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A platform for all-comers

With its flexibility and simplicity, NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE UCaaS and CCaaS platform is a compelling proposition for IT and print resellers looking to get into UC.
James Goulding finds out more from Andrew Cooper, NEC Sales Director for the UK and Ireland 

By the end of this year, NEC will have fulfilled its ambition to deliver a complete Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS) solution by fully integrating the UNIVERGE BLUE Engage contact centre application and UNIVERGE BLUE UC and IT applications on the same portal, with easy management of all elements via a single pane of glass.

UNIVERGE BLUE on laptop

NEC was late to enter the UCaaS market – it only introduced its UNIVERGE BLUE cloud services platform in the summer – but with this latest development it is now looking to position itself at the forefront of this growing market with a sophisticated, flexible offering that enables partners to meet the diverse needs of customers of all sizes, from SMEs to enterprises, at every stage of their cloud journey. 

The UNIVERGE BLUE platform gives access to four distinct but integrated suites that collectively deliver all a business needs to communicate, collaborate and store/share/manage/backup/restore documents, for one predictable monthly subscription. These are:

  • Connect – for unified communications, including cloud phone system (and call minutes), presence, team chat, audio- conferencing, video-conferencing, file-sharing;
  • Meet – for online meetings, including HD video conferencing, screen sharing, one-click recording, transcription and webinars;
  • Share – for file share, sync & backup, including cloud storage, access to files from any device, document sharing, back- up and file restore to any point in time;
  • Engage – for advanced contact centre, including omni-channel customer experience (phone, email, web, social media, chat, mobile), skills-based routing, auto-attendants, call-backs, status monitoring, reports.

    Flexible deployment 

    UNIVERGE BLUE can be deployed as an organisation’s sole unified communications/collaboration platform or it can be used in conjunction with an  existing on-premises PBX or an existing collaboration solution like Microsoft Teams, enabling customers to make a complete or phased transition to UCaaS or CCaaS. Andrew Cooper, NEC Sales Director, UK and Ireland, points out that the ability to offer on-premises, cloud and hybrid solutions enables resellers to address a much wider customer base. 

    “The whole world hasn’t moved to cloud overnight. There are still lots of legacy PBXs out there and we still sell an awful lot of premises-based technology because cloud isn’t for everybody. We continue to be a global leader in premise-based technology – in SMB, we have been Number 1 for six consecutive years and in the enterprise world we have always been in the Top 3. However, our goal is to offer choice, which UNIVERGE BLUE enables us to do. 

    “We are very focused on offering a hybrid approach, where we are able to lay our cloud technologies over a customer’s existing premises-based PBX (from NEC or a third party). This could be someone who bought a PBX a year ago and likes the idea of adding some of the functionality provided by UNIVERGE BLUE, such as collaboration, mobility, chat, contact centre, while sweating their existing assets. Or it could be a customer that wants to run their legacy premises-based solution in their headquarters and implement a cloud solution for satellite offices. We can do that as well. With UNIVERGE BLUE, we offer choice to our partners and, more importantly, enable them to offer choice to their customers.” 

    In the case of Teams, UNIVERGE BLUE can compete directly with the collaboration solution or it can be used to enhance Microsoft’s offering. For example, a customer could use the Teams app for productivity and collaboration and UNIVERGE BLUE Connect for voice communications and contact centre, or they could use Teams for everything – productivity, collaboration, making calls, receiving calls – but carry all voice traffic across the UNIVERGE BLUE infrastructure, with its enterprise telephony functionality and Five 9s reliability. 

    Easy option for print and IT resellers 

    Cooper argues that UNIVERGE BLUE is highly compelling for print and IT resellers looking to diversify their offering with unified communications. This is partly due to its ease of use – “The system is extremely quick and easy to on-board. If you start at 9 a.m., you can learn our solution, become accredited in it and provision a customer by mid-afternoon,” claims Cooper – and partly because it provides a clear migration path to the cloud. 

    “With UNIVERGE BLUE, resellers don’t have to have that hard conversation with customers and say ‘throw away your PBX’. Instead, they can overlay our technology on existing solutions and either show them the advantages of using some of that additional functionality immediately or enable a migration path so that in two years’ time, if the customer decides they are ready to move from on-premises to the cloud, they can do so using the same tooling. It offers a very, very straightforward migration strategy.” 

    Analysis from MZA highlights the opportunities this presents, with the installed base of on-premises and cloud solutions forecast to move from a 58:42 split this year to a 40:60 split in 2025 (source: MZA, The UK Hosted/Cloud Business Telephony Market: Installed Base by Technology – Cloud vs Premises-based).

    Working together 

    Cooper adds that there are other benefits in partnering with NEC, rather than another UCaaS provider. 

