Cloud Communications: Why Hybrid Deployments Fall Short


Cloud communications systems can enhance employee productivity, customer experience, and sales. Here’s why there’s no need to go hybrid:

Like it or not, the cloud is here to stay, especially as companies of all sizes embrace the technology to drive business value and gain a competitive edge. We’re seeing all the signs: Gartner says that, by 2020, a corporate “no-cloud” policy will be as rare as a “no-internet” policy is today, while Forrester believes the sector has entered a “hyper growth” stage and is displacing on-premises setups faster than expected.

Software as a Service, or SaaS, has led the shift to the cloud but more sectors of the enterprise are following. Security systems, file storage tools and customer relationship management platforms have all made moves to the cloud, but one sector is just on the cusp of a boom: business communications. Gartner predicts that unified communications (UC) end-user spending will grow from $37.5 billion in 2016 to $42.8 billion in 2020, overall shifting the UC spend from 28% in 2015 to 48% in 2020. As more companies embrace the cloud, what’s top of mind is- how do we do this in the most efficient and agile way possible, and without disrupting our business.

Unfortunately, many companies, especially large, more established enterprises, are likely to have an existing, on-premises-based communications system in place that they’ve inherited from the past. As business environments go through shifts and changes (for example, mergers, lease expansions/changes etc.), these on-premises systems often become a patchwork of different solutions with varied levels of integration and interoperability, and different administrative consoles to maintain. The level of investment in these legacy systems also varies widely, but typically these systems are “frozen in time” with little or no upkeep for many years.  All of these factors can make the transition to cloud seem like a daunting task, and it is why some companies consider maintaining a hybrid mix of different communications solutions.

There are a myriad reasons to move directly to cloud, but first understanding why the hybrid approach is outdated and unnecessary is key before embarking on an expansive update to your business communications technology.

Why hybrid systems fall short

Many market pundits say a hybrid cloud approach is the “best of both worlds.” They value keeping existing infrastructure and slowly moving pieces to the cloud. But there are a few key reasons why hybrid is actually the worst of both worlds.

Firstly, with a hybrid approach, your IT department has two different environments to manage. That means more complexity and lost IT productivity.

Second, business communications is hard and requires specific expertise. Rather than outsourcing the “nitty gritty” of your communications system—like number porting, security, monitoring and fraud prevention—to experts, you’re stuck trying to manage these things internally. With cloud communications, this burden is lifted from your IT staff and owned by the cloud provider—the expert. Think about it. Most people don’t generate their own electricity because it’s more efficient to pay someone else to do it.

Lastly, synchronizing different technologies sounds easy on paper but is actually very hard, if not impossible, to do. You can never keep them completely in sync on features or operability, which further complicates maintenance and the ability to extend new features to employees. This means some users will have functionality that others don’t. What’s more, you’ll continue to get data from these different systems that can’t be shared across one another. Gathering real-time insight is increasingly difficult when you have to analyze inconsistent data sets across disparate systems, hindering your ability to look for improvement opportunities and make informed decisions in areas such as sales conversations or customer service. Furthermore, while cloud communications enables instantaneous feature upgrades, on-premises solutions typically have a 12- to 24-month upgrade cycle. That’s a long time to wait for the latest and greatest capabilities.

A mobile and global workforce needs the cloud

young businesswomanThe adoption of cloud communications is key to the future of work. Today’s workforce is increasingly mobile, global and remote. Almost three-quarters of the U.S. workforce will be mobile by 2020, IDC projects, and two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power is now outside of the U.S. Companies looking to tap these markets need to open global offices fast, deploy workers quickly, and be able to reach them easily, no matter where they are or what device they use.

Employees can’t sound as if they’re on a busy street in Indonesia—even if they are—as they talk to customers or colleagues around the world. Not only do they need an integrated, secure communications platform with access from any device and any location, they also need high-quality telephony, instant messaging, mobile conferencing, and more. Only cloud communications can deliver this at global scale.

As companies grow and deploy workers internationally, cloud solutions eliminate the need for them to purchase and install costly hardware and software at each location. With cloud, businesses can scale communications capabilities quickly and efficiently—and get one, predictable bill from a single global provider. All that’s needed to get up and running is an internet connection. Now, workers anywhere in the world can have access to the same high quality communications experience whether they’re at the corporate headquarters in Paris or a remote office in New York.

Here’s the bottom line

cloud computing diagramCompanies may think staying with the hybrid approach saves money. Indeed, many market researchers certainly make the case that companies will spend more money, over time, by moving business functions to the cloud and paying for services as a subscription.

However, most often, total-cost-of-ownership calculations may not easily show some of the root causes that are often overlooked. For instance, just what is the cost of having an IT staff buried for days in keeping a buggy system up, or the loss of productivity when voice or video meetings falter, or when communications quality is so bad a business meeting turns sour? What is the impact on your ability to deliver world-class customer experiences if your employees are not receiving necessary information and data analytics in real-time to make timely decisions? How do you measure employee satisfaction or improved efficiency thanks to features and functionality that make their job easier, more enjoyable, and enable better team collaboration?

The most successful companies achieve greatness by seizing the right opportunities at the right time and knowing when to cut their losses. Holding on to a legacy on-premises system because you have years to go to recoup your investment is akin to wearing old running shoes because they’ve still got some grip left. You’re not going to go as far, as fast, and in today’s competitive business landscape, that’s a big disadvantage.

The choice is clear — wading into cloud via hybrid is delaying the inevitable and a false economy.  A smooth, staged, strategic approach to cloud is the smart way forward.

More on this topic:

What the hybrid cloud provides

Making customer calls painless

Case studies: customer experience management

Bryan Martin

About Bryan Martin

Bryan Martin is Chairman and CTO of 8x8

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