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ShoreTel Sky Interviews UC expert Blair Pleasant, Part 2

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In part 2 of our interview with Blair Pleasant, president and principal analyst of COMMfusion LLC and a co-founder of ucstrategies.com, we spoke about why organizations are embracing cloud unified communications and how this trend is impacting the business world as a whole.

ShoreTel Sky: So are all those [UC] applications available via mobile phones, as well, like smartphones and tablets?

Blair Pleasant: It's starting to be, that's why all the vendors now are introducing mobile capabilities so that you can do all of that from your mobile device. What happens a lot of times is let's say a salesperson gives out their cell phone number to customers so customers call them directly on their cell phone number. But when that salesperson leaves the company, they take their cell phone and all their contacts and the company doesn't have access to all of that. With unified communications, the salesperson would give out their main business number that goes into the enterprise UC system so when a customer calls, they call that main number and the call goes through the UC system to [either] the salesperson's deskphone or cell phone. So the person isn't calling the cell phone directly, they're calling into the UC system, which sends the call to the person's cell phone. When the salesperson leaves, the company still has information and all the contact information on potential customers, which is not going with the salesperson.

ShoreTel: So that can be considered a benefit for security, in case someone leaves they can't still hop back on the system?

Blair: Yeah, absolutely.

ShoreTel: So unified communications is pushing toward mobile and cloud; is one being emphasized more by vendors or is it kind of together?

Blair: They're both very big pushes by the vendors. The cloud is, what we say, a consumption model, whereas mobile is more of a capability. Most vendors are adding mobile access and mobile capabilities as part of their UC services or solutions. [As for] the cloud, you can either get your UC capabilities from a cloud solution, on-premise solution or a hybrid solution.

ShoreTel: The hybrid is the mix of the two, both on-premise and the cloud?

Blair: Yeah, so there are different types of hybrid mixes, but it might be that some users are using a premise-based solution and then a new office would be using a cloud-based service, but they all interoperate together so it's a hybrid. Or it could be that you have your main voice capabilities on a premise-based solution but maybe contact center and mobile access through a cloud-based solution, so it's a mix of the two.

ShoreTel: Is that more expensive because you're managing both premise-based equipment and you're paying through the cloud for whatever usage you have?

Blair: That's a good point. It could be less expensive than having a premise solution and then adding another IP-PBX or another UC solution to it at another branch; that could be more expensive in the short term than doing a cloud-based service. But if a company knows that they want to move to the cloud or they want to put some capabilities on the cloud, then it makes sense.

A lot of the reason why people are going to the cloud isn't necessarily for cost savings. It could be because they don't want to have to manage and maintain the equipment and the applications themselves, they want to offload it to somebody else. I think that's more of the reason, rather than the cost savings. It's really letting companies focus on what they do rather than focusing on managing their communication equipment.

ShoreTel: I feel another reason people are going to the cloud is because it's more scalable so you can manage more calls or traffic than less flexible premise-based equipment. Would you suggest certain applications should be cloud-based vs. premise-based?

Blair: I don't know if I'd go that far to say some should be one or the other. It really depends on the specific environment.

ShoreTel: So how would a company go about deploying UC? What should be the thought process for a decision-makers who's thinking about whether or not their company should go to unified communications or not?

Blair: Well, I think it's more of a when, rather than if, because certainly that's where communications are moving. The big thing is if they have a PBX that they need to replace and it's time to move to a new solution, certainly they would want to deploy a UC solution, not just a plain old IP-PBX replacement.

If they have geographically-dispersed workers that need to collaborate, communicate and work on projects together, that's a really good use-case for unified communications because the collaboration capabilities from UC are really important to work groups and team members that have to share documents, have a lot of conference calls or web conferences and do a lot of collaboration. That's where UC really shines these days.

Read Part 1 of the Interview
Read Part 3 of the Interview