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It’s not always about cloud – Machi talks UC for the SME

Jim Machi is the Vice President of Marketing for Sangoma. He is responsible for developing and executing the global marketing plan including digital strategy, partner marketing, content generation, lead generation activities and launch planning. Prior to Sangoma, Jim spent time at Dialogic and Intel in various roles, including business unit general manager and SVP of product management and marketing. Jim has a BSEE from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in finance from NYU. In this interview Jim discusses the opportunities for partners selling Unified Communications into the SME sector.

Q. What are the real-life drivers for UC in the SME sector?

Many small businesses want a modern phone system that is dependable and easy to manage. Upgrading to a new phone system is a key driver. Many businesses likely have an old phone system that sits in a closet. Their original vendor is gone, and it works “OK”, so they leave it alone year after year. However, at some point the phone system starts impacting the business either by causing lost business, costing too much to maintain or hindering the company from growing. Regardless, it’s time to upgrade the phone system. These issues are the real-life drivers for an enhanced, modern phone system in the SME sector.

What is UC?

UC (Unified Communication) is basic telephony and voicemail capabilities, but also includes other forms of communication, such as presence, instant messaging, collaboration, fax, video, and file sharing. It also enables your smartphone to be tied to the primary business phone system, essentially extending your office phone numbers beyond the physical boundary of the office. Each day, more and more SMBs are taking a step towards deploying UC phone systems (either deployed on-premise or cloud) as their business phone system. There is a growing awareness among SMEs that they need a phone system which does more than make and receive phone calls to keep themselves profitable and sustainable in the long run.

Q. What business outcomes are the hot buttons to press for SMEs?

Increasing Employee Productivity / Combining Disparate Communication Systems into One System
Businesses want to bring some sanity to all the different tools beyond the phone that employees might be using to communicate. The numerous options for communications available for a company, even a small company, have not necessarily made life easier or simpler. On average, an employee spends several hours every day toggling between instant messaging, voice, email, chats, audio/videoconferencing, file and screen sharing, and more to get through their work day.

Unified communications enable employees to manage all their communications from a single window. Studies have shown that UC applications significantly increase staff productivity by enabling employees to check and respond to all their messages from one screen, on any device.

Obtaining More Call Centre / Contact Centre Capabilities – Some businesses want the modern phone system, but also want more features such as music on hold, call-back when available, call queues, and routing rules (such as time of day routing or department routing). In other words, small businesses want to look bigger and treat their customers better.

Some businesses also want their phone system to integrate with other commonly used business tools, such as CRM, help desk, property management or practice management software. Many UC systems provides this integration. UC system can integrate with CRM by syncing up call history, providing click-to-call functionality, and displaying screen POPs. This would enable better customer service better as you would be able to understand their business without having to ask many questions.

Unified communications provide interesting features to small businesses to make themselves appear larger to the customer. With UC, the workforce stays seamlessly connected with each other regardless of where they are, which automatically improves communication with the customer. A feature like Follow Me allows an employee to receive a phone call that was made to their desk phone on their cell phone. And then there is Instant Messaging, which, with just a few clicks of the mouse, can be turned into a phone call or videoconference facilitated by a GUI (graphic user interface).

Q. What are SMEs looking for – magic bullets with which to level the playing field?

If you are a business owner and have the responsibility of choosing a UC system for your company, the following are key criteria to keep in mind while selecting a solution.

1.Productivity—Does the solution help to increase staff output and aid productivity in general by integrating and streamlining business processes and fostering real-time collaboration?
2.Mobility—Does it support the mobile workstyle of today’s workforce which includes working remotely and on different devices (sometimes at the same time)?
3.Look Bigger – Does the solution help your business project a larger look and feel to your customers?
4.Flexibility—Will you still be able to keep your legacy equipment (PBXs, phones, etc.) with the new solution or have the option of moving some applications into the cloud and keep others on premise?
5.Simplicity—Can you expect a seamless transition to the new solution that doesn’t require a lot of re-training or create a burden for your resources who are managing the communication system.
6.Pricing – How much more would you be willing to pay per month for a communications solution with UC features?

Q. Are cloud based UCaaS delivery options starting to dominate the SME market?

There are many reports which show the growth of UCaaS. One such report which a bit different is the IHS Markit March 2018 Unified Communication Strategies and Vendor Leadership North American Enterprise Survey, in which IHS Markit surveyed IT decisionmakers at 201 North American organizations. According to that report, 60% of businesses will have some part of their UC applications in the cloud (UCaaS or private cloud) by the end of 2019. That’s a lot. So, while all the market hype on cloud is justified, and we are seeing growth in our cloud UCaaS business, it’s important to remember that many businesses still want to deploy on-premise systems.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine