Collaboration and Contact Center Architectural Strategies - Where to Start

27 Sep 2019

Architectural Decisions Impact Downstream Collaboration and Contact Center Design Decisions

The landscape has become increasingly confusing for organizations planning to move to Collaboration and Contact Center platforms. Some vendors have a cloud first or cloud only strategy, while others offer either premises-based, private cloud, or UCaaS/CCaaS strategies. What high level criteria should be considered?

With the proliferation of alternatives in the Collaboration and Contact Center space, how should organizations filter through the noise to weed out less desirable alternatives and decide which types of architectures and solutions will best meet their needs? Alternatives are often like levers and pulleys in which some choices may limit or expand available options in the next step. For example, deciding to use one platform for both collaboration and contact center reduces the number of viable manufacturer options. Similarly, if the decision has been made to standardize on Microsoft or Salesforce, for example, some providers are betting suited to integrate than others. With these things in mind, which decisions should be made first, and which can be allowed to organically flesh out in later steps in the process?

Organizational culture and strategic directly will very likely play a big role in the final selection of a Collaboration or Contact Center platform. While the task of weeding through the various options may seem daunting, by systematically approaching criteria prior to evaluating solutions, organizations can streamline their selection process by narrowing the options in advance. By taking into account organizational directives such as an emphasis on software as a service versus internal development, Google versus Microsoft, or Salesforce versus SAP, some platforms rise quickly to the preferred list, while others can be eliminated up front.

What high level criteria should be considered? At a minimum, we recommend the following be discussed and understood internally prior to creating budgets, defining requirements or kicking off a procurement process:

  • Does the organization have a preferred financial strategy? (Capital, Leased, or Operating)
  • Is the use of internal resources preferred over outsourcing? If so, are enough of the right resources available internally? Or is there a push towards outsourcing non-core business skills?
  • Does your organization have resilient redundant data centers, or managed cloud, or a preference for third-party solutions?
  • What is the primary driver influencing the decision to replace the current technology? Are there timing constraints to implement the solution?
  • Is your network robust, resilient and well-managed? What is the long-term network architecture roadmap?
  • Is there a mobile-first initiative? Is a large percentage of your workforce remote or “desk-less,” or is there a strategy to move away from hard phones? Alternatively, does your organization have large facilities that require more durable handsets, such as warehouse or retail space?
  • Are applications such as SAP, Salesforce, Google or Microsoft part of your core strategy?
  • Are there preferred vendor(s) or pre-existing relationships that can be leveraged?
  • Is there a directive to combine solutions such as Collaboration and Telephony, or Contact Center and Telephony, or is there a preference to implement individual solutions for each need?
  • What methodology does your organization use to procure hardware and software? Are there limitations on the procurement process?

This series of articles will take an in-depth look at each of these questions.

1 Capex versus Opex for Collaboration and Contact Center Solutions

Is there a corporate direction regarding capital purchase of equipment or does your organization prefer to pay for technology from an operating budget? While Capex and Opex are frequently used interchangeable with SaaS versus premises-based solutions, they aren’t necessarily the same thing. For example, a premises-based solution could be acquired through a leasing arrangement or through a capital purchase.  Equally, private cloud solution could be purchased through capital investment, but hosted at a data center managed by a service provider, with a management fee paid to the hosting provider to maintain the servers and support the solution. Finally, the solution could be implemented through a consumption model per license per month. In this financial model, hardware such as handsets, gateways, SBCs (Session Border Controllers), or other premises equipment may be included in the monthly subscription cost or purchased separately as a capital line item.

In a capital purchase model, there will still be annual Software Assurance Fees and Maintenance fees.  So while there a pure capex and pure Opex solutions available, many options will include at least some of both components. While there may be a strong correlation between how a solution is purchased and the other variables, there is not an absolute, linear cause and effect. Knowing your company’s financial direction is important, but other factors may still take precedence.

Equally important to knowing which way your organization preferred purchase method is understanding your internal resource strengths and weaknesses. 

Stay tuned for the next article which will explore this question further, along with factors such as physical location, network impact, and the primary drivers for replacing the technology.