UCC (Unified Communications and Collaboration) and Contact Center Tales From The Trenches

How two companies moved from a single on-premises-based platform to UCaaS and CCaaS
A frequently asked question faced by organizations moving their premises-based systems to the cloud is whether to take a best-of-breed approach versus a single solution.  This article explores how two organizations, a well-known national professional association, and a global medical device supplier, approached the answer and what characteristics ultimately drove their decision.  Both organizations had on-premises based PBXs with a call center and decided to move to the cloud. But in the end, each took a different route to the solution.


1. National Professional Association Opts for Survivability, Mobility, & Slack Integration

The first example, a national society with 150k plus members, provides education, professional development, advocacy, and public service—while operating from two primary locations in the U.S. U.S. The existing environment included a traditional PBX/call center system with local and long-distance primary rate interfaces (PRIs) in each location plus a point-to-point circuit between each.  At project initiation, the company had not yet standardized on Microsoft or Google product suites but had embraced internal collaboration via heavy Slack use.  It also used an association management platform for customer relationship management (CRM), with members calling in to register for events and access member materials.

The primary focus of the PBX replacement initiative was to convert the public-facing call center to an omnichannel contact center while increasing access to collaboration by integrating Slack as a channel, allowing for mobile and remote work, and streamlining costs. Making the member experience personal while providing state-of-the-art, timely, and instantaneous access to information was among the key business demands.

After careful analysis of about a dozen-plus proposals, the company decided to move to a single UCaaS and contact center as a service(CCaaS) platform. The selected cloud provider had an extensive, worldwide mesh network of data centers in key locations and a ready-made Slack integration. Over-the-top Internet with redundant pathways and central office connections to each location were determined to provide enough survivability, so direct SIP connectivity to the provider’s network was not necessary. The project did, however, spawn a network replacement project to ensure appropriate bandwidth and connectivity.  Collapsing traditional voice to SIP allowed the elimination of local, long-distance, and point to point circuits, thus reducing a substantial amount of carrier costs.

Contact center staff participation in vendor demonstrations was essential when evaluating finalists because they represented the front lines of interaction with the professional community. Their perception of the desktop client and user interface was a key consideration in selecting the finalist from the pool of short-listed finalists.  Other decision criteria included survivability, mobility, and Slack integration.


2. Medical Device Company Settles on Microsoft Teams , SIP trunking, SBCs (Session Border Controllers)

The second example is a global medical devices company based in Europe with call center locations in the U.S. The initial scope included the U.S., Canada, Latin America, and one site in Europe. The company wanted to choose a platform that would eventually expand to all locations worldwide. It needed to include telephony, a call center that would transition to an omnichannel contact center, business automation, and Salesforce integration.

The company’s existing environment included a PBX network in U.S. and Canada, with standalone PBXs in Latin America and a separate and different PBX network work in Europe. It also standardized on the Microsoft platform with heavy Skype usage.

The organization was initially open to cloud, hosted, single platform for UCC and contact center, and Best-of-Breed independent solutions for UCC and contact center with Microsoft Teams integration for each.  because the organization moved quickly to Microsoft Teams, however, at the start of the pandemic, it shifted to Microsoft Teams for telephony with a best-of-breed integrated contact center by the time it made a final selection.

Apart from the requirement that the final configuration be cloud-based, the organization was agnostic about the architecture at the start of the project.  As the project progressed, options were narrowed at subsequent steps through the evaluation, eventually leading to the best solution revealing itself organically. Before the pandemic, the company considered three different UC platforms: Teams telephony, standalone UC, and a single UCaaS/CCaaS platform. Once the pandemic drove migration from Skype to Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Teams telephony logically emerged as the best solution, with multiple options still being considered for CCaaS, SIP trunking, and Microsoft Teams professional services.

Once deciding on telephony, the contact center was the next focus. The company evaluated CCaaS solutions with its customer service team participating in extended demonstrations of each platform.  Parallel to the PBX replacement project, the company made an effort to streamline business processes in the customer service organization. One result was the adoption of Salesforce as the CRM, which became a necessary factor in the contact center decision.

As part of the evaluation, the medical devices company considered three versions of desktop client integrations: contact center soft client, contact center soft client with Teams telephony plug-in, and Salesforce integration with contact center plug-in.

With customer service agents primarily working in Salesforce, the company decided to use the contact center plug-in for Salesforce for customer interactions while allowing agents to communicate internally with other parts of the organization via Microsoft Teams. The contact center provider also had multiple data centers in both the U.S. and Europe.

Of the two remaining decisions, the SIP trunking solution had the highest potential to impact the project budget with many options available.  The four considerations were:

      1. Route all calls through Microsoft directly by purchasing a Microsoft calling plan (versus bring your own trunks) with SIP handoff to the contact center
      2. Implement cloud-based SBCs for PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) SIP connectivity with handoffs to Microsoft Teams and contact center
      3. Allow the contact center provider to provide PSTN connectivity and hand-off telephony to Microsoft Teams
      4. Some combination of the above

After evaluating return on investment and survivability, the company decided to route contact center calls directly to the contact center SBCs while using a global carrier network to provide the cloud SBCs with SIP connectivity to Microsoft Teams.  Direct SIP trunks between the contact center SBC and carrier SBC accommodated any flow of calls between the contact center and Microsoft Teams.

Finally, professional services were necessary to deploy Microsoft Teams globally and configure it to the client’s specifications. The vendor that provided carrier services was also selected to implement Microsoft Teams telephony to ensure a smooth implementation of both components.

In summary, the medical device company’s final configuration included Microsoft Teams with Carrier SIP trunking and SBCs—redundant with two data centers in the U.S. and two in Europe.  The carrier providing the SIP and SBCs was also tasked with professional services to implement Microsoft Teams globally, direct SIP trunks between the cloud contact center, and Microsoft Teams for transfer between the platforms.

So, what were the key drivers in the final outcome?:

      1. Deploying a multi-national solution ready-made to add users around the globe – an urgent demand for integrated omnichannel goes hand-in-hand with the digital transformation of customer engagement as part of a larger redesign of business processes.
      2. Mobile device integration with sales teams – for example, a global connectivity partner with cloud SBCs to streamline connectivity and remove traditional PSTN circuits.
      3. Ability to support work from home for customer service teams

These two examples demonstrate that there is no single “best practice” for implementing UCaaS and CCaaS. These reasons for architecting one type of solution over any are as numerous and varied as the organizations that implement them. For organizations with limited IT resources, a sole solution can be an easy choice.  While the multipronged approach of the second organization may seem complex, the diversity of the final solution provided an elegant means to meet their requirements.

Before moving to UCaaS/CCaaS, you must understand your organization’s priorities and business drivers and incorporate them into the selection process.  If your organization lacks the internal resources to undertake such a process, consider including an independent, expert consultant as part of your team.