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SD-WAN outperforms conventional enterprise WAN solutions

A software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) solution has several advantages over conventional enterprise Wide Area Networks (WAN). Cutting costs and simplifying IT operations are among the top advantages of SD-WAN for enterprises.

A conventional enterprise WAN can deliver a similar user experience to employees scattered across states, regions, and continents. An enterprise WAN can be very good at delivering a specific application to a branch office or remote production location.

Limitations of a Conventional Enterprise WAN

In the past few years, the limitations for enterprises have begun to grow:

  • Insufficient bandwidth. A conventional WAN may struggle to keep up with the bandwidth requirements of today’s cloud-based applications such as Salesforce and Office 365.
  • Time consuming route configuration. Configuring a WAN requires IT technicians to visit the remote site, install a router, and revisit the site every time a glitch needs fixing. Setting up and supporting the router is time consuming because much of the work is manual.
  • Expensive MPLS connectivity. MPLS connectivity is far more expensive than public Internet service.
  • MPLS connectivity deficiency. Moreover, the shortcomings of MPLS connectivity often undermine the value of real-time apps like VoIP and video conferencing — producing echoes, cut-outs, and other audio annoyances.

These issues have opened the door for software-defined wide area networking, or SD-WAN.

Advantages of SD-WAN for Enterprises

With SD-WAN, enterprises can abstract their branch office network into a software application that provides centralized access to the entire network. Low-cost public Internet reduces connectivity costs while granting ready access to cloud-hosted applications.

Let’s take a quick look at the advantages of SD-WAN for enterprises:

1. Superior application experience

Today’s mobile workforce needs access to a wide array of SaaS products for scheduling, collaboration, navigation, communication, and many more functions beyond the essential CRM and office productivity software so many enterprises use. Moreover, IT leaders need to support their networks on any device in any location that has Internet connectivity. These twin forces create a strong incentive to adopt cloud technologies.

MPLS-connected WANs can deliver solid performance to a single application, but the architecture isn’t well suited to using multiple cloud-hosted apps. With so much compute and storage functionality moving to the cloud, conventional WANs can’t keep up with the needs of distributed enterprises and their always-on employees.

2. Sophisticated traffic management

The notion that public Internet service can outperform a dedicated MPLS line seems naïve at first glance. Businesses used MPLS precisely because of its superiority over public Internet services, which suffered from packet loss that degraded the user experience.

The perpetually falling cost of bandwidth, however, motivated the pioneers of SD-WAN technologies to overcome these challenges. Today’s SD-WAN for enterprise software and hardware can optimize and rebalance public Internet traffic to outperform MPLS while granting access to a vast array of cloud applications.

3. Simplified networking

SD-WAN systems use a networking appliance that’s easy to configure and scale to an enterprise’s precise needs. A centralized interface allows IT pros to configure, manage, and monitor the system from a single, easy-to-use dashboard.

Across the width and breadth of a global enterprise, the savings in technician site visits alone can prove substantial. When combined with the lower expenses of public Internet services, the low cost and reduced complexity make SD-WAN for enterprises a compelling choice.

SD-WAN as a fully managed service

The simplicity and cost advantages of SD-WAN make it an excellent candidate for cloud-based fully managed services, even at the enterprise level. When you partner with a managed SD-WAN provider, you hand off a substantial volume of networking duties to experts who design, implement, manage, and monitor your remote-office networking.

That frees up your IT staff to devote more time to your company’s most important priorities. With every enterprise embracing big data, machine learning, and advanced analytics to survive disruptive threats, the fully managed option can give your company a computing edge.

Managed SD-WAN from CBTS helps enterprises move beyond MPLS connectivity. Our experts have decades of experience with data centers, networking technologies, and enterprise-level IT challenges.

To learn more, download our free guide: Software-Defined WAN is a Business Imperative.

 

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Four steps to providing Wi-Fi connectivity

Wi-Fi is an important part of customer service.

Travelers want to respond to work emails while waiting for their flight to board. Sports fans crave the ability to live-stream the Hail Mary pass from the big game at a packed stadium. Diners enjoy reviewing restaurants on Yelp while they’re waiting for the check. Tourists can’t resist posting Instagram pictures from city landmarks.

Fortunately, advances in Wi-Fi technology allow companies, municipalities, and other entities to deliver immersive, unforgettable experiences to people’s mobile devices.

