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10 Ways to Evaluate Communications Technology for the Long Term

If it’s time to replace your communication technology, the task can be overwhelming. Where to start? There are so many options. 

Many people turn to reports by various analyst firms to find out who the top players are and shorten the list of choices. This makes sense, as long as you are aware of the criteria used for inclusion in the reports. For example, sometimes there a research firm devises are geographic requirements that must be met before a firm is considered for inclusion and evaluation. However, if your organization doesn’t operate globally, you don’t need a global service provider, so this requirement – however useful it is for other companies -- could eliminate some viable contenders from consideration even though they could be quite viablefor your particular situation.

And here’s another consideration as you peruse the rankings: they only rate the technology platform itself. In my opinion, this is like planning a vacation up through the first day. You pick the destination, plan to get there, and coordinate activities for day one. Then…what are you going to do for the rest of the time? How do you get back home? And how do you handle unexpected complications during your vacation?

While the choice of the technology platform is (of course) important, it’s only one part of the overall process. In many cases, the platform will be sold, implemented, and supported (at least, in part) by another company, whether a VAR, integrator, reseller, or other type of partner. Since this firm will be the one with whom you have a direct relationship, it’s imperative to evaluate their capabilities. 

When guiding clients through the process of choosing a new technology platform, roughly 50% of our effort goes into selection of the platform itself. The other 50% is spent on evaluating the partner, the implementation plan, and the ongoing support. 

The “short list” reports do not take this into consideration. They can’t. There are too many options. But these options, in the end, often make or break a project.

A complete technology solution requires a platform, implementation, and ongoing support. You have to get all three of these right to achieve success.

How do you evaluate implementation and support capabilities? Here are some things you should ask for:

  1. A high-level implementation plan. Does it adequately address the complexity of your situation? Is there evidence of a repeatable process in place?
  2. The structure of your support team. Does it contain enough technical resources? Is there someone assigned to advocate for you and ensure that your needs are met?
  3. An escalation list. When your needs aren’t being met, how do you raise the issue to a higher level to get results?
  4. A service level agreement (SLA). While tedious to read, make the time to do so. Does it contain tangible, enforceable service levels with financial penalties for failure to meet them? I have seen many agreements that contain goals instead of standards. Others limit the circumstances to which the SLA applies. There are many pitfalls lurking in this area.
  5. Clear definition of the acceptance process and your recourse if things do not go as planned.
  6. A list of documentation that will accompany the solution. While the technical documents are located online, there should be documentation of your account, specific set up, and instructions for obtaining support.
  7. A complete description of all training to be delivered, both for end users and for administrators.
  8. A review of the portal to be used to open tickets and track activity.
  9. A deep dive on troubleshooting, system administration, and reporting capabilities.
  10. A clear understanding of all players involved and relationships between them. For example, are there underlying carriers that are part of the solution but not called out explicitly? Are there third-party providers for certain capabilities (911, for example)? What are the SLAs and expectations for all providers that are part of the overall solution?

The time you will spend living with your technology solution far exceeds the time spent choosing it. It’s important to weigh the implementation and support part of the equation as much as the choice of the shiny new toy.