Industry Insights | Access4

Unified Communications Appreciation Index 2016

The beginning of the end for traditional Telcos?

Introduction

SMEs are being left behind in terms of telephony and IT because the main Telco incumbents are not advising these customers of their options, nor explaining the impact that proven, new products available on the market will have on their business. The incumbent has a vested interest in keeping its installed base of legacy hardware and systems because it delivers high margin revenue, which is being used to cross subsidise a push into the ICT space.

Though the old systems are acknowledged to be expensive and slow by comparison, they work, and many SMEs are of the mindset ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. As these companies are not receiving proactive advice or recommendations to upgrade, most see no need to move their PBX to the Cloud, nor a need to introduce unified communications (UC).

The workplace of the future is more collaborative, more flexible, more people-oriented, but mostly, more results oriented. The technology to enable this is available now.

How proactive is your main Telco?Half of the executives interviewed were not getting proactive advice from their current Telco

The market is set to undertake the last big cloud shift with the PBX or Phone System

The move to the Cloud and in particular Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) is being driven by organisations that understand how to leverage the benefits.
We are near a tipping point of accelerated growth in Cloud UC service take up and adoption, but achieving this will rely on SMEs becoming better educated and the opening of new channels to market in order to drive total market growth.
On the surface, it doesn’t look like there is much going on in the IT&T market right now:
Traditional voice revenue is falling and Global Unified Communications spend across the next four years will only grow between 1% – 4%

Asia Pacific will only increase UC spend by 1.1% across the four years to 2020 However, it’s a substantial shift in the makeup of this market that will be the driver of growth. That shift is the move to Cloud, and Unified Communications in the Cloud is predicted to grow from 8% market share in 2015 to 22% of the market, or $650M, by 2020. 86% of businesses in Australia are already using SaaS and have overcome historical issues such as connectivity through technologies like SDN and SD-WAN, which enable Quality of Service over the Internet.

Cloud-Based Unified Communications predicted to grow to 22% of total UC spend by 2020 across the region

Traditional Telcos are not delivering value for SME businesses

There is simply no need for customers to deal with a telco anymore because there is no need to buy traditional telco services. High-quality Internet connectivity and performance means you can just buy what you want over the net, whenever you want it and simply switch it off when you don’t need it anymore.

Access4 went to the SME market to discover its thoughts on current UC/Telephony providers and to understand what SMEs are currently experiencing and what they want from a UC provider.
The research revealed an overall net promoter score of positive 23 so [for the most part] SMEs are unlikely to recommend their current UC/telephony provider. Because of a lack of proactive information from their provider, most SMEs are not looking to make changes to the telephony solution they currently have in place. This means there is an opportunity for a disruptor (a trusted external service provider) to step in and take this market by storm.

The research identified four key drivers that need to be in place to support the take-up and adoption of UC services in the Cloud by SMEs

  • Education at the executive level to drive take up
  • The route to market needs to be disruptive
  • Customer experience key to ensure adoption
  • Technology and service need to be seamless

Who is happy, who is not?

If you are male and over 50, you are the most likely to be happy with the status quo. If you are a 20-29-year-old female, you are someone who is looking to shake things up a little. In fact, 20-29-year-olds overall are the least happy with their current service provider, while 50-59-year-olds are the most loyal.

 

 

Main Telco NPS

Main Telco NPS 

NPS by age

NPS by age

Less than a quarter of senior executives have current plans to move to cloud Unified Communications

Whilst most survey respondents said they were aware of Cloud-based PBX and Unified Communications, more than three-quarters of them had no plans to move UC to the Cloud. Nearly half of those people said the reason they had no plans to move to UC was because they had ‘no need for it right now’.

The main provider for this survey group was Telstra and the majority of respondents had their own dedicated phone system. Nearly half said they were not receiving proactive service and advice from their IT provider. Just over a third were not even aware of Cloud-based PBX and UC let alone the benefits it can deliver.

A third of respondents said they could foresee no challenges in their business regarding communications over the next 12 months.

Insights

There is certainly a lack of incentive for customers to change. The main Telco incumbents have a large installed base currently on legacy products and they don’t want to [nor can afford to] risk losing this high margin revenue ‘cash cow’. Therefore customers are managed reactively without providing strategic advice or helping to ready customers for the future.