It’s crucial to remember that commercial-grade Wi-Fi networking equipment is mandatory for connecting large groups of people. Residential-quality gear doesn’t have the security, configuration options, and management controls for access points and switches built for business use.

Moreover, you need an experienced technical partner that understands the complexities of broadcasting the Internet over a wide area to masses of people. At CBTS, we’ve implemented advanced Wi-Fi solutions in places like college dormitories, airport terminals, hospitals, and public shopping districts.

These are four fundamental steps we’ve discovered while helping our clients implement high-quality Wi-Fi networks:

1. Prioritize the quantity, quality, and configuration of access points

Wi-Fi access points (APs) use radio waves to broadcast the Internet over a defined area. They must have the capacity to deliver a fast connection to large volumes of users, all of whom might be streaming videos or downloading large files.

When you’re designing a Wi-Fi network, you need to ensure that APs are placed in strategic locations that beam the Internet into areas including rooms, hallways, and stairwells. You need to scout out dead spots and tweak your configuration to shrink or eliminate them.

Interference from other APs is a constant concern. Indeed, if you install too many APs, you can actually degrade people’s download speeds. You can also pick up interference from nearby businesses.

All these challenges underscore the need to partner with trained and certified Wi-Fi experts who know how to set up and manage the most advanced wireless networks.

2. Account for high-capacity users

High-end Wi-Fi equipment can deliver gigabit-level speeds over wireless networks. These technologies allow you to accommodate high-bandwidth users. If visitors to your business give video presentations in a meeting room or project multimedia presentations in an auditorium, they might not need a wired ethernet connection.

Today’s commercial-grade 802.11ac Wi-Fi gear has plenty of bandwidth to accommodate demanding Wi-Fi use cases. Access points can come with ethernet ports allowing you to plug in Internet of Things sensors to glean insights from network traffic and a vast array of data points.

Management software can help you tune your network to exacting specifications. Access points broadcast on 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz frequency bands. 5Ghz bands have higher speed and shorter range, while 2.4Ghz bands have slower speed and higher range. Strategic placement of APs and careful configuration of your Wi-Fi network can make the most of the options from these bands.

3. Make security a priority

Wi-Fi broadcasts have no inherent security. They’re just like using walkie-talkies: Anybody within range of an AP can listen in. These are key ways to enhance Wi-Fi network security:

  • Password-protect your network and encrypt broadcasts.
  • Segregate and isolate users so they have no way to access other areas of your network.
  • Create multiple authorization levels to tightly control who goes where on your Wi-Fi network.
  • Create login screens and unique identifiers that ensure only authorized users access your Wi-Fi.
  • Educate your users about protecting their data while using Wi-Fi.

Wireless technology providers are getting more serious about security all the time. They’re creating more options to thwart hackers without ruining the user experience of everyday online travelers.

4. Partner with an experienced enterprise Wi-Fi developer  

Whether your Wi-Fi-connected customers number in the dozens or the thousands, you need an experienced partner to pair you with the technologies that match your precise needs.

CBTS has deep wireless experience across a breadth of industries and technologies. Joining forces with Aruba Networks, the HPE enterprise wireless experts, we’ve helped a host of clients turbocharge their Wi-Fi offerings. Recent projects:

  • Providing free Wi-Fi in multiple shopping areas throughout Greater Cincinnati.
  • Upgrading APs and improving bandwidth in college dormitories.
  • Giving a local hospital the capacity to connect up to 30 wireless devices in patient rooms.
  • Delivering world-class Wi-Fi access to a hub airport.

For an in-depth account, check out how we gave a Midwest hub airport the capacity to provide Wi-Fi to everybody in the terminals on the busiest travel days. Download the free case study here.

 

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UCaaS roadmap requires support from stakeholders

This is the third in a three-part series sharing our tips for creating your unified communications roadmap. Check out the first installment – “UCaaS roadmap starts with deep assessment”, and the second installment – “UCaaS roadmap continues with process analysis”.

Auditing your hardware and mapping your processes form the foundation of a transition to Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). But there’s one more step you cannot afford to neglect: securing stakeholder buy-in for transition.

Stakeholders can be a variety of people in your organization—top executives, middle-managers, team leads, clients, and external vendors. Getting them excited about unified communications can encourage adoption of the technologies and win over skeptics who are resistant to change.

Here are five ways to help secure stakeholder buy-in for UCaaS:

1. Educate your staff on the benefits of the new solution

Start in the executive suite. Even if they approved your new UC solution, leadership might need an extra round of persuasion to encourage everybody who works for them to embrace the new services. If they get excited about UC, the solution stands a much better chance of catching on with everybody else.

