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10 Critical Things You Need To Know About A UC Deployment

From the experts | Posted on November 30, 2012 by Matthew Bynum

Softchoice Solutions Architect Matthew Bynum reveals his top ten considerations for any organization considering a unified communications (UC) deployment. 

#10. Understand why

All too often, the driver behind IT change is as simple as “our existing gear is old,” or “we can’t get support on it anymore.” Make sure you can articulate the actual reasons why you are looking at a change to your communications technology. This will go a long way in winning people over internally and figuring out the right solution for you.

#9. Match technology to a need – not vice versa

Once you identify the reasons for the change, make sure the technology and vendor you choose align with your business drivers. This seems like a no-brainer, but often vendors are chosen because of political pressures or misconstrued financial benefits, and not because the actual needs of the business demand X, Y, or Z functionality. An agnostic assessment that clearly maps out where you are today, where you’re looking to go can provide the objectivity you need to make the right decision, the right architecture and the right implementation plan.

#8. Leave no phone unturned

If your UC deployment includes migrating from an older PBX, there likely isn’t an easy way to get your configuration data out of that system and into a re-usable format. Start by narrowing down functional groups within your business. Have the manager of each group appoint a department liaison to be responsible for collecting relevant call flow and phone detail for his/her department. Having a stakeholder in each department comes with a bonus: it helps muster up “grass roots” buzz and buy-in for your project.

#7. Picking your partner

A solutions partner will make or break your project, so be sure to choose one that is competent in the technologies you have chosen from step 2. Be weary of lone “consultants.” You need to be 100 percent confident that the partner you go with is competent and can successfully shepherd your project to completion. Ask for case studies or examples to help seal the deal.

#6. Project Managers are people too

IT Project Managers have gotten a bad rap, probably because there are so many people that slap that title on when a large project demands there be a dedicated project manager. Your solutions partner should lead with project management, not drag it along as an afterthought. Engineers don’t always make good project managers, and project managers don’t always make good engineers. Be weary of a solutions partner that uses engineers to manage your project’s logistics.

#5. Do you wade or do you dive?

It’s up to you whether you want to stomach a full weekend cutover, or slowly phase some pieces of the project into the existing environment. This is a very subjective conversation, but it ends up being a factor of project complexity, size, and disruption to communications services. As an example, within a UC solution, for a voice deployment of fewer than 250 handsets a weekend flash-cut is reasonable. However, if within that 250 handsets there is a contact center, a phased migration might have more merit. Anything greater than 250 handsets can be difficult to do in one weekend. If the solution consists of anything custom, large amounts of analog, or a cutover of phone services to either another carrier or a change from PRI to SIP connectivity, consider at a phased migration.

#4. Back to school

End User Training. We’ve all been there. A room full of uninterested, perhaps annoyed users. But the fact is an informed user is a more effective user. End User training isn’t always the sexiest of things to talk about, but it makes a difference in the conversations your users will be having about this fancy new Unified Communications system. If it’s too difficult to use, they will stick to basic functionality and your bet on enhancing productivity doesn’t pay off.

#3. If you build it, they might not use it

That leads to the next point. You might make the investment, but how do you ensure that your users take advantage of the advancements in collaboration technologies? One word: Culture. If you want to ensure technology adoption, take advantage of the relationships that have been built from step 3. Your department liaisons will go a long way in seeding the company with knowledgeable users that actually USE the technology you have invested in.

#2. Don’t let those upgrades collect dust

“I’m never going to have to change or upgrade this solution after it’s installed” said no intelligent IT Manager – ever. The only constant is that change happens. If you’ve chosen a technology vendor worth their salt, upgrades will be available on a predictable cycle of 12-18 months. These upgrades will patch, enhance, and overall improve the technology that you’ve invested in. You’ve probably paid for the software maintenance, so become familiar with HOW upgrades actually happen. In addition, stay on top of capacity challenges by knowing your system’s limits, and what your business’ growth plans are.

#1. Find a UC Master

The Master Unified Communications Specialization is for a specific group of partners who have in-depth technology skills. These partners also have demonstrated customer success in more sophisticated, value-added Cisco Unified Communications solutions. It just so happens that Softchoice holds UC Masters certification in both the US and Canada around Cisco Unified Communications. Softchoice is also a Microsoft Gold partner for Communications (Lync). From licensing to architecture to implementation, Softchoice is well equipped to help – we can answer your UC questions and take you through an assessment-led process to find the solution that will serve you best.

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