Businesses increasingly struggle with selecting communication solutions that provide flexibility, reduce overhead and investment risk, and effectively support remote and mobile workers.
Frost & Sullivan finds many organisations turn to hosted Internet protocol (IP) telephony and unified communications and collaboration (UCC) services to meet these needs. However, to ensure the long-term viability of cloud communications deployments, such organisations must develop a comprehensive and sustainable communications infrastructure evolution roadmap. Based on the findings of this initial assessment, businesses must then conduct a thorough due diligence investigation of available hosted communications solutions and providers.
Frost & Sullivan's "A Sustainable Approach to Hosted IP Telephony and UCC Services Deployment" analysis finds that hosted IP telephony and UCC services provide significant benefits to businesses of any size and any vertical industry.
However, there are certain business scenarios where hosted communications can provide greater value, including small businesses and small sites, distributed virtual organisations with a large number of remote and mobile workers, and organisations with operational expenditure-based technology budgets.
"There are certain factors that typically trigger the evaluation of new communications solutions and, potentially, the decision to move to hosted communications," says Frost & Sullivan North America Unified Communications Program Director Elka Popova. She notes these include:
- Aging (preferably amortized) premises-based infrastructure that is becoming expensive to maintain due to frequency of repair, service disruption, and limited parts and skilled staff availability
- An expired Centrex contract
- Rapidly evolving user needs no longer met by current infrastructure
- Uncertain or frequently changing capacity requirements
- Need to gain a competitive edge through advanced communications solutions that reduce costs, enhance user productivity, or accelerate business processes
Before deploying a new communications solution on the premises or in the cloud, businesses must inventory their existing assets. Age, functionality, feasibility of upgrade, and amortisation schedules of existing investments must be considered before making a final decision.
The next step is to evaluate IT staff capabilities. It is important to note that IT staff will most likely continue to play a key role, even in a hosted communications environment, especially in larger organisations with more complex needs and requirements.
Next, a holistic assessment of user needs allows the organisation to decide what new capabilities to deploy in order to ensure user productivity and job satisfaction. The larger the gap between existing capabilities deployed on the premises, on one hand, and user demand, on the other, the more compelling the switch to advanced hosted communications solutions that deliver a comprehensive set of pre-integrated applications. Also important, businesses must align technology investments with broader business objectives and the company's vision for the future.
"Once businesses have a good grasp of their needs, objectives and existing assets, they must assess available solutions and providers using a set of carefully selected and very stringent criteria," opined Popova. "Most businesses begin their due diligence process with a feature/functionality comparison. For a more holistic assessment, however, they should also consider ease of use and management; networking and endpoint requirements; total cost of ownership (TCO); service quality and reliability; and security and regulatory compliance."
Additional factors that impact the decision to deploy a specific solution and provider may include integration with other platforms and services; customisation requirements; and key service provider characteristics and attributes such as vision, track record and market share.