VOSS Solutions

An Enterprise Guide to UC Management

As technology continues to evolve rapidly, large organizations must find ways to keep up with the pace of change for enterprise communications services, or Unified Communications (UC). Managing and integrating all these UC services, also known as UC Management, can be complex and resource intensive. The purpose of this guide is to explore the world of UC and UC Management to help you better understand each layer of complexity and each step of the process to ensure your organization is properly aligned with the rapidly changing environment surrounding enterprise communications. This guide will explore all of the components of UC, explain why UC Management is a business imperative, and show you how to use automation to streamline your platforms and reduce costs.

Introduction to UC & UC Management

  • What is Unified Communications?

    Unified communications (UC) is the concept of centralizing and managing all communications and collaboration services on a single infrastructure; specifically, a TCP/IP network. Because information is transmitted digitally, it can be managed digitally as well, and operational costs fall considerably. This has led to the widespread use of IP telephony, perhaps the best-known instance of UC.

  • What Does UC Include?

    UC includes the full range of unified communications (UC) services, such as voice, voicemail, video and videoconferencing, document sharing, unified messaging, collaborative digital whiteboards, secure instant messaging, and other services spanning both realtime and non-realtime communication classes.

    And, with the increasing popularity of smart mobile devices, UC directly enables end users to enjoy a consistent communications interface even as their access devices, networks, and physical locations change.

  • How Does UC Management Fit In?

    The challenge of managing a complete unified communications infrastructure, and ensuring service quality to end users, is getting harder. Most unified communications deployments involve multiple solutions, vendors, interfaces, and management methodologies, which leads to extraordinary complexity and higher costs: e.g. the costs required to troubleshoot problems, introduce new features, reconfigure systems, and manage user onboarding/offboarding.

    A UC management platform provides a central point of control over the UC environment, to make it faster, easier, and less costly to execute any given task, respond to any given problem, or scale to support new services or higher headcount.

    A UC management platform means that your UC environment can be fully flexible and customizable with a centralized management view. Unified Communications (UC) improves a company's business processes and a user's productivity.

    However, not all UC management systems are created equal.

  • Why is UC Management Necessary?

    An organization’s UC environment has never been under greater pressure to overcome a range of emerging challenges:

    • Weather the storm of digital transformation, to provide a consistent and reliable communications framework during and after intense times of change
    • Absorb the complexity of an increasingly diverse UC infrastructure and ever-changing parameters to support remote working, hot-desking, flexible employment contracts, and fixed mobile convergence
    • Successfully mesh an array of multi-vendor technology into a seamless collaboration experience

    A UC management platform offers a major change to way that UC can be automated, and it significantly lowers operating costs and enables the organization to implement digital transformation of their business workflow.

     

  • Who Needs UC Management?

    Any organization that has complex UC requirements, will benefit from the addition of a UC management tool. This includes:

    • Organizations that have, for example, more than 3,000 employees, as the amount of manual moves/add/changes/deletes becomes unmanageable
    • Organizations that have multiple offices spread across geographies
    • Organizations that require various layers of administrative control and those that want to empower end user self service
    • Organizations that want to speed business process and introduce zero touch provisioning by the introduction of automation
    • Organizations that want to create a flexible and agile UC infrastructure that suits the evolving needs of the business
  • UC Management Uses and Applications

    UC management will help an organization in the following ways:

    • Introduce faster, easier, and more repeatable business processes by automating any business communication workflows across the UC architecture, interlinking with third party business systems
    • Better manage the complex workflows of multi-applications/devices, hybrid-cloud, and multi-vendor UC environments, with ease (e.g. the ability to create a single “wizard” to simplify a multi-step, multi-platform, hybrid communications workflow process)
    • Add or modify features and applications to their organization by the rapid manipulation of end-to-end communication workflows (e.g. with the rapid change in the UC industry, adding or changing an application and its features no longer becomes a massive effort or cost)
    • Customize UC management platform to suit the specific business communications processes of their industry vertical (e.g. the workflow integration between industry standard IT systems and the organization’s business communications platform)
    • Fully automate network and data center tasks as part of a dynamic workflow

UC Management Productivity Benefits

  • Improved integration with legacy systems

    Provide a single point of integration for an organization's business applications, as well as providing standard APIs that are supported through future releases of the underlying infrastructure. This ensures an integration strategy with low maintenance costs.

