Is the Time Right to Move Your Contact Center to the Cloud?

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1 1 Whitepaper: Is the Time Right to Move Your Contact Center to the Cloud? Growing numbers of businesses are moving their contact center operations to the cloud. What do they know that you don t? This whitepaper provides a practical guide to assist in the decision-making process. It offers a comparison of traditional on-premise systems versus current cloud-based solutions, responds to common cloud concerns and discusses the steps needed to begin your due diligence process.

2 2 Is it the Right Time to Move Your Contact Center to the Cloud? When it comes to cloud-based solutions, many businesses are no longer asking, Why?. Today s astute executives understand the cloud is here to stay and now ask, How? When?. Contact centers in particular are increasingly embracing cloud-based solutions to meet their complex and changing needs. To make an informed decision about the Why, How and When of cloud-based applications for your contact center needs, it s important to work from a foundation of shared language and understanding. To begin, we ll briefly define cloud technology as it applies to contact centers, and then outline traditional on-premise systems as compared to cloud communications solutions. Contact center managers know what it will take to succeed in 2015 improved efficiencies, reduced costs, top-notch agent training and performance, reduced turnover and, above all, an outstanding service experience as defined by the customer. The cloud is no longer a new concept, but an accepted technology solution that more and more contact centers are looking to implement. The enormous investment cloud providers are making to ensure customer compliance and security will prompt growing numbers of businesses to consider cloud solutions. Contact center management looking to decrease investments in hardware and maintenance, and increase flexibility and responsiveness will be actively moving to solutions in the cloud. Defining On-Premise vs. Hosted vs. Cloud Cloud communications solutions are among the alternatives offered today to meet contact center and phone system needs. Other major offerings include on-premise and hosted solutions. To find the right solution for your business, it s important to understand these popular models and their differences.

3 3 On-Premise Sometimes referred to as premise-based contact center and phone systems, this is the traditional set-up that has been around for decades. Under this scenario, a business purchases the needed hardware and related software including phones and network equipment for on-site installation, pays to have the local phone company or another telecom provider install phone lines, and then activates features on its agents desk phones or computers. After initial set-up, the client s contact center management or IT team is responsible for overall maintenance, upgrades, reliability and security of the on-premise system. The client may also elect to contract with the provider or a third-party to provide continued maintenance services. Most on-premise systems involve an upfront purchase of the respective network hardware and software licenses. Hence, most businesses account for these transactions as a capital expenditure (CapEx). With the physical requirements and installation of on-premise systems, businesses must plan for future needs and thus, usually buy more units than current demands dictate to accommodate predicted growth. Hosted Hosted solutions are yet another option for contact center and phone system needs. Under this scenario, your software and hardware is hosted and managed by a third-party provider. The hosted provider, versus the business owner, maintains the telecom hardware and may also produce and/or support the software that lives on the server. Businesses then pay to use and access the hosted system. With a hosted communications solution, a business only needs to purchase and install the phones - be they desk phones, softphones or a mobile app - based on the offerings of the selected product. Substantially less infrastructure is purchased and maintained on-site. With regard to oversight, the hosted provider is responsible for the overall management of the telecom infrastructure, its integrity and security. A reputable hosted solution provider will also ensure the integrity of your data with an infrastructure designed to separate your information from that of other companies it hosts. With less infrastructure to maintain, business owners are freed up to focus on sales, operations and other parts of their business. Since there are typically minimal hardware purchases beyond phones or perhaps a business-class router, hosted communications solutions allow businesses to operate under an operating expense (OpEx) model. Businesses pay only for what they need at the time of purchase and can add new licenses on the fly, which can help to moderate cash flow

4 4 and reduce long-term total cost of ownership. Unlike premise-based systems, where the infrastructure hardware has a predicted lifespan, hosted solutions with a good provider can also offer greater longevity. The true cloud infrastructure enables the provider to scale capacity and move resources around the network either dynamically or manually to properly account for customer needs. Cloud The third option, a cloud solution, takes the benefits of hosted communications to the next level. A true cloud contact center solution offers several distinct advantages beyond a hosted solution, specifically -- increased scalability and resource balancing abilities, improved disaster recovery and in some cases, additional feature flexibility. To understand how a cloud solution can provide these additional capabilities, let s take a look at the infrastructure differences between true cloud and hosted solutions. How Cloud Communications Solutions Differ From Hosted Solutions With a cloud solution, customers data and applications run on the provider s network, versus running on a specific server at the hosted vendor s data center. A reputable cloud provider s network will include geographically diverse, redundant data centers, with multiple servers within each data center. Customer traffic runs on multiple servers simultaneously, with no one facility handling more than a certain percentage of overall network capacity at a given time. In addition to allowing a cloud provider to quickly adjust to fluctuations in resource demands, a strong cloud infrastructure can also deliver a higher level of disaster recovery response and support. In the event of a server failure or other network disruption, customer data can be immediately transferred and rebalanced across the network to prevent or reduce downtime. Along with ensuring continuity via its cloud infrastructure, a strong cloud provider also protects data integrity by employing a faulttolerant design built to limit the spread of an isolated customer failure and avoid the cascade effect. A fault-tolerant design can contain the impact of a particular issue and ensure it will not affect other customers. Last but not least, cloud solutions that incorporate an extensible platform model (Platform as a Service or PaaS) also offer distinct advantages such as increased customization opportunities. Businesses get the features they need without waiting for vendor release cycles or having to patchwork disparate systems together. The result effective solutions delivered in a timely manner.

