A team using a unified communications and collaborations platform.
Image: Kateryna/Adobe Stock

Many people are returning to working in-house versus their house, but companies are not backing away from unified communications SaaS; rather, they are looking for more tools, especially agnostic ones that allow them to solve technical issues with wireless access networks and other connectivity infrastructure.

NETSCOUT, in its third annual survey of 300 IT decision-makers at the VP, director and CTO levels at organizations in the U.S. and Canada with over $1 billion in revenue, reported that the vast majority of companies added unified communications and collaboration tools. And, most IT leaders (75%) expected to grow the number of UC&C platforms used by their organizations in the new year. Eighty-nine percent of respondents to the November 2022 survey said their intention to increase UC&C platforms was fueled by a need for new features and functions; 67% percent said they would adopt more platforms in order to support employee collaboration.

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Most organizations support as many as four UC&C applications

Sixty percent of respondents to the NETSCOUT survey said UC&C platforms and tools are absolutely critical to their organization’s current work environment compared to 49% in 2021 – a 20% increase year over year.

Most enterprise-level organizations support up to four UC&C applications and over one-third support between five and nine such tools, while 15% use 10 or more. Eighty-six percent and 78% of those surveyed said they use Microsoft Teams and Zoom, respectively. Fifty percent said they use Google Meet, 45% use Webex and 37% employ Slack.

SEE: Best unified communications platform providers for your business (TechRepublic)

Eileen Haggerty, area vice president, product and solutions marketing, NETSCOUT, also pointed to platforms launched by mobile operators. “Some of the major telecoms have created these: BlueJeans video collaboration platform by Verizon, [recently defunct] conferencing software StarLeaf, and video and audio telecommunications company Lifesize, so there’s a variety.”

Back to the office equals fewer UC&C issues

In the survey, 29% of IT leaders said that a majority of their help desk tickets were related to UC&C issues – down from 42% in 2021. Haggerty said this is likely because of people returning to work.

“When we tried to decipher some reasons for that change, more people were working from home last year, where corporate IT didn’t own the home connection or the last mile. We can see that with more people working in offices, there’s a reduction in the number of trouble tickets.”

Proliferation of UC&C platforms is still a challenge for IT

When communications platforms are slow, IT gets a help ticket; the study found that multiple platforms used across different departments and by different teams had a negative impact on IT teams’ ability to respond effectively and quickly to these help desk tickets. The reason for the issues, Haggerty explained, is that companies often rely on a management tool provided by the third-party vendor to help them decipher problems where the issue may really exist beyond the purview of a single UC&C platform.

SEE: 6 Best Low-cost or Free Unified Communications Platforms (Fit Small Business)

“So, imagine you have multiple unified communications-as-a-service platforms in use and several people are reporting similar problems with different applications, but the dashboards for each are ‘green’ — i.e., their service is perfectly fine,” she said. “But your users may be complaining of slow-to-connect to audio or video, poor quality video, voice and video don’t line up, etc. Eventually IT gets that it’s a problem probably in the network environment, because the vendor’s tools are saying everything is green. How do we find that problem and fix it?”

How vendor-agnostic tools are used for these IT problems

To solve these problems, which may involve the wide area network, vendor-agnostic tools are required to look at the packet headers, which allows an examination of the conversation path within the ecosystem of that organization to see where the breakdown might be happening.

A good example of this, Haggerty explained, is quality of service class assignments. Problems with latency for voice, UC&C audio and video conferences all have a QoS tag that gets sent in a priority queue, because poor quality in live experiences is obviously an urgent matter, she said.

“Sometimes your network, or the WAN provider or your hybrid workforce employee at home may not be applying a proper QoS class, and this issue is well outside the scope of the UC&C toolkit,” she said. The survey found that only 23% of companies use an independent tool leveraging packet analysis to monitor the performance and experience of remote workers.

“Packets have valuable information, which, when you monitor them with rich analysis, allow you to pinpoint and troubleshoot,” she said.

That said, the poll found that 82% of UC&C-related help desk requests are at least somewhat easy to resolve. Almost a third said they can typically resolve UC&C-related requests within a few minutes, but more than half report resolution taking a few hours, and some are taking days or weeks to fix.

“There are still more than half of the tickets that come in that take a few hours to rectify,” she said. “If your users, say customer service, can’t make a call for two or three hours, that’s an eternity,” said Haggerty.

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