Who owns your communications?
Most organisations agree communications are a vital asset – after all, no business can be productive if workers can’t talk to one another, writes Paul Clarke, the UK manager for 3CX.
This explains why a 2017 Global Market Insights report predicted unified communications (UC) will be a $96bn market by 2023. Whatever approach an organisation takes – whether relying purely on voice and email, choosing an all-singing, all-dancing unified communications suite, or investigating other options such as collaboration tools – there is often a feeling that providing communications for an entire workforce is a daunting task, best handled by either a huge enterprise IT team, or a highly skilled outsourcer. The question organisations need to work is why – and is this always the best option?
Whys and wherefores
For those organisations without the massive resources to devote to a large IT project, the rationale behind outsourcing, as with most decisions, comes down to two intertwined factors: cost and complexity.
The thinking is understandable: if the business is to communicate over voice, email, messaging and video – plus other channels as they develop – then it needs the hardware to support each. Not to mention it must be able to support every location that individuals need to communicate from, which might entail separate devices in each spot. Then there is the cost of connecting those locations, and of employing the workers or consultants needed to manage, maintain and implement the system. At the same time, as systems become more complex with so many devices and connections, they also require more skilled management – and have a greater risk of a small issue taking the whole network offline. Faced with this, handing over control seems quite rational.
Give with one hand, take away with the other
However, as with any business operation, there are downsides to outsourcing communications. First is security – can the organisation be certain its lines of communications are protected in the way that it needs, and the right processes are in place if the worst happens? Second is flexibility – will the outsourcer, and so the business, be locked into using a specific vendor or infrastructure; even if that vendor cannot meet all of the business’s needs, or is supplanted by a better option in the future? And will the organisation have the flexibility to adapt its communication strategy to meet its own needs whatever the future brings – for instance, to accommodate a more flexible workforce, to support expansion overseas, or even if the business has to downsize? Considering these issues, organisations may wish to bring communications back in-house. But is it possible to square the circle and have the best of both worlds?
Simplicity – the key to ownership
Just as the greatest reason to outsource unified communications is complexity, and in turn cost, so the key to keeping it in-house, if desired, is simplicity. As with the majority of technology tasks, unified communications has undergone a software revolution – it is entirely possible to operate services entirely over the Internet without even a dedicated SIP Trunk, let alone the copper wiring an implementation would once have demanded. This is especially pertinent with operators such as BT and Swisscom switching off their traditional ISDN connections in the next few years, forcing organisations to modernise. At the same time, most workers can now access every tool they need from a single device, and UC should be no different – a single smart phone or tablet, coupled with a keyboard, headset and monitor as and when needed, has all a worker requires to operate anywhere.
This software-based approach makes UC essentially hardware-agnostic: as long as a device can run applications, and access a central server when needed, it can support the business and in turn make expansion – or regression – and flexible working much simpler. A software approach also makes services more resilient. As long as the software and data is backed up, no device or connection is irreplaceable.
Finally, there is the issue of management. IT teams may not know UC by heart, but they should know software – and how to secure, implement and manage it. Ironically, as we enter the era of software-as-a-service, it’s never been easier to own and operate unified communications entirely in-house. Of course, there’s still nothing to stop a business from outsourcing the capability. But when they do so, they know it is a strategic business decision, not the only possible way to work.