Small and medium businesses (SMBs) face many challenges when switching over to Unified Communications, especially when voice is involved. They have to roll out new server infrastructure, set up security layers, and add new hardware and headsets. They then have to find a way to finance the entire project. Luckily, new solutions exist in the market that simplify this process, making it easy for SMBs to deploy UC.
Let’s hear more about these solutions from Michael Cassady, the VP of Sales and Marketing from The Via Group, an experienced UC integrator.
“The area where we are seeing the highest interest in the small and mid-market is around Microsoft Lync [now “Skype for Business”]. The fact that it is part of Office 365 and the overall Microsoft solution set makes the value proposition just too good to ignore for many companies,” says Cassady.
Nowadays, many companies try out cloud-based services like Office 365 and then move on to using Skype for Business and Unified Communications. But what keeps some companies from switching over to UC? Cassady has a quick answer: “They want a turnkey solution that fits in their budget.”
What do SMBs want from a UC solution?
According to Cassady, SMBs are interested in the possibilities offered by Skype for Business, such as instant messaging, conferencing, presence management, and Enterprise Voice. At the same time, they can be put off by how complex such UC projects can get. “They want the benefits of increased productivity and efficiency, but they want it to be easy and fast,” he explains.
Companies that do test the waters get to clearly see the benefits of Skype for Business, claims Cassady. They then become eager to get the cost savings from avoiding PSTN with internal and external web conferencing and calls. “To get there, companies have had to answer a number of questions,” says Cassady, “including how can we do this securely, how are we going to put the server infrastructure in place, how are we going to connect to the PSTN, and how can we do it for a reasonable price.”
An effective solution for this comes from AudioCodes and is called OneBox. “OneBox is developed to take away those challenges,” says Cassady. “It is an appliance with wizard-driven implementation that allows companies to stick it in the rack, put together a dial plan, and get conferencing and voice up and running in a fraction of the time it would normally take.”
This solution gives SMBs the benefits of Office 365, Skype for Business, and being on a Microsoft stack, while also making deployment simple, secure, and a lot more cost effective. “For most companies, voice is as mission critical as it gets. Having a turnkey appliance that allows them to keep that in house is very appealing for many.”
Preparing employees for the transition
The above solution takes care of most heavy lifting in getting Skype for Business set up. But that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Unified Communications tend to change the way people work, talk, and collaborate. Most employees will quickly adopt the new options like instant messaging, video conferencing, ability to set up conferences with external parties, and a switch to softphones.
Businesses are frequently unprepared for the impact this has on the individual employee, says Cassady “Remember, many companies migrating to UC have employees that are used to using deskphones and email as their primary means of communications. UC can be like going from 0 to 60 in three seconds.” At a minimum, SMBs must make sure to offer ample support and training. But they should also consider the end users, making sure to tailor hardware and headsets to the type of work people do and how they do it.
“We’ve noticed that companies that have deployed UC have a tendency to overbuy when it comes to deskphones. We encourage them to avoid this expensive mistake, because employees quickly migrate to headsets for productivity purposes and to more easily take advantage of the [new] capabilities.”
Helping SMBs finance a UC rollout
A UC project requires a number of things that SMBs don’t always consider when it comes to financing the solution. These can include desktop hardware, necessary upgrades to the wireless network, audio devices like wired or wireless headsets or UC-ready deskphones, video cameras, SIP trunking to handle communications sessions, software licensing, and professional services. Considering an SMB’s budget, all of this can be a serious obstacle to a successful UC rollout.
This is another area where the market is responding with innovative solutions. “Many of our clients are looking for ways to be able to pay for their UC projects out of their operating budgets, and a new program from Jabra’s Vendor Services Group allows us to offer that.” This programs lets SMBs bundle the costs of a UC deployment – hardware, software, and services – into a subscription model with a monthly fee. This helps them avoid large initial costs, which removes a major obstacle faced by many IT and finance departments. In the end, this speeds up the UC project’s implementation.
“This program allows us to handle all logistics, support, and financing for the duration of the subscription agreement. At the end of the subscription term, customers can upgrade to newer solutions, return the equipment, or keep what they have under a new agreement. It is a perfect complement to a solution like OneBox, which already makes the deployment faster and easier.”