    “A lot of cloud solutions out there are effectively agency models, where a vendor encourages a partner to transfer their base from on-premises to cloud and, while doing so, effectively transfers the ownership of that customer to the cloud vendor. In contrast, NEC provides a solution that the reseller can provide with their own branding; the reseller controls the billing, so commercially that relationship remains between the reseller and the end customer; and they control the pricing. We’ve got  data showing that company valuations for businesses with that kind of customer ownership model are two to three times higher than they are for partners with an agency model, where they take a revenue share from the vendor,” he explains. 

    “Another benefit is that we are an indirect-only business and very much have this ethos that we work for the partner, so behind the technology there is a lot of support. This isn’t just for sales and marketing; we also provide deployment support; we can help with integrations; we can help with the migration story and process; and we wrap all that with one simple bill, one support team and one control panel.” 

    Everything partners need to do they can do through the UNIVERGE BLUE web-based portal, from accessing sales material, a vast knowledge base and free online training (delivered in 5, 10, 15-minute snippets) to the generation of quotes and the provisioning of customers’ handsets, call-groups, auto- attendants etc.. 

    “This even extends to us offering QoS services,” says Cooper. “Every partner gets free access to Voip Scout network testing, which analyses the infrastructure on a customer’s site and produces a report showing whether that infrastructure is fit for the level of voice they want, with a breakdown of things like packet loss, jitter and other issues. This lets the partner see whether they can deploy straightaway and also gives them scope to offer network services to ensure the customer gets a quality service.” 

    A clear roadmap 

    Finally, Cooper points out that resellers and their customers benefit from the reassurance of partnering with a financially stable organisation that has a clear roadmap for the future development of UNIVERGE BLUE. Integrating the contact centre application is a big part of this, but there is a lot more to come, he says. 

    “We have spent time looking at what partners require and what end users are looking to achieve and we have wrapped that all up in UNIVERGE BLUE. But we are not sitting back on what we have got today; we are pushing forward, for example by integrating the contact centre application fully, and analytics is going to be a big strength for us. We have high aspirations to become one of the dominant players in this marketplace.” 

    To find out more about becoming an NEC UNIVERGE BLUE reseller, please contact NEC on https://www.nec-enterprise.com/ partners/Become-a-Business-Partner. 

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    UNIVERGE BLUE differentials 

    Ten reasons to take a closer look at NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE platform for UCaaS and CCaaS. 

    1 One complete platform
    It is a true all-in-one solution, with almost every feature accessed via a single application offering the same experience whether you are using a PC or a mobile device, with one control panel for management and one contact for support. 

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    2 One predictable monthly subscription For visibility and easy financial planning, users pay one monthly subscription covering almost everything, including call minutes, cloud storage (up to 1TB per user) and anti-malware/anti- virus protection. 

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    3 No-compromise telephony
    Some UC solutions are very good at desktop applications like fileshare, videoconferencing, meetings and collaboration but don’t have the full-blown PBX functionality that businesses require. UNIVERGE BLUE Connect is at heart a great phone system with more than 100 enterprise-level telephony features, including hunt groups, call recording, routing to a receptionist/receptionists, operator console, unified messaging, call recording and much more. The system even has a webfax capability. 

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    4 Five 9s Reliability
    UNIVERGE BLUE Connect provides 99.999% uptime reliability, with standards-based QoS, full failover and global geo-redundancy. 

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    5 Integrated contact centre
    The integration of UNIVERGE BLUE Engage brings sophisticated omnichannel contact centre functionality to the same platform. 

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    6 Built-in AI
    Built-in AI provides useful time-saving productivity features such as voicemail transcription, so that you can read voice messages on email and text, and the transcription of entire meetings by Meet module’s Virtual Assistant. 

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    7 Easy integrations
    Out-of-the-box integrations with common productivity, ERP and CRM solutions like Office 365, Chrome, Google, Salesforce, Sugar, Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite, amongst others add useful features like click to call, click to chat, presence, contacts synchronisation and screen popping to those applications. NEC also offers APIs for custom integrations. 

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    8 Security
    Security is provided as standard. This includes the encryption of files in transit and at rest and anti-malware/anti- virus scanning of documents stored in UNIVERGE BLUE’s cloud storage, as well as the ability to set access permissions and time-limits for the viewing and sharing of documents. The optional Protect App offers an additional security layer through two factor authentication. 

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    9 Business continuity
    Data stored in UNIVERGE BLUE’s cloud environment is safe thanks to back-ups and the ability to restore individual files or whole folders to a point in time prior to a fault, loss or ransomware attack. In addition, there is the ability to push desktop and mobile back-up policies out to users. 

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    10 A proven solution
    UNIVERGE BLUE is a tried and tested solution. A joint venture between Intermedia Cloud Communications, which developed the system, and NEC, which is rolling it out globally, the platform is already widely used in North America, where it has in the region of one and a half million users and 6,500 resellers. 

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