Episode 6 – Understanding UCAAS Unified Communication As A Service

Connection
Connection

In this episode of Connection Techsperience Penny Conway and John Fuhrman take a deep dive into the world of UCAAS – Unified Communication as a Service.

Learn about UCAAS, how it can benefit your organization and what you can do to harness the power of this exciting as a Service addition.

Listen to more TechSperience podcasts.

This is a transcription of the TechSperience podcast – Episode 6

John Fuhrman:

A couple years ago I had the opportunity to see, listen to Diane Greene, former CEO at Google. One of their founders and CEOs of VMware – otherwise touted as the ‘Queen of Virtualization’ per Zinc, out in San Francisco. And she said something that, that stuck with me for a couple years.

“Virtualization forever changed the way that machines are built, where Cloud is, is forever changing the way and, and directly impacting the way that companies are built”.

I’m excited for the opportunity to talk about Unified Communications as a Service. I don’t think piggybacking on Diane’s point, there is any platform service, Cloud solution, or otherwise, that can fundamentally change your organization both internally, and externally, in Day 1.

Announcer:

The question for you: are you ready for that change?

Hello, folks!

Welcome to another Connection Podcast. You just heard from John Fuhrman, Connection’s Partner Alliance Manager for Cloud, talking about the high-level potential of Unified Communications as a Service. In this conversation, John shares with us what UCaaS is and why your company should be looking to adopt it.

Connection’s Penny Conway, Senior Program Manager for Workplace Transformation gets us started and up to speed on where the market is headed and where it stands now.

Penny Conway:

John, you actually gave me an interesting statistic, that by 2021, 90% of companies will have adopted some type of Cloud-based Unified Communication System. But, only currently, there 10% of companies have adopted. Is that, true?

John Fuhrman:

Absolutely, and, and even more compelling, or exciting, for me and my team here at Connection is, by next year 50% will be there. So, we have 40% of our customer base to support and guide along this path for the next two years.

Penny Conway:

Wow.

John Fuhrman:

So, exciting time.

Penny Conway:

That’s amazing, so, John tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do here at Connection, and just let’s get to know you a little bit.

John Fuhrman:

Sure, so, Partner Alliance Manager for Cloud here at Connection. Myself and my team, we’re responsible and really categorize our expertise in three main areas:

  • Cloud
  • Colocation
  • And connectivity

From a Cloud perspective, we work, align, and have expertise across 60 to 70 different Cloud-services, anything as a service, ranging from our topic today, Unified Communication as a Service, to Infrastructure as a Service, PR back-up, Desktop as a Service, Device as a Service…

Penny Conway:

Yep.

John Fuhrman:

… near and dear to you.

Penny Conway:

(laughs)

John Fuhrman:

And everything in between. From a colocation perspective, we have access to over 15-hundred data centers around the globe.

From a connectivity perspective, over 90 carriers globally, and really in short, our job is to guide our customers with as many options as there are and it’s constantly changing, daily.

How do we block out the underlying noise? Guide you to the best solution platform, or service, based on your business requirements. So, that’s what we do, day in, day out here.

Penny Conway:

Excellent, sounds exciting. And yes, Device as a Service, very near and dear to my heart. We’ve had past guests talk about OEM devices, and Intel, and Microsoft, and how everyone’s really hopping on that Device as a Service, Cloud as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service – really across the board.

So, Unified Communications as a Service was a new one, for me to learn about. And I’m excited to learn more from you today. So, let’s really set the stage:

What is Unified Communications as a Service for a customer? If they’re looking at their environment, what does it mean to them? How do they evaluate? And what steps do they take to move forward?

John Fuhrman:

Sure, by definition, Unified Communication as a Service is a delivery model in which, PBX, Private Branch Exchange, otherwise the server – the guts of your on-premise telephony system and collaboration applications and services are outsources to a third-party provider. In other words, we’re putting your phone, your collaboration suite of services and applications, into a hosted platform, into the Cloud.

Penny Conway:

So, that means no more of those giant dedicated closets full of phone systems?

John Fuhrman:

Absolutely, and, and when we… When we compare the on-prem versus Cloud, and this arguments across the board, whether it’s your phone system, your line of business applications from an infrastructure perspective back-up… Whatever it may be.

From an on-premise perspective, if you’re fortunate to have the staff, if you’re fortunate to have a Telecommunications Manager, or someone in that role, you’re further ahead than most, and can probably continue to maintain in the status quo, but, when you look at what goes into it. You have maintenance and support. You have to manage multiple carriers to tie into your phone service platform and to support maybe multiple offices, across multiple regions, domestically or globally.