A new route to market is required that is able to challenge the status quo. It needs to come from a credible and trusted source such as the external IT systems provider.

The channel to market must be disruptive in order to jolt these passive customers from their slumber, to show them what is possible for their business and what they are missing out on by ignoring these changes. The fact that a third of respondents are not aware indicates how little they understand the IT&T market and the changing needs of employees.

While excellent customer experience is key to SMEs adopting this new technology, education at the executive level on the benefits of unified communications is needed to accelerate change. Close to 2/3rds of executives are not exploring the commercial benefits of PAYG services, greater collaboration across the business and greater workplace flexibility.

 

Aware of uCaaS

Aware of UCaaS

Reason why not taking up UCaaS

Reasons why not taking up UCaaS

 

Have plans to move to UCaaS

Have plans to move to UCaaS

Instant Messaging is more prolific than ever, yet senior executives are unaware of its use and not capitalising on it

When asked if they used an application for Chat within their business, 59% of respondents said no.
22% were aware that Skype was being used; however, there was no mention of the most highly used messenger apps in Australia today- Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp or employees using SMS or email for corporate messaging.
Almost 80% of Australians have a Smartphone, and they glance at the device more than 440 million times a day. Those phones are a part of their personal and business lives. And they are used for Instant Messaging (IM) or Chat.
The IM wave is still building in Australia, and Smartphone users across all age groups are more actively using messaging apps. In 2015, 42% of Smartphone users were actively using messaging apps versus 25% in 2014.
There are 2.4M active Australian users on WhatsApp and 15M Facebook users.

What instant messaging application are you using?

What instant messaging application are you using? 

Insights

SMEs are running messaging apps – but the people that run the business are not aware this is happening.

Whatever IM applications are being used across the business, they are certainly not sanctioned applications and they are clearly not being used organisation wide.

What value and IP are businesses losing? What information is leaking out of your company because you don’t have a way to capture IM data easily and effectively?

Smartphone messenger apps used to be just a novelty which not many people worried about or used that often, nowadays though you would be hard pressed to find users who don’t regularly check on their messages, by using one of the popular apps such as Facebook chat, WhatsApp, or Skype.

Messenger apps were historically popular for chatting between friends and family in real time. However, businesses are now turning to messenger apps as well, increasing their workflow and allowing real-time collaboration to take place.

The key is to ensure everyone in the business is using the same application and that the IP from messaging apps can be captured and stored.

Internal IT is not the driver of change with limited exposure to external markets and a focus on “keeping the lights on”

Overall the Internal IT provider received a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 0, though 70% of respondents scored them 8 or more out of 10 for their performance.

Loyal supporters found the internal IT provider to be helpful, but everyone else wants them to be more responsive, more proactive, more available to assist and more service oriented.

It should be noted that the IT respondent sample size was only a small population of the total survey.

Insights

The much-maligned internal IT team once again comes under fire from the senior decision makers. They had the highest rate of detractors across all groups examined in the research.

Most internal teams don’t have any external or IT system integrator support. The survey identified that of the 36% of companies using internal IT management, 65% of this group do not use any form of external support services.

They are going it alone, and may, therefore, be limited in their ability to understand where the market is headed.

Isolated within the business, the internal IT team only sees the needs of their direct company. The research would seem to indicate that this group is not viewed as a strategic influencer at C-level but rather the guys who keep things running (most of the time).

Given the overall results showed that most respondents had their own equipment on site, the internal IT provider would most likely be managing these legacy systems and having to deal with sunk investments. They are probably spending their time building patches to keep the old systems working, leaving little time to look at what else is around.

Detractor Passive Promoter

 

Internal IT or External IT Service provider?

Internal IT or External IT Services provider?

Internal NPS

 

Internal IT NPS

 

The external IT services provider is seen as a provider of thought leadership and advice…

Over 50% of respondents use a medium sized external IT provider for IT management. Overall, external IT providers received an NPS of positive 44 and were found to be helpful and obliging, efficient and prompt.
The external IT provider has the highest advocacy with senior executives and the highest ranking when it comes to providing strategic advice to customers.
84% of those who use an external IT provider rated them an 8/10 or more for providing strategic planning and understanding their business.
Just using customer experience as a measure, the external IT services company is best positioned to lead the customer to a cloud UC change.

