Saving money is no longer the top reason to implement cloud services, say top CIOs.  The use of cloud has evolved so that IT leaders think of it as the tool to help them achieve a wide range of business outcomes.

A recent Gartner survey shows that within two years, 90 per cent of companies expect to compete almost entirely on the basis of customer experience.

“In the age of social media, good news travels fast and bad news travels faster,” Miles Davis, mid-market leader for the Americas with Avaya, told participants in a recent ITWC webinar. “Everyone is being judged at a rate like never before.”

The biggest opportunity for differentiating an organization is its people, said Davis. “At the end of the day, that’s what customers remember about their experience.” Almost half of an employee’s impact on a business comes from their ability to communicate with others. If you can use technology to “unlock their potential to serve customers, that’s what really makes a difference,” said Davis.

Sponsored by Avaya and hosted by ITWC CIO Jim Love, the webinar provided guidance on the fast changing and sometimes confusing array of cloud and unified communications solutions.

Market trends

There are four “megatrends that are disrupting everything,” said Davis. With social media and mobility, customers are empowered to expect the same experience regardless of where they are. Given the speed of deployment and economies of scale it offers, cloud provides affordable on-demand access to supercomputing for any organization. Finally, the explosion of data as a result of technologies like the Internet of Things has given rise to a “knowledge worker economy.” All of these factors increase the need for information sharing and collaboration.

Unified communications, which combine voice and data services to improve worker connectedness, are increasingly being offered as a cloud subscription service. In the last four years, managed and hosted telephony grew by 208 per cent globally while cloud communications grew by 229 per cent, said Davis. In Canada alone, the market for unified communications and contact centre as a cloud service is expected to be $1.5 billion by 2019.

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Many businesses are investing in the cloud because it’s time to replace end-of-life legacy infrastructure, but Davis said the strategic reason is to transform the customer experience, he added.

“Cloud offers an excellent try and buy opportunity to test potential customer differentiators without a huge up-front investment.”

These services are rapidly evolving as a result of market factors like globalization and ongoing budget pressures. “Now, rather than talking about the product, we’re talking about how the service delivers the customer experience. It’s about providing business outcomes as a service,” said Davis.

Sorting through the options

Davis outlined a variety of business models for unified communications and cloud services. Services can be managed, outsourced or hosted. The hosting can be on a dedicated private cloud, public shared cloud or a hybrid of both.

With so many options, Davis said the best place to start is to develop a “good idea of what the customer experience should look like, and a plan to enable the employee collaboration needed to achieve it.” He outlined successful case studies where customers chose their business model based on their business objectives and priorities such as cost, security, and speed of deployment.

Davis and Love agreed that it’s clear that “standing still is not an option.” In this demanding customer market, organizations need to start moving toward the business outcome of providing top level service.



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