If you follow my writing either here or elsewhere, you’ll know that I often present two sides of the coin in my thought leadership. Objectivity and balance are hallmarks of being an analyst, and while I’m not shy about taking a clear position, you need this for credibility. It’s easy to take a contrary position with a selective point of view, but you can only fool some of the people some of the time.
I’m not here to fool anybody, and my stock value is based on considering the big picture rather than honing in on a narrow slice of the pie. My previous post in this series set the table for this broader perspective by outlining three things you should expect with hosted UC.
With three viable deployment paths to choose from – premise-based, cloud-based and hybrid – you owe it to all stakeholders inside your company to make the right decision. Now that you know what to expect, it’s time to look at the converse – what not to expect with hosted UC.
1. Don’t expect this will be easy
Your thinking on this will depend on what UC vendors are telling you, as well as what you actually believe. With cloud being new for communications applications, there is no textbook plan that works for everyone. This is especially true with UC, where the value is built around supporting real-time modes, something that gets harder to do the further removed the solution is from where the end users are.
Add to this the fact that legacy telephony has been so reliable for so long and is relatively trouble-free. This is the gold standard set by TDM, and remains the bar against which all other real time applications are measured.
Just because hosted UC is easy for the vendor to provide, doesn’t mean it will be easy to deploy in your network. Since the solution is largely in their hands, you are very dependent on them to have the right competence, and this can be a dangerous assumption. They may have a great track record with premise-based solutions, as this is the DNA for most UC vendors. However, the cloud model will be new for them, and whether deploying directly or via a channel partner, this expertise is in short supply.
If this doesn’t inspire confidence, you can always consider UC vendors that are cloud-based by nature. This is a new breed of player, and while hosted solutions are their forte, they lack the communications-based pedigree of the established UC vendors. Some will be small and possibly under-capitalized, so there are different risks to consider here.
Others, however, will be as big if not bigger than the familiar vendors, and for them UC is an extension of other things they’re already doing with enterprises. This could be the safest path of all, but requires a leap of faith that they can provide a UC solution that is truly right for your business.
2. Don’t expect this will be cheaper
Please don’t shoot the messenger, but this is an important scenario to be prepared for. On paper, the cloud has a lot of economic attractions. Off the top, the burden shifts from Capex to Opex, making UC viable to businesses with constrained IT budgets. Furthermore, depending on how far you go with the cloud, you’ll have a limited financial outlay for hardware-based elements needed such as phones, media gateways and maybe session border controllers. If you don’t have unconditional buy-in from management, this will probably be the way to go.
The positive financial impact will be felt immediately, especially if you have already researched the investment needed for a premise-based solution. In that regard, cloud UC gives you the best of both worlds – IT gets the solution it wants, and management gets it at a cost they can support.
All of this is good, but UC isn’t free. Cloud may be less initially than premise-based, so the upfront savings really only come if you’re switching from premise-based UC to hosted. The expectation of cost savings may come from your VoIP experience, where you are basically going from like-to-like. UC, however, has no predecessor, so it’s not fair to apply that logic here.
Your initial outlay will certainly be less than premise-based UC, but that can provide a false sense of security. Over time, leasing is always more costly than buying, but hosted UC hasn’t been around long enough for us to know when those cost curves reverse course. As UC becomes more entrenched, the hosted model will deliver economic benefits, especially in terms of the IT resources needed to support it. Furthermore, cloud costs will likely decline as data centers scale to support booming demand.
Conversely, as UC matures, new applications will be added, and deeper integration with your business applications is inevitable. Hosted UC vendors will become endlessly inventive to create new revenue streams by making their platforms as mission-critical as possible. Over time, your IT expertise will likely atrophy, making you ever-more dependent on your cloud UC vendor. In this regard, there is a hidden price to be paid, and you need to be prepared for that.
Of course, this becomes a non-issue if you can leverage the power of the cloud to deliver new benefits that drive business growth. This is no different than any other risk-reward scenario, and if you embrace the cloud with this outcome in mind, cost will really be a non-issue.