Have another demo ready for managers, outlining the specific benefits for their teams and the new work processes. Point out intuitive features and advanced processes that help people collaborate. Make it easy for all leaders to get their staffs excited about UC.

2. Provide formal training

Everybody needs an opportunity to learn how the system works before it goes live. Tailor your training to specific roles. Your warehouse staff probably doesn’t

need the same depth of training as your customer-service reps. Your UCaaS partner should have all the tools, resources, and documentation to support your training efforts.

3. Make sure everyone can access training materials after implementation

Your team will discover the limits of their training the first day on the job. The primary limit is their natural tendency to forget what they’ve learned when the system goes live.

Make sure everyone knows where to access training and resources. Make sure your vendor has a guide that includes lessons from training and step-by-step instructions to walk employees through all the new features. And make experts available for a few weeks to help people who feel stuck.

4. Clarify any changes to working practices

A cloud-based UC system allows people to work anywhere with an Internet connection. That gives you an opportunity to create work-at-home options for your staff. Will this option be available to your staff?

5. Think beyond your workforce

The collaborative features of UC can streamline your work with vendors, partners, suppliers, and clients.

Set aside time to bring them up to speed on features like text messaging, video conferencing, and integration with CRM software. The last thing you want to do is allow a technology transition that alienates your core external audiences.

Everybody needs to feel invested in your new UC tools

Your cloud-hosted UC system can help you unleash innovation in every corner of your organization, and extend it to all the people who make your business possible. Stakeholder buy-in for UCaaS is pivotal to making it happen.

CBTS engineers have put together a guide to unified communications in the cloud. Download our Guide to Start Your Cloud Communications Journey and start your transition today.

 

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UCaaS roadmap continues with process analysis

This is the second in a three-part series sharing our tips for creating your UCaaS roadmap. Click here to check out the first installment – “UCaaS roadmap starts with deep assessment”.

In part one of this series, we advised how to audit your communication system. The next step is to map out the processes you use now, and plan how those processes will evolve after your transition to unified communications (UC).

Making sense of your current communication processes

Many business communication processes evolve in an ad-hoc fashion because they’re always adapting to changing business priorities and shifting customer preferences. Companies that endure mergers, consolidations, or rapid growth are especially prone to uncessarily complex communication processes.

Your transition to UC will reconcile these processes and mold them into a holistic system that streamlines communications, improves customer service, and encourages collaboration with vendors and colleagues. But first, it’s crucial to identify these processes and understand their functions because you’ll have to replicate them during the UC transition. You’ll also want to flag redundant processes that can be eliminated.

As you analyze current processes, keep these questions in mind:

  • How do you handle inbound customer calls in multiple scenarios?
  • What happens if there’s no staff available to take incoming calls?
  • How does your call volume vary at different times of the day?
  • How does your team share information, collaborate, and manage projects?
  • How do processes differ for internal teams vs. external partners and vendors?

Each process you identify must be assessed to determine whether it is essential in the new UC environment. When eliminating or modifiying current processes, make sure you train employees, partners, vendors, and anyone else who may be impacted by the change. You may face some resistance to change, but educating them on the improvements that the new process offers will help soften the blow.

Create better processes in your UC system

After mapping your current processes, it’s time to explore the opportunities for UC processes. Your goal is to tap the full potential of UC to encourage collaboration and streamline digital conversations.

Questions to consider:

  • How can new features like instant messaging and screen sharing improve collaboration?
  • Which features must be enabled to deliver quicker, more well-informed responses to customer queries?
  • How will you tap the cloud’s ability to remove geographic boundaries and optimize your call-handling processes? For example, you can establish processes to route calls over multiple locations during busy times to ensure that all calls are answered.

Why process analysis is so essential

UC systems offer a vast variety of communication and collaboration options. You must choose the ones that help your business and avoid the temptation to embrace “nice-to-have” features that might not improve your business conditions. Just because you can adopt a new feature does not necessarily mean you should.

The UC experts at CBTS are here to help. We’ve implemented UC systems in major industries throughout North America, so we know the most prudent, effective UC processes. We also understand the complex challenges of migrating from older, PBX-based systems to the latest cloud-based UC systems.

Want to learn more? Download our free guide for mapping out your journey to cloud-based unified communications.

