Communications System Buying Guide for Executives

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - 16:15
Communications System Buying Guide for Executives

At some point along the way, your organization will need to update and possibly replace your telecommunications infrastructure, perhaps moving from a legacy on-premises solution to one based in the cloud – or a hybrid of the two.  You’ll need to help your IT team balance functionality and cost, as you would for any high profile, high impact project.  

Through this process, you must work with your internal IT staff to decide how to:

  • Fix existing communication gaps
  • Improve connectivity between company locations; and
  • Present the comprehensive solution to the executive team for approval

Here’s the tough part: how to get started.  First, you’ll need to review which types of communications capabilities are required to support your team’s key processes and work-styles.  In short, what is the end-state you’d like to see come to reality?

Business drivers for enterprise cloud-based Unified Communications

The incredible advancement in communications technologies allows for fundamental changes in many of the key business processes your company relies on every single day.  How can these processes be positively impacted by new ways of linking people together – not to mention linking people with machines or other real-time process indicators?  You’ll want to take the time to think about communications creatively – drawing inspiration from what others have done.  To help you on that journey, here are a few questions to ask:

Which advanced phone features will help facilitate business growth?

Think about the features below; perhaps features like these could benefit and grow your business?

  • Auto-attendants – used to ensure that no call goes unanswered
  • Video or web conferencing – used to quickly connect with clients and vendors across the globe to discuss and share time-sensitive data
  • Mobile twinning – forwarding phone calls from desk phone to mobile phone, continuing communications outside company walls
  • Customized hunt groups – ensuring that every contact made to the company gets routed to the correct person
  • Integration with CRM systems – Can you benefit from capturing call data and retaining it within a Salesforce record, for instance?

Are desk phones required for every user?  Does it make sense to incorporate soft phones?

Many organizations have left the desktop appliance (the familiar desktop phone) to the dustbin of history, finding instead that a software client that provides presence information as well as online directories and chatting features provides a perfect update and substitute.  

What about having the ability to make corporate calls from home or while traveling, with in-office features and capabilities?  Sales representatives or call center staff members may be prime candidates for softphones, or at least the features that this type of client or web-based software package can provide.

Are staffing shortages making it difficult to maintain current services?

Staff cuts, attrition, and skills gaps in an IT department can negatively impact your level of service for voice, data, and video. Instead of looking to fill those gaps with new hires, it may make sense to leverage cloud services, freeing your current team to focus on strategic challenges vs. watching over infrastructure or managing moves/adds/changes.

Will your enterprise outgrow its current infrastructure?

Opening new locations can be challenging; however, this process can also provide an opportunity to revamp your communications infrastructure. A cloud-based platform offers customization and scalability, while avoiding potential expenses like interoffice communications charges.  Hosted communications solutions also work to deliver a consistent set of services across the enterprise.

Has your organization recently undergone a merger or acquisition?

After a merger or acquisition, it is common for an enterprise to be faced with the issue of maintaining dissimilar communications networks and systems. In most cases, the cost of maintaining these duplicative networks is reason enough to look towards a Unified Communications solution.  Cloud-based systems can easily accommodate  heterogeneous environments, allowing you to avoid the cost of “ripping-and-replacing” those networks with an entirely new solution.

Does your enterprise plan to divest a business unit?

Companies looking to divest a business group or division have to separate communications networks and extract corporate data where appropriate.  In many cases, the most cost-effective approach is to replace the current infrastructure with a fully-managed solution that can be deployed without heavy capital investment, and implemented with minimal impact to the day-to-day running of the business.

Implementing an enterprise Unified Communications Solution

Once the core requirements have been identified, it’s time to pull them all together to create your business communications plan.  While reviewing the range of hosted communications vendors with whom you might partner, take a look at these aspects to ensure the pieces of your communications plan will be assembled efficiently and properly.

Infrastructure Strength – to ensure success, select a company that is an industry leader with a distributed, scalable, reliable, and redundant unified communications infrastructure.  Be sure that the system is built on a proven architecture, appropriate for the size of the business.  Many corporate networks have been built piecemeal over the years, which can hold back the deployment of new apps and services that drive business growth.

Comprehensive Enterprise IP Phone System – with a hosted VoIP PBX solution combined with feature-rich IP Phones, enterprises can decrease communication costs while increasing communication functionality.  To maximize productivity, the IP Phone system selected should include the following customizable components that can integrate easily with existing systems and solutions:

  • Hosted or On-premises VoIP PBX
  • IP Phones with enhanced voice capabilities
  • Advanced call routing and management functionality
  • Secure IM and Presence tools
  • Audio and Web Conferencing applications and tools

A complete and well-rounded IP phone system can provide benefits that improve enterprise collaboration and efficiency.

End-User Communication Tools – to meet the full range of employee communications needs, there should be a diverse number of unified communications tools available…fromdesktop sharing and video conferencing, to unified messaging, presence, mobility, andremote connectivity.

Management Tools – a comprehensive tool set should be available, even for hosted solutions.  This tool set should include an easy-to-use portal that provides the ability to manage end-to-end business applications, call flow settings, service levels, and security standards, with full visibility into application performance – with just a few clicks. There should also be a set of comprehensive and customizable management reports to provide ongoing feedback about system performance and usage.

Service and Support – last but not least, be sure that your hosted communications provider employs technical experts that supply 24/7/365 support with a level of service exceeding the expectations of the most demanding clients, and the reputation to back it up.

Make sure your company partners with an enterprise communications plan that provides the proper pieces, and is deployed correctly, by selecting a top enterprise VoIP provider.  Be sure to select West Unified Communications – an industry leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant – as your vendor of choice.  Doing so will ensure that your enterprise will have all of the correct pieces for its communications platform – and guarantee they are implemented in a way that generates a complete Unified Communications solution – fitting every piece into its proper place.

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