? With UCaaS, you can meet changing user demands and respond to growth quickly. UCaaS solutions can be scaled up and down to meet the needs of your business.
Want to know more about UCaaS?
Get an assessment today. And start enjoying the benefits of a truly unified communications platform without the stress of managing the service itself.