  • Avoid data slippage

    Impose a high level of discipline across the communications platform and significantly lowers the risk of data slippage.

  • Frees engineers from repetitive tasks

    The high level of automation -UC frees engineers to work on more strategic initiatives, which in turn improves their job satisfaction and improves staff retention rates.

  • Faster triage times

    A trouble ticket can be rapidly linked to service infrastructure, as this information is fully mapped and can be accessed centrally without having to refer to the underlying network. This central repository of data allows faster triage times for trouble tickets.

  • Retain knowledge within the organization

    A central knowledge retention system with built in organizational discipline, helping companies retain original designs, field implementation changes, and subsequent operational changes. 

UC Management End User Benefits

  • Single business portal for all UC services

    Single pane of glass management platform for all UC services. Organizations need only log into the one business portal and, from that single instance, manage a range of business processes, such as adding a user, and all of the associated provisioning will take place automatically.

  • Faster service delivery for new applications

    Adding a new UC service is non-trivial when performed manually. Through advanced automation, UC management greatly speeds UC service delivery and reduces the effort of introducing a new service.

  • Real-time self-service for end users

    Provide a self-service portal, to allow all of the latest UC settings to be self-managed by end users on any device. End users are able to change their single number reach settings, modify their messaging notification settings, or change the line label text on their phone, in real-time, from a single, self-service portal.

  • Maintain strategic control of the communications environment

    Enable the centralization of the communications infrastructure, while maintaining strategic control of internal customers/departments. Services levels improve because changes are performed in real time.

  • Real-time service profile management and reporting

    Allow for much greater granularity of service profile management, against agreed business rules, so individual users can receive additional services from local office administrators, on an as-needed basis. This empowers the local administrators and reduces the workload on the central help desk.

UC Management Financial Benefits

  • Reducing total cost of ownership

    Management and automation tools provide a number of significant financial benefits to organizations who wish to deliver the latest UC services to their users. With UC management, a far lower total cost of ownership can be achieved because our technology impacts all cost elements over the lifecycle of a collaboration platform.

  • Implementation savings

    Nemertes Research polled over 1,000 North American large enterprises and discovered that the cost of implementing an IP telephony environment (across all vendors) can be reduced from an average of $523 per phone/device, if specialty UC management tools are utilized. For a 10,000-seat enterprise, this amounts to a saving of over $2m.

  • Operational savings

    Nemertes also proved that for large enterprises, the ongoing annual operational cost per phone can be reduced from $1,194 to $585, when utilizing specialty fulfillment management tools. For a 10,000-seat enterprise, this amounts to a saving of over $6m in operational expenditure per year.

  • Capital savings

    Shared infrastructure can be managed effortlessly, meaning that server utilization rates can be much higher, and the number of servers reduced. Vendor license management tools can also more efficiently manage vendor capital costs, so that each organization knows exactly what service licenses it has consumed from either their vendor, or provider.

Making a Business Case for UC Management

  • A Summary of a VOSS-4-UC Case-study: Comprehensive automation of all business and operational workflows will greatly increase the savings of the UC platform operational and support teams (as shown by Nemertes research for traditional UC automation). However, this now also includes zero-touch, flow through workflow for more that pure UC operational tasks.

    But perhaps the most compelling part of the business case for VOSS-4-UC is the ability to support an organization’s adoption of Digital Transformation and all the business and cost benefits that comes from this critical initiative.

    Here is a case study example of where VOSS has implemented VOSS-4-UC with the ensuing business case benefits:

    A leading UCaaS Provider in Asia Pacific has developed a world-class UCaaS practice and they lead in most UCaaS markets where they compete for the medium to large enterprises.

