Original Post by Kevin McMahon
West Unified Communications has been helping enterprises, with hundreds or thousands of employees, transition to Unified Communications for over a decade and our experience has shown that there are some very clear “best practices” that ensure success.
The process outlined below will get you started on the right path and allow West UC’s Solution Development team to quickly and efficiently design a solution that delivers the benefits of Unified Communications and puts your enterprise to “Work over IP”.
Step 1: Assemble a Team and Assign a Leader
Unified Communications can benefit the entire organization – so before you begin, assemble a team that can represent all constituents. Leading this team should be a single Project Manager, who has the authority to make decisions on behalf of the enterprise and the responsibility to oversee the move to unified communication.
The rest of the team should include functional leaders and experts that understand your organization’s current capabilities in data infrastructure/security, telephony, business processes/work flow, call flow, contact center(s) and web conferencing/collaboration.
Step 2: Profile Your Existing Communications Environment
A thorough understanding of your current environment and service contracts is critical. Taking a closer look into your current communications infrastructure not only helps you get a better picture of what you have—but why you have it that way and what changes you may want to make to your organizations communication patterns. The most important items to document are:
- Number of locations and end users
- Vendor Contracts (equipment and carriers)
- Expected enterprise changes near-term, long-term
- Collaboration tools and other applications commonly used or required
- Contact centers (locations, agent structure, call volumes & patterns)
Step 3: Inventory Your Current Voice and Data Network Infrastructure
Once your overall communications environment is mapped, the next step is to inventory all the elements and capabilities of your voice and data networks, both of which are affected by the transition to Unified Communications. Try to determine and document the following:
- Status (term length, termination process, Service Level Agreements) of voice carrier contracts
- Current Phone systems and voice mail systems
- Life expectancy
- Remaining value
- Time left on maintenance contracts
- What LAN, WAN and network security equipment/services in use
- Does your network have QoS?
- Is it voice optimized?
- What are current traffic and network utilization levels?
- Assemble network diagrams, maps & circuit inventories
Step 4: Determine Which Features You Will Need Most
Unified Communications can fundamentally change the way an enterprise works. So it’s extremely important to think through and prioritize the types of communications tools you will need most.
Ask employees what features they’d like to see or what issues challenge them most about their current solution. And don’t forget to consider regulatory and cultural issues. Then consider
which of the following capabilities you’ll need and who in the organization will need them:
- Instant Messaging
- Inbound/outbound fax
- Voicemail as email
- Web conferencing / Collaboration
- Video conferencing
- Audio Conferencing
Step 5: Determine of a Hosted Solution is Best for You
Deciding on a platform for Unified Communications means choosing from many different methods and technologies. Perhaps the biggest decision is whether to choose a fully hosted solution, or to acquire and operate the equipment yourself or to deploy a hybrid solution of on-premises equipment coupled with hosted services and applications.
When you are considering the alternatives, make sure you factor in the skills and resources you would need to deploy an inhouse solution, configuring equipment, managing Quality of Service and security, managing equipment upgrades, software patches and end user support can be a significant drain on resources. A hosted solution may be the best approach. A hosted solution like West UC Complete can provide everything from advanced voice features to call centers to security and collaboration, eliminating the need for you to purchase, set up and maintain complex equipment, freeing your IT teams from mundane infrastructure support and allowing them to focus on more strategic initiatives.
However, if you do want to retain existing equipment or deploy new on-premises equipment, West UC can provide IP trunking solutions, from SIP to TDM emulation, connecting your on-premises infrastructure to the calling plans, features and SaaS based services of our IP communications platform.
Step 6: Plan for and Conduct Ongoing User Training
Perhaps the hardest part of the transition to Unified Communications is mastering the way it changes employee behaviors and actions day to day. For some employees the change is easy – for others it’s more challenging. But with a proper rollout and training process and well-organized ongoing user support they will quickly embrace the benefits and newfound productivity that Unified Communications provides.