Insights

A key driver of change in the UCaaS market will be brought on by providing a disruptive channel to market. This channel must also be reliable and trustworthy and provide complementary services. As UC is currently not part of the current product range for most external IT providers, the disruption works as there is no legacy decisions/ revenue to protect.

As with IT services, external providers “can support upgrades quickly and easily over the phone”. They are already viewed as being “responsive and provide prompt service” and they communicate with their customers proactively.

Just as the Cloud discussion became a boardroom discussion – UCaaS needs to be a boardroom discussion. However, it will only get there if the senior executive adds it to the agenda. Education is the key to driving change with senior decision makers, and the external IT provider can bring this about.

External IT NPS

External IT NPS

 

How would you rate your external IT provider?

For external: how would they rate their external IT provider with providing strategic planning and understanding their business? 

Focusing on customer service is the key to sustainable UCaaS adoption

Seamless service was the number one driver of positive customer experience, while ‘service coverage/outages’ were the number one detraction.

The survey respondents don’t want to be concerned with IT&T, their biggest expectation from a telco is for everything to work. They want reliable and prompt support when it’s needed and competitive pricing comes down the list after that.

There is a direct link between total customer experience and customer loyalty. Even of those customers that [by traditional expectations] say they are satisfied with the service, only half agree they would ‘definitely return’ one year from now. The adage that good service is no longer good enough holds true in that delighted customers are the only group with strong loyalty.

Insights

The research suggests that SMEs prefer dealing with their external IT service provider rather than a telco. They are frustrated with the service levels they are currently getting from their incumbent Telco with responses such as: “you never know who to contact, and the call centre is a million miles away” (anonymous), and they know there are better solutions out there, “it takes so long for someone to come to us with a solution” (anonymous).

Businesses are moving inexorably towards procuring services ‘as a service’, which means that lock in and long term contracts will soon be a thing of the past. Telcos’ contract stickiness can no longer apply and customer loyalty won’t exist as soon as the customers’ experience falls. The customer will take their rightful place as the most important consideration for the providers and service excellence will have to be front and centre.

In a cloud market where flexibility is an expectation and a premise, the customer experience will dictate how and which providers will succeed in the long term.

Expectations of a provider .

Expectations of a provider

 

Does the respondent plan to stay with the existing provider?

Millennials will be the drivers of change as they demand better collaboration and greater workplace flexibility

Of those surveyed, the least loyal customers were in the 20-29-year-old age group, followed closely by 40-49-year-olds. The largest detractors were in the 30-39 year age group. Generation X, Y and Z are not loyal to their telco and know they are not receiving the level of service they deserve.

Generally, males are more loyal to their current provider than females. In fact, the most satisfied group was the 50+-year-old males, and the most loyal overall were those in the 60+ age group.

Insights

The move to UCaaS needs the support of senior executives who are ready to embrace change. The leaders of SMEs need to understand where the workplace is going and put the technology in place to both support and leverage the changes that lie ahead.

By 2020 millennials will account for more than 54% of the workforce and are clearly not satisfied with how communications are provided by Incumbent Telcos today.

The workplace of the future is more collaborative, more flexible, more people-oriented, but mostly, more results oriented. More and more a company’s platform for information collaboration and workplace flexibility will play a larger role in a company’s ability to attract leading talent.

The technology to enable this is available now, and it’s reliable, cost-effective and scalable. Reluctance to change will leave these SMEs less agile, less productive and far less competitive. With so many executives not aware or not looking at UC are some heading for a Kodak moment?

 

NPS by gender male

NPS by gender – male 

NPS by Gender female

NPS by gender – female 

NPS by age

NPS by age

About the research

How we measure the Net Promoter Score (NPS)?
We ask” “How likely is it that you would recommend <your company> to a friend or colleague?” (10 to 0 point scale) The score of 9 or 10 is defined as a Promoter. The score of 6 or less is a Detractor. Scores of 7 or 8 are neutral – this is the new ‘pass mark’
NPS = Promoters – Detractors
Interviews were conducted by Saguity during June-July 2016.
Senior Decision makers were interviewed over the phone and all results are available on request.
The survey was completed by the senior decision maker of 100 IT and non IT SMEs nationally.

