How to Address Challenges with Unified Communications and Collaboration
What is Unified Communications and Collaboration?
Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) services combine communications and collaboration technologies to facilitate interactions in your user community to optimize business processes and increase productivity.
You are already familiar with the standard components of UCC: email, voicemail, calendars, video, and so on, from common UCC vendors such as Cisco, Microsoft, and Google. The end goal of UCC is to unify human and device communications, provide a common context and enhance the overall user experience.
To understand the challenges of UCC, let’s look at it from the perspective of an enterprise consuming the UCC services and tools to cater to the needs of its end users.
UCC by its very nature encompasses a whole slew of overlapping, rapidly evolving technologies. The integration of multiple channels and applications must work seamlessly among themselves, across boundaries. This layer of functionality resides on top of the network, compute, and storage infrastructure that supports the delivery of these services.
Typically, a Managed Service Provider (MSP) manages these services. This introduces the primary challenge: How do you bridge the gap between your service provider and end users’ experience?
Bridging the Gap Between Service Providers and User Experience
Let’s further explore the issue with this common example: You recently cloudified your UCC, using MS Teams and MS Outlook-related collaboration tools. But you soon start to realize that quality engineering may be lacking in your environment.
Your MSP, as the collaboration provider, focuses on the “edge” of their service delivery. They have service level agreements (SLAs) in place and strive to meet them. But the MSP does not necessarily have a handle on how the service performs within your enterprise network.
By going with an MSP, you will be alleviating your IT organization of the service delivery burdens to your community of users. However, it’s still your infrastructure that is delivering the service. So, you may have alleviated your computing concerns, but you haven’t alleviated your quality concerns. As a result, you haven’t alleviated your end-customer experience concerns.
MSP teams helped many enterprises tremendously during the pandemic – workforces were dispersed and didn’t use the network or infrastructure to facilitate connectivity with the provider. Now that folks are back in the office, enterprises are carrying every stream up to the provider. Is your infrastructure ready for that? And do you have visibility into that?
It is your responsibility as your organization’s I&O leader to intuit and close the gap at the edge between where your provider is delivering the service and how your end-user community is experiencing it.
Visibility at the User, Infrastructure, and Application Layers
Your visibility into the gap all comes down to monitoring – the ability to see and derive insights through analytics around what your user community is experiencing. You need to codify your user community so you can quickly spot trends if you have issues with particular types of OSs, drivers, headsets, etc.
This can be pretty complex, but your MSP might be in a position to help. They should be able to deploy lightweight synthetic transaction processors throughout the service delivery infrastructure. Synthetic transactions make it possible to gather the kinds of metrics that can articulate the experience from the end user perspective – and then compare it against other user communities in the organization, allowing you to prioritize remediation in areas of sub-optimal performance.
There is always a lot going on in your service delivery infrastructure and the service/application itself. There is networking equipment, and endpoints, all of which can span multiple sites and multiple networks and experience bandwidth issues. Different locations can have different network attributes that might contribute to an entirely different set of usability issues.
Another key is to leverage the telemetry that your MSP provides for you. While you may not have visibility into the compute on the MSPs side, as an enterprise you should have visibility into how the service is performing at the application layer.
Synthetic transaction monitoring helps you get a bead on things without disrupting the performance. Depending on how you are organized, the capability to monitor and manage your network and associated infrastructure is essential to delivering a satisfactory user experience.
With the increased proliferation of services hosted in the cloud and provided by MSPs, the ability to bridge the gap between your provider and your end-users is critical to realizing a positive outcome for your business.