More and more companies are deploying UC, and most hated the process of getting there. They enjoy the end result of having a cloud-managed IP phone system; they like the flexibility of adding and removing user features on the fly, but I dare you to ask them what the deployment was like. How did the migration go from an on-premises UC solution to cloud? Was the cutover smooth as butter? Did the vendor communication make you feel butterflies and rainbows deep inside? Were the users singing your praises after the incredible training experience? Hell no!
Warning: Content is not for the easily offended. Enjoy!
Instead, it sucked big giant hairy ones. Why? Because your Project Manager sucked. They controlled the project, yet they were incompetent. The Project Manager determines whether deployment succeeds or fails, but they don’t have a damn clue what their doing. Here’s why you need to rethink your Cloud Phone deployment strategy before you place it fully in the hands of a stranger 3,000 miles away.
You're Working with Rookies
Let’s face it. Most of the Project Managers at Cloud Phone vendors like ShoreTel, 8x8, RingCentral, Mitel, Evolve IP, and others are rookies. They are hired as entry-level employees with little to no experience. Their new-hire training is sloppily expedited due to a high volume of projects and turnover, resulting in poorly trained and underprepared Project Managers. All of this is easy to hide because you never physically meet your Project Manager, and because the vendor has come up with canned email templates that they copy and paste throughout the process. A good Project Manager will tailor just about everything to the client. They will also know more about the specific project than you do before you have your first call, including just about every point at which something will go wrong if not confronted on that call. How do they know all this? Because if they are any good at what they do, they will have done all of the following:
- Met at length with the salesperson and any other sales engineers involved pre-sale.
- Reviewed all sales-related documentation, including email threads, and expected the sales team to provide any missing documentation.
- Learned to spot gaps of knowledge, engineering mistakes and logistical challenges in the project due to managing many past projects.
If you’re working with a rookie you'll know it when on, your Kickoff Call they are the most confused person on the phone, revealing that they don’t know jack about the project. If the Project Manager has to do a “Project Discovery” just to catch up on “what we’re doing here”—it’s clear that they haven’t done their homework. A Project Manager needs to communicate confidence by being prepared for the call, by thinking forward to potential challenges, and by having the emotional maturity to boldly confront and correct any mistakes or miscommunications introduced by the sales team, and to do so immediately.
Everything and Everybody is Remote
Unlike your former on-premises UC deployment, everything and everybody related to your Cloud Phone deployment is fully remote. Not only is nobody physically onsite to review configuration, train users, assist with cutover, or be present for First Day Live, but they are more than likely thousands of miles away. If you’re on the West coast, and working with Evolve IP, Mitel, Fonality or Vonage, you’re more than likely trusting your project to a Project Manager two or three time zones away from you. If you’re on the East coast, and working with 8x8, RingCentral, inContact, or Jive, you’re likely doing the same.
This is especially relevant when it comes to how well or how crappy your cutover goes, since you’re most often working around your Project Manager’s availability, which inevitably conflicts with when you need them. When something goes wrong with your numbers porting at the time of the cut (and it will), your Project Manager on the other side of the country has other meetings to make and other projects to keep moving. Tell me this: Who likes to get voicemail or wait on hold when your phone system isn’t taking incoming calls and your Executives are pissed at you for costing the company thousands of dollars in revenue? If you raised your hand just now, you should go ahead and start looking for a new job—you’ll be unemployed soon.
Nobody Likes the Training
We all know that as an IT professional you can learn a new piece of software just by clicking around for a few minutes, and that you enjoy doing so, but this is not the case for most of your users. They hate change, and if they don’t understand exactly how to use and benefit from a UC desktop client or mobile app, they simply won’t use it. And if they don’t use it, then not only have you wasted your budget but the Executive team notices that all of those “efficiency improvements” you promised aren’t coming to fruition. This makes you look like a money-flushing liar who overpromises and under-delivers. The reality is that the Cloud Phone provider is the one who overpromised and under-delivered on how high your user adoption rate would be on their particular UC client because it’s soooo frickin’ user-friendly that even your 75-year-old receptionist will be dragging and dropping calls like a pro on the first day. Your receptionist can certainly get up to speed quickly on new software, but that is dependent on the quality of the training experience.
