How cloud communications is helping to create better integrated business processes
Lots of different phrases get bandied around the UC industry which all boil down to more or less the same thing – adopting the latest technology.
Digital transformation is one. Cloud migration is another. Do they mean the same thing? Strictly speaking, no – digital transformation refers to the adoption of any kind of digital technology, whereas cloud migration refers specifically to moving software or infrastructure platforms onto the Cloud.
However, in practice, the two are becoming increasingly synonymous. When businesses talk about digital transformation, what they are often actually doing is introducing Cloud-based systems and processes into the workplace.
Why so? Digital transformation in telecoms was happening long before the Cloud came along. Switching landline telephone services to VoIP, embracing e-mail to replace snail mail, they are both major examples of digital transformation. So what claim does the Cloud have to being a special case?
Kris Wood, EMEA vice president at Fuze, suggests that the huge proliferation in communications tools over the past decade or so has played a key role in bringing digital transformation and cloud migration in comms closer together.
“Digital transformation has never been trickier,” he said. “Think about the sheer volume of communications tools that businesses need to manage, then factor in the rapidly-changing digital formats and the different types of devices being used today.”
“Effective UCaaS promises to deliver seamless, secure, and cost-effective communications across multiple channels (voice, text, video, etc.), on different devices, anywhere the user needs it, which in turn will help with widespread organisational transformation.”
Straightforward deployment, flexibility and value are often cited as the key reasons businesses embrace the Cloud. Because you can access a broad range of advanced communications platforms simply by signing up for an online service, where costs are stable and the whole system is managed for you, the Cloud is on its way to becoming the dominant model in business telecoms.
The latest market research suggests that by 2020, more than half of businesses will be running UCaaS systems, surpassing on-premises communications systems. However, an equally important statistic is the rate of cloud adoption across all forms of business software and IT infrastructure. This has gone from less than 20 per cent of businesses using Cloud-based platforms in 2010, to just under 90 per cent today.
This is important because communications is increasingly being viewed as part of the broader business IT mix. As Sahil Rekhi, EMEA managing director at RingCentral, puts it:
“Business wants consolidation of tools and users want the ability to work anywhere and on any device – a system that delivers on these points while enabling cross functional tools will see success in the long run.”
Sahil touches on three things here which further explain the Cloud’s particular suitability for driving digital transformation – support for multiple devices, mobility and open architecture.
Adapting to shifting work patterns, behaviours and consumer expectations is recognised as a key driver of change in business practices. Because of the experience of mobile technology in their daily lives, workers expect to be able to have more fluid arrangements at work, aided by the same technology. /unified-communications/ucaas allows businesses to meet these expectations. All you need is an internet connection, so staff can access a secure, centralised comms system, with all the tools available, on any device, from any place.
This also benefits employers. Employers want to make their workforce as productive and efficient as possible. The more available staff are on the company network, the better connected colleagues are, the more work they can get done. Again, the unique qualities of the Cloud mean UCaaS can deliver this.
But most of the major players in the UCaaS market in the UK tend to agree that the critical point is what Sahil Rekhi calls consolidation – breaking down barriers between platforms and systems to make business IT infrastructure more cohesive, simple and intuitive. For UC, this means both interoperability between tools, and the ability to embed communications functions within other platforms.
For Paul Gibbs, sales director at TelcoSwitch, the only surprise is that this has not driven digital transformation in telecoms a lot faster.
“Integration is the key in my opinion” he said. “Most businesses have adopted good connectivity which has helped them move their IT to the cloud and communications is often the last piece of the puzzle – which I find bizarre when it’s the piece most businesses rely on the most.”
One explanation could be that the UC industry has been slow to throw off the proprietary silos of old, creating products which only work with a single vendor’s platforms so customers are locked in. But that approach is disappearing, driven by UCaaS developers as they embrace open architecture and make ready compatibility with other systems a virtue.
Marcus Gallo, marketing lead for Cisco Spark and Cisco Spark Hybrid Services, said:
“With open platforms and APIs, customers are starting to gain real benefit from extensibility and integrations, allowing them to digitize and transform their businesses. For example, the including of a bot in a messaging service can automate repetitive tasks. Likewise, integrating to a sales automation application like Salesforce can speed up business processes.”
Rob Pickering, CEO of IPCortex, agrees. He believes much of the attraction of cloud solutions, when it comes to digital transformation, lies in the unique support for open-source solutions. “The cool thing about … open standards like WebRTC and pervasive internet technology [is that] applications can very easily integrate and embed features and functionality needed by a range of different use cases and industries.
“This is extremely relevant for vertical solutions where placing voice, video, text, chat and other forms of comms into a specific context (for example, embedded into an app, website or device as part of a specific business process) allows users to achieve a positive outcome faster and smarter.”
In this example, the value of adopting a UCaaS solution lies precisely in the flexibility to adapt to different circumstances through integration and open source compatibility. But it also simplifies everything for the end user – instead of opening a different app to make a video call or share a document, it all can all be done from the same place.
Therefore we see how UCaaS meets the definition put forward by Ian Moyse, UK Sales Director at Natterbox, of what digital transformation needs to succeed: “The key needs of digital transformation include removing complexity, increasing agility and flexibility, and improving user experience,” he said.
“For people to adopt the required changes and be supportive of the transformation, they have to be given consistent added value and a belief in the end goal.”
This article is part of the July Series of the Technology Track on Cloud Communications, follow the link to see all published and planned articles.