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We’ve already moved well past the point where anyone believes that migrating to the Cloud means that your IT department gets to wash its hands of the day-to-day aspect of communications management. Indeed, Nemertes Research has estimated that IT’s resource requirements actually increase in the first year of a Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) deployment.

Nemertes isn’t alone in projecting that your costs may actually increase when you move to the cloud. The idea is that the real reason to move is business agility -- that is, the ability to add features and otherwise respond quickly to changing business needs.

But in the end, cost is king. I wrote last week about the persistence of interest in SIP Trunking, and while SIP Trunks do offer some new functionality, they’re really about cost savings. Cloud communications may not be a cost-savings play, but nevertheless that’s where the industry is headed – and that means if you can’t save money with cloud, you at least have to control costs. That makes it likely that the story of the next several years for many enterprise communications/IT teams will be about managing the transition to the cloud so as to limit the increase in costs.

Telecom consultant Sara Uzel makes this point in an excellent No Jitter post that you should definitely read. In the post, Sara  focuses heavily on the type of cloud-based services often purchased on an ad hoc or departmental basis—conferencing or collaboration applications that a particular individual or group decides, on their own, is the exact tool for the way they need to work. Allowing such ad hoc, unmanaged procurement—which your enterprise is very likely doing—is bound to create cost inefficiencies, and Sara has some great tips on how to at least begin to get a handle on these.

When it comes to an enterprise-wide procurement from a major UCaaS provider, you won’t be dealing with individual users or departments who have chosen to go their own way, but you will need a strategy for planning the migration to that UCaaS platform from your legacy CPE. And you’ll have to be mindful that your own enterprise’s M&A activity, or vendors’ ever-evolving roadmaps, are likely to force you to adjust that strategy in midstream.

To me, Sara’s underlying message is that one of the best ways to set yourself up to control costs on an ongoing basis is to understand what your end users actually need to do with the various communications services you’re buying -- whether that procurement comes from multiple smaller, independent purchases or an enterprise contract. Sara writes:

“As organizations move to the cloud, they make purchasing decisions based on what they think their users will adopt -- an approach that is frequently overly optimistic. While UC cloud providers are moving to offering fewer license levels, over-subscription by users can still be a significant problem, and subscriptions should be re-evaluated on an annual basis.

“To put this in perspective, if an enterprise has 10,000 users with higher-end licenses, the cost savings could be as much as $8 per user, per month. It may not seem worthwhile to focus on costs that small, however, on an annual basis, that's just under $1 million in savings.”

In the coming years, cloud communications services are likely to be among the most elusive and frustrating of all the moving targets your organization confronts. But keeping a bead on them is going to be essential to running the most cost-efficient communications operation possible.