Public Sector Focus

03.09.18

Cloud communications: making the case for investment in cost-saving technology

Source: Advertisement feature

Any new cloud system you adopt will become the beating heart of your business operations for years to come. It is therefore crucial to choose a long-term, trusted partner to help you along the way, writes Rafael Cortes, head of marketing at Foehn.

Uniquely, there is one system that governs the productivity of your employees, the satisfaction of your residents and the efficiency of your suppliers – your phone system.

It has always played this pivotal role but, with the addition of cloud-based technology, mobile working, process automation and intelligent call centre capabilities, the potential impact on your organisation’s productivity and expenditure can be nothing short of revolutionary. 

In the private sector, cloud-based phone and contact centre systems are now the norm. Businesses understand the competitive advantage delivered by the new technology and, equally, the opportunity cost of delaying implementation. Some are even moving to second-generation solutions, similar to our own Voxivo Cloud Phone System.

These days, legacy systems using traditional TDM telephony and office-based PBX switching are most often limited to businesses that need to ‘sweat’ their investment or those who have assigned their old system to a ‘hybrid cloud’ arrangement, running services that suit on-site hardware.

Over recent years, organisations that have not been limited by legacy shackles, like some central government bodies and the more prosperous local authorities, have seen the advantages and made the move to cloud communications. For the smaller councils and wider public sector organisations, though, cuts in funding have bitten hard, and general budgetary pressures have impaired digital transformation projects and the transition to the cloud.

The irony is that the very organisations that stand to benefit most from cloud communications are those with the greatest financial pressures. It’s a catch-22 situation where, at first sight, future predictions offer little comfort. Having endured a decline of about 50% in central government funding since 2010, councils are facing a funding gap of £5.8bn by the end of the decade, according to the LGA. There’s no denying that when staff and services are cut in the wake of austerity measures (similar to Northampton City Council’s recent £70m funding shortfall) it’s a challenge to argue the case for new expenditure.

At Foehn, we like a challenge, particularly one that helps the lives and welfare of the people. So, here are some suggestions to help reduce risk and make the investment you need.

To that end, we understand that it’s critical to quantify the benefits of cloud communications, for both the public sector organisation and their constituency customers, as realistically and transparently as possible in terms that are easily understood. The mandatory bid or tender document plays its part in procurement but, unlike the financially-weighted focus of return-on-investment (RoI) prevalent in private sector decision-making, important benefits of the public sector kind are often less tangible – though no less critical.

The challenge is, first and foremost, to quantify the hard financial costs and (ideally) savings. At the same time, it is essential to understand how a cloud communications system can also make priceless improvements to performance. For example, happier residents, more motivated employees, a more popular council – all these outcomes, and more, stem from the capability of cloud phones and contact centres to improve ‘customer experience’ and ‘employee engagement,’ terms much-used in the private sector and now in the public sector vocabulary.

Savings from technology

For organisations moving from a hardware environment, the commercial feasibility (or RoI calculation) for a cloud phone system is virtually assured. From the outset, savings are given a significant kickstart by basic technical advantages.

Cloud’s scalable, per-seat pricing, zero capital investment and absence of hardware-related support and upgrade costs make a good start. Switching from ISDN telecoms connectivity to converged SIP networking can also achieve substantial savings on the cost of line rentals and infrastructure. Set-up costs are normally small and disruption is negligible.

If this isn’t enough (and in many cases it is), even bigger gains come from productivity-boosting features that automate workflow, reduce management time and remove the cost of third-party technical support. Self-service portals, chatbots, IVR, knowledge bases and many other features all reduce workload in the contact centre, minimising human resource and cost.

When interoperability and agility are key, delivery of these features by open-source software can make implementation all the more affordable. Smaller organisations often need the option of designing components of their business communications bespoke to their infrastructure. Open-source providers can offer their customers the added benefit of unlocking innovative communications solutions that are more flexible, secure, feature-rich and more easily integrated, all at less cost compared with proprietary platforms.

