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Failure Isn’t an Option when Migrating to UCaaS

A generally accepted statistic is that somewhere between one-half and three-quarters of IT projects fail – and we have no reason to assume that unified communications and, specifically, cloud-based UC, or UC-as-a-service (UCaaS), projects are any different.


Why might a UCaaS project fail? Many potential factors, throughout the planning, execution, and operational phases of a UCaaS implementation, may contribute to a failure. It’s important to note that UCaaS and related team collaboration applications impact an organization’s processes and sometimes organizational structure. These are embedded in a company’s culture and typically prove challenging to modify in significant ways. Wow, that’s a lot to worry about!


I’ll be presenting/facilitating two sessions at Enterprise Connect, taking place the week of March 18 in Orlando, Fla., that address different aspects of UCaaS project success. The first session, “Keeping Your UCaaS Migration on Track,” will take place on Wednesday, March 20, at 8:00 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., in Osceola B. During this session we’ll discuss the importance of each element of your UCaaS project:


  • Project Charter -- Why are you doing the project? What are your goals? Senior management should be involved in defining the project’s charter. Proper definition allows you to know when to declare victory.
  • Needs Assessment/Requirements Definition -- What does the organization really need, what problems should the UCaaS solution address, and how would it do this? Solution details should include delivery, support, and professional services. In my consulting practice, I often find IT may be out of touch with business unit requirements. (Usage profiles, as described by my BCStrategies colleague Marty Parker and Don Van Doren, of UniComm Consulting, may prove helpful here). Typically, if users feel the new solution doesn’t help them do their jobs, they’ll resist.
  • Procurement Approach -- You must determine which vendors and service providers are potentially correct for your organization, even if you don’t have a relationship with them. Don’t be afraid to do a formal RFP utilizing your requirements definition (lazy vendors will push back on this).
  • Required Resources -- Include your internal as well as vendor resources. Resources are often underestimated for both internal and external organizations. You should also consider the impact of competing projects when determining the resources you need, especially from horizontal groups such as security, networking, HR, and so on.
  • Implementation Planning -- We recommend that this be a joint exercise with your UCaaS provider, but take control to make sure your timelines are reasonably met. I often find that vendors struggle with realistic plans, often being overly optimistic on how quickly decisions can be made or services implemented.
  • Pilot Group and Testing -- Once IT has shaken out the solution with internal testing, handpick users from the intended organizational units for a controlled test group. These users should be good communicators, as you’ll be looking for feedback. We often utilize the service desk to act as a focal point of reported issues from the pilot group and modify plans based on what’s learned during the testing. Depending on your organization, you may need to repeat the pilot.
  • Training -- Pinning down training requirements in the Needs Assessment phase is prudent to avoid surprises. Include details on how -- or even if -- you’re going to deliver training. Unlike your new smartphone, many aspects of the UCaaS system may not be intuitive. Classes showing the differences between the outgoing system and the new system can be effective. In addition, be sure to stagger training of system admins so you’ve got some personnel able to support existing systems as well as the new implementation.
  • Communications Plan -- This is essential for setting expectations for users. Users differ in what captures their attention, so I suggest using all modes of communications, including email, voicemail, posters, and town halls (with food!)
  • Systems Management -- More on this below
  • Lessons Learned -- If this is a large project, you’ll need to repeat the above process several times. Make modifications based on what you learned in each phase.


My second session, “UC Management Tools: Keeping Up with Today's Needs,” also takes place on Wednesday, from 4:00 to 4:45 p.m., in Osceola A. In this session, we’ll be discussing UCaaS management tools and their use for each operational element in a project. Our discussion will touch on topics such as:
  • The environment that you need to manage -- Ranging from simple homogeneous (for example, an all-Cisco on-premises solution) to complex heterogeneous (i.e., multiple vendors, on premises and in the cloud). In addition, account for integration with existing tools needed to determine underlying network issues.
  • Tools available -- One tool may not provide 100% of the solution. As your environment gets more complex, it’s increasingly likely that you’ll require multiple tools. How these tools integrate with each other, or with a master dashboard, may become an issue.
  • Provisioning -- How do you onboard and offboard UCaaS users? I’ve been involved with some implementations that are simple csv files derived from spreadsheets. Others have been integrated with the organization’s ERP (new hires) and directory services.
  • Performance – This is typically aimed at the quality of the user experience. For voice, this may be mean opinion score values for individual calls and daily/hourly averages presented in graphical dashboards. Note that many UCaaS performance tools may still require underlying network management tools to determine root causes.
  • Analytics -- Knowing what applications are in use is important for ascertaining the accuracy of your requirements definition. For example, if you procured UCaaS based on the need for Web conferencing, you’ll want to evaluate usage statistics. Knowing usage may lead to additional training or even reconsideration of the chosen UCaaS tools and licenses. Some video conferencing products offer the ability to count the number of attendees in a video conference. You can use such data to provide input for facilities management, to determine size and quantity of video conferencing rooms, as well as the UCaaS management group.
Expert vendor panelists will join me at each session, providing their perspectives on the issues I’ve identified here as well as answering questions from attendees. I look forward to seeing you there!


If you haven’t registered for Enterprise Connect, but still want to -- no worries. Check out registration details here, and sign up using the code NJPOSTS to save $200 off your cost of attendance!


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BCStrategies is an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.