Making Sound Decisions in UC Environment - Part 2
This is the second in a series of 3 posts that discuss key trends CFOs should be aware of as they assume an increasingly important role in determining the firm’s IT strategy. Today we take a quick look at trends related to Cloud-based services, Security, and the importance of managerial visibility and access for solutions hosted in the Cloud. For Part 1.
The Cloud and X-as-a-Service (XaaS)
We are well beyond the hype stage for cloud-based services and the many variants of X-as-a-service. Software, Infrastructure, Unified Communications, Contact Centers and more have all found their way into the as-a-service model and have allowed CFOs of organizations of all types to reap significant benefits. The advantages are clear, but depending on your organization’s size and specific needs, some challenges are well met with blended or premises-based solutions.
For those organizations for whom hosted solutions make sense, common benefits include:
- Shifting the cost model from Capital-based to an OpEx approach. As a result, the upfront investment is significantly lower and downstream flexibility is higher.
- Hosted solutions reduces the need for your IT team to manage significant communications infrastructure. The team will also see the burden of daily user management, like moves/adds/changes, shift to the provider’s team. The upside, of course, is that relatively expensive in-house IT resources can be refocused on projects that align with strategic emphasis – creating opportunities for enhanced competitive advantage, for instance.
- As your business expands, grows by acquisition, pares down on locations, etc., hosted UC-as-a-Service, or UCaaS, can provide flexibility and rapid scalability to accommodate any changes in the enterprise. Even short term, seasonal demand changes can generally be absorbed pretty easily via a cloud solution. That kind of flexibility is almost impossible to get with solutions that reside in your data centers.
- Evergreen. One of the key benefits of a hosted, cloud-based solution is that when new functionality is added to the mix you should have access to it – no cumbersome upgrades and work to ‘re-integrate’ different elements of the UC stack. Given that most customers retain their communications solutions for six, seven, or more years, this is an important area of product cost/labor to consider.
The cloud has a lot to offer, for sure, but it’s not a panacea. When done well, organizations often find they spend less time intimately involved in running the solution, but ultimate are better informed about performance, usage patterns, and the impact of the tech on the organization. That’s because effective managerial reporting tools provide consolidated insights that are difficult to tease out on your own.
Security Concerns and Unified Communications
Organizations that have not previously used Enterprise Cloud Services Providers for core IT activities will typically ask about the security considerations for infrastructure not housed within their own data centers. The concern, of course, is that a cloud-based solution is less secure than that of a platform in an enterprise datacenter. Fortunately, the reality of today’s operating environment means that this concern is easily addressed.
Today, the security-related advantages maintained by a true, regulated, enterprise telecommunications hosted-services provider can be described in several broad concepts which we’ll explore in further depth in an upcoming post:
- Industry Track Record When it Comes to Security
- Restricted Access
- The Needs of Other Customers
- Ongoing Audits
- Compliance Requirements
- Regulatory Requirements
Taken together, these factors contribute to a security profile for hosted unified communications that is compelling. The organizational risks for poor security practices can have a devastating impact on an organization – from customer perception to fines and penalties levied. Given the potential for negative consequences, CFO familiarity with security practices and policies, and with your vendor’s capabilities in this area is critically important.
Managerial Visibility and Access
While ‘Big Data’ gets most of the press these days, not enough attention is paid to gaining actionable data from hosted applications. Just because a solution is hosted, regardless of whether it’s voice or something else, the client’s team should maintain full visibility into the system’s performance. They should also maintain the ability to make changes as needed.
The ability is certainly there, as evidenced by West’s management portal, to give clients the access to data they need. After all, how can you expect something like UCaaS to be a game changer for you, allowing you to drive process changes that provide real power, if you don’t have real-time access to data about how that underlying system is performing?