Our experience at Foehn has shown that the cost-effectiveness of your cloud system will be far greater if it is simple to manage, user-centric and intuitive. Capitalising on our open-source foundations, we have spearheaded a shift from the status quo of uninspiring, unintuitive, and convoluted phone platforms to a cloud phone system that doesn’t require specialist technical skills to manage those small but frequent administrative changes. We give maximum control to IT managers and employees over their own business communications for greater agility and efficiency at less cost.

Whilst the systems and solutions go a long way to delivering productivity for the user, the manager’s time and cost is governed more by support services delivered by the provider. The better, more responsive and more comprehensive the technical support included within the solution package, the less management time and third-party costs are incurred.

For example, at Foehn we’re a systems developer, a licensed telecoms company, and a service provider for everything from technical support and regulatory compliance to professional services and a lot more. We can offer all the big provider deliverables from a self-sufficient, lower-overhead, more agile team at a fraction of the cost. Big company service, small provider costs – our customers get the best of both worlds.

Savings from the provider

When it comes to getting the most from your investment, bear in mind that the system you’re adopting will become the beating heart of your business operations for years to come, and you’ll need a provider that will become a trusted, long-term partner. Therefore, it’s crucial to evaluate the provider, not just the product. A bad fit with a provider will drain both your time and money.

Experience counts. A knowledge of both the ‘new’ and the ‘old’ is crucial to guaranteeing that your new phone system will interact smoothly with existing telecoms infrastructure and the national network carriers. Your provider should be able to offer billing, porting, network connectivity and technical support. A higher return on investment and the future reliability of your updated system will depend on it. Equally, a partner with honed development skills will ensure your future integration projects go off without a hitch and your system is continually supported by the latest innovation, as well as a solid development roadmap.

Much of this information is available on the G-Cloud procurement framework, part of the government’s Digital Marketplace managed by the Crown Commercial Service, and a starting point for public sector organisations seeking the best-value, best-fit provider. G-Cloud gives central government, local councils, NHS trusts and other public sector bodies access to approved suppliers of cloud-based services via an online platform, offering greater choice and more competitive pricing.

For the sixth year in succession, Foehn has been listed as a G-Cloud supplier, emphasising the company’s commitment to delivering cloud phone and contact centre systems to public sector organisations that need affordable, feature-rich, simple-to-use solutions.

The hidden value of partnership

By far the biggest impetus for cost minimisation comes from possibly the least tangible element in the procurement checklist – a close customer/provider relationship, built around people.

At Foehn, for example, everyone from the CTO down knows our customers, not just the sales and customer support teams. Our development team is exposed directly to the client and understands their needs and wants first-hand. Throughout our team, this proximity to the client creates better communication, better understanding and greater availability. In the words of one of our clients, we’re ‘always there,’ unlike the bigger service providers who, according to customers who leave them to join Foehn, are ‘never there.’ Difficulties in contacting support, frequent changes in team members, slow response times, unnecessary process – these are the hallmarks of a provider who is too big to care. These are also sources of wasted time, resource and expenditure.

This collaborative relationship between the two parties is no longer a ‘nice-to-have.’ It’s recognised as critical to success and a tangible asset in return on investment. Furthermore, it’s the more agile, smaller supplier that is best placed to deliver this collaboration. None less than Goldman Sachs agrees with this. Its small business initiative ‘10,000 Small Businesses’ identifies the three common advantages of being small. Firstly, low overheads keeping costs competitive. Secondly, availability of automation technology and the resulting disproportionate gain in productivity from small teams. Most importantly, though, the third highlights the ability of a small provider to get closer to the customer, understand their needs and build productivity.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION

 

Alternatively, tap into our 18 years’ experience of providing telephony and contact centre solutions and discuss with us how you can afford to invest in the benefits of cloud communications.

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