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UC companies share their latest thoughts on managing Microsoft Teams
Ian McCarthy, Virsae Director UK & EMEA: “Here’s a real-world example of complexities in multi-vendor environments that are beyond the scope of Call Analytics and the Call Quality Dashboard (CQD) available in the Microsoft Teams admin center.
“A global carrier supports a large multi-national customer with the following architecture: Multiple Teams Tenants, Microsoft calling plans in the US; Operator Connect with a European Telco; and direct routing via the customer-owned SBC located in Thailand.
“The challenge: How could the global carrier capture service management info from all these gateways to deliver a coherent view of call quality and technical performance?
“Engineers require a single interface that captures every interaction, end-to-end, regardless of equipment or vendor.
“The interactions they manage are presented as a single visual rendering; engineers fully understand quality and technical performance and know where to look when things falter. The picture resolution also means lower-level support can troubleshoot at high levels driving a radical decrease in helpdesk escalation.”
Alan Shen, Chief Technology Officer, Digital Workplace Solutions, Unisys: “There are a few challenges businesses face in multi-vendor environments, especially as workers begin returning to the office.
“A lot of hardware used for most conference/meeting room systems is only aligned to work with one UC platform but not multiple.
“Adopting a multiplatform system, though, can be time-consuming for both admins and end-users, as employees will typically have a steeper learning curve and require more support to master the use of both platforms.
“If not implemented correctly, a multi-platform environment can be a barrier to communication and collaboration. For example, what if an organization’s sales team uses Zoom, but the marketing team prefers Microsoft Teams?
“If a sales executive is trying to connect with someone in marketing, they may not receive a response on Zoom if the individual in marketing is not monitoring their Zoom notifications.
“In addition, each platform provides IT teams with different metrics and/or defines its metrics using unique parameters, making it difficult to accurately measure and improve the end-user experience (unless, of course, you’re using a third-party monitoring tool).”
Tim Jalland, Solution Manager, VOSS Solutions: “By their nature, most UC deployments, including MS Teams, have a multi-vendor side to it, MS Teams just does not cover all the ground.
“What that means is that organizations are faced with a patchwork of portals, tools and command line scripts for the different aspects, heavy reliance on technical staff that often work in silos and disjoint, manual multi-step processes.
“The net is that UC delivery is slow, prone to errors, inefficient vs. being dynamic, flexible, efficient and devolved around the organization.
“UC performance suffers – there’s no end-to-end view – and tracking and resolving issues is super difficult.”
Vincent Le Thiec, Product Manager at Kurmi: “For years, Microsoft has provided new experiences in the UC sector.
“Continually upgrading and changing user experience is a good approach, but it means that the teams in charge of telephony services for large organizations face a time-consuming and expensive process when adapting their legacy telephony features to services now offered by MS Teams.
“To simply try and reproduce the existing legacy telephony services in the cloud would be determinantal to long-term user experiences and even if a business has already deployed Skype for Business.
“So, inevitably, managing Teams comes with uncertainties and unknowns, but if you’re looking to make a transition, there are still many gradual strategies that can work to ensure successful migration from each system.”
Anders Løkke, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances at Pexip: “The real question isn’t really about managing Microsoft Teams. Teams is here to stay, and businesses embrace it to the fullest.
“But the fact is that businesses already also manage multiple other solutions for communications and collaboration, and therein lie numerous challenges.
“Managing multiple solutions and ensuring they work in parallel or together with Teams can be cumbersome, costly, and time-consuming.
“Many businesses have put in place comprehensive strategies for where they want to go with their communications and modern work platforms, and for many, consolidating solutions is critical.
“But organisations often also have very different solution requirements, taking into consideration privacy and security, GDPR and where data is stored, and who can access it.
“For that there may be a need for multiple solutions that can work alongside and adjacent to Teams.
Ian McCarthy, Virsae Director UK & EMEA: “Let’s start with the numbers: Industry analyst Metrigy discovered that more than 50% of organisations believe that it’s vital to centrally manage audio, video, and network performance for Work From Home (WFH) employees.
“According to Gartner, 74% of enterprises expect the shift to remote working to be permanent, reaching 600m by 2024.
“UC performance variability is not usually the fault of UC platforms themselves. The trouble is that WFH networks and consumer-grade ISP aren’t always up to the standard required to deliver enterprise communications and the quality of customer experience expected.
“When you consider the wide and varied architecture on offer from the UC vendors, the various Session Border Controllers (SBC) that may be in the mix, along with end-user WFH networks and environments, you need an end-to-end solution to capture deeper insights, with contextual details, to accurately address Teams quality problems, wherever they exist.”
Alan Shen, Chief Technology Officer, Digital Workplace Solutions, Unisys: “While there are both advantages and disadvantages of moving towards a single vendor solution, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
“In a single-platform environment, employees don’t have to worry about navigating several different user interfaces and features in order to communicate and collaborate.
“End-users’ hardware setups often are optimized for one platform or another. When a user is switching between multiple different platforms for meetings, the time needed to reconfigure the setup for different platforms can impact the employee’s productivity. A single platform environment prevents this issue.
