Companies have fundamentally changed their workplaces in 2020, with the majority of employees still working from home. In what was initially supposed to be a short-term situation, business leaders have uncovered benefits with work-from-home (WFH) strategies and at least 56% plan to continue them indefinitely (with 36% still evaluating).
In this environment, unified communications and collaboration (UCC) applications are the cornerstone of successful business interactions. Without the ability to quickly provision new employees, resolve performance issues, and ensure quality voice and video, IT leaders put their organizations at risk for business interruption.
The only way to make that happen is by using advanced unified communications management tools that provide insight, automation, and reporting on the UCC ecosystem. There are five key areas in which UC management tools can provide efficiencies and cost savings: functional capabilities, reporting, monitoring and support, administration, and security and compliance.
Performance management tools focus on application uptime, problem/resolution, root-cause analysis, and ongoing stability of the applications. According to Nemertes’ 2020 customer sentiment ratings for performance management, Unify Square, Oracle, and Empirix scored highest, with Unify Square receiving a 2020 Nemertes PilotHouse Top Provider Award.
Administration management tools focus on configuration and provisioning, event and address management, asset management, and change management. According to Nemertes 2020 customer sentiment ratings for administration management, Unify Square, Voss, and Oracle scored highest.
UCC Management Tools Generate Cost Savings
Though advanced unified communications management tools are great for providing the data and insight companies need to effectively provision and operate their UCC applications, they also deliver cost savings.
Those using performance management tools have reduced their mean time to repair (MTTR) by 15.5% on average, and those with more than 1,000 employees have cut MTTR by 33.8%. Time equals money, so by reducing the time IT administrators have to spend resolving UCC performance issues, they become more productive and can focus on more strategic issues. Though we don’t see organizations laying off IT staff members, they can avoid adding new positions. What’s more, by more quickly repairing outages, employees relying on the UC applications to generate revenue can continue doing so.
Similarly, administration management tools reduce the time IT administrators spend provisioning new employees or changes to existing employees by 30.9%. Those with more than 1,000 employees cut time spent by 36.8%. This is because they can set policies for categories of employees, automate address mapping, and make the provisioning process more automated and less manual.
The cost savings within IT is an obvious benefit. But these capabilities also affect business metrics in other ways. For example, when performance management tools can predict circumstances that may result in an outage, resulting in quick action to avoid that problem, employee productivity and satisfaction is not affected.
If employees aren’t able to collaborate on a project or interact with customers and prospects, that affects revenue, as well. Given employees are typically not working in the same location anymore, the performance and stability of UCC applications have become more vital than ever to an organization’s ability to innovate, collaborate, serve customers, and sell products and services.
The Better the Tool, the Better the Business Metrics
As IT leaders are evaluating advanced unified communications administration and performance management tools, the list of features and capabilities is long—and requires careful consideration. IT decision-makers must evaluate the features needed, then review who delivers those features—quite frequently in a multi-vendor environment.
Though the UC platform providers offer ‘built-in’ basic management tools, they have some deficiencies, including the following:
- They do not manage multiple vendors
- They lack the objectivity IT administrators want, by having a third party tool managing performance for Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
- Because management tools aren’t their core area of focus (the UC platform itself is), they lack advanced features, such as business use metrics, AI-enabled predictive analytics, employee productivity reports, and capacity planning, among other things
In the recent Nemertes study, Enterprise and Customer Engagement Management: 2020-21 Research Study, we asked organizations to prioritize from a list of 37 features for which they would be willing to pay full, partial, or no premiums.
Willingness to pay a full premium indicates IT leaders see significant value in the capability. By far, artificial intelligence (AI)-based predictive analytics is the top area for which IT leaders are willing to pay a full premium. An AI-enabled knowledge base can use machine learning to capture conditions that indicate performance problems may occur. Ultimately, they can take corrective action based on pre-established policies IT administrators set.
For example, the knowledge base may learn that on the first and third Friday of each month, voice quality suffers between the hours of 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm ET at three locations. The knowledge base may have permission to order more capacity from the WAN provider. Similarly it may determine the root cause of the performance problem affecting overall real-time application performance is that the three locations are transferring large video files during those days. is. In the latter case, IT staff may enact other remedies to throttle the video traffic.
In other cases, the knowledge base may determine employees’ behavior suggests a difference from their employee profile codes. Typically, this happens when functional job changes occur, but the titles haven’t changed or managers were lax in changing them in the HR system. Therefore, they may need a change in the IT policies assigned to them during the initial configuration. AI can handle that without human intervention.
Other areas of interest include business metrics. For example, organizations are willing to pay for reports on employee productivity that track how long it takes them to complete tasks using collaboration applications. This shows the effectiveness of the technology in use, which is valuable when IT leaders want to secure funding for additional applications.
Organizations are willing to pay full premiums for several other areas. Those they are most willing to pay for, along with the percentage of companies willing to do so, include the following:
- AI-based predictive analytics (64%): AI knowledge base predicts when problems may occur based on current or developing factors
- Data segmentation (48%): Ability to create classifications or RBAC-like filtering/viewing based on metrics measured or other factors
- Employee productivity (48%): Measures time it takes to complete tasks, and how that time improves through the use of collaboration apps, analytics, automations, etc.
- Problem management (48%): Status and prioritization of problems that emerge, including the type and their suggested and eventual resolution
Monitoring and support
- Helpdesk support (53%): Tools and/or services to track and assist with the remediation of helpdesk trouble tickets, status, requirements
- 24 x 7 managed services (49%): Third-party services to track performance, support UCC environments, and troubleshoot problems
- Capacity planning (55%): Tools that track the network and server capacity required based on the usage of apps and anticipated growth
- Phone/address management (48%): Mapping of directory data to devices and applications, often tied with policies permitted for the users associated with the numbers/addresses
- Device management (48%): Remote and centralized configuration and management of devices (ownership, policies, etc.)
Security and compliance
- Compliance management (56%): Tools to ensure use of collaboration apps meet regulatory requirements, and that employees are using the apps within corporate governance guidelines
- Auditing (48%): Tools to audit spending on collaboration apps, wasted or unused applications, and appropriate licensing utilization
- Guest policy access (48%): Tools to manage the ability of non-employees to access the network and applications securely
A key to success in operating high-performing, real-time UCC applications in the new virtual workplace includes the use of advanced unified communications management tools. Without the data, insight, and automation which is often only available beyond the native UCC administration consoles, it is nearly impossible to effectively operate UCC applications and drive business value from them.