 

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UC journey begins with three steps

UCaaS roadmap starts with deep assessment

This is the first in a three-part series sharing our tips for creating your UCaaS roadmap.

Once you’ve made up your mind to embrace Unified Communications (UC), it’s time to start building a roadmap to get you there. You’ll need a savvy combination of technologies, processes, and people to make the most of UC opportunities. A robust UC roadmap will keep you moving in the right direction every step of the way.

To build your UC roadmap, you must be clear on two points:

  • The tools you’re already using, and how you’re using them.
  • The new UC tools that hold the most hope for transforming your business.

A three-step process can help you develop the technology-and-features component of your UC roadmap.

Step 1: Assess your equipment

Make an inventory of all your devices—handsets, tablets, smartphones, PBX gear, etc.—including the location of each item. Your UC system has to replicate these device functions, so it’s crucial to document them at the beginning.

Establish priorities for offices, departments, and divisions that should be the first to migrate to UC. Map out a strategy for implementing UC in each of these areas.

Consider a phased migration to reduce the strain on your IT team. Each phase helps you work out the bugs and learn to prepare for problems rather than merely react to them.

Step 2: Identify tools and features

Audit your staff’s communication and collaboration techniques. Find out all the tools they use, how often they use them, and what the tools accomplish. You may find people are using non-business approved applications and tools to plug gaps in your system.

Once you understand your people’s processes and tools, start identifying cloud-based apps and other UC services that can make their jobs easier. Keep a sharp eye out for:

  • Innovative tools people have been doing without.
  • Unauthorized apps and services that haven’t been vetted by your IT team. Make sure you understand why people resort to tools.
  • Business functions that UC tools can transform. You have dozens to choose from; zero in on the ones that can do your organization the most good.
  • Opportunities to improve collaboration. You may be able to meld video conferencing with text messaging to strengthen relationships with customers, for instance.

Step 3: Analyze your underlying network

UC brings a host of high-bandwidth operations into your LAN and WLAN. Make sure your network can cope with the demands of real-time voice and videoconferencing.

If you anticipate that UC will widen your customer base, make sure you plan for expanding your network capacity. A cloud-based UC solution allows you to pay for only what you use, and it can scale with you as your needs change.

Finally, make sure your firewall and other security technologies dovetail with your UC program.

Aligning the present and the future

Crafting a well-thought-out UC roadmap will help ensure that everything you’ve learned from building your business informs the development of your new UC system. CBTS expert engineers can guide you through every aspect of a UC transformation.

For more guidance, download our free eBook on perfecting your cloud communications journey.

Read about Unified Communications from CBTS.

 

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Retailers use data to understand customers

In today’s competitive retail environment, businesses must understand their customers better than ever before. Data and analytics provide opportunities for retailers to engage their customers in new ways—through targeted promotions instead of spam, by redesigning stores based on where customers spend the most time, and by providing an experience that encourages repeat visits.

Jon Lloyd, CBTS Senior Solution Design Engineer, recently discussed the ways retailers can engage consumers and create experiences that keep them coming back.

Q: Why are data and analytics so important to retailers?

From a retail standpoint, the longer a customer is in the building or on the website, and the more relevant options you present, the more the customer spends. It’s all about understanding what holds their attention.

Q: How can retailers develop that understanding?

Wi-Fi is a great way to collect data. Customers want free Wi-Fi, the data is easy to collect, and customers are willing to answer a few questions to gain access.

At a coffee shop, for example, maybe the first time a device logs in, the question is, “What’s your favorite pastry?” The next time, the question is, “Do you prefer coffee or tea?” Or, “What’s your age range?”

Over time, we start to compile all this data to create a customer profile.

Q: What else do retailers need to develop customer profiles?

E-mail and apps are critical. Without them, you might have location beaconing—how long a device stays in the network.

But if the customer downloads the app or provides an e-mail for receipts, now I’ve correlated where they’re at in my store, what they’re doing, and how much they’re spending.

It used to be that customers knew that retailers were going to spam them with e-mail, and hit them with a million things they’re going to delete. But when retailers ask for an e-mail to send a receipt instead of printing it, customers are more willing to engage.

Q: What do retailers need to do to make use of this information?

You need a platform that correlates your customer data, such as an analytics and location engine (ALE), where an artificial intelligence engine goes through and finds qualified candidates and determines the return rates. In other words, who opened your messages?

You need technology that allows you to set the fields that are important to you and your business—someone who’s visited three times in the past, but not in the last six months, or someone who has spent $500 in a single visit.