You have hardware costs. You have the cost of downtime, let alone the risk of downtime, because you can’t just buy one PBX. Well, you could.

Penny Conway:

(laughs)

John Fuhrman:

But that one goes down, there’s an issue.

Penny Conway:

Right.

John Fuhrman:

Right? You got to invest in times two, if you will, at the very least.

You got usage fees, and, and just outdated technology, that you’re responsible for maintaining and upgrading along the way.

Versus a, a Cloud-based setup, or Unified Communication as a Service, you get built in DR Day 1.

So, the service providers that we work with, they have Points of Presence all over the globe. And, I-I don’t know of a single one that only has two. Right, so you get that DR out of the box, get a Uniformed Software Platform across the board. You can scale quickly, you can integrate with anything available on the planet today. And you control it all centrally. You control it from an app on your phone.

Penny Conway:

(grunts)

John Fuhrman:

Just making lives easier, and making employees happier.

Penny Conway:

Everything is controlled from an app on our phone, these days (laughs).

So you had actually, we had talked about doing a fun little exercise, where we were going to look at all of the applications that I have, on my own computer or at my desk. And you were going to kind of, say how that wraps up into a UCaaS solution.

John Fuhrman:

Sure.

Penny Conway:

So, I did some research and I went through, all of my applications on my computer last night. So, for just basic, and this just blows me away, for basic chat apps, everyone has a different one, by department or by partner, that you’re using, so, I have:

Penny Conway:

Jabber, I have WebEx, I have Skype for Business, I have Slack, I have WebEx Teams, and I have Microsoft Teams, and along with all of those things that I use to just chat with people in my own company, I have Cores, I have my own Outlook, I have our CRM System that we use and a desk phone.

So, I have find myself sitting at my desk having, my phone actually doesn’t, my headset doesn’t connect to my computer. It sometimes connects to my phone, but everything’s very manual and disconnected, and you’re telling me that UCaaS can actually bring all of these things together, make it a better experience for me, but not only me, but for my company. So, tell me how we do that.

John Fuhrman:

I took my homework to heart, I did it myself. And everything you listed, as well as the three screens I have on my desk, let alone at my home office, just to be able to have as many of those windows open…

Penny Conway:

(laughs) Right?

John Fuhrman:

Right. Control and move back and forth. But, the idea of Unified Communications as a Service, and what it brings to the table, it allows a couple opportunities:

The opportunity to potentially eliminate or consolidate the amount of applications that you’re picking and choosing between. And or the opportunity to integrate with those applications. There’s, there’s a cost factor associated with that. You have WebEx, you have whomevers team, you have Jabber, you have Slack, you have Zoom, which everybody’s loving, and as a company…

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Fuhrman:

… they’re doing incredibly well. But, to break into the UCaaS space, actually, but what do you need? Right, what are your employees asking for? What are they used to leveraging? Let’s integrate with what they like and eliminate what they don’t need and save you some money along the way.

Penny Conway:

Right.

John Fuhrman:

From a cost perspective, just the economics of it, and don’t quote me on the exacts, but let’s just say every one of those applications is ten to twenty dollars per month, per user.

Well, you listed, six, seven, maybe eight?

Penny Conway:

Yeah.

John Fuhrman:

We’re at 120, 150 dollars a month, and none of them are talking to the other. None of them are connected. They’re all separate and you’re communicating in different departments, different customers, different people. For 20 to 30 a seat, Unified Communication as a Service brings all those things together, again eliminates and, or integrates natively or via API into those applications. Just, really giving them the opportunity to work more efficiently across the board.

Penny Conway:

And without any additional infrastructure, because it’s all Cloud-based, it’s all happening somewhere else, it’s all built into that service that you’re providing.

John Fuhrman:

It’s, it’s plug and play. A colleague in the industry likes to make the statement, right, “it’s an API economy, everything’s at the application layer” and so, you know, eliminating the tethered cords, if you will, to your desk, give a company the opportunity to really scale and take advantage of the applications that their employees are otherwise demanding.

Penny Conway:

So, when we look at the current adoption rate of 10%, up against that 90, that will have some, some type. What do you think in your personal, or professional opinion, because this is a podcast and you are allowed to give your opinion, what’s going to drive that 80% increase in adoption across the industry?

Is it organizations looking to make significant changes to the Cloud? Or, do you think it’s gonna be sort of, employee driven, that this is the way that the new work force is using their applications? They have apps, they use things from their phones and it’s easier. So, what do you think is gonna, kind of, break the camel’s back and make this a booming industry?

