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UC, contact-center integration rife with obstacles

If enterprises are looking to integrate unified communications and contact-center services, they'll need to overcome any concerns they have about cloud technology.

Editor's note: This two-part series explores the relationship between unified communications and contact-center services. The first article explains why the two technologies make sense together, while this second article examines integration obstacles.

While combining unified communications and the contact center offers strong benefits, some factors may thwart integration. And while the cloud certainly has strong momentum and could help a UC and contact-center integration, many UC installations remain on premises.

Other integration obstacles exist as well. Enterprises need to assess how significant the obstacles are and whether they should address them now or later.

Here are three factors that could impede a UC and contact-center integration and why many UC systems remain on premises.

Current understanding of the cloud

This factor is likely the strongest deterrent. While perceptions about the cloud are changing, mistrust and misunderstandings still linger, especially relative to on-premises alternatives.

Common cloud concerns include security, reliability and scalability. These concerns are especially relevant to UC, since many applications require real-time capabilities. Some cloud variations can address these concerns, but many businesses are not yet comfortable with hosted UC. In these scenarios, a UC and contact-center integration is not going to be practical.

Cloud economics have hazy forecast

The Opex nature of the cloud makes it attractive for cash-strapped IT departments, which eases the decision to integrate cloud, contact center and UC. With Capex budgets getting harder to procure, the cloud rationale is easy to support, especially with so many business decisions having short time horizons.

However, cloud-based UC has a short track record, and the long-term economics are not well-understood. As such, cloud total cost of ownership could mount over time, as the monthly hosting and licensing costs continue indefinitely.

If this cost structure is not agreeable with management, IT will have to do a better job selling the cloud investment in terms of productivity gains and improved customer satisfaction.

Some enterprises not ready for change

Cloud-based UC has a short track record, and the long-term economics are not well-understood.

Even if the business case is strong and the Opex model is appealing, key stakeholders need to be ready for change. When shifting on-premises services to the cloud, enterprises also need to consider contact-center integration with communication platforms and other operations for the first time. If both sides don't see a clear benefit, there will be resistance.

Contact centers have long been managed as a distinct entity within an organization, and they might not want to share resources or integrate with other operating units. The performance of contact-center agents is evaluated very differently from other employees, and this may pose some challenges in adapting to a new communications model.

Furthermore, entrenched vendor relationships on both sides could complicate the process for defining UC requirements and which vendors should be considered during a contact-center integration.

Creating a customer-centric culture

The UC value proposition is quite strong when just deployed for internal operations. For that reason, there hasn't been much need to think differently. However, when considering broader trends, it's clear that the enterprise and contact center face similar challenges. By extension, each side could benefit by adopting an integrated approach to communication technologies.

In this context, UC can deliver richer value by leveraging the cloud to provide new capabilities that wouldn't be possible with existing systems. Not only does this allow all employees to collaborate more effectively, but it provides a fundamental building block for businesses looking to create a more customer-centric culture.

Next Steps

Consider a hybrid deployment for UC applications.

UC management can help overcome cloud concerns.

Cloud-based UC alleviates on-premises complexities.

Dig Deeper on Unified Communications Integration and Interoperability