UCaaS – Making the Right Choice for Your Enterprise
"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" argues Juliet in favour of Romeo in the popular play, Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare. She implies rightly so that names of things don't affect what they really are. It applies so very well on the various names of UCaaS in today's times. :) You can call them Digital Engagement Hub or Workstream Collaboration Platform or simply a Teams Collaboration Platform
Irrespective, it’s an age of Workstream Collaboration Platforms to enable team collaboration in order to enhance user experience and productivity of an end user. It does so by providing single user interface for any type of collaboration requirements; content, chat, audio, video, meeting, files sharing, QA, Poll etc. Over and above these features, it can integrate with business or support applications so that you still leverage features of those applications using the same interface instead of context switching the applications. Microsoft Teams, WebEx Teams, Slack etc. are some of the examples of these Teams Collaboration Platform.
There is a lot of similarity across these products (MS Teams, WebEx Teams, Slack, Ringcentral, 8X8 etc). All these collaboration apps are designed to enable users to work with each other in most efficient and collaborative ways. Infact, essence of User Interface (UI) like searching and tagging identities, stylistic aesthetics, rooms, conversation threads are to name a few which you would find almost similar in all of them. Most of them offer unified communication features like calling, meeting, chat etc. Also, these apps have rich APIs to integrate third party applications.
This article aims to highlight strength and weaknesses of these team collaboration apps on some of the significant parameters despite many similarities.
A) Content Collaboration:
Digital Engagement Hubs like WebEx Teams and Slack are integrated with cloud storages such as Google Drive, Drobox, OneDrive etc. to let users effortlessly create and share documents. However, users need to download and edit the documents externally. Thus, forcing users to deal with multiple user interfaces instead of just one. Compare this with Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams allows you to create, edit and share in its own interface without the need to download the documents externally. If your organization uses Office 365 for documents then Microsoft Teams gives you an additional edge.
B) Calling (IP & PSTN):
Microsoft Teams and WebEx Teams have full fledged calling options; IP only & PSTN. While, Slack lacks PSTN calling, a third-party IP-PBXs can be integrated in Slack to provide PSTN calling feature. An enterprise looking forward to the features like advanced call control, call forwarding, call transfer, call waiting, voicemail etc will find it hard to approve Slack as an UC&C product.
C) Video (p2p & Conferencing):
Microsoft Teams and WebEx Teams have gotten rich video conferencing features, while, Slack needs integration with video conferencing providers like Zoom, WebEx, Skype for Business etc. Although, IP based group video calling is natively available in Slack for a limited number of users in a call.
D) Compliance & Data Protection:
With Intune, compliance related settings can be configured within Microsoft Teams to meet company’s security requirements. There is no similar data protection mechanism in either WebEx Teams or Slack.
E) Meeting Solution:
: Features like automatic dial in, call-back options, video call back and an inhouse meeting interop solution (CMS) give an incredible edge to WebEx over any other digital engagement Hub. Microsoft Teams is the next one having maximum number of features. Slack needs a third-party integration for full-fledged meeting experience. Note: Zoom is not considered as a digital engagement hub platform. In an independent meeting solution provider competition, it would be as strong a platform as WebEx if not better.
F) Apps & Integrations:
Slack integrates with maximum number of third-party applications followed by Microsoft Teams. WebEx Teams still warming up in this space.
G) Communication Platform as a Service:
Twilio is the name which rings bell in this space. Having the greatest number of optionalities to enable a developer building RTC controls in business applications. Some of the examples are text message reminder of an appointment (doctor, barber etc.), video calling in banking application etc. Unified communications being an afterthought in Slack, it lacks to offer lot of native RTC controls. Microsoft Teams and WebEx Teams have made promising start in the space but sufficient number of APIs are yet to be released before they claim as a leader in this space.
H) AI Enabled Assistants:
None of the team collaboration hubs has a "single" assistant to help you organize all of your activities or tasks. However, these digital engagement hubs have lot of such assistants to choose from based on use cases like scheduling meeting, reminders, notes, to-dos etc. An end user has to use a combination of those assistants to perform daily tasks in intuitive manner. Slack has gotten maximum number of such assistants to choose from, while, WebEx Teams and Microsoft Teams are still gearing up in this space.
(image Source: Microsoft)
Enterprises, usually, deal with a major dilemma while defining an end state to adopt and embrace digital engagement hub story for the employees. Do they need to go for multiple hubs or stick to a single hub? Best approach to address this dilemma is; first understand business use cases (specific to industry), understand design and inventory of your current infrastructure, then to develop an enterprise communications architecture, and finally define a roadmap to address business use cases. In few cases, I have noticed customers preferring to consolidate use cases on a single Digital Engagement Hub while in many it’s about leveraging best of multiples.