 

Size of Respondent Organisation

Size of respondent organisation 

Age breakdown

Age breakdown

Position breakdown

Position breakdown

 

Gender breakdown

Gender breakdown

Contacts

Access4
Ruy Franco, Director of Sales & Marketing

Saguity
Darrell Hardidge, Founder and CEO
Suite 1, Level 2, 10A Atherton Rd, Oakleigh VIC 3166, Australia
+61 3 8548 1888 / contact@saguity.com

Published September 2016
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. Any use or publication of the results/findings contained in the document must cite Access4 as the source.
Copyright © Access4 Pty Ltd 2016

Industry Analysis – Australia, the wave of Unified Communications is coming our way.

This annual cloud collaboration industry analysis is conducted by BroadSoft, and it’s combined of 1,005 enterprise IT decision makers and seven countries on all continents – USA, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, UK, Germany and France. It’s covering Health and Social Services, IT/Communications, Manufacturing, Professional Services, Education, Retail Trade, Finance and Insurance sectors.

The key finding – massive Cloud Unified Communications adoption is happening right now. 

There are few groundbreaking changes in the world’s history, and one of them is happening over the last 20 years through the digital world, according to Seth Godin, worldly recognised because of the idea of making information available for everyone through the global conversation on business and its marketing. Key findings of BroadSoft’s analyses are showing Unified Communications are a part of this momentum, calling this adoption ‘A once-in-a-generation transition’.

  • 80% of companies are considering moving to Cloud Unified Communications,
  • 92% of buyers will select a vendor in the next 24 months, and when being asked when they plan to migrate,
  • 45% said in the next year, while 47% said in the next two years.

‘The usual suspects.’

Current costs, functionality and risk, are main worrying factors influencing this migration – with their figures showing 68% of respondents saying their current system is too expensive to maintain, 69% is troubled by the lack of advanced features, and 76% is questioning what would happen if their phone system fails.

The following is worrying businesses and teams:

  1. too much email reduces employee’s productivity,
  2. too many incompatible communication apps,
  3. employees use personal and unauthorised apps,
  4. if their current phone system fails, it may be to too long and costly to restore the service,
  5. they might have several locations with incompatible communication systems,
  6. it’s difficult to communicate and collaborate online with people outside our company,
  7. communication with remote and mobile users is not very reliable,
  8. it takes too long to find information and documents,
  9. meetings are inefficient due to missing information and documents.

Cloud Unified Communications, priorities and benefits of implementation.

The Survey is showing that Cloud UC addresses core business priorities;

  • Productivity 78% – a general improvement of employee productivity
  • Mobility 79% – better service for mobile and remote users
  • Agility 78% – no need for upgrades – the service will always be up to date

Operation

  • 70% reduction in IT staff effort
  • 79% we are worried about continuing support for their premise system.

Survey respondents would like to use all devices (76%) but one experience (78%) – Unified Communications for all communication should be the same on desk phones, smartphones computers and tablets.

Contact Centers – Digital world redefined the consumer

You might already have heard about ‘the micro-moment’. Defined by Google, it’s describing a moment of instant decision making; we have a new consumer who is ready to share even less but demands even more (or everything) in that particular moment. If you had any doubts yes, space is pretty tight, and you don’t want to miss the opportunity or the momentum of your potential customer either by not knowing enough of providing information in advance.

Another big step coming with the wave of Unified Communications is that Contact Centers are becoming accessible to small and mid-size businesses, opening the whole new scope for improvements of internal business processes. When it comes to benefits of integration between communication, team collaboration and contact centre, this is why users want a complete and integrated solution;

  • 78% higher overall productivity
  • 79% single vendor reduces cost and complexity
  • 70% more effective customer interactions.

Survey says how 68% of contact centre users are actively evaluating CCaaS, and 33% of non-contact centre users are willing to consider CCaaS.

End users ARE READY for digital channels, and service providers need to provide a digital buying journey.

  • 53% use at least one digital channel in supplier selection,
  • 57% want full or partly digital onboarding and service management,
  • 61% already use at least one SaaS service.