5 5 On-Premise vs. Hosted vs. Cloud The chart below summarizes the differences and the benefits of each of the three alternatives: BENEFIT ON-PREMISE HOSTED CLOUD SOLUTIONS Scalability Low Requires CapEx Moderate High Reliability As Good as Your Network As Good as Provider Network, Plus Hardware Most Reliable with Right Partner Feature Flexibility Limited Limited Select What You Need Security Maintained by Provider Minimal Capital Investment Implementation Time Long & Complex Streamlined Fast & Simple Easy for Your Team to Manage IT Requirements Self-managed Simplified Almost None Customization Capabilities Difficult to None Limited Highly Available with a PaaSdriven system

6 6 Cloud Concerns: Putting Myths to Rest Despite the benefits, some businesses still have concerns about cloud-based solutions. Fortunately, many of these concerns are easily addressed by carefully vetting and choosing the right provider. Listed below are common cloud myths and the facts that debunk them. The cloud isn t secure. A cloud provider with the expertise to host a carrierclass network should have several best practices in place to ensure maximum data and accessibility security. The provider should also employ industry standard encryption, firewall configurations and intrusion protection systems to prevent outside network intrusion and ensure security for client data. But a cloud provider s investment in security goes beyond equipment and technology. Since their business is security, reputable cloud providers also employ dedicated teams of experts who monitor and ensure network and data security. This focus on security translates into economies of scale for cloud contact center customers, who gain access to resources and technology they might not otherwise be able to afford. The cloud is unreliable. A cloud provider s very existence relies on its ability to provide consistent service not only for you, but for its other customers as well. Look for a provider with redundant, geographically diverse data centers, who also has direct relationships with multiple Tier 1 Internet

7 7 Cloud Concerns: Putting Myths to Rest (con t) and Tier 1 telephony carriers. Also, ask about their disaster recovery plan and how your services would be impacted in the event that something does go awry. Reputable providers not only will offer 24/7 monitoring and support by an on-site infrastructure team, but will guarantee it with cost penalties built in in their Service Level Agreement (SLA). You have less control. Since the cloud provider is managing the overall telecom infrastructure, you are able to focus on your business. Cloud apps afford the same level of day-today control over software operations as an on-premise system and often provide greater opportunities for oversight and handson management since accounts, users and functionality can be securely accessed from anywhere not just from the office. Many businesses also experience a greater sense of control when they move to those cloud providers that provide single source service, minimizing the number of phone calls needed to answer pressing questions and concerns. Everyone has the same functionality. The beauty of many cloudbased systems is in the customization capabilities they provide. They offer easier integration options with other cloud-based systems you may be using, like a CRM or accounting package. Such systems allow you to use them in a way that s best suited to your goals and processes, instead of being forced to adjust to fit the features the technology provides. In addition, new features are added regularly and are available immediately without the need to upgrade the entire system. to integrate. Integrations between cloud-based systems are often pre-built or easier to facilitate. Look for cloud providers that offer an open Application Programming Interface (API) style platform, which allows you or a thirdparty developer to create a customized solution that can turn your wish list into reality. Agents will balk at change. Agents are more likely to complain when they don t feel like they have the tools, knowledge or training to do their jobs effectively. Look for providers that offer easy-to-use systems and proper training programs to help you mitigate change management needs.

