The market for unified communications as a service (UCaaS) offerings is taking off and it appears that small- and medium-sized businesses are poised to take advantage of it right alongside enterprises, gaining benefits like lower total cost of ownership and improved business continuity.
SMBs have many of the same priorities in terms of UC functionality, including mobility, routinely go deep into the weeds to ensure they’ll achieve a solid return on investment (ROI) from their UC implementations.
These are some of the highlights of my colleague Kevin Gulley’s recent conversation with Shawn Coyle, VP of Sales for the UCaaS vendor ANPI. (The conversation was captured as a podcast which you can listen to here.)
Market Numbers and UCaaS Business Drivers for SMBs
The overall UCaaS market was $15.12 billion in 2015, according to the research firm MarketsandMarkets. And a number of prognosticators expect the market to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20% or more over the next several years.
Companies with fewer than 100 employees have a UCaaS adoption rate of a little less than 25% right now, Coyle says. “Couple that with the forecasted growth rate through 2018 for cloud UC revenues (over 20%) and we’re poised for some staggering growth in the coming years,” he says.
Among the chief drivers behind all this SMB interest in UCaaS is a lower TCO vs. providing UC solutions in-house, Coyle says, with gains in productivity and efficiency not far behind.
“Business continuity is another big driver,” he says. SMBs like the idea that even in the event of a power outage or Internet service interruption, customers will still be able to get through and calls can be routed to users wherever they may be. Or, in the case of a snowstorm or other event that forces the office to close, they can change the message on the auto-attendant to let customers know.
Mobility, Presence Top List of UCaaS Functional Priorities for SMBs
Asked which functions SMBs are most interested in with respect to UCaaS, Coyle’s answer could’ve just as easily applied to enterprises: “Mobility is huge nowadays,” he says. Business owners never want to miss a call and want to be able to “present a professional presence” while they’re on the road. That means having calls to their business line forward to their cell and being able to place calls from their cell that appear to the recipient to be coming from the business line.
Presence is another priority, Coyle says, giving SMBs the ability to know what coworkers are doing, and whether they’re available. Employees quickly learn how to use these tools to become more efficient, such as shooting a colleague an instant message while he’s on the phone rather than waiting for him to complete the call.
“Presence is probably the most impactful small feature we’ve seen in the last 3 years,” he says. “You don’t think much about it until you implement it and once you implement you can’t live without it.”
How SMBs Cost-justify UCaaS and Assess the ROI
Customers do, however, think about the potential ROI from their UC investments and that’s a conversation that Coyle’s team has with every prospect.
Some customers look at purely the hard numbers, with spreadsheets comparing their operational expense vs. capital expense if they move to a UCaaS solution, factoring in whether they’re going to purchase or lease a handset, depreciation and the like.
ANPI seeks to educate such customers about the soft benefits to be had with UCaaS and the value to the business of being able to more effectively track colleagues down without spending time running back and forth between offices. “That equates to real dollars,” he notes. So does the ability to conduct weekly or monthly meetings among far-flung employees via videoconference, and using web collaboration tools – with no travel required.
“More often than not, they do see the overall value,” Coyle says. When they start to look at the efficiencies to be gained and the soft benefits, “there’s not many situations where you couldn’t make a case to justify a full unified communications cloud-based solution.”
Listen to full podcast to learn more about SMBs and UCaaS, including:
The network challenges they face
Why simplicity, speed and flexibility are so important to SMBs
The extent to which SMBs are moving toward softphones and headsets as opposed to traditional telephone handsets.