5 Key Unified Communications Components Every Enterprise Needs

by Scott Yelton
August 21, 2019

The market is crowded with choices for UCaaS ranging from “pure play” SaaS providers to network providers, cable companies and resellers. To narrow the field, start with a short check list of key criteria based on your business needs with a focus on these five key areas:

  • Ease of Management/Use
  • Scalability
  • Integration with Systems and Business Applications
  • Service Quality and Control
  • Security and Compliance

Ease of Management/Use
Technology should work for you. That’s why it’s important to ensure your UCaaS system is easy to use and manage by everyone in your organization. End-user adoption depends on having intuitive web, desktop and mobile applications as well as features like Single Sign-On (SSO) which can leverage your company’s Identity Management System for fast access to the UCaaS portal. The portal itself should provide a varied level of administrative access and control and include all your locations, business units or divisions in an easy to understand format. In addition to standard administrative features like real-time service ordering, order tracking, trouble tickets, billing and simple end user administration tools, make sure to look for advanced efficiency capabilities like end-user and site-level reporting, analytics and monitoring.

Pro tip: Ask for a demo or trial to see first-hand if the system you are considering will be easy to use for both your administrators and end users.

Scalability
One of the best aspects of UCaaS is its ability to grow with your Enterprise as you add new employees and locations. However, UCaaS providers vary widely in what geographic regions they can serve. Make sure the provider can service your current phone numbers and deploy service technicians to your sites for installation or repair, especially if you have limited local IT support. Don’t forget to discuss your planned growth with providers to ensure the platform can handle the size and scope of your future enterprise.

Integration with systems and business applications
Siloed applications create complexity and more cost when deploying new solutions, making integrations critical.

  • Start with a major category like your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools. If the UCaaS provider does not already have an off-the-shelf integration, look for providers that enable open API connectivity and are set up to work with you on custom integrations.
  • Next, look for UCaaS solutions that integrate with your email and calendaring software to streamline the scheduling and management of web meetings. (Bonus points if they can also integrate with your existing audio/video systems that have been sitting in a conference room gathering dust!)
  • Then investigate team collaboration tools like SLACK and Microsoft Teams so employees can seamlessly operate across all their communications services within a single application.
  • Lastly, don’t forget your mobile and remote employees who sometimes need hands-free operation with voice assistants like Amazon Alexa to perform simple communications tasks like checking voicemail or re-routing their calls.

Service Quality and Control
Poor service quality is one of the primary reasons businesses switch from their current UC provider, no matter how well they rate in other categories.  Narrow your search to network-based providers who offer services like SD-WAN. They have a distinct advantage because SD-WAN enables visibility and control to monitor and manage down to the application level.  The provider also needs to be set up to support an enterprise size customer with the right mix of individual and project teams who manage your installation process from multiple aspects.  Contrast this level of quality to “pure play” SaaS and cable companies who have little control over the service quality and performance of their UCaaS solutions.

Security and Compliance
Your industry may influence your UCaaS requirements. For example, if you are in healthcare then PHI is governed by HIPAA and you need a provider who has been evaluated on their ability to enable your compliance via HIPAA, HITECH or other attestations. If you are in manufacturing or financial services, SOC2 may be more relevant to compliance.  Ask providers upfront if they have and maintain these certifications and attestations.  This may save you time and allow you to sleep better knowing you have a provider who can support you during an audit.  It shows a commitment on their part as well to maintain rigorous process and security measures.

With your checklist in hand you are prepared to begin making the move from a premises-based system to the right cloud-based UCaaS solution for your growing business.