In a previous blog post, we discussed the impact of mobility and how it has fundamentally changed the way businesses and consumers communicate. However, there are limited options to address mobility. We mentioned that corporate mobile phones and personal phones can provide the mobility that businesses need, but they have severe limitations.
On the surface, a Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) or Unified Communications and Collaboration as-a-service (UCaaS) solution can solve a number of business needs:
- It can provide all of the features that businesses require.
- It can provide mobility through a mobile app, thus leveraging the advantages of BYOD or corporate mobile phones.
- It can provide one and sometimes several business identities that can be used to keep the company in control of the customer relationship, while also providing better work/life balance for the employee.
However, conventional UCC has a number of limitations. In order to understand them, we need to understand UCC’s origins. If we look back at the beginning of UCC, the initial user experience was built around a desk phone. Over time, UCC evolved to include additional features such as instant messaging, calendar integration, and conferencing/collaboration.
Increased worker mobility brought about mobile PBX and Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) solutions, as UCC providers attempted to make the mobile phone an extension of the wireline PBX. The arrival of smartphones and the BYOD phenomena then forced a major change in user expectations. They expected to take all of their business services with them wherever they went. In response, UCC providers developed specialty “over-the-top” (OTT) mobile applications. These apps use WiFi or cellular data to emulate the wireline user experience on the mobile devices.
While this solution was able to provide business features for mobile users, it was far from a perfect solution.
WIRELINE EMULATION ON A SMARTPHONE
By nature, the UCC user experience evolved from a fixed-line paradigm, with the assumption that the primary device would be a desk phone. To use many features, users must enter feature access codes, and to call another user, extension dialing is the only option. Even though these solutions brand themselves as “mobile first” solutions, they still deliver a deskphone-centric user experience, where mobility is a patch or afterthought. This experience is not familiar to a user that has embraced the consumer experience of mobile phones, so it requires a substantial learning curve.
In addition, conventional UCC solutions are weighed down with many features that business users do not need, do not want, and likely will never use. The Call Park feature is a perfect example. It was developed to allow a business user to take a phone call in one physical location, put the call on hold (park) while they went to a different location, and then pick the call up in the second location.
For a business user on a mobile phone, all they need to do is take their phone with them. The Call Park feature has been made obsolete by the mobile phone, which delivers a better experience for the business user (they don’t have to remember the feature access codes to park and pick up a call) and improves the experience of the user on the other end of the line by not disrupting the conversation.
MESSAGING WALLED GARDEN
When the need for instant messaging arrived, each UCC provider attacked the problem separately and largely approached it as a business employee to business employee use case. As a result, these systems were designed using proprietary technology chosen by the vendor, making external communications difficult, if not impossible.
We call this a Messaging Walled Garden.
Internal messaging works well, but anything else is a challenge. Even enabling different enterprises using the same UCC platform can be challenging; if it can be done, it typically requires IT federation between the two domains.
What does this mean for a Small to Medium Business (SMB) or Large Enterprise? With 89% of consumers preferring to interact with a business via text,1 the business must have a communication solution that allows them to reach any customer, at any number, at any time, without convoluted workarounds, and proprietary instant messaging is not providing the right solution.
QUALITY OF SERVICE
Using a conventional OTT UCC app can be challenging for a business user. Here is an all-too-familiar scenario for an on-the-go business user:
- Use the UCC app to join an audio conference
- Upgrade to video
- Upgrade to screen share
- Try to talk
Typically, the audio quality of service (QoS) starts out well, but with each additional layer of service, the experience declines dramatically, to the point that they can no longer actively participate in the call (choppy audio, distorted video, unable to see screen share, etc.) and are forced to abandon the call from the UCC app and dial in to an audio-only bridge (if available) using their phone’s native dialer.
This is because conventional UCC applications cannot provide guaranteed QoS. Although they are “mobile” services, conventional UCC solutions receive the same best effort QoS as someone streaming audio or video, someone checking their email on their phone, or someone browsing the web. This not only results in a very undesirable user experience for the business, but it also makes a poor impression on the business’s customers.
At Mavenir, we believe that this situation requires a new solution. Download the white paper and stay tuned to future blog posts to learn why.