John Fuhrman:

It’s a great question. A, a few ways I’d answer that, the… Just the Cloud adoption, again widespread, phone infrastructure, otherwise is obviously the world that we’re living in now and the transition that, you know, that we’re all going through and helping our customers through.

A lot of customers are wondering, where should I start? Right. Should I look in and move my key line of business applications to the Cloud? More of that on-prem server storage, you know, SAN infrastructure into AWS, Google, Azure, or otherwise. That’s a pretty significant move. And otherwise that’s somebody’s baby. And so, when I think of the amount of personal notes, speaking candidly, I hate dealing with my phone.

I hate dealing with my, you know, my cellular service provider. I just want it to work. I want dial tone, I want it to connect to everything that I have. As a consumer, we’re used to that experience.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Fuhrman:

And, I think more than ever, employees are judging their IT staff. Based on bringing that experience that we all expect and, kind of, have established at home, into the office. So, the adoption of Cloud. Where do I start? I think your phone, your telephony set-up, is a great place to consider.

And on top of that, you know, I think of, if I could take a step back, and I know we talked about this earlier, but I had the opportunity to attend a Google summit a couple years ago, and Diane Greene was the CEO at the time former CEO and co-founder of VMware. I think, I think she’s been touted as the ‘Queen of Virtualization’.

Penny Conway:

Sounds like it.

John Fuhrman:

And, and Diane said something that stuck with me, over the past couple years now, because it just makes sense. Right, what VMware, what virtualization did really driving and impacting how machines are built, is what Cloud is doing, driving and impacting, the way that companies are built. And I don’t think there’s a single Cloud-service, if you will, that can have as great and as fundamental of an impact on an organization’s culture both internally, and externally, as Unified Communication as a Service can.

So, new IT management, CIO, VIP of IT, you want to make an impact on your organization, this is a heck of a way to do it.

Penny Conway:

How interesting.

So its, I actually really, I like that, sort of, analogy, because we look at maybe more things of the past, like those things that were the huge impacts that either a CEO or someone on the executive staff are looking to organizationally change something to sort of make their company move in a new direction, be more efficient, and I sense it when I’m talking to customers that they want to make that shift, that their, their mind is there and I think people started with sort of the basics, like a Microsoft license that they’ve been purchasing for years on prem. They’re looking to move it into the Cloud, or Microsoft is forcing them to move it into the Cloud.

And that’s another, I asked the question, do you think it’s companies, you executive staff or do you think it’s employees making the shift culturally, but on the other end you mentioned VMware, you mentioned google, those providers are pushing it as well, they’re not building the old way of doing things. They’re not providing the same old hardware, they’re not providing that infrastructure. And so, what are you seeing out in the partner community. You work with a lot of different partners. Where, where are the strengths and the weaknesses in the industry? Who are you seeing as leaders in the UCaaS space? And what’s your, sort of, take on that?

John Fuhrman:

So, everybody, loves, although, I think there’s a shift going on from a credibility standpoint, not knocking anybody in particular, from some of the large research houses. So, you know, Gartner statistic you shared early on, 90% adoption in the next two years. Incredible. Gartner and their magic quadrant, is pretty well respected, and otherwise, you know, the first place anybody would look to say, “Is this technology real? Is this widely adopted? Who can we trust because they’re in one of these four quadrants?”

Well, the UC quadrant, the, the legacy PBX quadrant, if you will, last year, maybe it was earlier this year, Gartner has completely eliminated that. They’re not going to be measuring, rating, otherwise placing, legacy UC PBX Service Providers, in a UC quadrant. Only Unified Communication as a Service going forward.

What, what’s driving that certainly, all the statistics we’re talking about, and the organizations out there that are really adopting this, you know, are those that appreciate the scalability and reliability that Cloud brings to the table. But then you get into some of the cool stuff. The AI, machine learning, you know, the integrations that we’ve talked about with United Business Applications and things of that nature.

Some of the service providers in our space, and we work with all the leading Gartner rated service providers. As well as some you’ve never heard of that are absolutely disrupting this market. Providers like RingCentral and 8×8, Masergy, Evolve IP, some of them have propitiatory platforms from end to end. They don’t use anybody else’s stuff to make what they do great.

Others leverage the best-in-breed technologies from organizations like Cisco, to deliver, again that Unified Communication platform and experience. But the cool thing we’re starting to see is taking advantage of, again, the machine learning that an organization like Google brings to the table with their platform and services. Persona based routing, we joked about this yesterday, but I think the best example is the Discover Card commercial where you’re otherwise talking to your, your boondoggle…

Penny Conway:

Yeah…

John Fuhrman:

Right, on the other end of the line. And, and what it doesn’t state, Discover’s promoting themselves, is that is the direct output of Person based routing, built into these Unified Communication and Content Center platforms that allow you to recognize who’s calling in to your organization. What mood are they at? You know, what mood do they typically get in as soon as somebody picks up the phone? Let’s make sure they’re routed to the best person to handle that customer and at that time.

