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Moving to UCaaS? The time to prepare is now
Enterprises that are considering replacing their premise telephone system(s) with cloud solutions are often surprised to find how much has changed since the last time they tackled this project. One of the big changes often noted is around vendor support.
In the past, enterprises were able to work with telecom vendors (pre and post sales) that had deep knowledge of their products and their capabilities. These vendors were also prepared to work alongside their customers during the implementation phase to perform station reviews, assist with call flows, phone placement, provide on-site training, and so forth. Today, many find the world of unified communications as a service (UCaaS) to be quite a bit more self-service oriented.
Even during the evaluation period, enterprises may have challenges getting answers to specific product questions as information often requires sifting through websites or working with agent channels that may have limited product knowledge. During the implementation period, enterprises may again face challenges when they find that they will be responsible for much of the “heavy lifting” – this includes gathering and filling out the spreadsheets containing the detailed information needed by the UCaaS provider to set up their service.
Here are some things that enterprises can do to prepare themselves to navigate both the UCaaS provider evaluation process and the implementation process.
Conduct a User Inventory Early On
An important first step is getting a firm grasp on what is in place and what will need to be carried forward in the new environment. As discussed in a previous No Jitter article (Moving to UCaaS? Here’s how your dial plan will be affected), enterprises have historically owned (large) sequential blocks of numbers which were necessary to maintain an orderly internal dial plan.
These blocks typically contained many unused numbers that served as “spares.” When moving forward with UCaaS you will generally only need to be concerned with “active” numbers (users). If some spare numbers are to be kept, the quantity should be minimal – it will rarely be feasible to port hundreds (or thousands) of spare DID’s to your UCaaS provider.
The first order of business will be to assemble a list of all active phone users to include their name, DID/extension, email address, and their physical location address (including floor and/or more specific location information as needed for 911 purposes). This provides a baseline to understand who your users are and how many users need to be served. This information will be important to have – and build upon – as you consider the provider’s selection of UCaaS license types and what types of devices will need to be assigned to each user (e.g., IP phone, soft phone [with or without headset], mobility application, etc.).
This will allow you to quantify the types and number of licenses you anticipate needing as well as the number and type of IP phones and headsets that may be required. Having this information early on during the evaluation phase will allow for consistent and comparable quotes as you work toward selecting a UCaaS provider.
Also Conduct a Line Inventory
It is highly recommended that an accurate inventory of all voice lines and circuits also be assembled and reviewed early in the process, as well. Since the UCaaS service will ultimately include its own PSTN service, all lines and circuits associated with the legacy telephone system will eventually be eliminated – this could include SIP trunks, PRI/T1, analog lines, and yes, on rare occasions we still see some specialized (and very expensive) voice circuits.
This inventory exercise will allow you to identify the cost of all voice-related services that will be eliminated and will serve as an offset to the cost of the UCaaS service being considered. This also would be a good time to review all analog (copper/TDM) lines that bypass the telephone system to determine if they are still being used. All copper lines still being used should be reviewed to determine if they might be able to be migrated to another technology (e.g., cellular).
Identify Auto Attendants / Call Flows
Every auto attendant call flow (or “call tree,” “call handler”) should be identified and its call flow documented. Avoid simply carrying everything forward without evaluating if call flows can be improved. Review existing auto attendant choices and verbiage – can they be improved and streamlined? Can call flows be consolidated or even retired? Will a new approach create a need for a new auto attendant to be developed?
Auto attendant design should be reviewed with an emphasis on conciseness, simplicity, and prioritizing the highest selected choices so callers receive these before less selected choices.
Identify Analog End Points
All analog stations and devices supported by the existing telephone system should be identified. Ideally, analog requirements should be minimized (to the degree possible) when going to UCaaS. Identify all analog devices that will need to be supported including overhead paging, loud bells/ringers, and a common analog culprit, fax machines. If possible, fax machines should be targeted to be migrated to online fax (efax) service, otherwise, fax requirements (and any other analog devices) should be called out and confirmed as to how they will be supported with the prospective UCaaS provider.
This guidance, though not a comprehensive UCaaS readiness plan, can provide a solid start to get you “in the ballpark” and ready to compare prospective providers during the evaluation phase. During evaluation, be sure to ask your UCaaS providers how they handle the implementation once the contract is signed, or better yet, specify what you will expect from them in terms of implementation support. Many providers can offer varying degrees of professional services to provide what used to be “typical” implementation support, but these services need to be specifically requested.
So, if you will need assistance with tasks such as station reviews, help assembling the user database, help with auto attendant design, placement of phones, or on-site training – be sure to bring these up with prospective providers so you know what can be delivered and at what cost. Once a provider is selected, your advance work will help “jump start” the implementation process by having pre-assembled much of the critical information that would be asked of you. Investing the effort in this advance planning will pay dividends as you make the journey to UCaaS.