No matter what business you are in, facilitating smooth and efficient communication, both internally and externally, is critical. But as both organisations and the communications technologies they depend on evolve, the picture can get messy. Antiquated telephony; instant messaging tools that don’t integrate with operational applications, unreliable videoconferencing – most businesses are dealing with at least one communication channel problem, while some businesses are dealing with several.
This, of course, is how unified communications (UC) first evolved, as a means of consolidating and streamlining disparate communications channels, and replacing unreliable or inefficient ones with new formats. The next evolutionary stage, however, is delivering UC as a service, via the cloud – UCaaS.
The benefits of UCaaS are myriad. Not only does it offer the streamlining and integration benefits of UC, where communication channels are centrally managed and feed seamlessly into one another; it also offers the elastic scalability and the cost-effectiveness of cloud delivery models.
But how best to transition to UCaaS? Your roadmap should incorporate five key stages.
Don’t start with the technology. Instead, you should begin by considering the business as a whole, asking what its objectives are, and how you see the organisation developing over the coming years. This will allow you to develop a set of key business requirements, which not only feed into more strategic procurement, but also allow you to clearly check back at the end of the process to ensure that your chosen solution is on track to achieve everything you need.
Ask yourself what the functional requirements of the UCaaS solution will be. What do we want the technology to do? Do you need to be able to facilitate virtual meetings, and if so, between whom? Do you need to be able to invite external third parties to work on certain documents, or keep things internal only? Do you need instant chat capabilities? What about polling colleagues and providing feedback? This should help you avoid choosing a UCaaS solution simply because it replicates functions that already exist in your organisation, and instead focus on the capabilities you really need to achieve your business goals.
At this stage you can start weighing up different technology solutions and considering how they will be deployed from a technical perspective. You should carry out a network readiness assessment and identify any new ports or protocols you will need to open to support the new technology.
It is sensible to pilot a new UCaaS solution before rolling it out across the entire organisation too – as such, you may end up running a UCaaS solution in parallel with an older UC or disparate communications technologies for a certain amount of time.
As with any technological change project, it is vital to foreground the role of your users in making the deployment a success. Communicating the new deployment to your staff, training them in how to use it, gathering feedback on how the new technology is working and applying that feedback appropriately are all key parts of adopting a UCaaS solution. Some staff members are likely to pick up the new solution immediately, whilst others will need additional help and may be prone to falling back on old technology in the interim.
The ongoing operation
Once a UCaaS solution is up and running, you need to make sure that security, compliance and disaster recovery are all being considered. UCaaS should, in theory, make disaster recovery even easier than an on-premise communications system, but you will need to take some responsibility for formulating a disaster recovery plan and communicating this to all stakeholders.