Digital Workplace

Cloud UC and Team Workspaces

by Steven Forrest

In 2018, we will again see the two market leaders, Cisco and Microsoft, go head-to-head in the world of Unified Communications (UC), only this year we’ll see a change in the way it’s promoted, and for some, the way it’s deployed and adopted.

Last year the two technology giants jostled for first place in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, placing emphasis on UC clients and mobility; Cisco promoted Jabber (and WebEx), whereas Microsoft championed Skype for Business (SfB). According to the big two, Team Workspaces will begin to replace mobile UC clients and email, in favour of more fluid methods of communication including persistent- chat, offering open APIs and an array of Plugins to maximise customisation possibilities and cross-platform interoperability.

Essentially, we will see Cisco promote Spark over Jabber, and over time Microsoft SfB will likely morph into Teams. So, perhaps real collaboration tools have arrived, now offering features such as intelligent assistants, filtering, bots, @mentions and one touch conferencing via proximity detection.

Cisco Spark or Microsoft Teams?

For those looking to leverage Team Workspaces in a secure corporate environment, there are two main vendor choices: Cisco Spark or Microsoft Teams. That said, most organisations will end up running both at least in the short term: primarily, to facilitate migration from one platform to another, but also to offer company departments and users choice until a final decision is made.

Unlike with traditional UC clients (Jabber and SfB), if you expect a seamless and fully integrated collaboration experience using team workspaces, it’s strongly recommended that one vendor cloud is chosen over the other; however, it may not always be possible or desirable due to operational and/or financial constraints. Before making any decisions, it’s imperative that you’re aware of the myriad of pitfalls associated with feature and function interoperability, including voice (specifically dial plan) and video, as well as the more critical, wider cultural and educational challenges. Migration to a new way of UC working today requires infinitely more thought than it did in the past.

Partner Engagement

Ahead of embracing cloud and engaging with a partner to help guide you through a well-considered migration process, it is recommended that the following four points are considered, as they will all likely play a significant part in your journey to cloud:

  • Business drivers – keep in mind that this is a business decision; avoid getting side tracked by buzz words and cloud hype to ensure migration to cloud is right for you. Do not underestimate the challenges associated with cultural change and education.
  • Validation – carefully consider and evaluate features, functions, methods of communication and information work-flow and test drive ahead of purchase. This will help steer your thinking and confirm restrictions/limitations early in the process.
  • Spark or Teams usage – determine the extent of expected usage across different user groups and profiles before making a buying decision. It’s important that all interoperability challenges associated with hybrid deployment are considered.
  • Service levels – ensure that service level agreements align properly with those you aspire to achieve internally; don’t leave anything to chance. Also keep in mind that Quality of Service (QoS) must be deployed on all network touch points, and that service must be guaranteed from the perimeter.

It’s important that you seek advice and guidance from an experienced and appropriately qualified systems integrator, one which is both vendor agnostic and that has deployed Cisco and Microsoft on-premise, cloud and hybrid solutions (inc. Spark and Teams). When engaging with your chosen partner, it’s also worth bearing in mind their end-to-end capabilities, including exposure to directory services, file sharing, CRM and any other application that will likely need to be integrated in the future to take full advantage of open API’s.

At Forfusion we have dedicated Cisco (CCIE) and Microsoft (MCSE) developers, engineers and consultants, as well as vendor agnostic strategists; they all have demonstrable experience helping others on their journey to Cloud. We’d be delighted to hear from you.

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