Penny Conway:

If that existed the hundreds of times that I’ve had to call Comcast, I can guarantee you, I would have had a better user experience (laughs).

John Fuhrman:

Absolutely…

Penny Conway:

You know when my TV’s not working, or my internet’s not working and they’re like, “We’d like you to reset the box”. And I’m like, “If you had known that I have already tried that sixteen times and my frustration level is now up here, you wouldn’t have put this guy on the phone with me”. (laughs)

But that’s interesting you know, I see the Discover commercials, and I never sort of, thought of it that way. Is that we actually have the technology and the machine learning to more aptly you know, designate, someone in customer service because that’s been a huge, like we saw, sort of a peak of customer service it was great. And then it was all of a sudden, for years, we saw like a huge decline.

It was terrible, it was awful. It was outsourced, it was all computer generated that didn’t work. So now seeing this swing, and the technology that the Cloud has really, really afforded us to have, we’re gonna see probably a whole new reinvention of customer service and customer contact.

John Fuhrman:

And it’s… And it’s that customer experience, I mean we hear CX and, and all these other acronyms and ways to describe how businesses are changing their overall go-to-market and it all comes back to customer experience.

Penny Conway:

Right.

John Fuhrman:

I know it’s something we talk about here a lot at Connection. And it’s something we’re always striving to excel in. It… You know, my statement about fundamentally changing your organization with one investment in one platform. This is the platform to do that. You know, stealing from some well-respected colleagues in the industry.

You know, you look at those line of business applications, you look at sales force, dynamics, any CRN, ERP, any of your databases that you use to collect, maintain, and otherwise chart your customers along their journey with you.

Imagine your phone system tied directly into that and when Jim, Joe, Mary, Sally, call in, you immediately have their information. What did you talk about last? Did you resolve the issue? Was it a positive outcome? Did you have to credit them and beyond the Persona based routing aspect, which is really cool that’ll essentially evolve, certainly evolve over time, but you’re able get in an-and, and have an immediate conversation without pulling their teeth through the information that they otherwise have to give before they can talk to you.

Penny Conway:

Yeah.

John Fuhrman:

So, pretty cool the impact you can have externally, to your customers. As well as, again, internally, reducing the windowpanes…

Penny Conway:

(laughs)

John Fuhrman:

The outages, I can’t make a call. Why can’t I receive a call?

Penny Conway:

Right.

John Fuhrman:

My call dropped. None of these things are good for business, externally, let alone internally; from an employee satisfaction perspective.

Penny Conway:

Yeah, great point. So, a company that is looking to say they are not in that 10%, who has already adopted but they’re listening today and they’re thinking I might want to explore this. Where do they start? How does someone even start looking at what’s going on and seeing what they can do with UCaaS?

John Fuhrman:

(smacks lips) There’s a lot of noise out there. So, this stuff is awesome, it’s cool, it’s everything it’s touted to be and there’s a lot of new players emerging and disrupting this market. But, with as many options as there are there’s a lot of noise. And there’s a lot of things to, you know, look out for, if you will.

 There’s the cultural component. Beyond the tech, and the integration points, and all that: is the company ready to make the shift? Right and you have to take a look at how your users are interacting, how they’re collaborating, and then from there, you know, you can start to piece together what would be the right service or platform to, kind a bring that to the next level in a positive way.

But taking a step back that’s where we, as Connection, and our client specialist, had the opportunity to speak with you about your business requirements, first and foremost. We are you? Where are you looking to be? Geographically, from an application perspective, from a Cloud perspective, what are the key line of business applications that you otherwise hope this platform can integrate with, collaborate with, and data dump into? And, you know, where, where and how are users located? How are they connected? All of those factors we take into account when speaking with, you know, our customers. And from there, we look at the 30, 40, 50, and I’m sure there’ll be more options out there, and really shrink the world on their behalf. And we look at the key service providers that can deliver on those business needs.

The tech is almost easy.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Fuhrman:

It’s really taken the pain of that journey away from the customers and guiding them down the right path into their end result.

Penny Conway:

So, you mentioned there’s a lot of noise out there. And 40, 50, maybe more providers that would be coming. What are the things that customers need to be looking out for, or watching out for as they look to make that shift?

