On November 10, 2015, Gil Press of Forbes Magazine wrote an article called Transform or Die: IDC’s Top Technology Predictions for 2016. Based on IDC’s research, Press commented on Hosted UC, saying “A significant portion of today’s IT suppliers will be acquired, merged, downsized, or significantly re-positioned. In this environment, enterprises will have to constantly monitor and assess the solutions offered by their suppliers and partners and be prepared to realign these relationships as needed.” This begs the question, how much time is your IT staff spending researching new technologies? Or, how much time are they wasting trying to find solution providers that can solve their problems?
There is no doubt that there are a lot of great cloud solution providers out there today, especially in the Hosted Unified Communications market. But, as rapidly as the cloud has become the pinnacle of IT transformation, it has continued to change. Companies like Vonage Business and ShoreTel are quickly buying up other Hosted UC providers in order to increase market share and dominate the saturated market. An innovative and nimble solution provider today can quickly become part of a lumbering elephant tomorrow.
So, how do you, as a business owner, IT executive, or line of business manager, find the solution that will best fit your businesses unique needs? What should you look for in a Hosted UC solution? How do you know that the company you are considering doing business with today will be there to support your organization for years to come?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself in order to find the right Hosted UC solution.
How do we want to communicate internally and externally?
This may seem like a simple question, but it can have a big impact on which providers will fit for your organizations needs. Some businesses are made up of people that are tied to a desk, while other businesses have workforces that are very mobile and may require mobility applications. There are some really good Hosted VoIP providers that have built out excellent mobility applications that work great on a cell phone, tablet, or PC. Likewise, there are a lot of mobility applications that can be very clunky and may frustrate some of your employees. There is nothing worse than spending money on technology that your employees won’t use. If mobility is important to your business, ask for a Proof of Concept (PoC) so you can demo the software for a good week or so.
The other part of the question deals with external communications. Basically, how do your customers want to communicate with you? Do you have a contact center where calls need to ring a group of people and then drop into a queue if everyone is busy? These days telecommunications can integrate with webchat and even federate with other instant message platforms as well as video conferencing platforms. Having a firm understanding of how your customers want to communicate with you will go a long way in narrowing your search for the right Hosted UC provider.
What applications do we want to integrate into our communications platform?
Many of the top Hosted UC providers can integrate with popular CRM applications such as Salesforce, Netsuite, Base Camp, etc. But what if your company uses a CRM software that was built in house or was built specifically for your niche industry? Maybe you’re in the Heath Care industry and you just launched a new Electronic Heath Records (EHR) software. Some Hosted UC providers will only work with a select few applications in order to do automatic records search and screen pops on incoming calls while others offer customization. Knowing which Hosted UC providers will integrate or do custom application integration will help when it comes to making a decision about the right Hosted UC provider.
What is our most important buying criteria?
Is your answer call quality? Reliability? Post sales support? Price? Most companies get fixated on the price of a solution before they even know how the solution will impact their business or how it may reduce overall costs. Don’t worry about the price until you find a couple of solutions that you believe can best meet your needs and don’t be afraid to let your potential vendors know that this is a competitive environment. You will be looking at several providers and letting them know that means the price won’t be a factor for long.
Ask for a ROI (Return on Investment) analysis as well as a TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) analysis. The ROI Analysis will tell you how much money the solution will cost you until it pays for itself over time. Will it take 5 years to pay for itself or 5 months? The TCO will tell you what the true loaded costs are over the next 5 years or so including both hard and soft costs. This will help you to understand the true impact that the solution will have on your business. If your business integrates self-service applications, it might free up 2-3 hours a day with a couple of your employees. That’s 2-3 hours a day that those employees can be productive in other areas. These are the kind of soft costs that should be included in a TCO analysis.
The bottom line.
Lining up the providers that meet your needs doesn’t have to be a painful process, as long as you know the right questions to ask. If your business needs help in understanding how to choose the right Hosted UC solution, give us a call. We’ll ask the right questions and let you know which suppliers will do a good job today and be there to support you tomorrow.