8 8 Cloud Concerns: Putting Myths to Rest (con t) Regulatory compliance will be an issue. With the right provider, compliance is easily covered without putting the burden of maintaining it on your staff. Cloud-based applications can often provide a more rapid rollout of new features that address regulatory standards, while ensuring conformity across multiple locations. Since cloud vendors are hosting and maintaining equipment on your behalf, they carry the majority of the workload in terms of ensuring they meet the compliance measures they promote. Make sure your provider s system and network architecture is structured for maximum data safety and compliance with any regulatory standards that apply to your business (e.g., PCI, SOX, HIPAA, etc.). If they support clients in multiple industries, your business can gain the added benefit of compliance and security measures that these other clients demand as well. In addition, verify that your cloud provider is SSAE 16 compliant; this standard defines how service companies report on compliance controls. Implementation will There s no requirement to do a full rip and replace with the cloud if that doesn t suit your business. With options like month-to-month contracts and little to no hardware to install, you can move implementation along at the right pace for your organization by easily migrating departments, teams or locations in small batches onto your new software. There are hidden costs. This should not be an issue if you are dealing with a reputable provider that clearly spells out the cost structure in its contract and SLAs. The real benefit of most cloudbased systems is that you won t be forced to speculate and overbuy equipment to account for future growth. Plus, when extra licenses or access are needed, they can be added in hours to days, instead of potentially weeks as is the case with installed, on-premise systems. Security should be a top influencer for businesses when choosing cloud providers. Providers should work to make their security and compliance procedures even more transparent. Data and recording encryption should be emphasized. The biggest misconception of them all. Businesses today operate in complex, demanding and everchanging environments. To compete, you need communications solutions with the agility to respond. Sticking with the status quo is no longer an option.

9 9 Is the Cloud Right for You? If you see your business reflected in one or more of the dynamics below, your contact center is a good candidate for the cloud. Rapid Growth Scalability Quick & easy software upgrades Integration flexibility Regulatory Environment SMBs & Multiple Locations Built-in compliance Rapid deployment Conformity across locations Levels the playing field Cost-effective Easier administration Single source solution Consistent customer experience Centralized management Outdated Equipment Seasonal Business Mobile Workforce Improved functionality Managed upgrades & support On-demand scalability Pay for what you use Remote management Access data from anywhere

10 10 Next Steps Before you start exploring solutions and providers, make sure you have a clear understanding of your current and future business objectives. Having a clear vision, and ideas on how you d like your new solution help you accomplish it, will make it easier to gauge which provider is the best fit. Building your internal cloud team Auditing your business needs Developing a standard set of vendor questions to ask Build Your Cloud Team The first, most important step is to identify and build your internal cloud team. The team should consist of key people within the organization who will help articulate current needs, navigate through various solutions and, ultimately, assist in successfully implementing the project. Your cloud team must understand your business current landscape (e.g., existing hardware, software, problems, competition), and its overall strategic direction. Team members need to have a big picture view of your company and your industry so they can accurately represent the wants and needs of other related areas (e.g., finance, marketing, sales) that will be affected by the change. Selecting the right people will not only help you gain valuable insights, but also secure buy-in from key individuals whose support you will need down the road, be it for finalizing the contract or working through implementation and training plans. While it is tempting to form a large committee, the cloud team really only requires a party of three: Thought Leader This is the big picture person who typically holds a C-level or senior position in operations. In addition to understanding the overall strategic goals of the organization, the Thought Leader must have the authority to make decisions and implement them accordingly.

11 11 This individual has a keen and detailed understanding of your current environment, plus working knowledge of newer technology alternatives. Typically, this person is a member of the IT department, but he/she can also be that hands-on expert everyone turns to when systems go south. Business Advocate The Advocate understands the systemic processes behind the data. He/she has intimate knowledge of the business workflows, along with an understanding of the human elements behind those workflows. Typically, this individual might be the contact center manager or director of operations. Audit Your Business Needs: Today & Tomorrow Together, your cloud team should be able to gather and formulate responses to the following questions: 1. What are our company s current processes? Be honest about your needs and challenges. Critically evaluate what s working and what isn t to determine the gaps in your procedures and how technology might be able to fill them. 2. What are our goals as a company and for individual departments? Is it to streamline workflows to save time? Or increase closing rates? Maybe you re looking to increase customer satisfaction scores? Whatever your goals are for sales or support, be sure that you have a universal and shared vision. 3. What vendors and solutions do we currently have in place? Review current contracts and solutions. If you have onpremise equipment, when are those contracts set to expire? 4. What are our current costs and what is our budget? In addition to the capital expenses of an on-premise system, don t forget other costs such as the need for integration, upgrades, maintenance, security measures and other daily operating costs. 5. Are we (and other employees) happy with our current technologies? If not, what are the common complaints and issues?

