How to Manage Multiple UC Solutions in 2023
February 27, 2023
Guest Blog Post from Kevin Kieller, EnableUC
6 challenges you must overcome to successfully manage a multi-vendor UC estate
Increasingly organizations are faced with the challenge of simultaneously managing multiple UC solutions.
According to a recent Metrigy study, 41% of companies had more than one meeting application, 38% had deployed more than one collaboration application, and 15% had more than one phone system.
For many large or multi-national organizations, there are a variety of reasons that multiple UC solutions may remain in place for a long period of time, or potentially forever: undepreciated assets, local survivability requirements, custom integrations with the existing PBX, geographical or contractual data residency requirements, instances where cloud platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, do not fully address customer compliance and regulatory requirements.
Even organizations who hope to standardize on a single UC solution may spend weeks, months, or even years during a migration period needing to manage both the legacy, often on-premises, and future, often in the cloud, systems.
Then there are mergers and acquisitions to consider. With the on-going consolidation across almost every industry, the largest enterprises regularly acquire and assimilate smaller companies. This again introduces the requirement to manage multiple UC solutions, at least for a period.
Considering these realities, most large organizations have a need to manage multiple UC solutions.
Top Challenges When Managing Multiple UC Solutions
While every UC solution provides its own management interface and/or batch scripting tools, each of these tools operate differently and provide a fractured view of your overall organization.
Organizations needing to manage multiple UC solutions typically face challenges in several areas:
- Ballooning operational costs. It is rare to find a single resource with deep technical skills across multiple platforms. As such, additional staffing costs are often incurred. A service management platform can offer simplified self-service tools and can hide complex scripting behind simplified interfaces for your help desk staff, or better yet make common activities available through a self-serve portal.
- Increased configuration errors. UC platforms are becoming more complicated as vendors add features monthly, the curse of CI/CD (continuous integration and continuous delivery). Many of the platforms, including Microsoft Teams, often require complex scripting in order to assign new features and capabilities to users; scripting access to new features typically arriving before a form-based configuration method is available. Even the most experienced IT professional can occasionally make errors during this configuration process, and these changes are not centrally logged.
- Ensuring adequate access security and visibility across all systems. UC systems are increasingly complex. In the real world, well-intentioned configuration changes occasionally cause negative customer impacts and unintended outcomes. Without a consolidated view of who changed what, when, and in what system, it can be very difficult to troubleshoot and mitigate arising issues. Further, overall security is degraded when separate access controls are applied for each management tool. Related to security, many UC platforms do not provide the ability to delegate administration to local personnel in a granular fashion. This may mean giving elevated access to more individuals. A service management tool can often control the delegation of access to specific functions in a more flexible manner.
- Managing your number inventory across the multiple systems. Inadvertently assigning the same number to services in different systems, right-sizing your number inventory, and supporting users who have PSTN capabilities across platforms (permanently or during a migration) is challenging if you are forced to flip between multiple console interfaces. See my article “Complex Number Management in Multi-Vendor UC Solutions” for further details.
- Providing leadership with timely, consolidated usage, adoption, quality, reliability, and licensing reports across the entire breadth of communication tools. You can try to manually compile and consolidate information, but this is a labor intensive and time-consuming process that is more likely to introduce errors in the results.
- Finding and retaining IT resources with the necessary skill sets becomes even more challenging if you are migrating off a particular platform; at some point, if resources only have skills with the legacy platform, as they see demand for their services diminishing, they may seek opportunities outside of your organization, leaving you with a skill vacuum. Resources with current skills on leading platforms are always in high demand, driving increased costs unless you can leverage tools to reduce the need for high-cost resources related to common activities.
What to Look for in a UC Management Solution
If your environment was simple, you would be able to use the management interface provided by the UC vendor.
Assuming you are tasked with managing users on multiple platforms, an ideal solution would exhibit several key attributes:
Flexibility and Self-Service – The division of labor varies across customers and a UC management solution should be configurable so you can control what functions are available for self-serve, to help desk staff, delegated to staff at remote locations, and reserved for more senior admins. Further, given that key metrics vary by customer, a UC management solution should allow complete customization of reporting and monitoring dashboards.
Extensibility – UC systems increasingly interface and rely on supporting organizational directories and applications. A UC management solution should be able to be extended to manage and report on these associated systems.
Scale and Automation – the ability to manage hundreds of thousands of users, track hundreds of thousands of phone numbers, and produce consolidated reports based on millions of communication events per month.
Where to Look for a Solution
Service providers manage UC solutions for multiple customers, each of which may in turn have a collection of UC solutions. It makes sense then to look at UC management tools that are used by service providers when seeking out a robust solution for complex environments.
Recently I have become acquainted with the tools from VOSS Solutions.
VOSS Migrate, Automate, and Insights are tools that have been specifically designed to provide the flexibility, configurability, and scale required by partners, and the enterprise customers.
VOSS tools are used worldwide by service providers to support over 10 million UC seats.
VOSS Migrate automates the process of determining the current configuration of legacy systems, helps map existing features to the new platform, and then helps with planning and managing batches of users to be migrated.
VOSS Automate supports moves, adds, and changes across multiple UC systems including detailed security permissioning and a complete audit log.
VOSS Insights provides a configurable dashboard for usage, adoption, quality, reliability, and licensing metrics, consolidated across multiple platforms.
VOSS Insights fully configurable dashboard
- If you are part of a large or complex organization, it is likely that you will need to manage multiple platforms.
- If you are a service provider, it is almost certain you will need to manage multiple platforms for multiple customers.
- In both of these cases, investigating a tool that can consolidate system management, assist with migrations, automate and streamline day to day changes across multiple systems and provide consolidated auditing and analytics may provide operational cost savings and increase service levels.