As the workplace continues to change, so do the services and technologies that enter the business landscape. Flexible working hours, shared information, cloud technology and working remotely are all factors shaping the office of the future.

So how can businesses that depend on voice, messaging, video and collaboration go about selecting the most appropriate technology and services? And once chosen, how can these best be used to support employee productivity – regardless of where they work and the devices they use?

Unified communications as a service

In a business context, unified communications (UC) systems is the integration of communication services, often a set of products, which provides a consistent, unified user interface and user experience across multiple devices and media types.

When offered as a service, it is a very effective way to meet business UC needs such as voice, video, collaboration tools, etc. It’s light on capital expenditure, and has the flexibility and scalability to add or remove users as needed. In addition, choosing to outsource the UC function equates to less admin for you and your business, a guaranteed service-level agreement (SLA) and a level of expertise that can be hard to achieve internally, particularly for smaller businesses.

But with so many options available and with issues to consider such as cloud integration, security and support, it can be a challenge to know where to start when it comes to comparing UC providers and deciding which products and services are worth the investment.

Comparing UCaaS providers: five key considerations

Start with what you know best – your business. Set targets and expectations that are practical and achievable in the short, medium and longer term. It might sound obvious, but planning against targets will help you to accurately and consistently measure the impact of the strategy, and help you to look for third-party solutions that align with what your company needs and your available budget.

Keep these five factors in mind when evaluating UC cloud-based providers:

  1. A list of UC applications offered. What are your UCaaS functionality requirements? Does the provider meet or exceed these with its service offerings?
  2. The cost to subscribe. Cost will always be a primary motivator in any outsourcing decision-making. Does the provider only offer the necessary functionality at a premium cost? If so, where do you choose to compromise?
  3. SLA terms. When you’re relying on a third-party provider to deliver business-critical functionality, you need the assurance of robust SLAs to ensure that uptime and performance meet your business’s requirements.
  4. Network access requirements. How much access to your network does the provider need in order to implement and support its UCaaS solution? How does this affect your business’s security posture?
  5. Track record and evidence of happy customers. What do the provider’s existing customers say about the services they receive? Are they happy with their UCaaS solutions – and from a broader perspective – with working and communicating on a regular basis with the provider itself?

Maximising your UC service

A good UCaaS provider will offer a tailored solution that integrates with your preferred software and applications, as well as offer the relevant support that you need. Every technology needs maintenance, so whether you have to troubleshoot or need help using a tool or system correctly, it’s key that your service provider’s response time and support is prompt and efficient, and is ideally provided in-house, not via a call centre.

The service component of ‘as  service’ (aaS) means that your business always has the latest technology. Your UCaaS provider should automatically install updates so that you can use the most updated features and developments. These should automatically be part of your regular bill, so there are no unexpected costs.

Using a UCaaS provider will automatically promote increased communication between departments in your business. For example, a communications system that makes it easy for an office-based operations employee to engage with a sales representative working in the field about a customer contract, could make all the difference between losing the deal, and winning it. UCaaS providers enable mobile phones to be integrated into your office-based phone system. Calls can be transferred to mobile phones using only an extension, with mobile phones being able to dial out as if on a landline number.

In implementing and upgrading applications and making them instantly available to everyone in the business, your UCaaS provider ultimately speeds up innovation and time to market. Simultaneously, complexity and costs are reduced, therefore paving the way for a truly modern, collaborative workplace.

About the author: Dave Ricketts

Dave Ricketts is head of marketing for international cloud managed service provider Six Degrees. He is a dynamic, experienced and commercially driven marketing professional with an in-depth knowledge of sales. Having worked within the IT services, cloud (public and private), ERP, SaaS and professional services for 20 years with numerous blue-chip and mid-market companies, Dave brings a wealth of experience to the role. His client-focused approach has enabled him to deliver marketing strategies linked to sales that drive revenue, profit and value for both clients and the company.