Once you’ve created these custom fields, the technology can do powerful things. Consider the example of a bookstore. We see from the location data that the users spend most of their time in nonfiction. Now we can correlate that with increasing the nonfiction display.

Or, if we know the customer connected to Wi-Fi the last time they came in and spent $40 and bought two books, we now have the classification of the genre of the books. So we can e-mail a coupon for that specific genre, instead of saying, “Here’s 10 percent off.”

It’s all about understanding what brings a customer in your store, what keeps them in your store, and what they buy.

Q: What potential pitfalls do retailers need to keep in mind?

It’s got to be a good experience. Consider going to a Starbucks or Panera while you’re traveling. Those brands understand the importance of the customer experience—people know that the Wi-Fi is great, it’s going to be easy to connect, and they’re not going to have to jump through a bunch of hoops and re-authenticate several times.

When it comes to building a profile, customers are willing to answer a question or two at a time. One airport asked 12 questions at once. Connection activity fell from 70 percent to 40 percent. Progressively building a profile over time is a much better fit.

Q: How can CBTS help retailers develop solutions that work for them and their customers?

The first piece is understanding the technology—that’s our core competency. We’ve done the homework for you.

We also understand your business. We’ve worked with other retailers and learned from them. We’ve also lit up Greater Cincinnati with free Wi-Fi in the urban core and other high-traffic areas, and have learned from our own experiences. We can come in and say, “This is what other retailers are doing,” and present customers with new ideas.

The ultimate goal is to create an experience that drives customer loyalty. Wi-Fi is a tool to do that, but it’s a tool that simply unlocks the ability to create a customer profile, and that’s what allows you to build that uniquely catered—almost subliminal—experience that makes a customer say, “I don’t know why I prefer this store, but I do,” and keep your business front of mind.

Read how CBTS helped an auto retailer provide a more robust Wi-Fi solution to serve consumers, generate valuable analytics, and create revenue potential.

 

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Six ways UCaaS drives business transformation

Hosting unified communications (UC) in the cloud turbocharges the effectiveness of video conferencing, voice over IP, messaging, and other UC tools.

An on-premises UC system has broad appeal because it streamlines communications and collaboration across an organization. Features like presence information, contact center and CRM integration, and advanced call forwarding make it easier for everybody to do their jobs.

However, on-site UC also introduces challenges that a cloud-based solution overcomes. For instance, investing in UC equipment, software, and support-staff expertise requires extensive budget resources. Once purchased, the technology must be maintained and updated. Moreover, the hardware starts approaching obsolescence within months of being installed. (Check out “4 ways your outdated voice solution is costing you money” to learn more.)

The standard pitch for cloud computing—switch to OpEx from CapEx, pay a predictable fee, use only the resources you need, and allow experts handle the hardware—also applies to cloud-based UC. These advantages sparked the rise of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), which enables companies to centralize all their collaboration tools in a platform managed by UC experts.

UCaaS can transform your business in at least six ways:

1. Expanding opportunities

On-premises UC gives everyone within your organization access to a robust collaboration platform via tablets, PCs, smartphones, and VoIP handsets. But what about everybody else?  Wouldn’t it be nice to use the best collaboration tools with your vendors, suppliers, marketing agencies, and other third parties?

Centralized cloud computing makes it easier for companies to use APIs and other connective technologies to ensure that your collaboration platform can talk to people’s platforms or individual apps. What’s more, a UCaaS provider can streamline these connections as part of a suite of managed services.

2. Work smarter from nearly anywhere

Hosting your UC apps in the cloud means you can do business with anybody who has Internet access anywhere in the world. No matter where the people and partnerships you need are located, UCaaS can ensure that you make these connections.

Cloud connectivity can be a crucial advantage when companies require extraordinarily narrow or specific expertise. When your interface designer works for six months of the year in Iceland, or your security team operates out of Singapore, UCaaS is critical.

Furthermore, your people can take their work with them anywhere. When your production line goes down and the lead engineer is relaxing on the beach in Rio, UCaaS tools can come to the rescue. And if executives in a meeting need research data from an expert on the other end of the country, their expert can send them the information in real time. That allows leaders to make decisions faster and get more work done.

3. Creating seamless experiences

Your users shouldn’t have to master different interfaces on PCs, smartphones, and tablets. A well-designed UCaaS platform will make sure all these devices have intuitive user interfaces with a standard look and feel.

