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8 Steps to Moving Collaboration to the Cloud: Page 2 of 2
5. Addressing Solution Management Challenges
How an enterprise manages a cloud-based solution is quite different than an in-house infrastructure. What kind of availability can your service provider guarantee? Have we designed the network paths for sufficient redundancy to support those goals? What are the incentives in place to push the service provider towards higher availability, and will they be sufficient to move the needle?
Does your provider have a customer success team, and how effective is that team on meeting your changing collaboration needs? Old school companies don’t necessarily understand a customer success-based approach and may not be responsive. Having an empowered customer success advocate can make a big difference in the service you receive.
On the enterprise side, having an executive sponsor is key to success, especially during a transition. The executive sponsor models the new approach an enterprise wants their users to adopt and pushes other parts of the organization to follow their example. An executive sponsor plays a key role (along with the CIO) in engaging with the service provider management to encourage them to up their game, whether it be in terms of feature set or reliability or analytics. The best sponsor is a business manager within the organization where the collaboration solution is integral to their business delivery, not just a part of the expected infrastructure of the organization.
6. Financial Justification
No matter how good an idea is, it needs a financial justification to get the approval of top management for moving forward – this is a key part of the planning process.
Hard savings are the best way to get the attention of your CFO. If there are clear metrics where a change to the proposed cloud-based collaboration can save money, it will get the most attention, even if these savings are relatively mild. Think about tackling the current audio-conferencing solution as a source of money, or the maintenance contracts and in-house support costs of your in-house infrastructure.
Travel savings are the next category which can be slightly softer. They harden up if there is an overall corporate strategy to cut back on travel and move towards remote collaboration, often accompanied by a travel cost reduction edict.
The softest cost savings are in increased productivity. Although this component can often be absolutely the best dollar justification for moving to a more broadly used collaboration solution, it’s the hardest to pin down in actual numbers. If you have use cases from specific businesses in the organization where a business manager will stand behind some numbers, either in increased revenue or reduced costs, these can provide substantial justification. A broader claim of “increased productivity” will likely be discounted by the CFO or eliminated from the analysis.
7. End-User Preparation
Once the decision has been made to transition, think about the users who will have to change how they do business. No one really wants to change what they do now. They want to spend their mental energy on the work challenges that drive their portions of the business, not on how to use a new collaboration solution. So, we must make this as easy for them as possible.
A whole basket of approaches are available for helping users move to the new solution easily, and often the whole basket is needed, including educational sessions, local experts, regular updates on progress and successes, a well-maintained website with how-to information, a dedicated hot-line for collaboration support, and special training for executive administrators.
8. Don’t Forget Analytics and Quality of Experience
Analytics can give the IT management team clear insight into how well the technology is being used, and how much stress it is putting on the network. Design your analytics to support business needs. I have seen many analytics solutions that provide detail and roll-ups that are easy to produce, with beautiful graphs and PDF reports that go into inboxes and are never read. It’s the reports that are more challenging to produce that are worth reading and that create actionable data to support the business.
The number of users who are enabled to use the solution (have a license or login) is only useful during roll-out. The goal should be to get everyone enabled, have a process that enables new employees, and discontinue access for those that leave. Once you have this, the statistic is no longer useful.
The number of meetings or meeting minutes held during a month or a week is useful during rollout and is an overall measure of the adoption of the technology. It may be useful to help justify the vendor costs or to calculate a reduction in carbon footprint or potential travel costs. But it doesn’t tell you about the stress the solution is putting on the infrastructure.
Peak concurrent usage at key network points is a very useful measurement. For instance, this measurement can tell us how many users there are and how much bandwidth is being consumed at the New York Internet access point during peak usage periods of the day. This metric tells you if the Internet access link in New York is oversubscribed and needs an upgrade.
And don’t forget quality of experience. This is a tough one. What you really want is a direct metric of how well the collaboration solution is doing for your users. This includes how easy it is to schedule a call, how easy it is to initiate a call, how reliably the solution works and the quality of the experience in the call such as audio quality, video quality, ability to share content, ease of call initiation and ease of bringing additional parties into the call. Also, consider direct user feedback as a metric to be tracked and trended.
In order to have a successful transition, support teams must work together to address the challenges listed above. Don’t be discouraged, this is all do-able. Spin up the necessary groups, plan-out a timeline, get to work, and stay connected to each group to ensure all components are prepared before going live. Use an Agile approach to knock down key components of the transition one by one, applying support to teams whenever they stall out. The benefits to the enterprise are significant, and the sooner they start, the better the return both for the enterprise and for the IT management team.