‘All devices – but one experience.’

The list of benefits and multi-device integration is long:

  1. lower cost of ownership,
  2. reduction of IT staff effort,
  3. more advanced functions and user experience,
  4. no need for equipment/software upgrades – the service will always be up to date,
  5. better service for remote and mobile users,
  6. service is accessible from multiple devices, not just phones,
  7. general improvement of employee productivity,
  8. service will not be disrupted by premise system failure,
  9. internal communication and collaboration functions interoperate with other external systems at clients, suppliers, etc.

Multiple location support

  1. service will be identical at all locations,
  2. the service will scale better as the number of users at each location changes,
  3. communication and collaboration between locations will be better,
  4. users will not need to maintain a special network between locations,
  5. their total cost and effort for all locations will be lower.

Features

  1. Users can answer calls on any device – desk phone, mobile phone or computer/tablet communication app,
  2. fixed and mobile phones should have the same number,
  3. the user interface for all communication should be the same on desk phones, smartphones, computers and tablets,
  4. the business phone number and communication features should be available on employees’ personal mobile phones,
  5. the employee should use just a desk or a mobile phone; they shouldn’t need both,
  6. we shouldn’t need desk phones at all – all communication functions should be available on a computer,
  7. close integration with applications such as Microsoft office or O365, social media, Google, SalesForce and other business applications.

Tailored for digital nomads – and Australia is the champion!

Upwork, the world’s biggest online work platform claims we are witnessing the constant growth of remote workers in sales, marketing, graphic design, but customer service, administration, translation and writing are booming as well. Information also shows that Australia is the world’s biggest supplier of online freelance workers!

BroadSoft’s survey showed how 80% of companies have some remote or mostly mobile employees and 40% of companies have 1% – 25% of employees that have remote or mostly mobile employees.

Consultants-influencers are challenging the work-life balance myth as well, saying that we need to feel safe at work, to feel good in both places. And that safe place is created by good, flexible, transparent and collaborative workspaces within the companies. It’s needless to say, that will attract and retain top candidates as well.

Conclusion – The Cloud Momentum and priorities

A large majority of businesses are considering Cloud Unified Communications, and their buying decision is expected in the next 24 months. Unified Communications addresses digital priorities and premise systems are poised for cloud migration.

Key points

  • Cloud unified communications (UC) adoption is accelerating; buying decisions are imminent.
  • Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) is core to customers’ digital transformation strategy.
  • Customers want complete, integrated and innovative service bundles.
  • Service providers are strongly positioned to capture the cloud transition opportunity.
  • Digital engagement and delivery channels are essential.

Source: BroadSoft Cloud Collaboration Survey 2017, conducted in Q4 2017. End User Perspective on the UCaaS, CCaaS and Team Collaboration Market.

The beginning of the end for traditional Telcos?

Access4 is proud to release the first annual Unified Communications (UC) Appreciation Index (“the UC Index”). The UC Index will track the opinions and preferences of the most senior decision-makers of SME businesses nationally regarding IT and telephony services and service providers on an annual basis. It will specifically consider SME plans to upgrade IT and telephony systems and processes, and measure the penetration of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) in the market.

What is UCaaS?

Unified Communications as a Service: Basically, it’s telephony in the Cloud. Telephony in the Cloud can deliver a number of business benefits including:

  • Standard software on a per-seat basis
  • Predictable model of cost and delivery with flexible features
  • Removes the need for front-loaded capital
  • Integrated offering that includes consulting, managed services, and integration capabilities
  • UCaaS can deliver cost control, greater business agility and improved employee productivity.

What is the size of the UCaaS market?

Unified Communications in the Cloud is predicted to grow from 8% market share in 2015 to 22% of the total Unified Communications market, by 2020 (Gartner). Though Asia Pacific will only increase total UC spend by 1.1% across the four years to 2020 (Gartner), it’s a substantial shift in the makeup of this market that will be the driver of opportunity for providers and customers; that shift is the move to Cloud.

