You’ve replaced deskphones with a voice app and your teams are great at using the various email, chat and messaging tools available to contact each other, share information and files, and liaise with customers. But how well integrated are these various channels and are you making the most of them?

Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) and contact center as a service (CCaaS) bring all these communication channels together on a single cloud platform that’s easy to access, easy to use and easy to scale as you add new branches or users.

You can also implement new features as these become available, going from chatbots to chat as needed to improve both internal and customer-facing communication throughout the organization.

Here are five steps to realizing all the benefits of integration and innovation these as-a-service models provide.

UCaaS and CCaaS explained

UCaaS solutions are designed to facilitate internal business communication. They offer a range of communication tools such as phone, messaging and videoconferencing. CCaaS solutions, on the other hand, improve an organization’s customer service through channels like live chat, social media, voice calls and text messages.

As these platforms evolve, you have an opportunity to implement the latest and most disruptive tools in your communication ecosystem, such as chatbots and virtual assistants powered by large language model (LLM) technology.

Additionally, innovative solutions will give you access to advanced analytical tools, workflow automation features and APIs – along with step-by-step guidance and support to help you make the most of your new technology.

Evaluating and choosing a UCaaS or CCaaS vendor

Although these solutions have a lot in common – at least on the surface – you may not necessarily want to go with the same vendor (or vendors) for both.

For example, according to Gartner’s 2023 Magic Quadrant for UCaaS, the vendors in the Leader quadrant are Microsoft, RingCentral, Zoom, Cisco and 8x8, while Gartner’s 2023 Magic Quadrant for CCaaS identifies Genesys, NICE, Five9 and Amazon Web Services as Leaders.

Evaluate UCaaS and CCaaS solutions against your priorities. What are the most important things you need in order to improve your organization’s customer or employee experience? Only then should you start comparing vendors’ integration or running costs.

Whether you should work with one or more vendor for both UCaaS and CCaaS depends on various factors. Working with one vendor across both business areas can provide a streamlined experience and reduce costs, but only if their offering meets all of your needs. If not, a vendor offering specialized solutions may be a better fit for your organization.

You can also opt for a mix of vendors. An example would be using the UCaaS features of Amazon Chime to augment Amazon Connect, which is a scalable and flexible CCaaS solution with features like omnichannel routing and real-time and historical analytics.

Scalability is also an important consideration: the right platform should grow with your business.

Partnering with an expert integration service provider like NTT DATA can help you avoid limited, expensive or complicated as-a-service consumption. They can assist you with each of the five steps to follow before selecting one or more vendors for your UCaaS and CCaaS modernization.

1. Document your UCaaS or CCaaS environment

Consolidating your UCaaS or CCaaS tools doesn’t necessarily mean starting from scratch. Many organizations can keep using their existing resources alongside new tools. For example, if you already use Microsoft Teams for internal collaboration, you can integrate a CCaaS solution into Teams using Operator Connect or Direct Routing.

So, before comparing UCaaS and CCaaS vendors, examine your existing technology stack and take stock of the tools you already use for customer service and internal collaboration.

The right vendor should allow you to continue using your essential applications and hardware while offering application programming interfaces (APIs) and other integration options as needed.

2. Prioritize important tools and features

From tools focused on collaboration with only a few contact-center features to highly advanced ecosystems, you have many options to choose from.

Rapidly evolving AI and machine-learning technologies in unified communications platforms are powering chatbots and smart assistants and delivering data insights. These technologies can automate processes to improve workflows, increase accessibility with speech-to-text capabilities and boost efficiency with intelligent scheduling and recommendations. In this way, you can streamline your operations, increase productivity and offer an improved customer experience.

For example, Microsoft Teams uses AI to blur nonessential video images and improve sound quality, while AI-powered virtual assistants can automate certain tasks to improve productivity. Microsoft is also exploring real-time, AI-enabled translation on video calls, making it easier for teams from different countries to communicate.

In CCaaS, AI can analyze customer data, speech and voice in an instant, then use the information to place customers into a call-queue position that reflects the urgency of their call, rather than making them queue sequentially.

Genesys provides a comprehensive set of CCaaS capabilities, including omnichannel routing, workforce engagement management, analytics and automation.

Opt for a solution with features that align with your business priorities. Consider the reach of the platform and whether it needs to serve employees and customers in different countries. You may require tools that support more flexible working practices, such as remote provisioning and configuration.

3. Decide how flexible and interoperable you need to be

Combining your UCaaS and CCaaS solutions in the cloud is a fantastic way of simplifying your technology stack. You gain complete visibility of all your communication tools, so you can manage data more efficiently and improve employee productivity.

However, your employees are likely to rely on more than just contact-center and collaboration tools. The most advanced UCaaS and CCaaS solutions also allow you to connect other resources so you can integrate your UCaaS and CCaaS technology with applications that offer workforce management and optimization, customer journey mapping or customer relationship management, for instance.

The more integrations you can access, the more you can empower your teams. At the very least, the platform you choose should allow users to communicate with their colleagues and customers across a range of channels and platforms.

For example, the integration of Cisco Webex with AI-enhanced voice, video, messaging and collaboration tools is useful in supporting both on-campus and hybrid working.

4. Pay attention to security and compliance

Aligning your UCaaS and CCaaS solutions in one ecosystem can be an excellent way of improving compliance and protecting your data. However, depending on your industry and the regulations that apply to you, you may need a platform with more advanced security and privacy features.

The leading vendors in the market offer access to automated tools that can flag possible noncompliance, help you record important data across channels and secure conversations. Some solutions even allow you to automatically redact information in documents.

Advanced data-sovereignty tools will give you complete control over where your information is stored. At the very least, these solutions should include comprehensive access control and encryption tools.

5. Simplify the user experience

Bringing UCaaS and CCaaS platforms together offers significant benefits, including the ability to improve customer and employee experiences. When employees have fewer distributed platforms and applications to navigate, they can work more productively and improve customer satisfaction.

However, some platforms are more complex than others. For rapid adoption, you should prioritize platforms with straightforward and customizable interfaces.

Your teams should be able to configure these platforms with easy drag-and-drop tools and automate tasks like data retrieval and storage to reduce the need for manual and repetitive work. Additionally, you should be able to configure, provision and manage access to various tools from a single platform.

Grow with a partner, not a vendor

By following the steps above, you can choose a platform that will serve your needs for years to come, with the ability to integrate your existing tools, access advanced features and improve compliance and security.

Keep in mind that you’ll speed up and simplify your UCaaS and CCaaS modernization by partnering with an expert service provider to facilitate this process across your business with minimal interruption.

Read more about NTT DATA’s Digital Collaboration and CX services to see how we can help you improve the way you work.