Not Quite Obsolete! When a Premises Based PBX is Still Best

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Increasingly the focus has been on the move to cloud-based contact centers and the potential benefits for organizations and customers, but the cloud is not always a natural fit, and in the right circumstances, a premise-based approach may actually make more sense.

Paul White, CEO of mplsystems, agreed that there are certain scenarios where a premise-based contact center solution can still make more sense for some organizations. “Traditionally there has been some operational resistance to cloud

Paul White, CEO of mplsystems

Paul White, CEO of mplsystems

deployments from the financial services and public sectors, but that’s often because the internal IT function wanted to retain control and keep all applications on premise,” he said. “Today’s decisions to keep contact center software on premise are perhaps more reasoned. For example, some organizations don’t want to locate in the cloud if they’re going to get involved in transferring lots of calls and incurring extra costs because of this.”

Richard Parsons, Business Development Director at Experience Assist, is a champion of the Cloud, but said that sometimes it is not the best fit for every business. “Premise-based contact centers can be successful when the requirements of their services are largely bespoke, and therefore solutions must deliver exactly what their customers want,” he said.

“This can occur, and was certainly a common theme in sectors such as telecommunications in the past decade or so, when companies merged and previous solutions were maintained during this period of change,” Parsons explained.

He went on to say that these types of systems often require strong internal project teams, who have an in-depth knowledge of the technology: how it works, its potential and its limitations. “When joining to form larger franchises, and making key decisions about the implementation and management of software, senior management teams were often heavily reliant on their team’s existing in-house knowledge and capabilities to maintain customer service standards,” he said.

Understanding the solution and roadmap from premise and cloud providers is key when evaluating on-site versus contact software-as-a-service models – Minorik

Mark Minorik, director at Alsbridge

Mark Minorik, director at Alsbridge

In such circumstances, Parsons noted, they would use their existing team’s understanding and expertise to continue working with the system: providing customer support through the channels supported by the technology.

For Mark Minorik, director at Alsbridge, some mission critical business functions that use contact center solutions might not be an ideal fit for a cloud solution. “If an enterprise has demonstrable and undeniable need for uninterrupted and continuous availability, [such as] emergency services/air-to-ground communication, and they want to eliminate possible failure points, then having a premise-based solution might be the right choice versus cloud. An evaluation of business continuity and disaster recovery should be completed before electing to implement either a cloud or premise solution.”

He added that companies that have recently made large investments in upgrading their internal contact center applications and adjuncts may not reap the benefits of migrating to cloud based service. “With any technology investment, an analysis should be conducted factoring in service levels, capabilities, operations, functionality, cost, and other critical services and components comparing cloud-based solutions to premise-based solutions,” Minorik said.

Arnab Mishra, Senior Vice President of Products and Solutions at Transera

Arnab Mishra, Senior Vice President of Products and Solutions at Transera

Minorik also said that contact centers that have the technical talent and have shown an ability to be early adopters and users of beta product might not be a good fit for the cloud. “Cloud providers do not always want to be the first to adopt and deploy new software or services as they may not be able to provide excellent availability and/or price the new service in a cost effective way. Understanding the solution and roadmap from premise and cloud providers is key when evaluating on-site versus contact software-as-a-service models,” he noted.

White said that another reason some organizations might keep customer contact software on premise is if they are doing a great deal of back-office integration. “Taking this data out to the cloud and back might not be optimal, so some IT departments would prefer an end-to-end on premise approach,” he said.

Arnab Mishra, Senior Vice President of Products and Solutions at Transera, said that premise-based technologies can be a good fit for contact centers in several scenarios, including when:

  • The contact center locates all of its agents in one location, premise-based technologies avoid the replication required of premise systems in environments with multiple sites.
  • The interaction volumes handled tend to be stable with low seasonality, thus allowing the contact center to avoid over-sizing its premise deployment for peak volumes.
  • The enterprise has available IT resources and budget to manage the premise technology.
  • The enterprise has future budget allocated for upgrades to subsequent versions of the premise technology.

Minorik added that cloud-based contact centers may not be the best options in these cases:

  • Highly customized operating model: Companies that require highly customized or unique feature functions that are not available in the cloud market might not be a good fit for cloud options. “Some examples might be a large number of skills per agent, unique security needs, legacy integration points, multi-modal/channel services, or similar,” he said.
  • International: Some non-U.S. markets where regulation dictates local use and/or where data and IP voice and transport are limited and have a poor track record of availability may not warrant or support cloud-based services.
  • Control: For those businesses that require end-to-end control of all services and contact center components, cloud is not going to be an ideal match, Minorik said. “There are few who require maximum control of their environment, but when it is required, cloud and outsourced solutions will generally fall short.”

Contact centers need to consider a number of factors when making the decision to remain premise-based. Mishra explained that contact centers should determine fit between cloud and premise-based technology based on the following criteria:

  • Desired amount of business flexibility: Businesses, he said should ask themselves the question: “Does the contact center find it valuable to be able to scale up and down as interaction volumes scale up and down, thereby aligning costs with interaction volumes?”
  • Ease of expansion: Cloud and premise-based systems have very different operating models, and this manifests itself most acutely when contact centers are growing. “Cloud-based technologies allow contact centers to easily add new agents, sites, and geographical markets, all through centralized provisioning in the cloud. Premise-based systems typically require additional hardware investment, software investment, and replication of technologies in each locations where agents exist,” Mishra explained.
  • Total cost of ownership (TCO): The cost of a premise-based system goes beyond the technology itself and includes on-going IT management and investment in upgrades. Enterprises should look at these ancillary costs when comparing premise and cloud-based solutions.

While the Cloud offers a variety of benefits, there is some agreement in industry that there is still a place for premise-based contact centers in specific scenarios.