“Without being able to directly compare UC performance and end-user experience using the native admin consoles, it is near impossible for IT administration to understand if the multiplatform environment is effective. Moving to a single platform resolves this discrepancy.
“As vendors evolve their feature sets, maintaining interoperability across multiple vendors can be challenging. A solution that integrates two vendors may work today, but that interoperability may not work in the next version.
“Sticking with a single vendor increases the likelihood that today’s investments will continue to be relevant in subsequent versions. Cost is typically more optimized in a single vendor solution.
“Each UC platform has its own strengths, so a multi-platform environment means that your organization has access to “best-of-breed” capabilities. Moving to one platform will require making some tradeoffs, since no single vendor is the best at everything.
“The use of specific platforms for targeted groups or specific work functions can support a better employee experience. For example, many end-users (especially Gen Z) are used to navigating multiple apps or platforms and have built community and made connections on their platform of choice.
“Taking away that choice in favor of a single-platform environment may impact employee satisfaction and efficiency if the migration project does not include a strategic approach to organizational change management.
“Today’s UCC solutions are designed to engage users outside of an enterprise’s direct payroll. If an enterprise collaborates with a wide range of customers and partners, selecting a single vendor may create adoption friction if external users are working in a different platform.”
Tim Jalland, Solution Manager, VOSS Solutions: “UC and MS Teams are the fabric of how an organization communicates and works together – that means a comprehensive control panel to operate the service, our top four considerations are intuitive workflows and automation, insights, business process integrations, and migration tools.
“Intuitive workflows and automation – so that regular day-to-day changes can be administered from the service desk without the need or involvement of highly skilled technical staff
“Insight with flexible dashboards, analytics and reporting to guarantee user experience and the underlying quality and performance of the service, end-to-end.
“Integration with business processes, such as user onboarding through ServiceNow, to support zero-touch provisioning across the various multi-vendor components that make up the service.
“Tools for migration – discovery and consolidation of existing systems, saving support and licensing costs, as organizations move from older UC and telephony platforms and to the cloud and MS Teams.”
Vincent Le Thiec, Product Manager at Kurmi: “Increasingly UC services are available in the Cloud and vendors are constantly launching new UC services into the cloud market.
“The result? An incredibly fast-moving space, where IT teams need to stay on top of new features and upcoming updates. These are rolled out more and more frequently and don’t just include addons, but also new features that may potentially break the backward compatibility.
“This is leading to more businesses investing in UC management tools to delegate repetitive and time-consuming work.
“Businesses should then consider which UC management tool to purchase. They should ask: Is it cloud orientated? Does the tool answer the problems I am facing? Is the tool customizable? Will the tool work for all situations I want to use it in?
“It is also worth getting to know the company behind the tool, who should be committed, listen to customer requirements, offer good customer support, and provide a clear roadmap.”
Anders Løkke, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances at Pexip: “As with the challenges, it is vital to fully understand the requirements the business has.
“Today, even with some of the most popular meeting platforms and solutions, things aren’t straightforward.
“There may be one system and dashboard for managing, monitoring, and analyzing meetings and calls, but a plethora of solutions for managing the devices and systems used to place these calls and join these meetings.
“I believe it is vital to spend ample time to understand the complexity of this, and deploy a strategy for UC systems that also minimises and optimises the UC management tool complexity.
“It is hardly efficient to have vendor-specific management tools for each system deployed across the business. The solution is to simplify and standardise.”
Ian McCarthy, Virsae Director UK & EMEA: “Managing multiple solutions raises the bar for security – and is the main reason for the shift to Zero-trust security as the limitations of traditional ‘hardening’ at the perimeter are laid bare.
“All SIP-based communication needs countermeasures to prevent hacker intrusion, bandwidth abuse, toll fraud, service hijacking and denial of service attacks.
“However, these threats cannot be mitigated by the SBC alone. Relying solely on the SBC is like having good locks and catches on your doors and windows at home, but without a security system to detect criminal probing and breaches.
“Today’s UC management systems must stretch to non-traditional territories to verify the modern workplace – CIS identities, ISPs, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) hardware configuration; confirm Wi-Fi encryption and authentication; and verify that the agent’s environment is accurately represented in the location specified in their terms of employment agreement.”
Alan Shen, Chief Technology Officer, Digital Workplace Solutions, Unisys: “Whether your UCC environment uses one or multiple platforms, UC apps’ native collaboration security capabilities often require rigid restrictions and divide collaboration security and governance functionality across multiple consoles, limiting governance to blanket policies.
“Overly aggressive collaboration security policies on these platforms prevent end-users from achieving a positive, productive collaboration experience.
“On the admin side, managing completely different governance policies between multiple consoles, especially at a large scale, can be complex and time-consuming.
“In today’s digital workplace, most enterprises have more nuanced requirements when it comes to balancing the needs of their users with ensuring a secure environment.
“A third-party UCC management monitoring tool can help admins create customized, flexible security policies to support their enterprise collaboration platforms without impeding employee productivity- regardless of how many are being used.
Even in a SaaS-driven world, enterprise IT teams are ultimately accountable for the business impact of security deficiencies on each platform.
