Easy Like Sunday Morning: Simplicity in Unified Communications
How the channel can benefit from offering simple Unified Communications
There’s no question that demand for Unified Communications (UC) is rising rapidly – Deloitte’s recent study showed it’s happening all over the world. This gives resellers a terrific opportunity to drive revenue, because businesses are desperately seeking the low-investment productivity boost that UC provides.
Resellers, however, need to make it clear to clients that managing unified communications isn’t always a simple proposition. As organisations employ an increasingly complex mix of video, IM, web, email and other communication tools, it’s difficult to know what is needed on the backend to support all these services. Add to this the BYOD support conundrum – users won’t adopt UC unless they can work on their own devices – and there are a lot of new issues clients should be made aware of.
Many resellers address these issues by putting together “bundles” of services, working with a number of vendors to offer the complete UC package. But this approach, by definition, raises complexity. Getting all the different pieces working seamlessly together is a challenge from the start; while keeping them that way means dealing with a plethora of recurring issues.
Simplicity, as Frost & Sullivan points out, is a virtue: “Convergence is a key trend in the UC market. While it is essential for UC products to be good, it is equally important that the products work in complete sync with existing IT infrastructure. In essence, an infrastructure that is agile and allows changes to the IT environment without disturbing the other solutions attached to it,” an industry expert writes in recent research about UC.
The consequence is that UC on a single platform provides much greater value than a ‘bundle’ or a mix of services. If the client chooses to run the UC system as a virtual instance using HyperV or VMware, for example, then superior performance can be maintained while management and maintenance become cheap and easy. A virtualised or software-based platform that has been developed with UC services in mind makes it a lot easier for IT administrators to manage all the different pieces.
For example, Quality of Service issues (such as issues with voice quality) can arise because of uneven network management causing fluctuating bandwidth. With a bundle of separate services, an ad hoc solution might have to be devised, which takes time and costs money. A single specialised platform for UC will have inbuilt functionality to address any QoS issues.
Similarly, if that platform is based on mainstream operating systems, the burden of technical support for the UC system will be relatively light. Installation and management become radically simplified, as the platform runs on existing hardware and software.
Resellers should note that this also radically cuts down on the need for training and support, as the solution will not include unfamiliar proprietary software. Software-based platforms can be simply managed from a web console, with tools that are intuitive to learn and easy to use.
Resellers should also offer a fully integrated solution which offers the full UC package right out of the box. Here again, using a single platform designed for making that package work is a significant selling point. This helps to cut communications costs, freeing workers to go out in the field without losing their connections to the office, and continue to easily use chat, messaging and video conferencing. Moving from one function to another should be seamless, for example, elevating an audio call onto a video call should be easy and intuitive.
Another significant selling point of a quality, single platform is offering smartphone apps that enable workers to use their smartphones – the preferred BYOD. The single specialised platform can be set up on all the major operating systems, without requiring technical intervention.
Resellers should also realise that an increasing number of clients want to embed UC in business processes. For example, integrating data from CRM and management software with UC tools enables companies to optimise their processes and workflows. This not only improves productivity but leads to more informed decisions, simpler collaboration, and a better customer experience. A specialised platform is customised for this kind of integration.
As resellers gain experience more with UC, they can too drive more profits. Knowing which technologies can meet the needs of your customers in the most simplest and easy to use way will be key.
Paul Clarke is channel manager, 3CX
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