A standard interface reduces training time and gets new employees up to speed sooner. That improves customer service and enables more productive interactions with clients and partners.

4. Enjoying the latest technology

On-premises UC platforms oblige company IT teams to keep every app patched and up to date. Every device needs firmware updates, and all hardware must be repaired and maintained. Soon the technology becomes obsolete and requires replacement. If a company lacks the resources to do that, employees have to muddle through with tech that has aged beyond its expiration date.

UCaaS providers, by contrast, offer the latest technology and keep hardware and software current, patched, and secure.

5. Limiting security risks

Cloud providers share a powerful motivation to deploy the best security tools and enforce sound cyber hygiene. Companies are understandably reluctant to place essential technologies outside the confines of their organization, but these days, on-site tech has little inherent advantage in thwarting adversaries and cybercriminals.

System security is part of the package with UCaaS. Moreover, providers like CBTS likely have considerably more cyber-defense expertise than individual companies have.

6. Freeing up time

Installing, managing, and maintaining a UC system makes substantial demands on your IT team. Some of your best people might spend hours, days, or weeks on UC issues that distract them from the most productive use of their time: making your company more efficient and profitable.

It’s also worth considering the distraction that accompanies the installation of a new system. Your IT people can spend weeks fixing glitches and helping confused users. A UCaaS provider puts all those chores on their to-do list and removes them from yours.

The CBTS advantage in UCaaS

CBTS provides a comprehensive suite of unified communications technologies that deliver the advantages outlined here (and many more). We have decades of IT experience in communications and data centers, ensuring we have the skills to match your precise requirements.

Download our free eGuide to start your journey today.

 

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3 elements to a UCaaS roadmap

UCaaS video conferencing

Adopting Unified Communications (UC) in the cloud requires a roadmap to guide everybody to the ultimate destination.

After implementing UC solutions for companies large and small in every industry, CBTS has learned that a UC roadmap must be boiled down to three foundational elements: technology, processes, and people.

Here’s a concise look at all three:

1. Technology

Complete a thorough technology audit

The technology component of your UC roadmap starts with a thorough audit of all the devices you use today.

Even if you’re replacing obsolete gear, you need to document each item and the work it does to avoid neglecting vital processes. Make sure you document the location of each device, create an inventory, and establish priorities for the hardware that require the most attention and resources.

Check out “3 steps to preparing for cloud communications” to learn more.

Things to address in technology audit

Your technology audit also needs to address:

  1. All the services, features, and functionalities people use including who uses them, how often they use them, and why they use them.
  2. Applications and productivity suites people use every day—especially the ones that plug gaps in existing systems.
  3. How people collaborate now and any hurdles to effective collaboration.
  4. Non-approved apps and devices people use.

The prime goal of the technology phase is figuring out how people communicate now and identifying the tools that can streamline or accelerate collaboration opportunities..


Make sure to document and assess the power and capacity of your underlying network. Adding UC features can require more bandwidth. Scrimping at the network level can degrade the user experience for everybody.

Consider migrating to UC in phases so you can iron out as many wrinkles as possible before going live with your entire customer base.

2. Processes

Your UC roadmap must document how people communicate and collaborate with current technology and establish processes to elevate these experiences with UC tools.

Current processes

You may find these processes evolved in an ad-hoc fashion that barely makes sense. However, they have an underlying logic tied to a specific business need.

Carefully map and document processes like:

  • Handling of inbound customer calls across multiple scenarios. For instance, how do calls vary at different times of day, and how do you handle calls if a service rep is unavailable?
  • Teams’ methodologies for sharing information, collaborating, and managing projects both internally and with external partners and suppliers.

Future processes

Start digging deep into the high-powered features of UC.

You’ll want to consider:

  • The effects of new capabilities. How new capabilities like instant messaging and screen-sharing improve collaboration between customer service and back-office teams, speeding their responses to customer questions.
  • How to use the cloud to remove geographic hurdles in your call-handling processes. For instance, you can configure UC to route calls to multiple locations to make sure all customers get through to a service representative.
  • Call volumes. How to analyze call volumes to help determine staffing needs for call centers.

One of the challenges is establishing processes for things you haven’t done before. Expect to lean heavily on your UC technology provider for guidance..


3. People


The whole point of UC is giving people the best digital tools to communicate with colleagues, customers, and suppliers. Neglecting the people component undermines your entire investment..


