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5 Mistakes To Avoid When Replacing Your Communications Technology

After working on projects replacing hundreds of phone systems over my years as a consultant, I have noticed some common trends in the projects that are the most challenging.

Here are the top 5 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 of communication. Users can move seamlessly between devices and incorporate SMS text messaging and IM in addition to voice. There are usually opportunities to improve outdated workflows caused by limitations of the old technology.

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,” and the most successful implementations recognize these users and provide the tools to make them more effective. Standard users can benefit from enhancements such as voice mail messages in their email, and the ability to work remotely, if they don’t already have these capabilities.

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 features in your current telephone system, it will help you select a better replacement technology.

  1. 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:

  1. Reveals productivity enhancements offered by mobility and collaboration capabilities not available in the current system.
  2. Uncovers communications issues. Often, we find that many user complaints can be resolved through changes in business processes.
  3. 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.

  1. No end-user 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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

For more tips and advice from people who have gone through this process, check out these sessions at Enterprise Connect:

Tuesday, March 26 | 2:00pm - 2:45pm


Moderator: Melissa Swartz(Swartz Consulting)

Panelists: Steve Panton (Gannett Fleming), Brian Harrison (Broward College), Karen Gordon (King & Spalding)

Wednesday, March 27 | 2:00pm - 2:45pm


Moderator: Melissa Swartz (Swartz Consulting)

Panelists: Scott Johnson (Cargill), Georges Habalian (HCA Healthcare), Eric Zweigbaum (Conair)