Isn’t it ironic? Back when I started my career in telecommunications, Alanis Morissette was everywhere on the radio. For those of you who are a bit younger, radio is a playlist you can’t control that often has static. But radio was what we had, and it made us happy, and Alanis was omnipresent singing about the unfortunate ironies of life. People debated whether the song was really about ironic things or just about a series of unfortunate events.
But I’m not here to revive that debate. Instead I want to talk about something that is unquestionably ironic: If you work at a small business with a very limited budget and limited IT resources, there is a pretty good chance that you have a far more advanced voice system than mid-sized companies with 100 times the number of employees and 1,000 times the resources.
That irony would make for a very boring song, I’m certain. But it’s a fascinating conundrum for the 200,000 mid-sized companies in the United States.
Most mid-sized companies rely on legacy voice systems that would have to be carbon-dated to determine their age. Some of them may even date back to the days when Alanis was big on the radio.
Meanwhile most small businesses (and large enterprises with lots of resources) have the latest and greatest voice capabilities that use the cloud to deliver on the promise of unified communications by integrating with other critical applications, supporting companies’ customer experience goals, and much more.
The ’90s were great in so many ways. But having a voice communications system that is frozen in time from that era is a recipe for downtime, limited functionality, interoperability problems with other systems, and technical issues that will likely infuriate customers. The list of issues is long and as depressing as the lyrics in Alanis’ song, which is exactly why all the major analyst firms are seeing a wave of cloud adoption in the mid-market that includes upgrades from legacy voice systems.
Readers of this magazine don’t need me to explain unified communications as a service. The benefits are clear, allowing companies of this size to shed those legacy voice systems and have the same quality solutions that their much larger and much smaller corporate cousins enjoy. The question is no longer whether to implement UCaaS, but how to do it in a smart way.
Here are three quick tips to help companies navigate this process successfully, each with fun references to the 1990s that I pulled from a time capsule:
Sampling May Be Great in Hip-Hop, but Not in UCaaS
Sampling was everywhere in 1990s music, and no one had a bigger hit based on borrowing another person’s tune than MC Hammer with “You Can’t Touch This.” Sampling worked great for that song, but it will backfire if your company tries to implement a one-size-fits-all UCaaS strategy copied from another company or provided in a pre-packaged form from a provider. No two mid-sized companies are the same in terms of structure, needs, etc., so it is critical to create a customized UCaaS strategy based on a comprehensive review of your company’s existing infrastructure, technical needs, business needs, customer experience objectives, and more.
Look Under the Surface
Twin Peaks may be the weirdest, best thing ever to appear on broadcast TV. It was a sensation that is hard to imagine today, in a world with 500 cable channels and seemingly unlimited streaming options. One of the key messages of the show was to look deeper and not trust what’s in front of your face, and that is definitely true with UCaaS implementations. Companies tend to get swept up in all the fun bells and whistles that come with UCaaS, but it is important to look past that and closely examine what powers the voice system: the network. There are a number of key questions to ask about performance, flexibility, dynamic traffic routing, network diversity, and more.
Yadda, Yadda, Security
George on Seinfeld may have been left in the dark by “Yadda, yadda, yadda,” but I won’t do that to you. Security is the last thing I will mention because it is often the easiest issue to overlook when companies migrate to UCaaS because security was not a concern with legacy systems. But cloud-based applications like UCaaS are interconnected with the rest of your company’s operations in a way that makes security for voice as important as applications that you typically associate with security. As early as possible in the UCaaS planning process, there should be a strong focus on the security of the application and – perhaps even more importantly – the security of the network that will power the UCaaS. This is particularly important for companies that face regulatory requirements to protect customer/patient communications.
Michael Hoyt is senior vice president of IP, voice, and security engineering for Windstream.
Edited by Erik Linask