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    April 3, 2018

    Before You Ink the Deal: Questions to Ask Your Prospective UCaaS Provider

    You’ve decided it’s time to migrate your PBX system to a new cloud, or UCaaS, solution and most manufacturers are offering major incentives to help you choose from the many options that are now available. Where do you start? What do you need to know before you make your decision? Who can help you?

    The purpose of this blog is to help you make the right decision for your enterprise.

    When we work with customers, the first question we ask has to do with the company’s overall cloud or UCaaS strategy. What do you want from your cloud or UCaaS solution? We then look at existing assets: What current investments, such as an existing Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, or Cisco network infrastructure, are already in place?

    Most organizations today select either a Cisco or Microsoft solution—although some will choose both. The more important decision comes next: How to implement the solution you have chosen. What’s critical at this point is not just the “how” but the “who.” Who will you choose to implement your solution? What do you need to know before you make this big decision?

    For the large enterprise, the challenges of implementation may be mitigated by the fact that it most likely has voice technology expertise and its own internal IT staff. To further assist with implementation, the large enterprise will also get a great deal of attention from big system integrators. More often than not, these integrators—including AT&T, British Telecom, Orange, or Verizon—will augment the IT department of the enterprise by providing additional voice engineers to help oversee the implementation.

    Choosing A System Integrator

    In today’s competitive market, these well-known system integrators compete fiercely to earn your business and become your chosen UCaaS solution provider. Equally important is the fact that, because they ultimately want your network services business, they are willing to give you a lot of attention. How much attention? Just imagine the attention that Hollywood producers lavish on an A-List celebrity actor or superstar with sought-after talent and fame. When you’re a star, you’ve got every Hollywood director, producer, and large studio clamoring for your attention in hopes to get you to sign up to have a role in their new movie. Not a bad position to be in!

    But what do you do if you’re a mid-sized enterprise with, say, 1,000 to 5,000 employees? If you fall into this category, you will not get the same attention as the up-and-coming A-List Hollywood celebrity. The large system integrators are focused on large enterprises, and Gartner-listed Magic Quadrant companies such as the Ring Centrals and the 8x8s of the world want to sell you a subscription without the ongoing service and support or strategy you need.

    Mid-sized companies generally don’t have the same customization requirements as does the large enterprise; however, mid-sized company employees still the need to be able to communicate in a seamless way. The challenge is that most often, mid-sized companies do not have an internal IT staff that is experienced in voice, networking, security, messaging, and more. So, they usually stick to the basics of UCaaS. And, while they receive a great deal of attention from UCaaS market leaders that excel at throwing tremendous marketing resources aimed at providing subscriptions to “the masses,” UCaaS-focused companies such as 8x8, RingCentral and other network carriers do a great job of selling on the simplicity of UCaaS—“All a mid-sized company needs to do is sign up!” And while these UCaaS-focused

    companies provide some service, the quality of that service may be missing. Unfortunately, in many cases, early attention simply vanishes after the contract is signed.

    What are the qualities you should seek as you choose your UCaaS provider? What is it that successful system integrators provide?

    Earlier, we discussed strategy, which includes both planning and an understanding of where you want to go. For this, it is important that the right questions get asked, including how you would like to see a UCaaS solution deployed. Before you ink any deal, you should ask whether someone at any of the Gartner-listed Magic Quadrant companies will be able to capture the critical information, the “intelligence,” from your old system and program it into your new one.

    Not sure?

    Also ask how they plan to set you up to operate without any downtime or inevitable challenges that might arise from not having all of the vital information captured from the old system. While the large integrators are able to pull this data for their customers, the mid-sized customer will certainly not get this kind of attention. Instead, they get what the provider gives them. The question is who can provide this critical service?

    When working with companies that have 1,000 to 5,000 employees for a UCaaS solution, we ask a lot of questions that many providers may not be asking:

    1. If you are currently operating a Call Center, do you want your new system to function the same way as your current PBX system? If the answer is “Yes,” then:
      1. Who from your team is going to program the information into your system?
      2. Who is going to capture the intelligence that resides in your current system?
    2. Do you have the in-house capacity to gather the vectors, VDNs, and the logic from your existing system and duplicate/transfer it to the new?
    3. Will you keep the same functionality of your old system—keeping the same greetings, call flows, and codes?

    Old System Intelligence

    And finally, before you make the switch to UCaaS, you need to make sure that the new provider can set you up so that your new systems function in the same way as the old. To do this, someone has to get inside the old system to capture all of the relevant information that resides there.

    Fortunately for our customers, we build this critical step into our “old system intelligence” discovery process. This critical step builds a “bridge” from the old system to the new Microsoft or Cisco UCaaS system. Essentially, we gather all of the old system’s intelligence—call-routing, speed dials, vectors and VDNs, and a whole lot of historical “here’s how we do it when callers call” information and build it into the new UCaaS system.

    Continuant is unique in that we have more than two decades of legacy voice system experience. We can work on almost any system. For example, our Cisco or Microsoft engineers can collaborate with our Siemens, Avaya, or Nortel engineers to look into any system and see what’s there—and then take the information to a new UCaaS solution.

    Ask yourself, can my prospective UCaaS provider do all of this? Don’t assume they can. When you ink the deal on your new service agreement, you may not be getting anything more than the system you paid for.

    If you haven’t yet thought things through completely, don’t worry. We’re here to help.

    Mike Hanks

    As Director of Microsoft Solutions and Services, Mike Hanks leads the Continuant team in program management and sales of solutions and services for Microsoft Intelligent Communications. While at Continuant, Mike has worked in many key areas, including Cloud, Strategy, Sales, Customer Service, and Operations, where he...

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