While the lot of attendees were either sauntering around their hotel rooms or readying to check into the Expo for the day, we sat in for a panel discussion on Accelerating Managed Unified Communications Adoption. Throughout the discussion, there was a distinct focus on some of the key elements involved in helping the market in making a seamless switch to a pure cloud solution. Guy Yasika, Regional Sales Manager at Alteva put it best by saying, “In reality, it’s a relationship thing…customers need to learn when making purchases. In the VoIP space, there’s simply a need for understanding on how things work. “. Educating the customer throughout the purchase process and beyond is incredibly important as many consumers step onto foreign ground. A delicate combination of guidance and assurance is an integral part of providing managed UC and cloud services with confidence.

Moderating the discussion, was Dan O’Connell, research director in Gartner’s Enterprise Communications Markets. He directed the initial concern towards some of the trends influencing the shift. As noted in the ITExpo East 2013 program, “a 2012 IDC study reported that approximately 40 percent of enterprises have adopted unified communications (UC) and collaboration systems, while another 35 percent are planning to deploy the technology within the next two years”. The industry is truly heading in this direction, but what approach is best? How do you address issues with implementation and configuration? With regard to these questions and more, the panel had some really key insights and takeaways to add.

Trends in Cloud Adoption

Many companies (included the panels in attendance) are noticing the increasing demand for a variety of access across a range of devices. The demand for sophisticated mobile service is growing, with providers wanting to meet that need. Vertical sectors in government, healthcare, and manufacturing are finding cloud to be the perfect fit, and appropriately, advancements in security & accessibility are a key focus moving forward. With a tighter economic crunch than ever, the SMB to large enterprises are taking to leveraging cloud service rather than their own infrastructure – the cost efficiency is proven.

Akhil Behl of Cisco, Senior Network Consultant at Cisco pointed out that an astounding 3 or 5 organizations have a presence on WebEx – quite the high percentage. Generally speaking, businesses are trying to do more with less, and a powerful cloud infrastructure plays a large role in reaching that desired end. In the overall scheme of things, certified and customized products are winning the race. An interesting point of comparison lies in the market in which Yealink focuses, including technologically developing regions like Brazil, Columbia, Peru, and Argentina. Their rep on hand, Alexandre Hebra, emphasized the success the cloud’s flexibility and potential for growth have brought Yealink in implementing solutions within this environment. There are parallels across the board no matter the location, in which Alexandre poignantly added, “The trend is clearly cloud” in overcoming challenges big and small. Taking bulky, expensive equipment and requirements of technical know-how out of the equation are clear and concise way to universally propel UC and cloud to the next level.

Control & Security

Although many companies have made the move or are considering the move into the cloud, security is surprisingly a conversation that arises. Guy Yasika added, “Most customers will assume that you are a safe environment”. The extent of this concern really goes no further than subscribers asking about the security of connecting their LAN to WAN. As suspected, there seemed to be general concordance that security issues aren’t even a blip on the radar, due to a lack of incidence. Simply stated, nothing devastating or incredibly alarming has occurred to date involving cloud security compromisation, so to speak. At this juncture, Forrest Gump would indicate he had nothing more to add on the issue, but I’ve got your attention and will continue.

Next point of discussion involved whether customers feel a sense of control when it comes to moving to cloud, or if it’s essentially a blind foray. Leslie Ferry, VP of Marketing at Broadsoft noted the lasting importance of the former by commenting on how “portals, user interfaces, and ease of use” are especially vital. In consideration of these factors, it’s the quintessential difference between a cloud solution be one of consistency or contingency – users need control. With companies manning the helm of their own real-time analytics and reports, comes a sense of comfort, for both the user, and the customer service reps who won’t be squandering countless man hours providing answers that can be easily displayed within a polished, well-maintained portal.

Customer Integration

As more enterprises realize, or have already realized the undeniable benefits of cloud and UC migration, there is no sitting back and relaxing for providers and developers. There are still a number of challenges that remain, as deployment and management are a proverbial work in progress. Integration with business process software is one attraction helping companies make the switch, with extensions on their foundation of communications service in Sugar, CRM, etc. As opposed to migrating to a complete solution, migrating to a well-balanced hybrid package yields great results. Open APIs were noted as another factor in “future-proofing” companies – that is, accommodating the needs of the consumer no matter which direction they choose to move in. Akhil Bell, Senior Network Consultant at Cisco touched upon something we hear ad nauseum, in interoperability, as it’s becoming a growing requirement as opposed to a luxury.

The discussion concluded as soon as it began, with three quarters of an hour moving especially quickly. I attribute this to a mixture of me drinking too much cappuccino in the hotel lobby this morning, along with the smooth flow of the panel with the legitimate concerns and affirmations shared. The growing adoption of BYOD, continued management and evolution of UC solutions, and the vigilance/planning of customers is what truly mitigates expense and increases scalability. The panel agreed on many points, without mention of deployment tactics being a perfect science. There are still complexities in getting enterprises up and running efficiently, and allowing them to continue to do so. It seems the companies involved in today’s panel discussion are heading in the right direction, as the world at large begins a slow (preferably smooth) transition far, far away from legacy voice systems.

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