The people portion of your UC roadmap should include:

Stakeholder buy-in

Get stakeholder buy-in from the executive suite and top managers. When the senior leadership shows a strong commitment to the transition, it’s easier for everybody else to adapt.

Streamlining communication

Figure out how people communicate now and map out how you’ll improve things in the new UC system.

Training

Provide formal training that’s relevant to the work people do. Customer service representatives need to understand UC intricacies that elevate the customer experience, while the staff in the warehouse might need to know only the basics of voice services.

Make sure your UCaaS provider offers white glove installs to accommodate this level of training. Your customer’s experience will depend on how well your employees know the system.

Thorough documentation

Create thorough documentation of the installation and access to training materials people can reference after the migration. These documents need to be easy to understand and should provide concise, step-by-step guidance.

Thorough work practices and policy documentation

Document changes to people’s work practices. Your staff can have always-on access via their smartphones, laptops, and home PCs. Moreover, they’ll be accessible in any location at any time. You should also consider formulating policies to help people maintain work-life balance.

Employee support

Ask about support for your employees, and make sure your UCaaS provider has the necessary resources to help educate employees starting Day 1.

Vendor, supplier, and partners consultations

Consult with vendors, suppliers, and partners. Many UC features can be configured to communicate with other companies’ UC systems.

Finally, never forget the impact on the people who matter most: the ones purchasing your goods and services. If your new system requires customers to adjust their habits and practices, you need to make the transition as painless as possible.

The right partner for your UCaaS journey

CBTS has the skills, experience, and commitment to create the cloud-based UC solution that fits your people and your marketplace. We cover all phases of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) transitions, from design to implementation to 24/7/365 monitoring, management, and support.

Download our free eGuide to start your journey today.

 

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UC journey begins with three steps

You see the potential of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) to transform your business. A single cloud-based platform for voice, video, and text communications enables all of your people to connect on any Internet-connected device at any time, in any location. The same applies to collaborations with your vendors and suppliers.

Whether you have a legacy PBX system or an on-premises UC platform, you need a comprehensive plan to migrate your communications to the cloud. It’s an intricate process with dozens of interrelated parts that must be configured to work in unison.

Indeed, the complexity of the transition creates a strong argument for partnering with a UCaaS provider to coordinate the move and manage all the new technology after implementation.

Three key steps to UCaaS explained

Planning your move starts with three principal stages: A system audit, an assessment of investment opportunities, and business preparations. Here’s a quick look at all three:

Stage 1: Audit your current communications system

It’s critical to avoid disruptions when your new system goes live. Therefore, you must document every current feature, application, device, and hardware component. The audit looks for things including:

  • Phone lines and extensions
  • Contact information
  • CRM system integration
  • High-demand services that people use every day
  • Low-demand services that you might not have to migrate
  • Employees’ mobile devices and numbers
  • User profiles, including permissions and log-in credentials

Be sure to review the location of every piece of equipment. You need an accurate inventory of what you have and where you have it.

Your audit will vary widely depending on the type of migration. If you’re transitioning from an antiquated PBX system, your audit could be a reasonably simple assessment of current hardware and services.

If, however, you’re migrating to an enterprise UC system to the cloud, you’ll have to ensure that a vast assortment of services, software, and devices dovetail successfully. That’s a much bigger job that typically requires the services of an experienced UCaaS provider like CBTS.

Stage 2: Identify investment opportunities

UCaaS presents a wealth of choices that you must assess carefully to identify the most lucrative opportunities. Popular UC services include:

  • Video conferencing. Video can unlock limitless collaboration and customer service opportunities for your organization.
  • Collaboration tools. App-centric services that allow teams to meet, message, call, whiteboard, and share.
  • Contact center. If your current customer support system is overwhelmed, you may need advanced contact center features to help more customers and ease the strain on your staff.
  • Presence capability. If you need to know the physical location of staff members, then presence capability can enable it.
  • Every device is a network endpoint that generates data. Every app provides further insights. Software to visualize all these data sources can help you figure out who is generating the most sales and which support calls leave customers the most satisfied, for instance.

You may feel like a kid in a candy store if you’re new to UC. It’s important to understand that each app, feature, and device has pros and cons; you must establish priorities for the services that seem most promising. Perform a cost-benefit analysis of different features.