John Fuhrman:

You know, first and foremost, taking inventory of what you already have. And, although we’re talking about everything being in the Cloud, there’s still a physical phone on your desk, should you choose to take advantage of that. So, you know, looking at the current architecture, the current infrastructure, you haven’t replaced current investments that you’ve made. There are a lot of services out there, in particular the Cisco based services that allow you the opportunity to flex some of those costs into their UC platforms.

So, you know, taking inventory of what you have. Taking inventory of the applications that your users are taking advantage of versus those that they’re not, you know, can help establish that baseline of what you eliminate, what you keep, and where you go forward.

The idea of how you approach it, there’s the rip and replace model, which great for those, not for the faint of heart, certainly if you’re ready to do it – go nuts, go all in and we can certainly help you down that path. However, a phased approach for organizations that have multiple sites, certainly domestically, regionally, absolutely globally, is an area where I’m seeing a lot of folks struggle today, in that, you can’t do it all at once…

Penny Conway:

Right.

John Fuhrman:

… because you can’t be everywhere at once. Let alone, you have to find a way to unify a dial plan across all those sites as you’re rolling this out. Otherwise, you’re going to stand up a site and they’re gonna be completely disconnected from the one down the street. So, how you approach that, what services and solutions allow you the opportunity to approach in a phased manner is absolutely something to lookout for and be conscious of. And again, we’re happy to guide you down that path.

The other, you know, some of the noise out there is, is, you know, we talk about everything being integrated and your ability to integrate well with the applications that are important to your core business and your day to day responsibilities. There’s native integration and then there’s other integration. So, just be weary of yes we can integrate with this is where we can get into the bits and bites a little bit more to understand, you know, truly, what is a, a successful integration look like for you as an organization – for your employees. To make sure, again we’re guiding you correctly.

The last thing I would say is: pilot it. POC…

Penny Conway:

That’s my favorite, favorite word: POC. (laughs)

John Fuhrman:

Absolutely have to try this out, and think of the people that are gonna be leveraging the phone. Right, granted it’s everybody right, across the organization in most cases. But, think about the, the person at the front desk in the lobby. Their experience handling calls is a lot different than, you know, somebody in HR, finance, or on the sales team. And give stakeholders from each department an opportunity to come in and experience the system from end to end. To pilot that system from end to end, so you can get their direct feedback.

John Fuhrman:

This is a massive change. It’s a great change and investment to consider and move forward with, but if you don’t have their buy in, and they want to be a part of these decisions, you know, then you could be setting yourself up for some disappointment down the road.

Penny Conway:

Excellent, and I, like I said, Proof of Concept, POC, in my world, with Device as a Service, it’s been a huge gateway for us. Because, I think the same thing with the Unified Communications is, it’s something new, it’s a new model of doing something. Even though it’s everyone’s job function remains the same, everyone is going to interact with the technology, or the service, a different way. And so, I couldn’t agree more with you. Like, get it into the hands of people or on the heads of people, or at their fingertips. Let them learn how to use it, see if it’s going to make their life better. And that, in turn, makes the transition so much easier.

You, I mean, we’ve all, we’ve worked in companies for years. What’s it like when all of a sudden there’s a new rollout of some new technology, or some new chat system that we’re supposed to use without any sort of, you’re blindsided by it, so you don’t adopt it.

John Fuhrman:

Right.

Penny Conway:

And so that’s really, I-I think at the pace of technology, that it’s moving today, the Proof of Concept stage is huge for customers. And, Connection, I think, does a really good job of setting up those POC’s for our customers.

We have talked about a lot today and one of the things that I want to have you come back and talk about. We touched on it just slightly, but have you come back and really talk about the teams aspect. We keep hearing that different platforms are teams, that it’s the one size fits all solution. So, I’d love to have you come back John and cover really deeper what that means. What teams are, what it can replace with, what it can integrate, really your take on it, of, what you see happening in the industry and in the market for customers.

John Fuhrman:

Absolutely, and everybody is going to teams in some capacities. Cisco has their version, Microsoft has theirs. There may be a favorite, in that space from my perspective, but it’s not a telephony system. It’s not a telephony platform. And so, I think the key component, and something I look forward to speaking about, when we come back is, is integrating with that teams environment, effectively, efficiently, and correctly. So, we look forward to the opportunity to speak about that in more detail.

Penny Conway:

Awesome. Thank you so much for joining me today, John!

(outro music)

We learned a lot about Unified Communications as a Service. You shared, very nicely, how yo-you and your team can help support our customers through that exploratory phase, through that Proof of Concept phase, so I would encourage, if you are listening to reach out to John and his team.

Visit us at Connection.com and learn more about how UCaaS can really make a difference in your organization.

Thanks so much, John.

John Fuhrman:

Thank you.

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