Unified communications for the midmarket: who you gonna call?

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The UCStrategies experts have often pointed out that the move from traditional voice to unified communications (UC) is rarely easy. Even an IT department with several hundred professionals will be hard pressed to find truly experienced subject-matter experts.

The most seasoned professional may not fully understand the underlying technologies, the impacts on existing networks and endpoints, the planning needed for a successful migration and implementation, or the compliance, management, and KPIs necessary to operate and control UC. Large multinational enterprises have various options, including working with telecommunication giants who can provide the complex yet nuanced global services that many companies require.

In local markets, companies like SIPCOM, Ring Central, and Fonality can help small businesses with their relatively uncomplicated requirements to make the move to UC.  While Microsoft Office 365 is an option, the added service complexities of Office 365 often exceed the ability of the smaller providers to offer a comprehensive solution, and it remains to be seen how small business needs will be met when moving to the cloud.

In the mid-to-large-enterprise space, UC requirements are typically too complex for the niche players

Firms with sales offices all over the world most likely use services out of multiple data centers, often with mixed platforms. They may also have developers and engineers working in multiple countries, with outsourcers or service providers in a number of other countries, plus vendor and customer relationships all over the globe.

How do these companies develop a UC strategy that provides the biggest bang for the least buck in the most reliable and secure way? In other words, who do they call?

The truth is that UC is complex, particularly at scale. You can throw a team at it, but they are probably not experienced with UC. And even if you hire experience for the team, you are only solving part of the puzzle.

When Malaysia’s special branch shows up with a mandate for eDiscovery, or when you are trying to reduce 50 milliseconds in the communications loop between Miami and Sao Paolo – who can help you with this?  Who can figure out if your plans for workplace transformation leveraging UC really will drive the benefits and outcomes you are counting on?  Who understands contact centers, the mechanics of non-repudiation for telemedicine and how it plays in UC, and what it takes to effectively and efficiently reach every kind of UC endpoint?

UC expertise

Most telcos have valuable engineering, regulatory, security, and consulting expertise in the UC domain that they have used to hunt the large multinational accounts. That same expertise is important to the mid- to large-tier enterprises moving to UC as well.

As an example, consider AT&T. They have all of the integrated product offerings you would expect – SIP Trunking, MPLS, voice and video conferencing, and global presence. They have developed their UC expertise from hundreds of UC deployments and have established competitively-priced programs and products for the enterprise. What I believe is even more important, AT&T has deep relationships with virtually all of the UC vendors, regulators, systems integrators, and data center operators, which can help reduce the complexity and learning curve, and ensure the right outcomes.

When it comes to on-premises, in the cloud, or in hybrid configurations, do you really want to wait on an architecture until you can design, build, test, and stage each environment? Or do you want to work with a service provider that has already done this dozens of times with the leading vendors?

Telcos like AT&T have also gotten sophisticated in how we approach UC initiatives. Many can provide their own experienced consultants, work with the consultants you bring, or work directly with your IT team. You want to have experience at the table when you work with business units such as risk management, HR, customer support, and operations when gathering requirements, assessing capabilities, and defining performance indicators. Working with a provider that has experience is especially important if your team has never deployed a UC solution.

Now, I’m not biased toward the telcos, especially since many of them can be difficult for midmarket firms to work with. In some cases, a smaller local provider may be more flexible. But if I were the CIO for a company with 2,000 or 20,000 seats, I would certainly require my team to take a very hard look at what a global telco partner like AT&T would bring. I may want third-party consultants as well, and I would want to know that everyone is going to work well together.

I would want to make sure the overall team has deep engineering, regulatory, and security expertise, understands contact centers, and has a vision for how this whole Internet of Things is going to impact my business and my UC experience.  And I would want the team to be able to build something that scales and offers a long-term solution that adapts to my business needs. Once you get beyond 250 seats, it is difficult to see how the niche players fit.

So who do you call when it comes to unified communications?  Maybe the company that invented the call.

Joseph Williams UCStrategies About Joseph