Round Table: UCaaS platform selection advice from industry experts
At a time where there’s no longer a “one size fits all” solution to communication and collaboration, businesses need a stack as flexible and agile as their strategy. The Unified Communications as a Service market is quickly becoming the go-to option for many companies, offering the perfect blend of forward-thinking technology and scalability.
By 2024, the UCaaS market is set to be worth around $79.3 billion, and countless vendors are stepping in to claim their portion of the sector. The question is, how do service providers choose the right UCaaS solution in today’s competitive landscape?
To get an insight into the trends and considerations that are set to drive UCaaS decisions in 2020, we spoke to the leaders in the UCaaS industry. Here’s what we learned from Cisco, Centile, MetaSwitch, Mitel, and NetSapiens.
We started our search for answers in the service provider environment. After all, the people making decisions in today’s UCaaS space aren’t just the end-users interacting with a communication stack. Service providers need to think carefully about how they can embrace a platform and vendor that’s user-friendly, immersive, and suitable for their needs.
Justin Hamilton, Director of Centile:
The Director of Centile, Justin Hamilton told us that “Telecommunications services will always be emotive”. We’re living in an environment where a 5/9 dial tone availability is expected and demanded. This means that service providers need to opt for a solution that’s tried, tested, and proven. “Experience in this sector is essential, and not all devices behave the same way.” Choosing a partner with a solid financial background that can stand the test of time in a competitive space is a must.
At the same time, Hamilton believes that it’s crucial to select a device that’s mobile-ready for the modern landscape. Traditional office users are evolving, and many organisations need a more flexible strategy. A mobile-ready offering that offers excellent control and management will be essential for service providers that want to stay in control.
Additionally, Centile believes that businesses need to distinguish their proposition with their own label. “As you put effort in differentiating with bundles you should also choose a provider that enables you to keep your brand in the market, so you’ll be recognised as the provider of that unique offer.”
As the demand for UCaaS solutions continues to accelerate, the way that companies approach the market is changing. Businesses now have the opportunity to build their own UCaaS platform using a mix-and-match modular structure, or they can buy something that’s already prepared and designed for success. While both solutions offer their own unique benefits, they also come with challenges to consider too.
We asked our UCaaS platform experts what they think the best solution will be for service providers as they move into the competitive landscape of 2020.
According to Justin Hamilton: “The value available through creating bespoke integrations and custom configurations can be significant. However, this does not demand that you develop your own platform. With the myriad of channels now needed to build a UCaaS platform, a fresh build with security layers and multi-level necessities is a massive undertaking and only a have really can get to market and achieved a decent ROI. There is a reason for this -it is complex and time-consuming.”
Hamilton noted that as soon as service providers have managed to get one part of their home-built operation working, the market requirements will have already shifted, and customers will be asking for something new. “Our recommendation would be to access APIs from your platform to get to market quicker with niche development to personalise your offerings. Let the vendors to the heavy lifting at the back end and build your brand and customer base.”
Sonali Karnik of Cisco said that they recommend always opting for a vendor-hosted solution. The work required in building and managing UCaaS and CCaaS solution is significant. It requires ongoing investments from service providers, rapid innovations, massive economies of scale, and a massive range of skills. As the market evolves, the process will become even tougher.
“Solutions such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, voice recognition, and other highly specialised technologies are only becoming more prevalent and widely used. The agility needed to deliver a constant flow of innovation and enhancements is essential to remaining competitive.”
Cisco believes that service providers have a unique value proposition in their ability to engage and serve customers with a complete solution that already integrates with their mobile networking, broadband and PSTN offerings.
“Partnering with a vendor solely focused on building and potentially operating the UCaaS solution is a win-win proposition”
Finally, as more service providers continue to emerge and evolve in the communications landscape, differentiation is still the name of the game. However, finding a way to set yourself apart from the competition isn’t always as simple as it seems. Many service providers are still struggling to prove that they have something different to offer than their competitors.
We asked our industry experts how new and evolving service providers in 2020 will be able to approach the issue of differentiation successfully in 2020.
Centile’s director told us that “Control is the primary key to differentiation and having said that, you need to be able to do all the basics effortlessly as a prerequisite. There are many levels of opportunity to differentiate from support, deployment best practice, marketing angles, bundling, platform choice and technology offerings to suit the differing user types. Price can play a part. However, this is far less of a pressure if you can demonstrate for example how simply you can work and evidence how customers are going to be more efficient.”
According to Centile, if you can show how a customer’s staff base will be able to save crucial time every month, then you can differentiate with ease and productivity. “I believe that sales training offers a lot of opportunities to protect margin and drive differentiation.”
Cisco’s SP for Webex Calling said that all markets and segments today have their own unique needs. Service providers are in the unique position of being able to bundle network and support services through Meraki, Cisco Webex, and more with Cisco.
“First, service providers can create product bundles and pricing optimised for their respective markets and segments. Another key area is simplifying and adapting the buying and on-boarding experience through an optimal mix of human and digital channels. They can also leverage the knowledge of their markets and customers to create offers targeted at specific verticals of business sizes.”
Karnik believes that there are unlimited opportunities in the Cisco ecosystem to build solutions as a service provider that are differentiated and unique. The key to success often lies in the go-to-market approach that the service provider uses to win the attention of the customer. Service providers need to offer solutions that are “easy to find, to try, to buy, to onboard, to adopt, and to grow.”
Metaswitch’s Chris Carabello acknowledged that the fight for differentiation is a significant issue for today’s service providers.