Five years ago I was embarking upon two firsts for the first time. I was leaving the relative safety and security of a staff job (you can argue not so safe these days) for the contracting world, and embarking upon my first project deploying a Unified Communications solution with the intention of changing the landscape as to how telephony is used within one of the worlds most well-known Enterprise Level organisations. So what do I wish I had known when I was starting on this new journey?
You might think that basing any solution or deployment around consistency is an inherent concept (and you would be right) but where the focus is on this point is around making your Unified Communications solution easy to deploy on a global basis. For example; your policies around speed dials. At some sites there are always a few local speed dials the users can take advantage of to reach various facilities/services (Example: 0 to Reach Reception/100 to Reach Helpdesk). If you're implementing one site, not a problem. But what if you have 100 Sites across 20 countries? Different countries have different cultural ways of working and even on a regional or site basis you will find that the use of speed dials is different. If you want multiple speed dials to be implemented and supported this will impact upon your service and the cost you are paying for it! So how do you translate this into a global model? By being ruthlessly consistent. Have a single policy for the use of speed dials, how they are implemented and used within the business agreed at the top level of the business to ensure no pushback and no scope creep. It may take some time to agree these types of policies and many meetings with many different stakeholders but once your policy and service is agreed and in place you have the authority to stand your ground in the face of disgruntled local staff who have their own way of working.
Have An Answer For Every Question
Much of the pain in deploying a service like Skype For Business which will replace a long engrained service like the local PBX or deskphones is in being able to answer every question which is thrown at you. If you're entering a new site for the first time and coming face to face with a long serving support team or telecoms engineer, they may be sceptical of this new technology and its ability to replace the hardened telephony which has supported the site for many years. As part of this first engagement you need to be confident in your ability to answer every question with a standard response (which harks back to my first point). It's fair to say that your ability to do this will be based on your experience but you can pre-empt the questions that you are going to receive by doing a few things such as studying the literature for the solution your deployment, creating a feature reference table based on the PBX/system that exists already or across the estate so you can reference how every function is replicated in a Unified Communications world, or you can get real world experience by engaging the types of people you will be meeting regularly in advance so you can understand the types of questions that will be asked before you go out to a wider audience. All of the above can be attributed to experience but that doesn't mean you can't be prepared.
Squash The Rumours
One of the toughest challenges you will come across in a large scale environment when deploying a new service like Unified Communication is dealing with rumours that "It doesn't work!" or "The Quality is Terrible!". Small comments like these have a nasty habit of spreading like wildfire among the users and all it can take is one word in the wrong person's ear to derail months of effort on a deployment Programme or Project. So how do you pre-empt stopping these sorts of rumours or doing the complete opposite and promoting the benefits? First off you need to make sure you pick your champions! Pick key people in the organisation and IT Departments who will promote this new technology for what it is, an upgrade to an existing system that will make your users lives easier. If you have people out there boosting the reputation and defending the product it will encourage people to use it for themselves. Which leads on to the next point about being positive about everything. Sell everything as an upgrade. Even if a feature is being removed like the deskphone you can use that as the positive that it is giving the user the ability to relocate their desk and take their phone with them on their laptop whenever they want. It's all about perspective. Finally, you may have actual issues in your network which are causing the problems and the key with these is to ensure they are dealt with quickly and the right way. Ensure IT Issue Tickets are logged so that issues can be tracked and if not related to your service attested to. Ensure that your network is absolutely ready to deal with the new service as it could be that not all of your voice calls are currently on your data network. Finally, ensure that your service is absolutely ready for consumption before you deploy it anywhere near a production network. Factory Acceptance Testing, User Acceptance Testing should all be 100 so that you can verify the quality of your service with hard evidence once its deployed.
Remember that its always what you don't know that will trip you up!
If you're interested in Deploying Unified Communications solutions such as Skype for Business and would like to know more or see any parallels with any of the scenarios above please get in touch with E-WAN Networks here.
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