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If you work for one of the 200,000 mid-sized companies in the U.S., the chances are very good that the office phone on your desk is relying on legacy systems that are 10-20 years old, much larger companies and much smaller companies are taking for granted. Does your voice system link to Salesforce. com and collaborative applications that provide greater productivity and more business intelligence? Do you know exactly what happens to customers when they dial in for support and try to navigate the system? Do you know how many of them successfully reach the department or person they are looking for? Do you know how many of them give up and slam down the phone? Most large enterprise companies have unified communications systems that not only give their employees more features but also have far better performance and provide invaluable business intelligence. The same is true for small businesses, which often have plug-and-play hosted communications solutions from their telecom providers, but what about mid-market companies?
Large enterprises are nearly universal users of unified communications for part or all of their operations because telecom providers often put a focus on those lucrative accounts and have devoted significant resources to assisting these large companies in adopting the cloud and implementing hosted voice solutions. Those big companies can afford to make aggressive moves to new technology. For small companies, adoption of the cloud and unified communications is widespread not because they have deep pockets, but because these hosted solutions are inexpensive and they typically have minimal investments in legacy infrastructure. Telecom providers also make it simple for small businesses by providing retail-style bundled packages.
"One of the most important things for mid-market companies to keep in mind is that no two implementations are the same for companies of this size, just as no two snowflakes are the same"
Middle market companies have too often been under-served in this area by providers who see the other two segments of the market as more lucrative. That has meant slower adoption of cloud-based voice solutions in the middle-market, but that is poised to change dramatically. In the past few months, prominent analyst firms have released reports that predict a major wave of cloud adoption by the mid-market in the next 6-12 months. Essentially, there is a level of experience and trust now with cloud infrastructure that is opening the door for migration. The desire from middle market companies to cut costs and simplify IT management provides the motivation to aggressively step through that open door.
This wave of cloud adoption in the middle market is about much more than voice, but it is compelling companies to think about voice systems that often have not been updated in 10, 15 or 20 years Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) solutions allow these companies to make that multi-generational leap in a single, simple step via the cloud, but there are important things they should be looking at and asking about as they move forward:
• UCaaS’s for the Middle Market Are Like Snowflakes – One of the most important things for mid-market companies to keep in mind is that no two implementations are the same for companies of this size, just as no two snowflakes are the same. every discussion about UCaaS needs to start not with a tactical discussion of Option A versus Option B (for example, a hosted multi-tenant option versus true UCaaS), but by backing up several steps and starting with a thorough discussion of the business, its structure, its growth path, the way it interacts with customers. That larger discussion will point your company in a strategic direction that guides each technical decision later on about what UCaaS should provide and how it should be designed. Skipping over that type of discussion will likely be a recipe for a voice solution that does not meet all your needs today and meets even fewer of them in the future.
• The Network Matters–A second consideration for mid-market companies when they are looking at upgrading to a hosted voice solution is to press pause on discussions about the exciting stuff, a hosted voice system can do and take a close look under the hood at the network that powers it. Network is the most critical component of an UCaaS solution, and its flexibility, architecture, speed and diversity will have an enormous impact on your employees’ and customers’ experience. They are often the biggest differentiator between one UCaaS service provider and another.
• Don’t Forget Security–Security is one of the most overlooked issues when mid-market companies start examining hosted voice because it is typically associated with other types of IT services. UCaaS solutions are an extension of the company’s IT operations, serving as a platform for document sharing, collaboration, gathering and reporting business intelligence, and more. Unified communications solutions need to be as secure as the rest of a company’s computing systems. Like the snowflake analogy above, it needs to start several steps back with a discussion of what your company’s security priorities are. Which other applications will your UCaaS be linked to? Will your UCaaS have contact with patient or customer information? Starting with those questions will lay a foundation for a focused discussion of how the network is designed for security and how the hosted solution has that as a foundational layer for all of the features.
No two UCaaS implementations are the same for mid-market companies, and this checklist of things to look closely at during the early planning process for a transition to hosted voice will help put your company on the right path.