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How to lower the total cost of ownership for your unified communications

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Spending on communications resumes its inexorable march upwards in 2021, with Gartner’s most recent update (October 2020) forecasting the sector will account for an eye-watering 36% of total IT budgets this year.

Inflationary pressures aside, the task facing CIOs and IT directors attempting to manage their unified communications costs in an effective manner is massively compounded by the complexity of the new Work From Home reality.

It’s a terrain companies find themselves exploring as a result of global pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. A landscape that demands a rapid paradigm shift in thinking if you’re to navigate successfully.

Those companies already migrating to the cloud and embracing decentralized solutions uncoupled from a primary premise can approach this brave new world with surer footing. But for anyone who spent 2020 scrambling to build a remote tech stack where none previously existed, it can at times feel like the ground is disappearing beneath your feet.

After all, a simple poll of remote workers at most organizations will highlight a litany of technical hurdles that we could generally have taken for granted as solved in the office environment — patchy internet connections, spotty Wi-Fi, high contention and limited bandwidth. And that’s without even getting into the social, cultural and behavioral challenges facing a suddenly remote workforce.

But every obstacle you face is really just an opportunity for improvement. The move to the cloud may have been a scramble for many but one of the great things about as-a-service communication is that vendor lock in is much more avoidable.

So now, with a year of experience in exploring this strange new environment under your belt, there’s never been a better time to revisit old assumptions and new ideals, to build a communications strategy that gives teams the flexibility they need while also cutting costs.

Here are just some of the ways that you can lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) for your unified communications, all while delivering better experiences to your users and customers, regardless of their location.

1. Eradicate hidden unified communications costs

“Almost every large enterprise communications environment is sprawling, diverse, multivendor, and built upon purchase decisions made, in many cases, by previous generations of IT / communications leadership,” wrote Nojitter’s Eric Krapf in a recent post highlighting the financial murkiness facing most IT decision makers when they start to really look at the cost of communications and collaboration.

There are so many potential hidden UC costs. But here are just some your team’s probably had to contend with over the past 12 months:

  • Interoperability challenges rising from a failure build a holistic communications architecture designed to serve the needs of the entire business.
  • Budgeting inefficiencies born from a lack of centralized communications spending
  • Spiraling security and auditing costs as a result of the growing usage of non-sanctioned devices and solutions that haven’t been properly configured
  • Lost workforce productivity due long integration and deployment times or an inability to quickly scale
  • Communications solutions with a high TCO for the following reasons:
    • No built-in resilience, meaning higher capacity requirements or multiple vendors required for Business Continuity Planning
    • Aggregation of service (such as telephony network coverage) leading to margin stacking and longer SLAs for support
    • Higher operational and PSTN access costs due to use of bundled telephony, not to mention variable quality across markets resulting in poorer customer experience and lost revenue
    • Lack of visibility and control over call routing
    • High service management overheads due to challenges around provisioning, configuration, billing and compliance

Doing your due diligence on the vendors you work with, you can avoid many of these pitfalls. Unbundling your UCaaS or CPaaS platform from the underlying voice network layer and instead integrating a SIP trunk provider of your choosing will further mitigate the hidden costs associated with a bundled approach.

As an example, think direct routing for Microsoft Teams instead of calling plans and you’re on the right track.

2. Drive greater collaboration with cost-effective connectivity

Think carefully about how you interconnect with your cloud communications services. The right sort of connection can go a long way towards alleviating many of the technical hurdles to working from home and ensure productive collaboration from remote locations.

When your workforce was connecting to these services from a small number of centralized sites, you could think about dedicated physical connects. But whether you’ve scaled beyond such a simple organizational schema, or your workforce has become a sprawl, the best way to go if you need the ability to connect from multiple remote locations is to do so via SD-WAN provider like Megaport.

This will help you to minimize the hops between remote locations and the servers hosting your UCaaS tools and ensure that network traffic is prioritized in such a way to maximize the performance of your users by unlocking their ability to access the apps and services they need

This will give you the flexibility and security required for collaboration on a vast geographical scale, as well as providing massively quicker routes to enablement than legacy connectivity solutions.

Ultimately, by ensuring high-quality, bandwidth-rich connections between your workforce and the cloud services powering your comms stack, you can encourage the sort of high-quality interactions that serve as a cornerstone to successful collaboration and customer experience initiatives.

3. Consolidate vendors

Vendor consolidation can drive significant unified communications cost savings by enabling you to drastically cut the service management overheads of your legal, billing and operational teams and drive greater workforce productivity as a result. With fewer vendors in your tech` stack, it becomes easier to manage in an efficient way, while your users benefit from a single, standardized set of processes and more predictable support.

Even if you are locked in with multiple providers, consolidating usage (for example, voice network traffic) with one provider can help you tap into financially lucrative economies of scale and unlock deeper discounts that drive down your per minute costs.

And if you choose a vendor whose network features built-in resilience, you can finally rid yourself of a reliance on ‘backup’ vendors, lowering your risk in the process by removing the potential for interoperability issues arising from working with different competing systems.

The hybrid office

Overall, 2020 was a challenging year for businesses that needed suddenly to increase the scale of their collaboration to account for remote working, all while meeting security and hardware requirements on a massively increased scale.

But as the ‘hybrid office’ becomes the norm for more of the workforce, there are things you can do to improve the cost-effectiveness of your communications – through ensuring interoperability, integrating new tools such as Bring Your Own Carrier and scaling smartly.