Managed services, UC-as-a-service brings UC to more boardrooms

Customers demand flexible, cost effective and truly mobile communication platforms-the industry delivers

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Managed services, UC-as-a-service brings UC to more boardrooms
By  David Ndichu Published  May 18, 2017

Unified Communications vendors are adapting to the emergence of new delivery models of UC including managed services, Unified-Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) and Cloud.

This is in response to businesses increasingly turning to, and demanding, innovative and capable unified communications, collaboration and WorkFlow solutions that deliver productivity for their increasingly mobile workforce.

Citing Gartner, Savio Tovar Dias, director, sales engineering for Avaya in the AMEA region, says the public cloud services market in the region is projected to reach $1.2billion this year.

The rise of Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) in recent years is enabling businesses to utilise the cloud to embed foundational team engagement functions such as IM, presence, and click-to-call into cloud applications, Dias notes. “The CPaaS market in 2015 was valued at $400 million and is expected to reach $8.1 billion in 2019. The one-and-done, click-to-collaborate generation of mobile employees is here to stay,” he adds.

The growing access to the Internet, better broadband speeds, and therefore a more connected world has the world demanding for more. “The primary purpose that United Communications fulfils is improved communication, as organisations adopt a single channel for call, messaging, email or conference. The markets have become dynamic with enterprises looking for better services, value for money and collaborations, all at the same time,” says Bankim Brahmbhatt, president & CEO of Bankai Group, the parent company of Panamax, a global provider of telecommunications solutions.

With up to 95% of businesses in Dubai falling into the SMB category, UCaaS solutions are an ideal match due to their relative affordability and easy implementation in existing enterprise networks, explains Ahmed Sousa, regional manager & solutions architect, MEA & Turkey, Polycom. “With more enterprises in various industries investing in video solutions to enhance productivity, there is a tremendous opportunity for the “as a service” model in the region.”

Cloud has been the talk of the industry for a while now, but not so much in real terms among customers, resellers and distributors. The conversation has changed since last year though, says Thomas Veit, senior VP, EMPAC region for Unify.

“Cloud has now clearly moved into execution stage,” Veit says, adding, “People are not just talking about cloud solutions; they are demanding cloud solutions.”

Unify introduced the cloud-centred Circuit solution last year, bringing collaboration to corporate teams, with voice, video, screen-share, chat, and file sharing via a single platform.

Vendors have been keen to react to these customer demands, some faster than others.

Although cloud is clearly on the ascendancy, there’s still clear need for the more traditional voice, albeit as a cloud offering, says Veit. That is the why Unify launched OpenScape solution for SMBs and SMEs, delivered on a pay-as-you-go model.

Unify pay-as-you-go model is atypical of industry norms, Veit says.

Ordinarily, most “pay-as-you-go” offerings in the market will offer the solution and then users are charged pay a standard monthly fee. “Our model is different in that it adapts to current needs,” explains Veit. For example, a user may require 10 units from Unify now. The requirements may then scale up to 20 users in the near future before going down to 5 a while later. In such a scenario, the customer only pays for those users.

Further, they may require different services. Again, the customer will not pay by user, but by the service they have used. So customers get a monthly bill based on exactly what they used. It’s akin to how prepaid smartphone plans work where rates are calculated by, say, the number of SMSs or calls made, notes Veit.

Mid this year, Unify will launch the high-end enterprise version of OpenScape that will be offered in the UCaaS model. This means customers have the option to buy it as a hardware and software or as software alone, on-prem or entirely as a cloud service, explains Veit.

Polycom has duly taken note of this trend by adapting its approach from merely pushing hardware to selling services with an eye on cloud solutions in the region, says Sousa. “There’s a lot of excitement about video-as-a-service and cloud services, but there are a lot of other service offerings you can offer to customers before you get to a cloud shared type of approach,” Sousa explains. This entails anything from leasing to managed services where Polycom would provide the kit and then customers simply pay per user, to a utility model where customers can pay per call.

Panamax’s Bridge2Call Unified Communication and Collaboration (UC&C) Suite is a combination of several communication applications into a single entity. The UC&C Suite allows real-time communications (IP and voice telephony, instant messaging, data sharing, video conferencing, speech recognition, call control and others) and non-real-time communications (e-mail, SMS, fax, and voicemail), in one interface.
“With Bridge2Call UC&C platform, companies adapt to market changes quickly, increase productivity, gain a competitive advantage, and can deliver a rich-media experience, across any workspace. This solution is also cloud-ready, which means that it is higher on the scalability aspect,” says Brahmbhatt.

Avaya has been active in this space for the last decade, and continues to innovate, Dias says.

Avaya Equinox, which was introduced during GITEX last year, delivers a mobile-first communications platform on personal devices, and embedded into the applications and browsers that employees use every day.  “Equinox is built around a mobile-first reality—the notion that our smartphones and tablets have become our lifeline to … everything. Now, companies and employees can experience the benefits of 1-click, contextual interaction, collaboration and conferencing from any browser or device using a streamlined and customisable communications solution,” says Dias.

The Equinox core servers are now pure software-based MCU with WebRTC and multi-vendor support. On the mobile application, the Equinox client can be delivered on any mobile, tablet, PC or Phone handset.

With its Client SDK, Avaya now also has the ability to embed voice, video & chat into any mobile customer application, says Dias.

Although cost savings is an obvious motivator for businesses to adopt UCaaS, other benefits are to be had by taking this route.

Collaboration is one of the biggest advantage of UCaaS where several tasks can be encompassed within one single platform, notes Brahmbhatt.

This makes the management of the portal easier and hassle-free. Further, since there is no manual management required here, there are lesser chances of any error while ensuring simplicity of operations. The setup is also easier due to it being a cloud based services, Brahmbhatt adds.

Mobility is another crucial factor, which enables organisations to facilitate their workforce to operate remotely from any location. Besides, the model is extremely scalable due to the product delivery happening over web, thereby ensuring effortless addition or removal of services, Brahmbhatt says.

“Most organisations work or want to work globally, hence the increasing demand of an efficient mode of communication so all the offices across the world are connected together. Since UC slashes the costs for the international calls, this model is a huge benefit for the enterprises,” Brahmbhatt says.

There are tremendous opportunities in digital transformation and delivering smart solutions, says Avaya’s Dias. In a next-generation communications environment, a series of unique interaction touch points are created to form a dynamic, inimitable customer journey. Companies need the speed and flexibility to design, build and run unique applications to meet constantly changing customer needs and business requirements. Experience is everything and organisations can unlock the ability to compete and win the hearts and minds of employees and customers with UC as a service.

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