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UC analytics must mature before benefits are seen

UC and collaboration analytics applications, which can track network and employee performance, need to mature before they can truly benefit a company.

The term "analytics" is pretty prevalent in the unified communications and collaboration space, but its actual...

implementation is still in its infancy -- with a great deal of innovation yet to come. UCC is still fairly new, and yet there's growing interest to use UC analytics to measure employee and network performance, but the applications at this point are pretty basic.

The use of analytics is well-established in the contact center where agent performance is measured by a multitude of metrics tailored specifically for that job. UCC, on the other hand, is deployed horizontally across an organization, where comparable performance metrics are scarce.

Additionally, "analytics" can be a generic term with multiple meanings, which sets vague expectations for an organization. Before UC analytics or collaboration analytics can become value-drivers in the market, their applications must mature and become more clearly defined.

Analytics is often associated with other terms that can dilute its value for UCC decision makers. Common examples include big data, workforce optimization, AI, machine learning, business intelligence, analytics as a service, and even Big Brother.

Measuring operational and employee performance

Every UCC vendor has some form of analytics capability, and two basic types of analytics exist. The first type focuses on operational performance, measuring how UCC applications are used. This helps IT manage resources and fine-tune how UCC is deployed across the organization.

Since all the applications are digital, IT can monitor granular levels of activity in real time, and gauge the impact of UCC on workflows. This class of analytics is used widely and is similar to the metrics used in contact centers. However, in terms of UC analytics, it is relatively new, and it's difficult to say how extensively or effectively businesses are actually using it.

The second type of analytics focuses on the end user. Rather than focus on what's best for the network, the emphasis shifts to employee performance. Clearly, this represents a different type of business value, and one that is of great importance to management. This type of analytics is far more complex to deploy and has workplace implications that don't really apply to operational performance analytics.

As such, UC vendors have limited offerings in this space that are not fully understood by businesses. In time, this will change, as these types of analytics can show a return on investment for UCC and measure productivity in new ways. While the capabilities exist, they are currently ahead of what most businesses are willing or able to invest in.

Employee performance analytics offers great promise, but also presents privacy concerns. Whether monitoring employee activity overtly or covertly via collaboration analytics, this is where Big Brother issues will arise.

Microsoft Delve is an example where the value of collaboration analytics may fall more into the realm of business intelligence and big data rather than what line-of-business managers need to evaluate their teams. If employees feel their privacy isn't being respected, the workplace culture could change and render the value of collaboration analytics moot.

Analytics monitor network activity

How businesses use UC analytics to track operational performance

  • Monitor use of UC applications -- both separately and together;
  • Track end-user adoption of UC apps -- for personal needs and with teams -- along with migration away from more costly legacy applications;
  • Compliance with communications and network usage policies;
  • SLA compliance;
  • SIP trunking utilization for cost control;
  • Manage use of network resources to support collaboration sessions;
  • Monitor communications activity for business and personal use;
  • Audio call quality and overall quality of experience, such as MOS;
  • Ensure sensitive company data is not shared externally; and
  • Record sessions and apply speech or text analytics for content analysis.

Understanding the vendor landscape

With network performance analytics, there are two groups of providers: UCC players and third-party software vendors. All the major vendors have various suites of UC or collaboration analytics, as do many of the second-tier vendors, along with OTT-based hosted providers. Some vendors lean toward contact center analytics, but they all have some form of analytics that track UCC.

The major vendors include Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya and NEC. Second-tier players include Masergy, Fuze, 8x8 and RingCentral.

Complementing this is a growing cadre of third-party vendors with a range of analytics tools. Some focus primarily on the UCC space, while others serve many other use cases. Since Skype for Business and Cisco are so dominant, many of these vendors have purpose-built analytics suites for each of these. Leading examples include Code Software and Unify Square. Other notable players are dvsAnalytics, which partners with ShoreTel, and Now Interact, which partners with Mitel, but primarily for contact center analytics.

Clearly, UC analytics encompasses more issues, vendors and providers than are cited here. This analysis only serves to provide a framework for understanding the current state of UC analytics. Once your business has a clearer sense of what to expect from analytics, the task of choosing the right UCC partner will become easier.

Next Steps

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This was last published in February 2016

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