The remote training experience is either video-driven, webinar-driven, or delivered via live web conference, but all of these options are shitty. It’s like a game show where you can choose between Box of Shit #1, Bigger Box of Shit #2, or the Biggest Box of Shit You’ve Ever Seen #3. As a contestant, you’d rather just get your money back. The reality is that video training is boring, and nobody wants to watch it. You send out links to a pre-recorded webinar but there’s no accountability for whether or not they did end up watching it. So you send out a calendar invite for a web-conference but half the office is out that week, or hides in the bathroom during the appointment. Personally, I’d much rather take a shit than watch that shit. At least I get to beat a level or two in Candy Crush without anyone bothering me.
The Unknown Alternative
Many companies undergoing this type of project are not aware of a far better alternative to the deployment scenario described above. This is because it requires a local, experienced partner who offers a unique set of services. More than likely the company is either working with the Cloud Phone provider’s direct sales team (i.e. no local partner is involved), or the local partner they are working with has not developed a line of services that assist with Cloud Phone deployments. They will deploy your on-premises system but not your hosted system, since “Project Management” already comes included from the provider. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that all Project Management is equal, or that you can just manage the project yourself, implying that quality Project Management doesn’t matter. You may very well be competent to do so, but you don’t have the time or interest, so you shouldn’t try. Your entire company will remember how much they hated the day you switched phone systems, and remind you constantly of the “good ol’ days” when phones and phone-related software actually worked.
The right decision is to work with a partner who has invested time and resources into developing what Matrix calls their “Concierge” services. This is where the local, experienced partner runs the project, not a remote rookie. Your primary point of contact is a confident, qualified Project Manager with a smaller project load and who can drive to your office in less than an hour. Here’s a sample list of some of the services delivered by a Concierge-like offering:
- Dedicated, Local, Experienced Project Manager
- Network and Connectivity Review
- SD-WAN Installation and Testing
- Configure Switches and Firewall
- Cut Sheet Info Gathering
- System Design and Call Flow
- Test Cloud Phone prior to Going Live
- Onsite User and Admin Training
- Onsite for Cutover and First Day Live
- Removal of Old Equipment
Without a Concierge-like solution for your Cloud Phone deployment, you are doing all of the above on your own. The simple “plug and play” deployment that was touted to you is not real. To be clear, Hosted Phone Systems are indeed an easier VoIP solution to manage; it’s a wise choice for many companies, and you’d be stupid not to consider it as a valid option, but a simple solution doesn’t equate to a simple deployment. This is especially true if you’re making the jump from a digital or on-premises IP system.
It’s also important to mention that most Cloud Phone providers are indeed offering some flavor of these onsite, white glove services as an optional add-on to their basic deployment method, but three key factors make it a horrible option. First, it’s very expensive. The labor rate is typically around $250 per hour for the provider to send someone to perform this work, not including airfare, lodging, and per diem expenses. Second, often a sub-contracting service is used to get cheap boots on the ground for the network-related services. This means that you are working with a low quality 3rd party tech who is not invested in your deployment’s success — he has a narrow scope of work to accomplish, and he will get in and get out without giving a shit about your business or the project at large. Essentially you are either paying for overpriced labor or underqualified techs. Third, none of these resources are readily available long-term. The benefit of working with a local partner is that post-deployment you can call up the same tech who configured your system and the same Project Manager who trained your users and request additional help or training down the road, adding a lot of value to the ongoing support experience.
Your Cloud Phone deployment is too important to gamble on. Even if you like the end product, the process of getting there will either leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, or will make you look like an IT hero who was responsible for the smoothest system migration your company has ever seen. Be sure to invest time in evaluating your vendor’s deployment options just like you are evaluating the UC feature set, and don’t settle for less than a local, experienced partner who will add value and ensure your success in deploying your new phone system.
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Author: Matrix Networks Sales Team