The time has come. After much consideration you and your company have decided to transition your communications to the cloud. Congratulations! To make your transition a success, you still have some work to do. While your future cloud provider will do a lot of the work, there are three “must-do” steps that you need to make sure your cloud provider takes. These steps will help you navigate the transition, providing a look into the nuances that will guarantee the success of your transition to the cloud.
1. Assess the Quality of Your Network
To determine the quality of your network, your potential service provider must provide a network assessment. The network assessment will review your network to ensure that it can sustain your cloud communications. If there are problems that appear during the network assessment, your service provider can offer solutions, so that you can successfully move forward with your transition to the cloud. A network assessment looks at a few things:
The Configuration of your Network
Reviewing your network configuration will provide a look into any settings that can impact that quality of your calls. Your firewall settings will be reviewed, as well as your network router settings. This will help make sure that all of your settings can support Voice Over IP (VOIP).
The amount of bandwidth you have directly correlates to your download and upload speeds, which impacts the quality of your calls. During the network assessment, your provider will review the total bandwidth you have available, and how much you need for VOIP. Inadequate bandwidth often results in packet loss, where parts of words or sentences aren’t delivered to the receiver. While it is normal for occasional packet loss to occur, it should be a rarity- not the norm. Compare this to receiving mail. If a piece of mail is occasionally lost, you don’t worry. However, if 50% of your mail never shows up, occurring on a regular basis, you know you’re having a problem. Reviewing bandwidth ensures that you almost always experience quality phone calls, and all your voice packets are delivered.
Jitter also has to do with speed of a connection, but instead impacts the order of the words or sentences between callers. Jitter occurs when packets are moving inconsistently, and then arriving out of order. So, if the conversation were the alphabet, the letters would arrive out of order, making it difficult or impossible to decipher. A network assessment can determine why Jitter is occurring, making sure that this problem doesn’t occur in your new system.
Should Your Network Assessment Cost Money?
If your vendor is charging for the Network Assessment, consider it a red flag. Why? Because without a Network Assessment, your transition to the cloud can’t be a success. The Network Assessment allows both you and your vendor to understand the viability of a cloud communications system, and any roadblocks you may encounter when trying to implement the system. A good comparison is to imagine you’re having your home painted. For your painting company to know how the job will be completed, they need to see how many rooms are in your house, how big they are, and how high your ceilings are. What if they charged you $200 just to come and assess the home and see if they can accept the project? What if they charge you for the assessment and then don’t have the capability to complete the project? The same is true for the Network Assessment. As an integral piece of your transition to the cloud, the Network Assessment shouldn’t be one more fee for you to pay. It should be a step made by you and your vendor, helping you both find success in your transition to the cloud.
2. Review Your Current Communications System
Understanding how your current communications system is set up will help your vendor determine how your new system should be architected. Not only will they learn what “must-haves” that your company has, but also what can be improved to support your business strategy.
During the review of your system, all aspects of your communications will be reviewed. This may require input from team members company-wide. First you will review your communications as a whole, considering questions like:
- What’s your call flow?
- How are calls handled?
- What phone numbers do calls come in on, and where do they go?
- Do you have an auto-attendant?
- Do you ring groups of people?
- Do you have a dedicated call operator?
- How are all of your calls being handled?
- Do you have applications, like call recording, or a contact center?
These questions will be answered for every phone /phone number at your company. You will review every way that communications come into your company.
Next, you will consider other communications features that you may already have, or should consider. For instance, do you have an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system? This system may be used to take customer responses, to communicate hours of operation, or for bill paying. What features can support your IVR system to support your business strategy?
You should also review your company’s turnover, or attrition. Understanding how frequently your employees are leaving, will help you understand what variety of system you will need. Do you have people coming and going all the time? It may be important to get an ease-of-use system, which includes on-going training. Is your workforce very stable? You may be able to move forward with a more in depth system, but doesn’t require ongoing training.
Considering Service and Support
Understanding the value of communications to your company will help you determine what level of service and support you will require once you transition to the cloud. This is important to understand from the get go, to avoid surprises. The truth of the matter is, all cloud solutions require support at some time or another. And when your communications system has a problem and you need service, quality and timely support is critical to your business. After all, without your communications system you can’t talk to your customers or prospects, which means you’ll lose money.
The type of support that you need is dependent upon how critical your communications are to your business. For instance, if people can’t call you, is this an inconvenience? Or a catastrophe? Assessing the importance of your communications will help you determine how much service and support you require for your communications. Understanding which type of user will help you determine what kind of support will be necessary for your communications usage.
Many cloud providers operate on a cookie cutter support methodology, with the goal of turning over as many customer help desk tickets as possible. However, every system is different, and your communications system is a valuable investment. You need custom help to support your unique needs. While you’re reviewing providers, consider their support methodology, focusing on support team size and location, emergency support, on-site vs. remote support, and the service request and escalation process.
3. Craft Your Implementation Plan
Your final step will be to work with your provider to clearly outline your implementation plan. Crafting an implementation plan can be broken into two important parts: Project Management and Project Planning. Trustworthy companies will have a well-documented process for these steps.
Proper project management includes a project plan and a specified project manager. The project plan guarantees that both you and the phone provider have a clear-cut understanding of the scope of your project. The project manager will help to create a realistic implementation schedule. They also have deep experience in the nitty gritty details of an implementation that may not be obvious to you and the technicians on your project. They will have the knowledge to plan for unexpected minutia, such as building access, background checks, and more.
In order for any implementation to be successful it is pivotal that your provider not only craft but also adhere to a project plan. A project plan will take you through the necessary steps to guarantee the implementation is completed to the exact specifications of your business needs. Project planning includes a discovery period, during which overall design and configuration is reviewed. It then takes into account Network Topology, physical installation, training planning, and takes time to consider what could go wrong. Once all of this is completed, a scope of work document and timeline should be created, followed by scheduling and a kickoff meeting. Before your company transitions to the cloud, make sure to select a provider who can meet your expectations of Project Management and Planning. Without this, your transition is at risk for failure.
Understanding the value of project management and planning is essential to the success of your cloud installation. So, when you’re selecting your phone system provider, take the time to discuss and review the planning, project management, and implementation process. If they’re skipping steps or unwilling to provide transparency in their processes, it’s a bad sign- they may not be a good provider for your new phone system.
Making sure that you work though these three steps before moving forward with a transition to the cloud will help guarantee your success. Before selecting your cloud vendor, make sure to review how they handle assessing the quality of your network, reviewing your current communications, and crafting an implementation plan. Make certain that they have clearly outlined processes for each of these items, and that they are completely transparent in their approach. If your provider brushes off your questions, or doesn’t treat these items seriously, you should be wary. Completing these steps and doing the work upfront, will help protect your investment and make your transition to the cloud a success.
Find out more about the transition to Cloud here.