Preparing for the Big Cloud Move

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Every successful business project begins with good preparation. Of course, we all know that unplanned things happen all the time. However, laying solid groundwork through preparation always positions a company to have more success and as few surprises as possible.

Let's look at a common project many businesses are working on today -- cloud migrations. If your organization is moving your communications technology to the cloud, what steps can be taken to prepare and make sure the transition goes smoothly? Here are several suggestions gleaned from my work with enterprises undergoing these kinds of transitions.

  1. Set expectations with management, users, and vendors about why you are making the transition and what you intend to accomplish. These overall goals will help down the road as decisions are made and will keep everyone focused on the proper outcome.
  2. Spend time defining your requirements. There are two sides to this:

    A move to the cloud opens up the possibility of operating in ways that may not be practical with your current solution. If you only plan to move your existing functionality to the cloud, you might be missing the opportunity to make effective changes that are enabled by the new technology. Your users can point out pain points and inefficiencies in your current situation that might be remedied.

    The cloud is different, and you need to make sure you are not losing any critical functionality. Cloud solutions don't always have the depth of features that were added on premises-based systems over the years, and you can't assume that all the features you are currently utilizing are going to be available. For example, boss/secretary arrangements were lacking in a cloud solution that one of our clients considered. The head of the company had an administrative assistant who answered his line when he was out and checked his voicemail. The cloud system the organization migrated to did not allow for an appearance of his line on her phone, and didn't allow her to check his voicemail; the only way to check for messages was on the desktop client associated with his computer.

    Defining requirements up front will help determine which solution is right for your environment.

  3. Connectivity is everything. If you lose your connection to your cloud provider, you've lost your ability to communicate. Backup connections are a must; ensure that potential providers are able to route both incoming and outgoing calls over your backup connection(s). Find out what it will take to re-route your calls. Is it done automatically?
  4. Don't forget about support. What are your needs for response times and status information? Is there a website to report problems or do you have to call? How much control will you have over the configuration of your users? Can you place an order for changes that are too complex to do yourself? Is there a support team that can assist you when you have questions about how to do something?

    What are you looking for in a service-level agreement? Are there meaningful penalties for the provider for a failure to perform? How is a failure defined, and when does it start? Are there caps on penalties?

  5. Check the contract expiration dates on your existing services. You don't want to have to pay termination penalties for removing services that you no longer need. These dates may be a factor in when your move to the cloud occurs.
  6. Consider your training strategy. Are your users utilizing a desktop client today? If not, that can be a big change for them. How will you deliver training so that they can learn to use the new tools now available? What about collaboration tools? Will training via a webinar be sufficient or do your users need something more high-touch?
  7. What about your overall strategy for the change? Do you want to move everyone at once or do it incrementally? This is an area that can have significant complexity, seeing as how capabilities between vendors can vary. Make sure that your solution provider can support your migration strategy.

Every organization's cloud migration will be different, with unique processes and pain points along the way. However, every cloud transition has to start somewhere, and with adequate preparation, any organization can set itself up for success.

"SCTC Perspectives" 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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