As their business needs mature, many companies are forced to take a close look at their current communications systems. Most come to a common conclusion: Their existing platforms cannot support the demands of an increasingly remote workforce along with increased pressure to provide seamless connectivity anywhere, anytime. Their unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) systems may be missing key capabilities, such as voice and video conferencing, presence/IM capabilities and unified messaging, or contact center methods such as live chat. Their existing platform—likely cobbled together piece by piece over the course of several years—is now more of a hindrance than a key business asset.
Although platform migrations are common as businesses grow, successful migration can be challenging—so much so that many organizations table the process altogether. The result? Too many companies operating archaic UC&C systems that are riddled with inefficiencies. They know they must migrate to modern systems, but how can they develop a migration strategy that mitigates risk and business disruption?
The first step is identifying the challenges that can arise in a migration process. These may include:
- A lack of solid integration across the new platforms and any legacy systems or other internal infrastructure components that must connect with them
- Security weaknesses between the platforms and their connected access points
- Miscommunications among the various vendors and internal stakeholders
- Implementation delays and service disruptions
- An inconsistent user experience during the migration that may include the degradation or intermittent unavailability of certain systems or features
Other hurdles that may arise include issues with user experience, adoption, and ongoing maintenance and use. So how can you sidestep challenges associated with the migration process once you select your platform? There are three critical elements:
1) Integration. A robust UC&C deployment typically brings together platforms from multiple vendors. These various systems must be able to function together, not just during the phased roll-out but longer term as well. For companies without large IT departments or those whose core competencies are outside the technology space, achieving and maintaining good integration in a changing environment is difficult. Finding technology service partners with deep experience across all the major vendors is important; integrating products from multiple providers—and potentially across multiple generations of equipment—requires a thorough knowledge of each solution’s architecture and capabilities.
A successful integration strategy starts with a full audit of the existing infrastructure. Updates may be required prior to the migration, either of the software, the hardware, or potentially both. The new UC&C platform may need to be tweaked to accommodate any specific issues that are pinpointed during the early audit. Deep expertise into how the various infrastructure components and UC&C platforms connect, move data, and support shared functionalities are critical.
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2) Vendor Management. You simply want your technology tools to work reliably and efficiently. Why does vendor coordination have to be so difficult? To successfully oversee multiple third-party providers during a migration, you need to maintain visibility across a variety of disciplines and issues, such as security, system updates, and potential downtime concerns. Maintaining the kind of full-scope communication that is needed between the organization’s IT team and those outside providers responsible for deploying new technology during the migration is difficult for companies that haven’t previously planned and executed similar high-level projects.
A migration plan must lay out each provider’s area of responsibility and where task dependencies between the various vendors exist. A schedule of activities that is developed with vendor input will ensure that everyone stays on track from implementation to adoption.
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3) User Experience. Some companies make the mistake of focusing on the need to make a platform change, and then figuring out the specifics of the architecture and technology design. Instead, businesses should begin by looking at the end of the process and asking what the user experience should be, then working backwards. That’s not only important in the planning stages, but in migration as well; maintaining services is critical. Any degradation resulting from the cut-over—either in access to services or in a platform’s performance—could create big problems for employees and customers.
Scheduled service interruptions must be closely monitored to ensure that vendors comply with their commitments to minimize downtime. This is often tricky for an organization to oversee because it requires deep expertise around why disruptions occur and what steps should be taken to head off avoidable outages.
As part of the focus on the user experience, adoption rates and workflow efficiency should be factored in to a migration plan, addressing such areas as promotion to users, adoption rate measurement, training and user evaluation.
If training isn’t provided as part of the UC&C migration process, employees that are accustomed, for example, to accessing videoconferencing tools in a limited number of meeting rooms may not embrace newly-available video conference features on their laptops and mobile devices. Training will ensure their post-migration productivity meets expectations by giving them the knowledge they need to access the new services directly on their device.
Because the success of any new technology tool only happens when people use them, the organization must make adoption a primary focus. Training and assistance integrating the new UC&C platform into employees’ workflows and business process will be vital to achieving the productivity improvements that will keep the business moving forward.