Unified Communications (UC) solutions are becoming increasingly common, enabling work-from-home arrangements and allowing team members to collaborate regardless of location.
When it comes to organising a consultation for a UC solution, there can be some confusion around what to expect – and what to avoid.
To help out, our UC experts have pulled together a shortlist of what to expect from a managed service provider (MSP) during your UC consultation.
While the specifics may vary depending on your organisation’s needs and the UC professional you consult with, the consultation will usually follow a predictable set of milestones.
Costs and benefits:
Ideally, your UC consultant will pop the bonnet on their costings to show you all the inner workings, leaving nothing hidden.
When you organise a UC consultation, you want to make sure that you bring in relevant information and value-adding stakeholders to identify your needs.
There are two key factors that will help you define the successful outcomes of any UC consultation. These are telephony costs and telephony strategy.
A good understanding of current costs for telephony will set you up to understand the value you are getting from your current setup while also letting you compare the costs of any potential future systems to a real-world benchmark. The information you will need usually includes:
The total number of users – This figure will vary depending on how your organisation defines a user, with allowances for functions that cover either generic business activities or those required by a contact centre. Other uses may include requirements such as IVRs/voice recording and multi-site accounts.
License costs or per-seat costs – How much are you currently spending, and which payment model are you presently using. You can calculate prices according to broad averages such as licensing fees per month or by users. Having these figures on hand will help speed up the commercial considerations of your new UC solution.
Call costs and carrier infrastructure – It’s essential to know how your provider charges for calls and how your carrier network routes these calls, as these factors can impact quality and cost control. Being able to measure costs and break them down across a call carrier’s infrastructure helps your vendor demonstrate your current ROI as well as the potential returns available via your chosen UC solution.
Staff training – Does your current system require special staff training? Is this something that comes as part of your current UC solution arrangement?
Hardware – Did you purchase your current telephony hardware or lease it? How much value have you gotten from it so far, and how much might you lose if you were to ditch it in favour of newer equipment?
Indirect losses – Does your current solution indirectly cost your organisation money through lost calls, excessive wait times or poor service? Can you put a dollar value on these issues?
Ensure any UC consultants you potentially work with can understand your key goals by identifying any key measurables that relate to telephony.
Finding KPIs in this stage can help your UC consultant put forward potential solutions in a way that measures success in a meaningful way. Your organisation’s telephony strategy will also help identify a need for either a multi-tenanted service or a dedicated telephony instance.
(Note: while “moving to the cloud” can be enough of a strategic reason in itself, it usually requires a demonstratable saving or strategic advantage to warrant a change.)
While it may seem obvious to include senior IT team members (if you have one) and business managers, it’s essential to keep an open mind about whose input is valuable. The people using the systems daily may have some surprising insights into improving call services. In some cases, we’ve invited the professional receptionists to join the consultations, as they significantly influence how these systems get used daily.
Together, these groups will have the technical, strategic, and operational insights you need to ensure you have the right conversations.
Before you enter into any conversations around UC consultation, it can help ensure that your team knows where they stand on a few key topics. You don’t necessarily need to have all the answers – after all, you’re consulting with experts to uncover what works best for you – but it helps to have a clear view of where you stand.
What are the:
If you’re able to work through the basics in advance, you’ll be well placed to proceed with your UC consultation.
In general, your organisation should be well placed to identify the kind of organisation it prefers to work with. That being said, there are several key areas to pay attention to.
External qualifications – Look for a service provider that is externally qualified to operate and manage a range of services. This certification demonstrates that the UC consultant’s skills aren’t just talk, and shows that they can manage a wider range of integrated IT solutions.
Can support both cloud and on-prem telephony services – This mix gives you a greater chance of finding a solution that suits you.
Can work with dedicated and multi-tenanted instances – A service provider who can offer both dedicated and multi-tenanted instances should be more objective in their approach and propose a service best suited to the business’s requirements.
Attitude to commissions – there’s nothing inherently wrong with service providers offering commissions – these incentives often come with discounts, which can make specific solutions more affordable in the short term. However, commissions may skew the advice towards a particular choice rather than achieving a client-focused outcome.
Salespeople – Many salespeople are highly knowledgeable and thoroughly understand their sales solutions. But when it comes to UC solutions, there is often a broader tech ecosystem already in place. So, it can pay to talk with a technically-minded service provider who will present prospects with the best solutions for their needs.
The UC provider’s service model – Some providers focus on product volumes and project costs to make a profit, while others focus on long-term outcomes that generate as little IT noise as possible. Which one are you working with?
There’s no one way to organise and execute a UC consultation that works for every organisation. However, knowing the processes involved and the kinds of questions you want to answer in advance can go a long way towards making sure you get the most out of the consultations you engage in and the solutions you decide to employ.
Addressing the above points will help your UC consultant produce a detailed proposal that will cover a range of objectives.