The UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) or hosted UC market is growing like crazy. As we’ve covered previously, the market is expected to have compounded annual growth of almost 22% annually for the next seven years according to several market research firms covering the sector, and small and medium (SMB) businesses are the most likely buyers. This makes sense as SMBs are experiencing the same seismic business shifts towards mobility, remote working and the need for enhanced communications and collaboration tools that large organizations are facing, but they have smaller IT teams and the corresponding desire for less infrastructure and maintenance. All of this makes a straight up cloud solution more appealing.
But what are the specifics about UCaaS that creates a compelling business case for smaller organizations? According to Mike Cromwell, the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at ANPI, a UCaaS platform provider focused on the SMB space, there are several reasons this UCaaS makes sense for SMBs. “Hosted UC not only delivers a turnkey solution that is easier for smaller organizations to deploy and manage, but it usually represents a significant leap in terms of productivity and collaboration capabilities,” says Cromwell. “Add to that that most companies realize lower conferencing and telephony costs along with an appealing OpEx payment model, and things add up on the financial side as well.”
Improve Productivity and Capability With UCaaS
Many small and medium businesses have not updated their phone systems for years, but now are feeling the pressure to move. UCaaS allows SMBs to look like bigger organizations with technology that allows them to interact seamlessly with customers, colleagues and partners. “With the rise of mobility and a more distributed workforce, businesses need the ability to continue to act like they are all in one office,” says Cromwell. UCaaS delivers on this with capabilities like presence management and instant messaging that allows co-workers to easily see who is available to speak and to quickly IM experts with questions instead of emailing someone and waiting for a reply. “When it comes to internal phone calls, we have clients that have told me they never make calls anymore unless it is too much to cover via IM and even then only if they know their colleague is available to speak,” says Cromwell. “We’ve found in our own company that a quick chat with the right person is all you need to get your question answered.”
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Mobility solutions are another area that can drive significant productivity increases. Features like “Find Me/Follow Me” in which a call will ring through to multiple endpoints until the call is answered can allow a mobile employee’s mobile phone to act just like their deskphone. Or if the call goes to voicemail, having transcribed voicemails and a link to the audio file forwarded via text or email to the employee eliminates the need to call in to check messages and significantly improving response times. “Mobility represents a huge upgrade for most small businesses and they either don’t realize it is available with a hosted UC solution or think that it would be prohibitively expensive,” explains Cromwell.
Better Collaboration With Colleagues and Customers
Another benefit many companies realize with UCaaS is in the area of online collaboration. Being able to easily jump on a private audio or video conference from any location on any device changes the way business people work together. This is especially beneficial when this becomes an ingrained part of the corporate culture. “We were in discussions with a nursing home that had seven locations and needed infrastructure, bandwidth upgrades and had old phones on their desks,” explained Cromwell. But when the CEO saw a video showing how easy it was to hold video meetings, it was a game changer. “The company had monthly meetings with the general managers at the corporate headquarters and several of those people had to drive 7 hours round trip each week for the meeting. Now they hold the meetings more often over video conferencing, they are more productive and the GMs have gotten a day a month back to work on other critical projects.”
Ease of Deployment and Administration
A major upside for SMBs is the ability to get up and running quickly. As long as the company takes the time to ensure their internal network is up to the task, SMBs can transition to an entirely new communications platform in just a few weeks. Phones and call plans can be pre-programmed and drop-shipped, mobile apps can be downloaded from app stores and a small business can have all the functionality and features of a Fortune 1000 company with the flip of a switch.
All of this can also be administered via a web portal. Whereas with older phone systems only one or two 2 people in the company may have had any idea about how to manage the telephones, now each employee can manage their profile through a web portal, and the administrator can manage the entire company with just a few clicks. “SMBs appreciate the significant savings from not having to have a box in the closet or the need for specially trained staff, or a 3rd party for maintenance. It is a huge time saver,” says Cromwell. This also comes in very handy during emergencies, like snow storms or floods. Companies can log in and forward numbers remotely, change messages and improve disaster response times.
Financial Benefits of UCaaS for SMBs
When it comes to the financial side of the equation, UCaaS offers a compelling case for smaller companies. Hosted UC provides a single monthly OpEx charge per user and eliminates the CapEx costs of procuring, installing and maintaining a new PBX, Session Border Controllers (for security) or SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) trunks that are necessary for UC. In addition, audio and video collaboration is included in the cost (depending on the options you choose) and local and long distance PSTN calls are generally included in the monthly cost. Businesses can also eliminate the need for 3rd party web and video conferencing solutions, since that functionality is included.
Are you considering a move to a UCaaS solution? What are the metrics that you are looking at? Let us know in the comments section below.