So you’ve finally decided it’s time for your business to move off of your old PBX and move to Cloud UC (UCaaS). Well done! We’re sure you’re going to love all the advanced features, IP-based flexibility and business benefits UCaaS offers. Just plug in and you’re ready to roll with advanced telephony and UC functionality, right?
Not so fast, says Todd Sullivan, an industry veteran and Implementation Manager with ANPI, who has helped hundreds of companies deploy UC. “Moving your communication platform from a traditional PBX system to an IP-based system takes careful planning and businesses need to be sure their employees are prepared for the changes coming down the road.”
Planning and Preparation Pays Off
According to Sullivan, it is important for companies to have a solid understanding of the product they will be migrating to and to realize that a UCaaS system is very different from a line key PBX when it comes to telephony. “Defining the scope up front and being sure the customer is clearly aware of what the product is and is not capable of is key to ensuring there are no surprises and that things go smoothly.”
Defining the types of users and the functionality each user requires is a great place to start. For example, a highly mobile salesman that spends a lot of time on web conferences may need more features and a more comprehensive license than an accounting team member that just needs a deskphone. The phone in the lobby doesn’t need to do as much as the phone for the CEO. Putting users and devices into categories allows businesses to establish a user directory, define technology and license requirements and the types of phone’s necessary.
It is also important for companies to convey to employees early on that IP-based phone systems are different from the PBX system they are used to. “Not even taking into consideration all the features of a hosted UC solution, basic telephony functions are going to seem different to most people,” says Sullivan. “Being sure employees understand product functionality and that behaviors will need to change is critical.” As one example, if a customer doesn’t understand how IP and UCaaS telephony works, they may expect to be able to put a call on hold and transfer it, just like they always have. But with an IP PBX, every endpoint (or seat) has its own identity. Each set comes with its own unique features and to transfer a call users will need to perform an attended transfer by transferring the call to another seat and handing the call off.
Defining PBX Services, and Your Call Logic and Calling Plan
Now comes the fun part - defining how you want your new PBX system to work. Start by looking at how your existing system functions. Do you have an auto attendant or do inbound calls go to a receptionist? Do you rely on hunt groups? Now envision how you want the call logic for your inbound calls to work in a best case scenario. Do you want to maintain your current receptionist approach, or would it make sense to put self-service options in place? How do you want the system to function when someone is calling the company versus an employee directly (you can set up defaults so a call to an employee will ring on their deskphone, mobile and softphone simultaneously, for example). “We have one customer that has multiple companies in one location,” explained Sullivan, “we set up the system to pass along the calling group identity to the users, so when their phone rang they knew which company the call was for and how to answer the phone.”
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From here your UCaaS provider can start building out the Cloud PBX inserting details for inbound routing and building a company directory including user details, licensing and functionality, phone numbers and phone types. At this point, most UCaaS providers have enough detail to pre-configure the phones and ship them directly to employees, or, in ANPI’s case, the phones can be configured to be DHCP enabled and then configure themselves. “These phones are IP endpoints,” explained Sullivan, “and as such can be given enough information to connect and plug into the configuration server and activate themselves with all the necessary user details based on entering a simple activation code, like the employee’s User ID” says Sullivan. “That same User ID can allow the users to change seats in the office. They simply sit down at the new desk, enter in their ID into the phone and use a feature called “hoteling” and have all their calls ring through to wherever they are...even if they are visiting another branch.”
Defining Individual Preferences and User Training
Speaking of individual users, with UCaaS each user is generally provided with their own web portal to manage their preferences. In here employees can find links to download mobile apps to their smartphones, add additional phone numbers to their profile, setup and manage their voicemail and configure options like ‘Find me / Follow me’ in which a user can establish rules for which phone should ring first and how long to let the phone ring before it tries to call the user’s next device.
According to Sullivan, each UCaaS user has access to presence management and Instant Messaging and they can use their portal to set up favorites for phone, chat and web conferencing as well as group chats and calls for their teams. “Managing a Cloud PBX is much easier than managing a traditional PBX, but at the same time being sure that system administrators are trained and understand how to use the portal to manage and order equipment, spin up and tear down users and even manage the call logic is key...of course, we’re always there to support them, too” says Sullivan.
When it comes to employees, “ being sure that they receive the support and training they need to set up and manage their individual experience and perform traditional telephony functions goes a long way to ensuring a successful deployment.”