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Clearing Obstacles to Cloud Voice Success

Microsoft Cloud Voice (via Skype for Business/Teams) promises improved communications for employees, streamlined administration for IT, and cost optimization for businesses. The reality is that many organizations struggle to realize the full potential due to the complexity lurking beneath the surface throughout the transformation journey. Organizations tend to focus on what's above the water (e.g., technology, deployment architecture, SIP connectivity), and forget or don't realize the complexity that awaits below the surface. To realize the full ROI, organizations must successfully navigate complexities and mitigate risks at every stage in the journey.

The mix and priority of applications targeted for a cloud migration is unique to each enterprise, and most often depends on the size of the organization and its strategic drivers and initiatives. Successful cloud transformation requires a broad expertise across multiple technologies and disciplines, including planning, provisioning, voice, network, collaboration, desktop services, support, and user adoption. Achieving the high-functioning, high-availability communications platform end users will adopt takes more than simply migrating UC to the cloud.

Here are common pitfalls that can add complexity to the cloud voice transformation journey, and some guidance on how to mitigate the risks for your organization:

  • People -- Technology matters, but people matter more. The primary source of complexity in the cloud voice transformation journey is your end-user community. Consider engaging your business stakeholders early on and throughout the journey as mission critical to ensuring that the technology is a good fit for the users' work.
  • Strategy -- Most organizations have a cloud migration strategy. The challenge is translating that strategy into an executable game plan. An important consideration to take into account early on is whether your organization has the on-staff expertise to execute against the strategy.
  • Technology -- Skype for Business/Teams is awesome. But it's not the only cloud communications option available. You must first define your cloud voice requirements, and then vet all potential cloud platforms against the technology scorecard. Without a pre-determined scorecard, you run the risk of selecting the wrong technology for your business.
  • DIY or Outsource -- Unless you have infinite resources and budget, odds are your IT team is juggling multiple projects right now. You must determine if the team has the bandwidth and expertise to tackle the cloud migration in-house. Finding a Microsoft cloud partner to help navigate the cloud transformation journey may make sense instead. Here are a few questions to consider: How many IT resources are available today for this project? How many cloud voice projects have these resources led and completed? How many other projects are they working on? What is the tolerance for "learning as we go?" How important is voice communications to your business?
  • On-Staff Expertise -- Cloud voice is new. Highly skilled Skype for Business voice experts are in high demand. As a result, few IT teams have the on-staff expertise to navigate the cloud voice transformation journey on their own. Our recommendation is to take two steps back before you leap forward. Invest the time and effort upfront to analyze the current situation, define project objectives, and ensure equal time is spent on technology and the people who will be impacted by the technology. Laying the right foundation will significantly improve the probability for success.
  • Network -- Network readiness is very important since the primary cause for poor voice quality in the cloud is the network. To set expectations, your network probably needs some enhancements and changes before the migration. If you don't have the in-house expertise to identify these enhancements or changes, you should find an experienced partner that does.
  • Devices -- Not all devices are created equal. Using Skype for Business/Teams doesn't mean saying goodbye to handsets or making a huge capex investment. Understanding your end users and their willingness to embrace headsets and different types of devices is an important factor not to be overlooked. If you don't take your end user needs into consideration, you risk a flood of new help desk cases. The good news is that devices can now be consumed as a service (opex) with set monthly payments for each device.

The cloud voice transformation journey is complex. Consolidating multiple workloads into a single pane of glass requires a highly skilled team of voice experts who can successfully navigate complexity and mitigate risk at every stage. Whether you're in the initial planning phase or have already embarked on your cloud voice transformation journey, it's always good to take two steps back and validate your plan to ensure you're on the right track. In the cloud voice transformation journey technology matters, but people matter more.