Buying, expanding or upgrading a contact center today is a major puzzle for almost any mid-sized business or large enterprise. Microsoft Skype for Business, whether the Server edition on-premises or the Cloud PBX version in Office 365, adds another important consideration for most enterprises. This week, Clarity announced its new Clarity Connect cloud contact solution package aimed directly as solving this important puzzle.
For any contact center, it is clear that any new solution must be:
- In the cloud – if the cloud meets the needs. This is clearly the new, progressive direction for any software. The cloud is already the proven direction for customer care (just check out Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, ServiceNow, and so many online applications), so there’s clear momentum and rationale to use the cloud, if feasible. Cloud-based solutions provide software that is continually updated and don’t require installing and maintaining an expensive, multi-server, redundant on-premises system.
- Flexible – Cloud-based solutions provide software that is automatically updated to keep pace with the marketplace. Cloud-based solutions are much more likely to adapt to the many services and connectors that are increasingly being produced via the cPaaS (communications Platform as a Service) providers. This includes all of the fast-growing options for UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) such as Office 365 Skype for Business Cloud PBX, Vonage Business, Ring Central, 8x8 and others.
- Economical – Cloud solutions don’t require installing and maintaining an expensive, multi-server, redundant on-premises system. Further, most cloud-based systems are designed as integrated code which is far more efficient and economical than the multi-vendor lash-ups that most on-premises vendors are offering to their customers. Already, we are seeing the total cost of ownership of the cloud-based solutions dropping below the $100 per user per month level; the forecast is for further declines in those prices as the CCaaS market place continues rapid growth.
A key factor here will be the enterprise’s choice of UC platforms. If the enterprise is committed to legacy-style VoIP solutions such as Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, NEC, ShoreTel and others, then the cloud-based options may be limited to the hosted versions of those products.
However, if the enterprise sees UC as “communications integrated to optimize business processes,” then it is very likely the future direction will focus on Microsoft’s Office 365 with Skype for Business Cloud PBX features. This will bring voice PSTN (public switched telephone network) features into the same context as the entire Office suite of business tools used in most enterprises – i.e., voice is added to email, IM, documents, sharing, online meetings, video, collaborative workspaces, and social networking rather than trying to hook the PBX up to all of these core services through various, often fragile, integration methods.
However, there’s a challenge here since Skype for Business Cloud PBX is not ready for all of the various usage profiles in the enterprise. Some usage profiles, such as collaboration and field, are already well served by Skype for Business Cloud PBX. Other usage profiles, such as administration and executives, have more complex voice telephony needs; it will take a few cycles of feature additions for all usage profiles to be served by Cloud PBX. For the contact center usage profile, Microsoft chooses to work with partners, rather than building the contact center applications into the Office suite. Clarity Connect, the sponsor of this article, was an early member of that contact center partner community, with notable success to date.
As a proactive Microsoft partner, Clarity Connect figured the need for the contact center solution to work seamlessly with both the on-premises Server and the cloud-based O365 versions of Skype for Business. Clarity Connect has now announced a very practical solution to this requirement that will cover all three logical cases: on-premises, Office 365 Cloud PBX, and hybrid of the two.
The approach is to offer Clarity Connect contact center from the cloud via five premier hosting providers. In this way, the same contact center functionality can be provided for all three cases:
- On-premises: If the enterprise is still running Skype for Business on-premises, then the hosted Clarity Connect solution will connect to the on-premises system via federation, a proven and well-supported Microsoft capability.
- Office 365 Skype for Business Cloud PBX: In this case, the Clarity Connect contact center will federate with the enterprise’s Office 365 tenant, just as voice partners have been doing since the start of Office 365 services.
- Hybrid of on-premises Server and Cloud PBX: Since Clarity Connect has included both the on-premises and the Office 365 connection methods in their software, both of those methods can operate simultaneously to cover the graceful evolution that most enterprises will need as they move the voice communications services either from on-premises Skype for Business or from on-premises legacy PBX systems.
The bottom line is that Clarity Connect is very clear (is that a pun?) that enterprises who are using or plan to adopt Microsoft Skype for Business will want a cloud-based contact center that is also based on Skype for Business. Further, that contact center solution will need to live seamlessly with Skype for Business on-premises, in the cloud on Office 365, and in a hybrid stage for several years to come. The Clarity Connect team has responded to this customer demand, just as they did from the outset of their Skype for Business-based Clarity Connect contact center solution
More information on these three options is available at connect.claritycon.com.