With the UCaaS market expected to exceed $16.5 Billion in 2016 and smaller businesses making up the bulk of the users (at least for now), SMBs are are moving to cloud-based unified communications in droves. We’ve talked recently about the business drivers and ROI calculations for UCaaS, but what are the applications and capabilities in hosted UC that are most in demand and highest on the priority list for small and medium companies?
To learn more about what businesses are looking for in terms of functionality, I spoke with Melissa Johnston, the Wholesale UC Sales Manager with ANPI. Johnston works with more than one hundred ILEC’s (Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers – basically former Ma Bell divisions serving rural areas and small cities), helping them sell and deliver UCaaS solutions to their existing customer base of small and medium businesses throughout the U.S.. “Hosted UC is a very appealing option for SMBs,” says Johnston, “the ability to bypass a piecemeal approach and go straight from an old school PBX to a fully integrated IP communications solution is compelling for many companies.”
Priority Number One: Telephony
As I detailed in this recent post, the biggest concern for most SMBs is making sure their telephones are up and running on day one with UCaaS. According to Johnston, not only is telephony and conference calling a must have, but SMBs generally experience multiple benefits when moving to UC telephony include cost savings, system and billing consolidation and improved worker efficiency.
“We often help locally owned businesses with multiple locations, spread across different towns,” explains Johnston. “It is not uncommon for these businesses to have different phone systems in each office, making it hard to communicate across locations. And because they may have to deal with multiple carriers, they have different bills.” Consolidating the entire company on a single platform simplifies billing, can drive down costs and allows employees to easily contact and collaborate with fellow employee regardless of location.
Priority Number Two: Mobility
ILEC customers and other SMBs see real value in enhanced mobility solutions. “Small business like how UCaaS helps them look like much larger companies. Having the ability to seem like you are at your desk no matter where you are is a real benefit for many workers and organizations.” This capability comes alive with solutions like simultaneous or sequential ringing on deskphones, softphones or smartphones, and even having your voicemail delivered via email or text to wherever you are.
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“We’ve worked with a number of banks that have multiple branches in different towns,” says Johnston. “Employees are driving back and forth between offices, and getting in touch with them when they were away from their primary branch was very difficult. With hosted UC and a mobility solution like ‘hoteling’, employees can simply enter their ID into a phone on a free desk at a remote branch and that phone becomes their extension with all the functionality they would have at their primary desk.”
Priority Number Three: Presence and IM
I like to call presence management along with instant messaging the Little Applications That Could. They might not be the the first thing that businesses think of when implementing UC, but we’ve heard story after story about how they quickly become employee favorites. “Companies are amazed by the benefit of having an easily available central employee directory,” says Johnston. “Being able to see all your colleagues in real time, check their availability and then send an IM or click to call can save time and dramatically improve productivity.”
She gave me an example how presence and IM was recently a game changer at her own business. “I had a customer call me with a technical question I couldn’t answer. I sent out a group chat to a couple technical team members that were available, and included a conference call number. We chatted about the problem for a few minutes and realized that we needed to get someone from the implementation team on the line. I looked them up, saw they were available, invited them to the chat and the call. We figured out what the problem was, shared some links to documents in the chat window and I had an answer to the customer’s problem in about 20 minutes. This is opposed to about 24 hours it might have taken if we went back and forth via email like we did just a few years ago.” It won’t take a lot of stories like that to make a company a true believer in UC.
Priority Number Four: Web Collaboration
Another important application for businesses implementing UCaaS is web collaboration. This capability creates online meeting rooms with the ability to share screens and collaborate with colleagues or customers via voice or even video conferencing. The use case for web conferencing varies widely by business, with some companies using it for sales meetings and customer interactions and others for remote team collaboration.
“One area we have seen a lot of customers use web collaboration for is IT troubleshooting. It can make the IT team’s job a lot easier,” says Johnston. “By taking advantage of the web collaboration capability included in the UCaaS solution, companies can also eliminate another third party bill like Webex or GoToMeeting. These savings can really start to add up.”
What about your business? What priorities do you have when it comes to rolling out UCaaS? Which capabilities have delivered the biggest bang for the buck? Let us know in the comment form below.