8 Tips for Vetting a Unified Communications Partner

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the move toward more mobile-friendly workforces, and now with so many employees working from home, it seems only fitting that organizations are reassessing which tools they use to enable both the productivity of their employees and the security of their communications. As your organization looks to improve your communications solutions, here are eight quick tips to assess unified communications (UC) partners to make the right choice for your business.

1. Start with Strategy and Look Backward.

It might seem obvious, but if your UC solution isn't aligned with the needs and long-term goals of your business, it can hinder your organization's ability to execute its vision. To ensure smooth implementation and the success of any unified communications partnership, first look at why you need a third party and compare those needs with the capabilities of the third party in question.

2. Compare Features and Functionality.

There are a lot of options out there. Will the UC solution accomplish the goals of your organization? What toolsets and features does the solution offer to address specific challenges your employees encounter daily? What level of visibility does it give administrators? Understanding the scope of product offerings will help you determine the ultimate ROI you can expect from a solution.

3. Verify Strong Security and Compliance.

Security and compliance reach beyond just the governance and policies of your tech stack. Indeed, employee training is also a key component to the protection of any business, and these aspects go together often when providing proof to regulators of due diligence. Even insurance companies are now requiring proof of a resilient technology process to offer coverage. This makes security a primary consideration when selecting a vendor to manage your unified communications. A third party can often be an additional attack vector for cyber breaches, so be sure to verify good standards of governance, both for prevention and restoration should it be needed.

4. Define the Management and Service Model.

To what extent will the provider assist with the support and administration of your UC suite? How hands-on are they, and what does that look like? Or will they only be available for specific situations when you would need them? Knowing the management parameters ahead of time helps to draw the lines of expectations and where your own teams will be needed to pick up the slack.

5. Understand the Breadth of Their Portfolio.

Get a real sense of what breadth of solutions the vendor can offer your business, not just in the realm of UC but beyond. If you need a cloud vendor to help migrate and optimize your business to operate in Amazon Web Services, for example, having a single vendor to do UC as well as all your IT needs is much easier than selecting several vendors for different things. "There's one simplified bill, too.

6. Determine Their Flexibility.

The flexibility of the third party to meet and exceed your unique requirements might mean tailoring solutions to your needs rather than giving you an off-the-shelf service. How flexible is the vendor in doing so? True ROI will come from a solution that best fits the needs of your business. Best-in-class solutions and features are a plus, but if managing a disparate suite is incomprehensible, then finding a third party who can roll them into a simplified platform is valuable.

7. Validate Their Record of Success and Verifiable Expertise.

How reliable is the third party in being able to deliver on promises? Having a record of success through the years and verified expertise from analysts and other reputable sources equates to delivering success for a multitude of clients, not just the ones with the biggest budgets. It will show the commitment the vendor has to a potential relationship with your business.

8. Understand Cost vs. Value.

A rewarding investment in third parties depends on the full value they will deliver and whether that value falls within your departmental budgets. When looking at the price tag for a UC solution, look beyond a single cost number and ask whether the scope of the solution and service will decrease the total cost of ownership. If the answer is yes, continue the conversation to confirm the best fit. A cheaper solution might not really be cheaper if it doesn't work as expected.

As with any technology decision, it's important to consider all the pros and cons when choosing one provider and option over another. By assessing the third party in all these areas, you can be confident that your choice will be better aligned to your short- and long-term needs. As new challenges arise, having a good partner at your side will help your organization maneuver into new landscapes of business demands.

Matt Campbell is a product manager and solutions engineer focused on collaboration offerings at InterVision Systems.