12 12 Audit Your Business Needs: Today & Tomorrow (con t) 6. Are we providing our customers with a consistent, seamless experience? Do your current tools provide the data accessibility and integration needed to give your agents a complete view of the customer, avoiding repetitious questions and multiple transfers? 7. What other cloud systems are we using? Are you currently using a cloud-based CRM? Are your employees already used to conducting business via a web browser? 10. Do we have specific compliance measures we must meet? If so, what are they? Also, if you have telemarketing efforts, are you currently in compliance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)? 11. What s our competition doing in terms of sales and service? Where do they excel, and why? How are we stacking up and where do we want to compete? 8. How much fluctuation is there in our communications needs? Do you experience seasonality or spikes in your business? How fast and how often do the seasonality spikes occur? 9. How much are we expecting to change and/or grow? If the answer is I don t know, that s the correct answer for cloud technology. Unlike on-premise solutions, which require you to make an educated guess on capacity, you don t need to know the answer to this question because the cloud gives you the flexibility to buy what you need when you need it. 12. How happy are our customers? Are satisfaction scores where you want them to be? How long does it take to get support or how easy is it for customers to buy your products? Dial into your phone system and see what the experience is like first hand. 13. What have we always wished we could do within our contact center? Start by understanding what your business objective is and then put the technology behind achieving that. of companies prefer the cloud to 87% on-premise solutions. 1 1 Radley, Noel. Cloud vs. On-Premise Deployment: Changes in Preference from Software Advice June

13 13 Provider Questions to Ask In order to compare apples to apples, make sure you have a standardized set of questions to ask each provider. Don t go out and investigate systems based on what they offer; evaluate them based on what you want. Some sample questions are provided below: 1. What is your infrastructure like? Where is your data stored? Is everything backed up? What types of disaster recovery solutions do you have in place? How do you ensure the data is safe? Are your data centers active-active? 2. How do you monitor uptime? How will I be notified in the event of downtime? Will I be able to review your Service Level Agreement (SLA)? Will you provide guarantees and financial penalties if you fail to meet these requirements? 3. How does your support work? What are your support hours? Is your support managed internally and in a geographic location that is relevant to us? Are there associated costs? Are you a single source provider and will you serve as the interface on our behalf to resolve issues when other parties are involved? 4. Will I be compliant using your solution? What compliance requirements do you meet? Do you have routine audits done? 5. How will your features address our needs? Please provide a full overview of functionality. What features do you have in place that address the goals unique to our organization? How often do you provide new releases? (Note: Avoid feature overload and overbuying. It s easy to assume that more features must mean a better solution, but stay focused on the big picture of what you re trying to accomplish and how a given provider can help you achieve those goals. If you only need a few simple features to be effective, that s what the provider should give you.) 6. What kinds of customization options does your system offer? Does your solution have the ability to be configured to meet specific needs? Will it integrate with our existing systems?

14 14 Provider Questions to Ask (con t) 7. Are your features user friendly? Can you gain access from various browsers, or from mobile devices? Are functions easily completed with single commands, or do they require multiple steps? What training is available, both during implementation and on an ongoing basis? 8. Will your solution grow as our business grows? Do you have a solution that will last and can scale as our business demands change? Can you support the capacity of our seasonal needs? Can you provide customized solutions on demand to meet future needs? 9. Can you add licenses easily? Or is it something we need to purchase upfront? 10. Can you integrate with our existing systems? Will I be able to port over existing numbers to the new system? 11. How much effort will it be to manage and what will we have to manage? How much technical understanding does our staff need have to be to run your solution? How easy is it to administer and use? 12. How will you handle implementation and support? How will you help us get started? How long will the implementation process take? Do you offer phasing? How often do you issue new releases? Once you have built your cloud team, audited the needs of your business and developed a standard set of questions to ask, you will be ready to start exploring vendors. If you need help navigating the cloud communications landscape, please give us a call.

15 15 Summary For many contact centers, it s just a matter of time before they make their move away from an on-premise system to a cloud-based solution. If you re not already exploring cloudbased options for your contact center, you need to start soon. There s a good chance that your competitors already have or are planning to make the switch. Increased competition, rising customer expectations and the perpetual need to reduce costs make today the best time to investigate cloud solutions. The Cloud: A One-Minute Overview Need to share a quick, high-level overview of cloud communications that explains the technology and benefits detailed in this whitepaper? Watch this short video. About the Author As President and CIO of Corvisa, Matt Lautz is responsible for business development, strategic partnerships and product vision. Matt has served as the CIO for Corvisa s parent company, Novation Companies, Inc., for the past three years during which he has played a key role in the technology strategy of Novation s brands. He is an original founder of Corvisa. Matt Lautz President & CIO Matt brings more than 15 years of experience in building and leading software companies. Previously, Matt served as CEO of a wholesale VoIP carrier and software development firm which he founded. During his tenure, he grew the business to processing over 1.5 billion VoIP transactions annually and orchestrated the sale of two product lines. About Corvisa Corvisa provides businesses with a single source for cloud communications solutions. As the only provider of a true product-plus-platform offering, Corvisa combines powerful contact center software, business phone systems and connectivity services with the unmatched flexibility of our Summit development platform. Backed by carrier-class network reliability and a passion for delivering unbeatable support, Corvisa is making cloud communications better. The experts at Corvisa can help. Contact us for an initial discovery session

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