Define future business requirements first

Communications-oriented technologies have become more and more complex as vendors move towards fully integrated communications solutions. Because each manufacturer strives to differentiate their products from competitors, (while essentially delivering the same solution), a host of conflicting terms, architectures and licensing models work to confuse even the most savvy potential customer.

Customers have become more comfortable with next generation communications technology

Customers aren’t as confused about how the solutions will look and feel in the enterprise as they have lots of new technologies in their homes. Also, many of the new technologies are very easy to demonstrate (particularly cloud based).

What is more challenging is to determine how the replacement technologies will impact your business and affect internal and external processes.

These areas will take more effort and time prior to evolving to next-generation technologies, and it is impossible to fully anticipate all of the business effects until you start using the new technologies

Organizations’ expectations of technologies continue to evolve and grow

Business and government continues to strive to find ways to “do more with less” in order to achieve higher levels of efficiency, and competitiveness. This has created the need for a more mobile, virtual, and transient workforce which obviously benefits from the enhanced collaboration tools of new communications solutions.

Determining organizational impact evolves once new technology is used

From our own internal move to next-generation unified communications mobile and cloud solutions, we are finding that only after using new technologies for a period of time will most of the unique benefits for your own business start to be exposed. You also need to have, or develop, a culture that is receptive to change. When these two factors combine, the most beneficial and valuable enhancements and changes of business operations and supporting processes will be revealed.

Accelerated pace of technology innovation and change

Communications-oriented technologies are improving rapidly at an ever increasing pace, and this makes the acquisition/installation/configuration process similar to trying to change boats mid-stream while whitewater rafting!

Changing your approach to moving to next generation technologies…good news

The good news is that the customer decision process for acquiring new communications technologies no longer requires extensive, detailed knowledge of how all the prospective vendor solutions work. (We know you are thinking we must be wrong on this one).

What is new about this next generation of UC, telecom and contact center technologies is that the organization (including IT resources) only needs to be able to communicate and share how their business works today, who communicates with whom, using what devices, to and from where. Then they need to be able to paint a picture of how they want to communicate in the future (internally and externally) to and from where.

Analogy for comparison purposes

When you want to build a house, you don’t tell the contractor how many nails or feet of lumber you need, you tell them how many people will live in the house, their ages, family roles, etc. The building contractor (or subdivision company) works with the architect, designers, suppliers, labourers, etc. to design and install all of the various elements to get your new house built.

Believe it or not, the same thing is now starting to evolve with next-generation communication solutions. This does not mean that you may not do some of the room painting or put up blinds, or add fancy lights yourself (or get your Internet and TV services installed), but the net is you should not be trying to do it all yourself for next-generation technologies.

Simplify the Decision Process
Understanding all of the relevant manufacturers and vendors companies, delivery channels and new communications capabilities as they continue to evolve is what good communications consultants spend their life doing. Using professional consultants simplifies a lot of the inherent complexity, as well as reducing the risk of a bad purchase, vendor selection or installation.

In most cases, (all cases in FOX GROUP), consultants should save clients many times their fees in savings, particularly those of us who track and know pricing differences between the various manufacturers, carriers and dealer UC, telecom and contact center solutions.

Use your IT professionals differently

Your IT, network and telecom professionals should be spending their time investigating and deploying the enhanced solutions to help transform your business, increase profitability and customer satisfaction. They also should be looking for next technology methods and solutions to overlay on the infrastructure, as well as working with the people who actually use these applications to train and help them get the most use out of the applications — not just once at installation time.

Final guidance to customers and the industry

As commented above, customers and IT professionals should spend their time to develop and document their future business communications requirements. This leaves the design of the new architecture, migration approach and detailed “how to get there” to the vendors who know their own solutions best.

We regularly encourage all vendors to submit proposals that best fit the unique circumstances around each customer’s future business and technology requirements with the vendor’s most capable method (or methods) of delivery. It is no longer about features, functions, feeds and speeds (F3S for short, according to FOX GROUP ePROcurement automated acquisitions applications and methodologies).

With this preliminary information and approach, you and your IT, procurement and legal professionals can decide whether to proceed with a full open RFP process (multiple manufacturers, carriers and dealers), a targeted RFP process (multiple manufacturers with only selected dealers/VARs/Carriers), or a pre-qualified RFP process with two to three manufacturers invited, with only one dealer/carrier responding per each invited manufacturer.

Of course, there are many other vendor approaches you can take in your future technology acquisition project. Those of us who are professionals in this area would be happy to share some thoughts and lessons learned.

Final Thoughts – Beware of F3S

If you have a vendor (disregarding if they are manufacturer, dealer, carrier or integrator) that is only pitching F3S information do you, they may meet your current communications needs, but they most certainly will NOT be the right vendor for your organization’s future!

Next time, we will share some of the information that you should put together before you have the vendor conversations and proceed with RFP projects.

We would be happy to share some of our lessons learned from our own internal evolution to next-generation UC solutions and our thoughts for your firm via web call using the web conferencing application of your choice. (We use them all in our daily consulting practice internally and with our distributed clients).

Stephen Lawson is a vice president at Fox Group. As always, he welcomes your thoughts, comments and feedback.

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