By Jon Arnold
In the world of communication technology, nothing stands still, and evolution is constant. This is especially true today, in that many innovations come to market at a faster pace than we’re able to adapt. Given how quickly trends like the cloud, digital transformation and AI are moving, the rate of change will only accelerate, and this presents an ongoing challenge for IT leaders.
Things weren’t always this way, and in simpler times when PBX was the standard for telephony systems, IT’s job was largely done after a new phone system was deployed. The core feature set remained static for decades, everyone knew how to use the phones, and telephony was the primary communications tools for just about everyone, so adoption wasn’t an issue.
Telephony remains a mission-critical application, but now the PBX is just one option for voice, and multi-channel communication has become the norm. PBXs still have utility, but they are no longer the hub of communications for businesses. The PBX backstory is interesting, but it also provides context for the challenges IT leaders face today, especially around worker productivity in a hybrid environment.
The Importance of UCaaS for Hybrid Work Productivity
From a vendor perspective, Unified Communications (UC) is the successor technology to PBX, and now with the cloud, Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) has become the deployment model of choice. Not only must IT now support multiple options for voice, but they must also provide seamless integration across other channels like video, email and chat, as well as productivity applications like conferencing, file sharing and whiteboarding. All these platforms need to perform in real-time across multiple network environments, as well as across a wide variety of endpoints.
With all these new permutations, the risk factors become elevated in terms of IT being able to provide a consistent, reliable collaboration experience. None of this is easy to do, and with so many inputs and user scenarios to manage, IT needs the right tools and resources.
IT Challenges for Supporting UCaaS and Providing a Reliable Collaboration Experience
UCaaS platforms have become ubiquitous, dominated by the likes of Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Zoom, RingCentral, and many others. To further illustrate how the UCaaS environment is different from managing the PBX which came before it, consider the following implications for IT:
- UCaaS must orchestrate all communications applications from a single platform. Aside from ensuring network uptime and bandwidth to support various collaboration requirements, every single element tied to UCaaS will require updates or upgrades over time. With technology change being constant, this will be an ongoing reality.
- Given that most IT teams – especially for SMBs – have limited support capabilities, these requirements will often be beyond what IT can manage. There are simply too many continuous updates to stay ahead. Remote, managed testing services have long been a practical solution, but awareness levels aren’t as high as they should be, and with many businesses still getting up to speed on cloud communications, IT teams may not realize what options are out there.
- As with adopting any new technology solution, the starting point will be needs-based, either to address a new opportunity, or to solve a particular problem. In the case of continuous testing for UCaaS, the rationale will be more about mitigating a problem set rather than solving them as they arise.
Why Continuous Testing is So Important for Success with UCaaS
Without continuous testing, IT will not be able monitor the myriad changes that are part of the cloud landscape, and that can lead to both minor service interruptions as well as more problematic disruptions that could take down the entire platform. The key issue here is that there are too many inter-related applications and workflows that need to run in real-time for IT to effectively manage on their own.
Here are just a few examples to consider, both in terms of technical impact and business impact:
- With limited visibility into network operations, IT will not be aware of inefficiencies caused by unannounced updates – not only will IT be helpless to address them, but this will also increase operation costs, and possibly expose the network to new security vulnerabilities
- If UCaaS interruptions persist, IT will be overwhelmed with trouble tickets and tech support requests from workers – and in turn could raise red flags for IT about using cloud-based communications platforms
- Ease of use is foundational for UCaaS adoption, and if workers don’t have a reliable collaboration experience, they will resort to previous habits for getting work done – not only would workers revert to using applications in a standalone fashion, but operating costs will rise due to using multiple offerings that do the same thing
- If that happens, collaboration effectiveness may take a step backwards, especially if gravitating to consumer-grade applications that don’t integrate with other tools the way UCaaS does
- This DIY approach makes it impossible to standardize workflows, whether in the office or working from home
- Great resignation ripple effect – today’s tech-savvy workers expect to have the tools needed to work effectively, and UCaaS delivers that – but if the user experience and reliability is poor, attracting and retaining top talent will become problematic
Continuous testing doesn’t guarantee these issues will never arise, but it goes a long way to mitigating their potential impact. To whatever extent IT can manage this internally – and it’s likely very limited – having a managed, always-on service alleviates the ongoing stress around IT needing to do this. Services like this become even more attractive when considering that no IT training is required, nothing needs to be installed, and everything is automated, including report generation.
Perhaps most importantly, IT gets peace of mind knowing that all of this is transparent to end users. The speed of change isn’t slowing down, and the UCaaS big tent is only getting broader. As more workers adopt UCaaS, and as collaboration applications expand, it will only get harder for IT to deliver a seamless, reliable collaboration experience. That’s what workers really care about, and when all the benefits of continuous testing are considered, it should be clear why this is one of the best investments IT can make.
About the Author
Jon Arnold is an independent technology analyst, and his practice, J Arnold & Associates has been closely following the collaboration space since 2005. Along with fellow BC Experts Blair Pleasant and Kevin Kieller, Jon has authored this article as part of an ongoing thought leadership program tekVizion has partnered with BCStrategies on. To date, Kevin has authored this article for tekVizion, and Blair moderated this webinar that ran on June 21, 2022.