    The provider is very clear about their desire to stay at the forefront of the UCaaS market. They recognized that the old Cisco HCS model (one-size fits all) was not working for them, and they also well understood that the old standardized management process was not going to help them continue to achieve a leading position in the market. In fact, it would potentially limit their ability to be more aggressive in the market, as they were concerned about creating new features, configuration solutions and adaptations that were not part of Cisco’s highly standardized HCS model.

    As a result, the provider made the decision to work directly with VOSS to create a much better model, more suited to their requirements and desire for market leadership. They wanted more frequent releases from VOSS, driven by their market requirements, but with a faster time to market. Together, they are now working on a much more agile offering, utilizing VOSS-4-UC. The provider’s engineers have undertaken Certification Training and are now creating their own adapted workflows and are both increasing automation levels and better meeting their customer requirements.

    In addition, they are now working closely with VOSS engineer in re-engineering it processes in all areas of the business, including:

    • Day-1 Customer On-boarding optimization (including automated data migrations)
    • Day-2 Customer Administration (including advanced top-down AD integration)
    • Existing Strategic Customers and digital transformation opportunities
    • Educating the Pre-Sales teams on the differentiation from Agile management
    • Hybrid architecture integration (Webex Teams and Office 365)
    • Billing Integration

    A good example has been the request for more autonomy from a large end-customer to allow the self-management of their music on hold (MoH) file management. Each location had the need to load their own unique MoH files and was able to rapidly create a simple portal to allow each location to fulfil this requirement.

    The provider represents a major case study in the VOSS-4-UC architecture evolution and we believe it will help to ensure that their Cisco HCS service not only maintains its dominance in the medium to large enterprise Asia Pac market, but also grow its market share in the global market.
     

Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS)

  • What is UCaaS?

    Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) is the delivery of a variety of unified communications and collaboration applications and services via a cloud model.

    Enterprise organizations often choose UCaaS as it carries less risk than a hosted UC solution, while enabling the organization to benefit from a flexible and scalable platform. The typical features you can expect from a UCaaS solution include enterprise messaging, presence technology, online meetings, team collaboration, telephony and video conferencing.

    Often, UCaaS vendors will also offer contact-center capabilities, such as auto-attendant, interactive voice response, call routing and customer relationship management integrations.

    UCaaS vendors are adding communications platform as a service (CPaaS) capabilities and application programming interfaces (APIs) to their cloud platforms to increase their appeal to enterprise organizations, as this opens up the opportunity to embed cloud-based communication features into their business applications and workflows.

  • Why is UC Management Important for UCaaS?

    Why is UC management important? UC management introduces high levels of automation into a UC platform, to improve workflows and business process. For a provider that is offering UCaaS packages to enterprise organizations, this is a critical success factor of the business model. Without automation, it would be impossible for the provider to manage the many day-t-day administrative tasks that are required to support a UCaaS offering.

    With UC management, the introduction of automated processes and flow through provisioning allow the provider to provision multiple UCaaS solutions from a single point of control.

    UC management has the added benefit of offering devolve administration, which distributes the administrative burden and allows end customers and even end users various of levels of admin control, depending on their role and technical ability.

  • Commercial Overview: UC Management Vendors

    Some organizations choose to build their own tools to automate and manage their UC infrastructure.

    However, there are third party vendors that specialize in UC management. VOSS, Kurmi, Starfish, and Unimax have been identified as providers of UC management technology.

What is the UC Migration Process?

  • UC Migration

    Organizations have many different types of migration project. You may wish to upgrade from a legacy UC platform to a new platform, or from on-premise to the cloud; after a merger or acquisition, you may wish to migrate multiple new users onto your existing platform, consolidate multiple PBXs to a smaller set of PBXs, or move multiple users from one location to another.

  • Introducing UC migration automation

    UC migration projects should follow a five-stage process to discover and export UC data (from multi-vendor environments); extract, clean, and normalize the data; transform and enrich; and finally, validate the data before loading it to the new environment.

    Migration automation technology revolutionizes the way service providers and large enterprises are able to approach rich, complex unified communications deployments. At every stage of the UC migration process, automation reduces human involvement and accelerates the processing of data, all of which directly reduces the costs and risks of adopting UC services.

