Melissa Swartz | March 23, 2023
Communication technology can be much more complex than most people think. Avoid these mistakes on your next project.
After working on projects replacing hundreds of phone systems over my years as a consultant, some common trends have emerged in the projects that are challenging.
Here are the 10 most common mistakes we see when replacing a telephony system:
1. Skipping the needs assessment. Often a move to a new telephony solution occurs when the existing system reaches end of life. In these cases, it’s easy to think that your goal in replacing your existing solution is to simply duplicate what you have. But you are missing a big opportunity for improvement.
Communication technology has changed considerably in the last few years. New solutions go beyond telephony to include collaboration tools and support multiple forms or communication.
If you are looking at a replacement due to inadequacies of the existing technology, a thorough needs assessment is still a good idea. Most organizations have some percentage of power users who will benefit from higher-level “tools”. The most successful implementations recognize these users and provide the tools to make them more effective.
It’s useful to document your common user requirements in addition to the more complex special requirements. When you understand the workflows of your users and how they utilize the current tool, it will help you select a better replacement technology.
2. Not involving business users in the decision. When a system is selected only by the IT team, it often does not fully meet the needs of the wider group of end users. We once saw a solution selected based primarily on what would be best for enhancing the IT team’s resumes.
Including end users in your needs assessment will help to uncover both business and technical requirements. This has multiple benefits:
- Reveals productivity enhancements offered by mobility and collaboration capabilities not available in the current system.
- Uncovers communications issues. Often, we find that many user complaints can be resolved through changes in business processes.
- Improves system acceptance. When business users have had input into the process, they are less likely to resist adoption of the new system.
Involving business users in the selection process results in a better decision in the end, although a larger group can slow the process. Business users often help to clarify what is truly needed versus what is nice to have. They typically aren’t swayed by the coolest new toys, and offer insight into areas where true productivity gains can be achieved.
3. No communications plan. End users are much more likely to accept and adopt a new technology tool when they understand how it can benefit them. A good communication plan can go a long way in reducing resistance to the change. The best communications plans take a custom approach and target messages to specific groups of users, explaining the benefits of the new tool that are most relevant to each group.
You can download an eBook that explains the Adoption and Change Management process in greater detail here.
4. Skimping on user training. UCaaS providers typically don’t offer “classroom” training on live phones. They offer virtual classes with live instructors, recorded sessions, and train-the-trainer options. While these methods save a lot of labor for the vendors, they can be insufficient for the users. On the surface it seems OK. After all, how hard can it be to use a new phone?
But new telephony solutions bring many new capabilities that users may have never been exposed to previously. They may not know how to manage calls and features using a computer instead of the hard phone.
And there are cell phone apps, collaboration tools, and presence and status information. There may be multiple tools that offer the same capabilities. Your new tool may offer chat, or video conferencing. Which tool should they be using?
All of this complexity creates confusion for your users. If your new solution has any feature depth, then there will be complexity. In order to get full use of the new capabilities, users must be trained on them, and given guidelines on which tools are to be used.
5. Underestimating the difficulty of porting numbers. This process can be quite dysfunctional, especially if you have been with your carrier for several years. Records can be inaccurate, and the entire process is based on this information. At times, this can be a headache (or worse). For a breakdown of common problems, check out this article.
Often the process takes longer than expected, so build extra time into your process to allow for that.
6. Overlooking infrastructure issues. If you are moving to an IP or cloud system for the first time, your network may not be ready to support a real-time application such as voice. This article covers the basic requirements that must be met.
I often hear people say “Our network will be able to support voice without any problem.” But voice is more than “just another app.” It’s an application that requires real time delivery of packets; they cannot be delayed or re-sent and still make sense.
If your voice services are not already on IP, a network assessment will determine if voice traffic will be impacted by any jitter, delay or latency issues that don’t impact data traffic. Having such an assessment assures that the issues can be resolved BEFORE the voice traffic is impacted. The assessments do take some effort up front, but not as much work as diagnosing and fixing a problem after the fact.
Another often overlooked area is analog devices. They are not yet extinct. For example, faxes still have issues on an IP network. Most enterprises significantly underestimate the number of analog devices they are supporting. In some cases (such as alarms, equipment monitoring, etc.) the devices require a TDM analog signal and simply will not work if converted to IP. While such devices can be supported by analog lines outside of the enterprise phone system, this solution is not practical when there are many devices. Identifying these requirements up front is important.
7. Assuming comparable reliability. UCaaS solutions can vary widely in reliability. We’ve all heard about outages in cloud services. Add to that the potential for failure of your connection to the cloud, and there’s a reasonable chance that you will experience some sort of outage during the life of your solution.
If voice communication is critical to your organization, it’s worth taking time to consider various scenarios and work through your game plan for handling them.
It’s also worthwhile to examine the SLA (Service Level Agreement) of a prospective solution as part of your selection process. Does the provider back their guarantees financially, or do they offer “goals” with no penalty for non-performance? Are the performance standards clear and unambiguous? Answering these questions can give you insight into the provider’s commitment to reliability and uptime.
8. Underestimating the implementation effort. Many UCaaS solutions rely heavily on the customer to provide the on-site labor needed to get the new solution up and running. Many cloud providers do not offer any on-site installation support. Some will create a custom offer at additional cost.
As the customer, it will be up to your team to confer with your users and fill out the configuration documents to be submitted to the cloud provider. Your team will also be responsible for unboxing and assembling the phones, updating firmware, and placing phones for the users. In addition, testing will be up to your team, who must place test calls and track any problems.
It’s a good idea to move the support team to the new solution ahead of the rest of your users, and get them trained in advance. This will allow them to use the solution and become comfortable with it before they have to answer questions from users.
9. Discounting 911 requirements. There are federal laws in place now that must be followed that require location information to be sent with calls to 911. This is an area that can have a lot of complexity, especially in multi-site organizations. It’s important to understand the requirements and ensure that your solution meets them. This is especially true for organizations with remote workers whose address is different from a corporate site.
10. Ignoring contract and billing gotchas. There are many potential pitfalls with signing a contract for cloud communication services.
Taxes, fees, and surcharges can add approximately 30% to the costs quoted by the vendor. Billing errors are not uncommon (sigh). Many contracts call for an arbitrary date for billing to begin. This means that billing can start before the services are even installed—yikes! Most contracts limit the number of users that can be removed from the service over the contract period, so you could be paying for users that you no longer have.
Replacing your communication technology can be a complex undertaking. As experienced consultants, we can guide you through the process and help you avoid the common pitfalls. We have developed tools to make the process easier and faster for you. You don’t have to do it alone.
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