Key findings from the research

The research identified four key drivers that need to be in place to support the take-up and adoption of UC services in the Cloud by SMEs:

The external IT service provider

The research suggests that SMEs prefer dealing with their smaller, local external IT service provider rather than a traditional telecommunications provider. They are frustrated with the service levels they are currently getting stating: “you never know who to contact, and the call centre is a million miles away”, and they know there are better solutions out there “it takes so long for someone to come to us with a solution”.

Over half those surveyed use a medium sized external IT provider for IT management. The external IT provider had the highest advocacy with senior decision makers and has the highest ranking when it comes to providing strategic advice to customers. As with IT services, external providers “can support upgrades quickly and easily over the phone”. They are already viewed as being “responsive and provide prompt service” and they communicate with their customers proactively.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Access4 will also use this survey to track its performance and the performance of its service provider partners, measuring NPS as well as what else needs to be done to ensure customers who have implemented UCaaS are enjoying the best possible customer experience.

Findings and citations

The source data used to create the report is available on request to Access4 info@access4.com.au. Access4 is happy for other parties to use the information, statistics and findings from the Index, however, publication or use of the findings/results contained in the document must reference Access4 UC Appreciation Index as the source.

Read the full research here

Unified Communications Appreciation Index 2016

 

Is lack of workplace flexibility keeping you in the office too long?

The Australian workplace is changing. There is a trend of workers requiring more and more flexibility in how they engage in the workplace. Called millennials, this generation of “digital natives” have always had internet and mobile phones and based on research expect a greater work/life balance. Depending on which report you read, millennials now make up over 30% of the workforce and with an ageing population by 2020 this figure will be more than 50%.

Organisations need to plan for this new generation and engage them through greater workplace flexibility. In some Australian capital cities, there are some very practical reasons why organisations need to provide flexibility for staff to work outside of the office. Rising house prices in most capital cities are seeing more people move to fringe areas to afford the home they want. An SHTS report in 2012 highlighted an increase in bus travel distance as these workers travel from new locations (source). More time spent travelling means less time parents have to spend with their families.

People are looking to balance their lifestyle and the needs of raising a family with a desire for career progression while being faced with increasing travel times and the demands of a global market and need to be contacted 24-7. An ABS report shows over 250,000 Victorians sought to change their working conditions stating childcare needs as the main reason for their most recent request (source). Of employees on long-term leave who made a request for changes to work arrangements; more family time and financial reasons (both 16%) were the most commonly reported reasons for the request. This followed by leisure or travel, and childcare needs (both 11%).

Employers need to be able to provide flexibility in how employees work. In an environment where collaboration drives greater productivity, organisations need to find solutions to have employees engaged whilst not physically in an office. Part of the answer is to implement the right kind of technology that is going to empower, engage and free employees.

Organisations need to look for a platform that enables unified communications and collaboration. Some current options include complex remote access solutions, forwarding calls to mobiles, and or providing a company mobile so organisations don’t lose control over inbound customer contacts. If the technology is not seamless, uptake rates are low and the project fails to deliver.

Look for a Unified Communications solution that can seamlessly provide:

  • Single number reach across multiple devices. Customers can continue to engage with a corporate office number.
  • Access to the corporate environment whilst not in the office to still remain part of the internal phone network.
  • The presence and the ability to integrate with other systems.
  • Instant Messaging to keep informal lines of communication open.
  • Video on demand, both one on one and group sessions. The ability to have visual cues when engaging is still critically important.
  • The ability to run ad-hoc virtual meetings. Often there isn’t time to have to book resources to run a video conference.
  • The ability to share documents and workspaces in real time without the need for additional emails and the time delay.
  • Cloud-based technology to make access ubiquitous and avoid complex login procedures.

Whilst technology won’t work without the right processes, policies, support and leadership, it can make the transition towards a flexible workplace rewarding for both the employee and organisation.

 

The case is compelling to move your Unified Communications to the cloud

Cloud Unified Communications provides organisations with distinct advantages over existing on-premise solutions. A quick look at 7 key advantages:

1. Agility

Organisations today require the ability to scale and contract as their requirements change. Hosted PBX provides this agility and with limited equipment on site, makes office moves far simpler.

2. Lower Costs

Pay for services that you need by a user, without investing in functionality only a smaller number of users need. System upgrades and maintenance are included and remove the need for in-house technical resources.

