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A Tale of 3 Approaches to Supporting Remote Workers

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Old-school Strategic Plan file folder
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When the pandemic hit, some organizations were already prepared, some were in the process of implementing preparedness plans, and some were in the development phase. Regardless, every organization had to get to the same place very quickly. This article explores how three organizations with varied infrastructure and at different points in their transformations solved the universal problem facing businesses at the onset of the pandemic.
 
Pre-Pandemic Move to the Cloud
In the first case, a midsize professional services organization with regionally distributed locations and a small contact center had moved to cloud UC and contact center a few months before the pandemic hit. Several factors had prompted the move to the cloud. These included a strategic vision for managed services, the need to replace aging premises-based systems, the high cost of overengineered network connectivity, and space requirements in multiple locations.
 
The organization pared down the list of potential solutions via an RFP process, then conducted on-site demonstrations from several finalists, before selecting and implementing its cloud platform over a six-month period. By the time March rolled around, the solution was well established, with over half the staff having already embraced UC desktop and mobile clients and grown accustomed to operating without a physical handset.
 
The transition to remote work was relatively straightforward. The organization set a trial WFH day with everyone using softphones. It deemed the trial a success, and staff began remote working from that day on, with the option to work from the office as needed.
 
The VP of IT earned hero status by the organization for having had the foresight to move to cloud UC.
 
Accelerated Move to Team Collaboration
In the second case, a global high-tech enterprise is supporting business telephony and contact center requirements on two premises-based systems — one in the U.S. and one in Europe —- with an extensive countrywide network for each. Seeing the need to consolidate onto a common global communications platform, streamline network and support requirements, and provide high-level, sophisticated customer service through a global contact center, the company undertook an extensive needs analysis project to understand and document all of its various touchpoints.
 
Because the organization was distributed globally, employees already were comfortable with remote collaboration, including video, instant messaging, and shared document repositories. Following the needs analysis, the organization hosted potential UC and contact center solutions providers for a series of demonstrations that concluded in late February. Around the same time — still prior to the pandemic — the company had rolled out a Microsoft Teams proof of concept, and quickly adopted it as the collaboration standard. When WFH became necessary, it accelerated its Teams rollout — and saw a high rate of engagement as soon as it did so.
 
With a collaboration standard in place, this organization is currently evaluating options for a global UC and contact center solution with Teams integration. It is considering traditional UC and contact center solutions, transformational solutions with UC and contact center combined, as well as standalone contact center with Teams for voice. The decision process is still underway, but the company will be well-positioned with any of the options being considered.
 
Staying the Course on Private Cloud UC
The third case involves a state agency with distributed locations in addition to a primary central location and centralized data processing resources. The agency has a variety of call center elements and automated systems in place, mostly on premises-based systems, with connectivity via private statewide networks. Before the pandemic hit, the agency had been implementing on its strategic vision to move onto a private cloud UC and contact center platform. The first phase of the plan, which included moving staff at the main location to the new platform, had been scheduled to occur two weeks after the stay-at-home order came down. Implementation plans were delayed slightly as the agency re-examined priorities, but ultimately the agency implemented the solution that would allow support for remote work.
 
The agency overcame two unique challenges as part of this teleworking project. Centralized computer resources could only be accessed via a unique VPN, which was different from the unique VPN required to access UC. It developed a solution to allow the two VPNs to communicate, thus allowing remote workers to both talk on the phone and access resources at the same time.
 
Because this organization was staffed primarily by traditional office workers whose jobs were based at physical locations answering desk phones, staff did not have previous experience using laptops, VPNs, or UC and contact center clients. The agency required extensive training to prepare the staff to configure and use laptop-based communications services, while many of them were already working remotely for safety reasons. Key to success was grounded in ensuring every staff member had sufficient support and training throughout the transition. Once implementation and training elements were completed, workers were able to continue working from home successfully, ensuring the safety of everyone in the organization.
 
Having the Vision
While these three organizations each took a different route, they are all successfully navigating the situation, and continue to provide high levels of service. Having a vision, communications roadmap, and strategic plans in place allowed them to be “lucky.”
 
Regardless of where you are today, and what you may have temporarily implemented, there has never been a better time to examine your communications and contact center architecture with a strategic eye, develop a roadmap and procurement plan, and implement a solution that will allow your organization to move forward, regardless of what happens next in this unpredictable world.

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"SCTC Perspective" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.

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