There’s certainly a desire for unified communications (UC) in most businesses. In fact, Forbes identified collaboration/conferencing as one of the top three deployed cloud applications for 2016. However, moving from traditional phone, email, and chat to a unified communication solution is often a complex undertaking. There are many different technologies involved in a true UC solution—and often those pieces (both hardware and software) are provided by different vendors. This can lead to complications when it comes to implementing, integrating, monitoring, and managing a UC solution. It raises the question—is it possible to thrive in a multi-vendor UC environment? And if so—how?
Single vs. multi-vendor environment
Why do some companies choose to work with a single vendor or multiple vendors? Working with a single vendor means less relationships to manage but often less UC features and a higher price. Working with multiple vendors will require a company to manage and cultivate more relationships with vendors but they will also have a wide range of UC services to choose from and at better prices.
There are many, many different components to a true UC solution and strategy for your organization. However, they can quickly be divided into a few larger categories:
Voice may be delivered through traditional PBX telephony solutions—or more modern approaches like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solutions. The players here are many—but acknowledged leaders are Avaya, Cisco, and Microsoft. However, there are also many other solutions out there—providing a host of hardware devices and software appliances to solve your voice communication needs. Luckily— industry standards allow many of these solutions to co-exist in a single environment.
There are quite a few vendors out there providing enterprise-class email solutions in a variety of on-premise, hosted, or cloud-based solutions. The key here is interoperability and ease of incorporating other UC technologies like chat, voice, or “team-based” communication formats into your traditional email solution.
Chat is now a mainstay of business communication because of its instantaneous nature. Why write an email if I can get an immediate answer through a chat-based interface? Chat format is ideal for anything from help-desk sessions, closing a sale by quickly responding to customer concerns, or resolving a business challenge. Again, this space is crowded, but an ideal chat solution would incorporate well with traditional email and even voice communications.
In today’s crowded multi-vendor space—you can choose to go with a separate vendor for a video conferencing/video chat solution, but most often, these services are being rolled up to the same provider of voice communication services. This is particularly true when dealing with vendors offering digital solutions like VoIP services. Again, the trick here is interoperability with voice and chat services—ideally moving to a conjoined solution when pursuing a UC strategy.
This chat-based, team-based communication format is an emerging trend in business communications and is born out of the social networking world. Get a group together, and start a massive conversation that flows organically while incorporating file sharing, on-line presence, and instantaneous notification. Many vendors have touted this phenomenon as the “death of email.” While that remains unlikely—it does offer a very engaging, dynamic way to boost interaction, productivity, and engagement. Notable vendors are Slack, HipChat, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams. Again—the key to a good UC strategy is to choose a vendor that can integrate with some of your other communication solutions like voice and yes, even old-fashioned email.
While the UC space is a crowded one, the key to thriving is carefully choosing vendors that can interoperate. Some companies choose a multi-vendor approach, while others are beginning to align to a single vendor that can provide multiple UC avenues and often have the advantage when it comes to integration. Many times, it is wise to consult with a UC expert like SoftwareONE, who can help provide you with valuable advice, proof of concepts (POCs), and pilots of UC technologies like Skype for Business or cloud-based PBX solutions. They can help you maximize the benefits of systems and technologies you’ve already invested in, while helping you transform your business to reduce costs and increase productivity.
So is it possible to thrive in a multi-vendor UC environment? You bet—but focusing on the interoperability of the separate components and choosing vendors that either provide a complete solution or play well with others is key to a successful UC strategy.