  • Migration services support

    Skilled engineers that carry out complex UC migration projects draw on expertise, processes, and best practices to help organizations rapidly and efficiently migrate large volumes of users, devices and UC services to a next generation UC platform.

    These engineers will provide support through your UC transformation, to ensure that your data is migrated significantly faster, easier, and more consistently by a smaller and more productive deployment team, and with greatly reduced effort in sourcing the mandatory input data.

    In addition, these engineers will make sure that there is an overall improvement in data accuracy, which will significantly reduce project risk and decrease re-work costs, whilst improving end user satisfaction.

  • UC Deployment

    In order to benefit from improved company collaboration and from the productivity efficiencies that UC has to offer, end user adoption is key. Until your employees – or if you’re a service provider, your customers’ employees - fully adopt the UC services that you offer, you will not achieve success.

    Therefore, it is critically important to onboard users and devices to a UC platform as quickly and as efficiently as possible. It’s also vital to make sure that end users are well trained and confident users of the tools, so that they become more efficient and more successful collaborators, as a result of the UC tools that they are using.

    Third party UC management vendors offer an intuitive, easy to use platform, to simplify administration and day to day managemeent, which in turn fuels end user adoption and success.

Agile UC Management

  • Integrate your UC Infrastructure with Other Business Systems

    You should expect your UC management platform to be able to fully integrate your UC platform into other IT functions, while carrying out a core role in provisioning the UC applications themselves.

    With a single point of integration, Enterprises can achieve much higher rates of automation, and IT staff have a framework to optimize their business communications and improve end user adoption.

    This adaptable framework allows flexibility to fit into any unique enterprise environment without expensive customization. This allows the UC management platform to function as a single point of integration, which comprises:

    Zero touch provisioning
    Synchronization between the Active Directory (AD) and the UC management platform can be extended to support flow-through, zero-touch provisioning from HR and AD systems, into automated work-flows that configure subscriber services

    Northbound integrations
    The UC management platform synchronizes UC subscriber data with other enterprise IT systems providing near real-time updates on UC subscriber services, simplifying internal billing and cost allocation

    Service request systems
    REST-APIs offer two-way integration with Service Request Systems such as ServiceNow, allowing service tickets to be actioned and the results fed back

    Notification systems
    Workflows can be readily extended to send emails and provide event updates

    Identity management
    Integration with other administration portals, giving single sign-on capabilities to administrators, allowing integrated access to all management systems from a single log-in

    Inventory tracking
    Enterprise can track all UC assets, serial numbers, and devices, to streamline expenditure and optimize resources

    UC analytics
    Analytics pulls data from multiple applications, devices and infrastructure, into a single dashboard, giving a big picture view of resource utilization

  • Demand for an agile framework to manage your UC infrastructure

    Until recently, UC management has tended towards standardization as this is a way to introduce automation: the rationale being - by standardizing on certain business processes, automation can be introduced. However, standardization does not promote agility or flexibility, or mobility. And, there are a number of factors that are contributing towards a trend for enterprise organizations to desire agile and flexible UC.

    Digital transformation is looming. Traditional communications are nothing like the collaborative environment that we operate in today. UC must adapt to suit the evolving requirements of your staff. In order to weather the storm of digital transformation, we must provide a consistent and reliable communications framework during and after intense times of change.

    The increasingly diverse UC infrastructure, and the ever-changing parameters to support remote working, hot-desking, flexible employment contracts, and fixed mobile convergence is complex. Basic or homegrown UC management tools just are not up to the job of catering for the demand that is being put on them. UC management tools need to be flexible enough to change, agile enough to respond quickly, and resilient.

    Enterprises want best in class, and therefore need to successfully mesh an array of multi-vendor technologiesinto a seamless collaboration experience. This requires a highly intelligent management solution that allows technologies from disparate vendors to coexist and cooperate.

Dynamic Communications Workflow Automation

Extensive UC management capabilities that are underpinned by a dynamic communications workflow automation framework ensure that you can achieve unprecedented levels of automation of your UC environment, in an agile and highly dynamic way.