3. Mobility

Extend your bricks and mortar business number outside the physical office. Improve productivity with the full suite of collaboration features whilst on the move.

4. Business Continuity

With the PBX hosted in the cloud, any interruption of power or disruption at an office won’t mean all communications are down. Any other site or user with internet access can continue to operate.

5. Control

Organisations can utilise simple management interfaces to manage users and features without the technical complexity. This allows the organisation to focus on its core business, not on being a communications expert.

6. Functionality

With scale across thousands of users, hosted PBX providers continue to develop from user feedback across a large base. They provide more features to their service without anyone organisation having to develop it individually.

7. Resilience

Providing services at scale to customers allows cloud unified communications providers to build in duplication of systems for improved reliability and service levels economically.

Hosted PBX, more marketing than technology?

The discussion for most companies as to whether to use cloud services or not is over and the resounding answer is that cloud is the way to go.

A 2015 survey found that 86% of Australian businesses are using Software as a Service (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015). In the more traditional premise-based solutions like the business phone system (PBX) are truly seeing a shift to the cloud. This additional demand for “Cloud PBX” or “Hosted PBX” and Unified Communications is driving providers to look for solutions to fill this gap.

In the flurry to meet the demand, some organisations have made building a cloud platform more of a marketing slogan rather than a reality. For a long time, business phone systems were typically large, physical, and complex systems that organisations owned over a long period of time. The reality is that for a lot of these telephony platforms, cloud delivery was not a design consideration and hence the migration to cloud services is not as smooth as customers were hoping.

It pays to dive into the detail with Hosted PBX offerings to understand whether or not they deliver on the cloud proposition or they are just existing technology that has been packaged as cloud PBX. Here are some things to consider when choosing a cloud voice provider.

“Hosted PBX” system

Does the provider need to provide any incremental equipment or services to be able to provide your IP telephony service?

A number of services are marketed as hosted PBX; however, these services can be no more than a provider buying the equipment and hosting it in their data centre. This can be financed on a per-user basis and sold as a cloud service. Often the clue here is in long provisioning times, fixed scope and limited growth. These can be more expensive as the customer needs to cover the incremental cost of the additional equipment, and it can often cost more than just putting the equipment in your own office.

Growth and contraction

Most hosted or cloud voice solutions come from a telecoms mindset of fixed scope for periods of time and often for good reason. The provider is required to build a solution in the case of multi-instance or buy equipment in the case of hosted and finance it. This means considerable upfront costs for a provider and they need longer contracts to recoup costs. Questions to test for this are: “How quickly and how many users can I scale without any additional upfront costs?” “If I need to contract my workforce can I easily turn off users and reduce my costs by the per-user amount?”

Built for the cloud or retrofitted

Look for providers that have built operational support systems and processes that are designed for the speed of cloud. Does your solutions provider have the end to end automation and can you self-serve for what you need, or do you need to ask the provider to make changes? Making normal processes look like cloud means that there are often people on the back end doing the work manually. This can lead to delays and errors and often means higher support costs for the providers that are passed on to the customer.

When it comes to Hosted PBX, it pays to dig deeper into the offers that are being provided to you to understand what it is that you are getting and whether you are comfortable with the characteristics of it. The promise of the cloud is that you can deploy in real time, scale without limitation on a PAYG model and if a needed contract to meet your requirements.

Generally, the best solution is a Multi-Tenanted solution that has been designed for the Cloud with self-serve and automated provisioning systems. This means that you can respond to whatever market conditions present themselves without being limited by a system that doesn’t live up to the hype.

Multi-tenancy vs. Multi-instance

How quickly can the provider you are reviewing provide services to you?

In a multi-tenancy environment, your organisation’s service is provided within an existing computing platform meaning they are faster to provision and simpler to support. A multi-instance platform is used when the platform typically hasn’t been designed to offer the security needed in cloud deployments. This often requires the provider to “spin up” another virtual computing instance and load a copy of the software that provides the service.

Opt for a true multi-tenanted solution where possible as these are more often born or [at least designed] for the cloud. They offer a lower cost to serve (per customer) for the provider saving you money and making upgrading and patching simpler.

Design + code by Jalapeno Creative.

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