“Understanding and managing collaboration security and governance across multiple platforms requires significantly more effort than doing the same for one platform.
“The complexity is only further amplified as you consider the vastly changing security requirements that continue to roll out at various regional levels.”
Tim Jalland, Solution Manager, VOSS Solutions: “That comes down to access, confidentiality and the integrity of the configuration and performance data across the solution – UC management systems must enforce this and offer role-based access, strong passwords or credentials, segregation of data (for example a hierarchy by department) and controls to ensure a full audit path of any changes made.”
Vincent Le Thiec, Product Manager at Kurmi: “Managing and orchestrating cloud services in a multi-platform environment heightens risks around data protection issues and potential breaches, often leading to cybersecurity fatigue.
“Ensuring the security of multiple solutions simultaneously is difficult and time consuming, as there is a daily need to integrate the latest release and implement the latest patches across all applications.
“IT Administrators are also tasked with managing their own sites, but, for security reasons, only have access to resources which they oversee. As a result, IT admins require a UC management tool which offers customisable delegation and segregation features to ensure that only delegates that the support team has enabled can handle certain tasks and access specific data.”
Anders Løkke, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances at Pexip: “Vendors have a tremendous focus on security and privacy these days. With an ever-changing geopolitical environment, uncertainty across Europe and the world at large, and the cyber threat from hostile groupings and nations, this focus is inevitable and critical.
“Businesses should trust vendors even though they have multiple solutions. Even so, consolidation and reduced complexity is better.
“Personally, I would also scrutinize vendors to demonstrate and show where data is stored and who has access to it, how security measures are applied and ensure they comply with local and regional compliance requirements.
“I would question, for instance, access to data at certain open source and free solutions.”
Ian McCarthy, Virsae Director UK & EMEA: “When you migrate to a cloud-based XCaaS solution, the picture of quality and technical performance turns fuzzy.
“The work from anywhere phenomenon heaps on more complexity, both technical and personnel-related, that does not exist in controlled environments. There’s a lot you can’t see. And you can’t manage what you don’t see.
“The right ‘single’ vendor solution – one that extends to ‘unmanaged’ WFH environments – allows organisations to adapt to the changing rules of ‘experience’.
“So, when users make calls via collaboration platforms on a technical backdrop of variable connectivity, speeds, and consumer-grade connections, engineers understand the user experience, what’s happening, why, and what to do about it.
“But it’s no small ask – a single solution must collect data from the XCaaS platform itself, enabling technologies, in the cloud, across the enterprise, and in ‘unmanaged’ WFH environments – even extending to telemetry data, such as headset boom position and background noise.”
Alan Shen, Chief Technology Officer, Digital Workplace Solutions, Unisys: “The major considerations for a business looking to purchase UC managements tools are user experience, administration, monitoring, and security analytics and governance.
“Does the tool analyze the complete UC environment to provide insights into the end-user experience?
“Does the tool enable simple and streamlined workflows to optimize the IT team’s efficiency?
“Does the tool provide complete visibility of the UC environment and help identify the root cause of an issue to support faster troubleshooting?
“Does the tool monitor for collaboration security blind spots and enable flexible governance policies?”
Tim Jalland, Solution Manager, VOSS Solutions: “Most UC components, including MS Teams, come with a level of management capability – it’s out of the box and included so that’s the advantage. But that’s also the disadvantage – it’s basic.
“Organizations have moved on from this, to invest in a single vendor management and control panel, to build, operate and run their multi-vendor UC solution.
“Ultimately that leads to a better user experience, increased productivity, lower running costs and the ability to scale and change to meet evolving business needs.”
Vincent Le Thiec, Product Manager at Kurmi: “Most IT admins now function in multi-vendor, multi-platform, hybrid-cloud environments and manage several vendors as a result.
“This is partly due to possible changes internally, such as an increase in hybrid working or to business fluctuations because of mergers and acquisitions, but can also be caused by staff now relying on multiple different UC tools throughout the day.
“For example: integrating sites managed by other IT admins, migration from one technology to another and migration to the cloud with the same vendor.
“One solution to handling the mounting volume of tasks is moving towards a single vendor solution, offering fully integrated services without interoperability issues.
“The only downside to this, is that businesses are then locked into one telephony service in only one paradigm and with one roadmap.
“The other solution is investing in a UC management tool that can centralize operations of several vendor solutions using automation and provide a much cleaner and more streamlined experience.”
Anders Løkke, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances at Pexip: “A few of the advantages are very clear to me. One simple and recognisable user experience across all surfaces.
“One management tool, and one way for end users to communicate and collaborate.
“This is the holy grail for many, and it certainly makes sense for many companies to end up with a single vendor. However, there are also disadvantages in my opinion.
“Lack of interoperability with other solutions. Lack of flexibility when it comes to doing anything outside that single vendor’s scope.
“And often lack of features and functionality for all use cases a business needs to cover.
“For instance, hosting a meeting between two people internally does not necessarily mean that the platform you have can work seamlessly setting up a meeting with your partners, customers, or vendors.
“More often than not, having more than one vendor for UC is likely a better options for all but the smaller businesses.”
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