At the heart of a UC management platform you should expect to see a dynamic communications workflow automation framework that includes the following three major benefits:

  • Business / operational element abstraction from the core framework

    All major business operational elements, such as workflow logic, configuration data, GUI presentation rules, and business rule models, are abstracted from the core UC management architecture. This means that key operational and business elements are not hard-coded so can be configured in real-time by IT specialists.

  • Auto-generation of UC application features and settings into the core framework

    The core framework automatically includes all UC features and settings that are in a UC vendor’s application APIs (for multi-vendor environments), and, the auto-generation of all those UC features and settings into the APIs, the GUI framework, the workflow framework and bulk loader reader. This makes them available to the abstracted operational elements, which means that the UC management platform can support feature parity for all UC applications and devices, and full automation of UC workflows is now possible.

  • Support for complex IPT, non-UC network and data center elements

    The UC management platform administers the full range of PSTN or SIP trunking elements, as well as managing mobile devices and supporting BYOD and FMC. It offers dial plan management, taking care of the complex configuration of the PBX, the local access, as well as the aggregation layer call routing. It also makes it possible to integrate directly with the network and data center, supporting the creation of SIP trunks and the configuration of SBCs, as well as the automatic creation of UC application OVAs, and static configuration of those applications within the data center.

100% Automation of UC Platforms

  • UC management offers faster, easier, and more-repeatable business processes with 100% automation of any and all business communication workflows across the entire physical architecture, interlinking with any 3rd party business system.

    For example, dial plan management requires the complex configuration of the PBX, the local access as well as the aggregation layer call routing (e.g. session management) and this becomes significantly more complex for multi-national organizations. If you want to provide 100% automation for number management, then you can only do this if you can include the management of the PSTN and SIP trunk elements. That is, adding a new number range into the PBX is not sufficient. You also have to set up the number routing in the local and central break-out systems. Your UC management platform needs to fully support sophisticated dial plan management and the entire network infrastructure for call routing.

    Many UC management vendors are focused on automating the basic administration tasks (the Pareto principle of focusing on 20% of the overall problem). Make sure your UC management platform focuses on 100% of the tasks and is working in a number of vertical industries today to deliver the organizational requirements to significantly improve business processes.

Automation Extension

  •  

    A UC management platform should always include an extensive baseline of sophisticated UC operational automation and management capabilities.

    By applying automation extension to a UC environment, the end-to-end UC provisioning processes can be adapted and tailored to increase the level of automation, e.g. across multi-vendor or hybrid-cloud. This drives down operating costs to well below the industry average and removes the need for complex coding which eliminates associated time and budget implications.

Multi-vendor UC

  •  As collaboration tools become more sophisticated, organizations are selecting best of breed tools that suit specific requirements, rather than a single-vendor option.

    By offering multi-vendor UC services and applications, employee satisfaction and productivity increases. However, UC management becomes much more complex.

    A quality UC management platform will take that complexity away, by giving a single pane of glass view into all tools - no matter which vendor - without the need for "swivel chair management" across applications or vendor solutions. The UC management platform should manage all end-to-end processes to deliver multi-service and feature-rich UC. Additionally, administrators will no longer be required to have expertise in all vendor-specific platforms, as all collaboration tools can be managed from a single portal.

Single Point of Integration

  • During our 12 years of experience working with the world's largest enterprises, government organizations and service providers we have seen the trend of IT teams integrating more and more of their IT systems.

    Automating the communication between IT systems, and the tasks or workflows those systems perform, represents a significant opportunity for enterprises. Without integration there is often the need for human middleware; people working between systems to keep workflows moving to completion. System integration reduces errors, improves productivity and speeds up processes and service time. However, when connecting IT systems together, UC solutions are typically left out.

    A UC management platform enables adaptable business systems integration. The underlying core of the UC management platform connects to other API-enabled systems and executes non-API operations without expensive custom development.

    By understanding the complexity of enterprise networks, a UC management platform introduces automation to simplify integration with other systems, driving new value above and beyond UC management.