20 June 2017

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9 Steps to Adopting Unified Communications Solutions

Unified Communications by Tom Collins

Organizations realize the time is right to break up with their clunky old phone systems and make a move to seamless, integrated Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) tools.

UCaaS can allow your company to operate without communication hangups, giving all of your employees access to the data and applications they need from anywhere in the world to get their work done.

It's common for IT to feel apprehension about any technical change and the potential risk of failure. Fortunately, with the right vendor, UCaaS adoption can be truly pain-free. Failing to understand your UC needs or properly train your administrators is a risk that could lead to unsatisfactory results. However, an implementation plan that addresses all of these risks and controls against failure can help you unlock the benefits of UC without fear.

9 Tips for Seamless Unified Communications Adoption

1. Start with an Audit

Organizations who are considering a strategic transition to UC may have issues with their existing phone systems. You've noticed strategic issues, which could include concerns that your legacy PBX can't handle your growth plans, or that your employee's handsets are aging or are no longer supported.

However, to begin building a better UC system, you also need to understand the technical aspects of your phones. How many lines do you have? What additional features, such as automated attendant, are you already using? How does your contact center route calls? Some organizations may already have this in place. Others may need to work with their vendor on a telecommunications services audit.

2. Assess Your Network

Disappointing UC performance is often connected to insufficient network infrastructure. You may have call quality or latency issues if you don't have sufficient bandwidth or you're trying to use public Internet connectivity for UC. Your vendor should help you understand your existing traffic patterns, and perform a security assessment to determine how much bandwidth is needed for your new UC system to perform securely and seamlessly.

3. Understand Your UC Needs with the Right Vendor

An expert vendor can work closely with your IT decision makers to help you assess your needs for UC features and help you begin planning a truly seamless implementation process. Vendor alignment is crucial during the "vision" stage of the planning process to help ensure that you're building a plan that best fits your business model, regulatory requirements, and culture. Your vendor should help you select the right features, such as integration with back office systems and remote management tools, and create a clear vision of what your UC system will look like.

4. Create a Statement of Work

When your organization has been guided through the UC design process by your vendor, project planning will take place. A vendor should work to create a comprehensive Statement of Work for your approval, which may address each of the following factors for your new UCaaS transition:

  1. Project scope
  2. Implementation Timeline
  3. Number Porting
  4. Physical Locations for Transition
  5. On-Site Setup
  6. Employee Training
  7. Cost Estimates
  8. Testing
  9. Follow-Up Support

5. Address Change Management

To experience success with UC migration, your employees need to be willing to use new systems and be knowledgeable on the "how to" aspects of any changes. The statement of work should focus on change management planning, which may incorporate:

  • User Types: Categories of users who require specialized training, including your IT administrators, contact center employees, and designated internal ambassadors. This should also address individual technical skills.
  • Communications: How will you communicate with your users during the implementation process? Who should they direct non-urgent questions to during the transition?
  • Support and Monitoring: Will your vendor provide on-site support immediately after implementation? How about long-term?

6. Install Fiber-Optic Internet Connectivity

A first-time installation of fiber-optic internet connectivity is a type of sub-project within a UC adoption. Depending on your company and the type of space you are working out of, planning for fiber could require approval from landlords at multiple sites. In general, executing a successful fiber installation involves:

  • Receiving signed approval and access agreements from building owners or management
  • Allow your vendor to perform an on-site survey
  • Approval of an official installation plan by property management and your organization
  • Physical installation of the fiber connection
  • Connection of the building fiber to offices, for very large or multi-tenant buildings.

7. Test UC On Your Data Connection

Some organizations may not experience this stage. However, organizations that are making major network changes such as fiber connectivity for successful UC implementation may experience additional testing at this stage. Pre-deployment testing can ensure a truly seamless transition, and may involve your vendor performing network and application performance monitoring.

8. Port Numbers

Porting numbers is typically a process that requires a single business day after your old vendor has been notified and your new vendor receives the required information to perform the port. A single-batch port is generally the recommended approach. However, in rare cases, your company's business model and needs may dictate that porting is performed in batches, over several days. You will retain communications during porting, and your vendor should spend this day testing to ensure that all numbers have smoothly transferred.

9. Train Your Employees By Role

There are usually at least three categories of users at most organizations; administrators, power users, and everyday users. Your training process may start with working one-on-one with IT administrators, and then move to power users. Creating internal ambassadors from each type of job function will ensure that your employees have a go-to person for questions around their role. You may have one receptionist power user, a contact center employee power user, and someone extensively trained in conferencing features.

Cloud Communication Without Boundaries

For Montgomery College, a DC-area community college, which is among the largest in the nation, striving to provide the best communications technology to faculty meant investing in UC options to scale with their needs. CIO Carl Whitman said that, leading in education tech "increasingly means putting in place the technology infrastructure to enable learning without boundaries."

This is why the organization chose Atlantech Online, powered by Broadsoft.

Scalability wasn't Montgomery College's only decision criteria. Like other educational organizations, they needed options for crisis management communications. With 3 distinct campus locations, they also needed cutting-edge mobility options However, a key factor in their decision was the fact that Atlantech's platform is designed around comprehensive communications; and allows for the use of best-of-class PBX, instant messaging (IM), presence, HD voice and video, conferencing, file sharing, desktop sharing, and other rich communications services.

Planning to Succeed when Adopting UCaaS

It's common to hear about the business benefits of UC, including cost savings, better-integrated data, and productivity gains. IT will also occasionally hear about UCaaS adoption pitfalls, like companies who experience VoIP sound quality issues or a vendor who isn't very responsive to support requests. Carefully vetting potential vendors is important, but the difference between success and failure is also affected by the planning process.

Fear of a difficult, risky transition should not influence your decision to keep using aging phone systems instead of making the change to the cloud. With the right vendor, much of the heavy-lifting involved with assessment and planning is taken care of.

In many cases, organizations can begin realizing serious ROI on a new UCaaS investment much more quickly than they realize. Atlantech Online, a leading vendor of truly unified communications and direct cloud connect in the Mid-Atlantic, specializes in helping prospective UC users find the right vendor for their own needs, whether that's Atlantech or another organization.

To learn more about UCaaS solutions that are right for your business, contact an expert Atlantech representative today to discuss your options or receive a no-obligation price quote.





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About the author:

Tom Collins (Twitter, LinkedIn) - is the Director of Enterprise Sales & Marketing for Atlantech Online. He has over 20 years of professional experience in the Internet Service Provider industry and is known for translating technology into positive results for business. A native of Washington, DC, a graduate from University of Maryland (degrees in Government & Politics and Secondary Education), Tom is also a five-time Ironman finisher.

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