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Putting the contact center in the cloud blurs lines with UC

The line between unified communications and contact center is blurring as organizations look to bring both technologies together via cloud adoption.

ORLANDO -- The move to put the contact center in the cloud is breaking down the silo between unified communications and contact centers. The move comes as organizations adopt the cloud, prompted by a growing need for tighter integration between their communications and contact center infrastructure.

"It's a trend we're going to see more of. Companies saying they're going to need both of these in the cloud," said Sheila McGee-Smith, principal analyst of McGee-Smith analytics, based in Amherst, N.H., at an Enterprise Connect conference session on the state of the contact center market.

Historically, organizations were more willing to place their contact center in the cloud but leave their PBXs on premises. But as those on-premises PBXs reach end of life, organizations are seeing the benefit of the cloud for both technologies, she said.

For some cloud-based unified communications providers, it's an opportunity to offer native contact center services within their UCaaS offerings and compete with other providers like RingCentral and Fuze, that offer contact center in the cloud opportunities through a third-party provider like NICE inContact and Five9, according to Nemertes Research analyst Irwin Lazar. Having contact center through a third-party provider creates a situation for organizations where they're dealing with a separate product despite buying it through the same license as their UCaaS product.

8x8 Inc. has jumped on this trend with the announcement of the X Series platform, which puts the contact center in the cloud by combining 8x8 UCaaS with cloud contact center.

Nearly half of new customers are buying both of 8x8's communications and contact center platforms, according to 8x8 CEO Vik Verma. The new X Series platform brings those separate services together under one roof, reflecting an industry trend that's moving away from siloed point platforms for telephony and contact center.

"They're all being integrated together and having one common data layer, engine and workflow," he said.

The platform will offer different levels of functionality based on an organization’s needs, from basic helpdesk to full contact center capabilities. For example, a helpdesk organization with light contact center needs could deploy a basic tier, while an organization with a full contact center that wants features like speech analytics and workflow management could deploy a full contact center tier.

Organizations can scale up and down as their communications and contact center needs change. The platform also offers built-in CRM and integrates with third-party services including Google G-Suite, Salesforce and Zendesk. It will be available in the U.S., U.K. and France this summer.

"8x8 is trying to capture this moment in time when UC and contact center may be the required package," McGee-Smith said. "It's going to be more than just partnerships; they have to show tighter integrations."

Avaya is also following the trend of putting call center in the cloud. Avaya completed its acquisition of cloud contact-center-as-a-service provider Spoken Communications this week. Spoken's architecture is already fully integrated with Avaya's customer experience technology and provides a pure-cloud platform for Avaya's omnichannel contact center offerings.

Lazar said the acquisition helps Avaya to position against contact center vendors because the vendor can combine its UC and contact center offerings.

Karen Hardy, vice president of product marketing and solutions at Avaya, said the vendor recognized the blurring the line between UC and contact center experiences. The software developer's kit that Avaya's softphone, Equinox and Vantage desktop phone are built on is also used for its Oceana contact center offering, she said. Spoken also has the Avaya Aura collaboration platform and Elite contact center platform in the cloud as a contact center as a service offering.

"This opens up a way to move all of our customers to the cloud in a more seamless way," she said. "They've already got that platform, that experience, that infrastructure."

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