Artificial Intelligence (AI) is clearly today’s dominant trend in tech, but this wouldn’t be happening without the mega trend that preceded it.
That would be the cloud, which is still going strong, and is a necessary condition for AI to become widely adopted. While there’s a gold rush going on now with contact centers to deploy various forms of AI, they need to first be ready to embrace the cloud.
In terms of staying current with cloud-based technology, the rationale for doing so is sound, but in the contact center space, this is easier said than done.
...many contact centers still have reservations about the cloud.
Enterprises have been adopting cloud solutions on many fronts for several years now. And these migrations have largely been successful.
Unified communications (UC) would be the most relevant example, where cloud has emerged as the deployment model of choice. And unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) is displacing most premise-based UC solutions.
One reason why UCaaS is so relevant is that many of these vendors also offer contact center solutions, and they are aggressively going to market with their cloud-based contact center-as-a-service (CCaaS) offerings.
For these particular vendors, the recent trend has been to offer joint deployments of UCaaS and CCaaS, and in some cases, it’s a great solution. Having one technology partner for both makes things easier for IT, and it streamlines the broader cloud migration for the business.
However, there are many other cases where CCaaS is more challenging to deploy than UCaaS, leading the business to go cloud with UC, but to keep the legacy, premises-based contact center deployment in place.
This approach is tenable for now, but as AI becomes more of a must-have for customer service, cloud-based solutions for the contact center will become necessary.
As an analyst, I attend many industry events, and this issue is a recurring theme. While most businesses are well on their way to adopting UCaaS for workplace communication, their contact center applications tend to remain premise-based. CCaaS adoption is definitely gaining traction, but many contact centers still have reservations about the cloud.
Based on the trends I’m seeing, here are three obstacles to cloud adoption, along with the trade-offs contact center leaders need to consider with CCaaS.
Obstacle 1: Loss of Control
Premise-based contact centers are largely based on legacy technology that has been carefully fine-tuned over many years across a patchwork of complex, custom integrations.
To maintain a high-performing operation, IT requires a lot of hands-on support based on vendor-specific expertise. While it’s understandable why IT doesn’t want to move on from this, business leaders - not just contact center leaders - need to view this reluctance as an impediment to adopting new technology that can provide the kind of customer service that is needed.
Maintaining this level of control may serve IT well in terms of preserving the status quo for their sphere of organizational influence. But it may not serve the needs of the business, especially in highly competitive markets.
Going to the cloud means giving up control over managing the contact center. And some IT leaders may not be prepared to do that, especially if they have been the architects of what’s been in place for a long time.
The counterargument is that the legacy premise-based technology they’re trying to maintain has diminishing value and is preventing the contact center from bringing in the kind of innovation customers have come to expect.
Customer-centric leaders are well-aware that customers have already adopted these new technologies. And keeping pace with that is more important than IT’s need to keep control over a system that inherently cannot adapt to these new expectations.
Obstacle 2: Financial Considerations
Without even considering the cloud for modernizing the contact center, the preferred approach for some IT leaders would simply be to upgrade their premise-based systems with newer iterations of the same.
This policy would allow IT to extend the status quo they are so comfortable with for the contact center, as well as maintain their operational influence overall.
...cloud, especially with AI, is constantly evolving, so it will maintain high value over time...
Again, this is a favorable scenario for IT, but much less so for the business, especially where cloud has been successfully adopted elsewhere in the organization.
Fortunately, the realities of technology today dictate otherwise, especially in two areas.
First is the fact that contact center vendors are striving to become cloud-first – and some cloud-only – and R&D has moved almost entirely away from legacy systems.
There is only so much modernizing IT can do with premise-based offerings, and even the best of it will not be enough to meet today’s customer experience (CX) expectations.
Second, as cloud adoption advances, CapEx is getting harder to come by, and IT simply won’t have the financial resources to keep investing in legacy contact center solutions.
These factors alone may well force IT’s hand for going with CCaaS, but the business case gets even stronger when considering the financial virtues of the cloud.
The SaaS business model makes the cloud attractive by shifting the spend from CapEx to OpEx, which is easier to manage financially. If IT has no CapEx for a premise-based upgrade, the bridge to modernization will be much shorter with cloud since it’s being consumed as-a-service without any capitalized investment.
The big trade-off here is that CCaaS is an ongoing cost, so much like renting, the long-term expenditure will be higher.
That said, cloud, especially with AI, is constantly evolving, so it will maintain high value over time with innovation to enable contact centers to keep adapting to changing customer needs.
Obstacle 3: Disruption to Operations
This attribute is related to the first obstacle in that by remaining premise-based, there will be no disruption to the contact center when upgrading with newer technology. Having a highly reliable operation is another reason to maintain the status quo, and by extension, to not adopt the cloud.
Again, that is only true to a limited extent, since even the latest premise-based offerings cannot deliver the modernization that contact centers really need.
Ironically, while a shift from on-premise to cloud could be very disruptive to the contact center, the cloud is arguably more reliable in terms of uptime and business continuity. This point is becoming more important as business operations face increasingly severe threats from natural and human-made disasters, with staff, like remote agents, as well as applications and data being dispersed.
Of course, this is a different kind of disruption: namely ongoing service reliability, as opposed to the short-term disruption that can arise when migrating from premise to cloud.
Long-term, however, the former is more important for maintaining good CX. Today’s customers expect 24/7 service, and with global customer bases, this capability becomes even more important.
...while a shift from on-premise to cloud could be very disruptive to the contact center, the cloud is arguably more reliable...
Another consideration for overcoming this holdback is how vendors are helping contact centers migrate to the cloud. If managed poorly, this transition can be very disruptive, and that’s a valid reason for IT to not go with CCaaS.
However, since many vendors have transitioned their product lines from premise to cloud, by nature they can do this seamlessly: otherwise, they will not succeed with CCaaS.
While the possibility of a cloud migration being disruptive to operations certainly exists, once IT leaders see evidence that vendors can do this with minimal disruption, this obstacle should cease being an issue.