Stage 3: Prepare your business

Launching a new phone system can generate chaos across your business. You don’t want your executives fumbling through new features in front of prospective clients. And, of course, you want the transition to be invisible to customers. Keep the following in mind:

  1. A cloud migration is the ideal time to replace or refresh equipment that’s been online a few years.
  2. A phased implementation can help work out the bugs with a minimum of risk. Start with departments or divisions where downtime and confusion have less serious consequences.
  3. Test your system thoroughly in advance and try to replicate the migration process as closely as possible.
  4. Get early stakeholder buy in. If executives and supervisors start preparing their team early for the transition, there should be less confusion and chaos when the transition day arrives.
  5. Thoroughly train all employees. The more people know about the system before it goes live, the fewer problems you’ll have.
  6. Provide thorough documentation. When processes and techniques are written down, there’s less risk of problems ensuing because a crucial person is on vacation or has left the company.
  7. Inform vendors and suppliers. Take time to determine how you can integrate your UC system with their systems.

Your migration will have iterations. You can’t anticipate every problem or please every customer during the transition. But careful planning and preparation can anticipate and eliminate most problems.

With UCaaS, you’ll never go it alone

Running UC in the cloud requires in-depth training, experience, and certifications across a broad range of technologies and disciplines. That’s more trouble than a lot of companies want to embrace.

These complications underscore the appeal of UCaaS from CBTS: Our experts decode all the details and make everything assimilate so your employees, customers, partners, and vendors enjoy seamless digital communications. And it doesn’t end at implementation—CBTS stays with you every step of the way through management, maintenance, and 24x7x365 support.

Download our free eGuide to start your journey today.

Startup leverages UC solution for growth

Every organization wants the advantages of unified communications (UC) technologies like video conferencing, team chatting, advanced analytics, and custom calling.

Perhaps it’s a one-woman consultancy conducting real-time conferences with clients on another continent. Or, maybe it’s a 25-seat tech startup using a rich suite of cloud-computing apps and tools. Then again, it could be a 200-employee software company integrating sophisticated call-center technology with an advanced CRM platform.

Small and midsized organizations can use UC technologies to elevate customer service and collaborate with vendors in far-flung locales. They can ensure all their employees have always-on connectivity to data and documents that help them succeed. They can give salespeople immediate access to rich customer data that help them call more prospects and land more contracts.

It all sounds fine on paper, but there’s a hitch: Most small- to mid-sized organizations don’t have the resources to corral all these technologies and fine-tune them for optimum performance. And that’s why so many partners with experts like those at CBTS, who have decades of experience configuring and managing high-end communications systems for companies of every size, in every industry.

Partnering with a UC expert has three fundamental benefits:

1. Saving money

UC systems must be designed, purchased, installed, and tested. Servers, switches, phones, mobile apps, PCs, tablets, and other components must be carefully coordinated and customized to meet a company’s precise business needs. Then, somebody needs to monitor, manage, and update the system.

For years, these hurdles discouraged smaller organizations from investing in UC technologies. They simply couldn’t afford the time, payroll, and equipment costs. Moreover, they did not want to deal with the distraction from their core business goals.

The advent of cloud technologies shifted this paradigm. Today, managed services experts like those at CBTS can deliver all these capabilities to just about any organization — all for a predictable monthly fee. CBTS partners gain access to best-in-class technologies and pay only for the resources they use. The CBTS advanced team of certified experts handle all the hardware, software, and security patches.

2. Scaling to meet business growth

A traditional PBX and phone network requires companies to purchase additional handsets, servers, and bandwidth capacity when their business grows. But if economy contractions or marketplace changes make these tools redundant, companies get stuck with plenty of old equipment that nobody wants.

Seasonal businesses like retailers that land most of their sales around the winter holidays might have to buy enough technology to handle their busiest shopping days, then let all those tools collect dust the rest of the year.

With UC hosted in the cloud and managed by a third-party provider, companies can scale up or down quickly, limit their costs to actual usage, and stop worrying about technology becoming obsolete the day they install it. And they can leave the intricate technical details to experts who can quickly adapt a company’s technology to its current needs.

3. Making better use of your people’s time

If you’re unfamiliar with a technology, you can tie up hours, days, and weeks tweaking settings and patching software—and still end up with subpar performance. By contrast, certified, well-trained technology experts can fix problems and improve outcomes quickly because they’ve solved the same issues a dozen times before.

The complexity of UC technologies requires people with years of experience and a passion for squeezing maximum performance out of hardware and software. The question is whether your business can afford to devote time and payroll to areas outside your core mission.

For smaller organizations with limited resources, it makes much more sense to keep your employees focused on your biggest business challenges and to leave the technical work to UC experts who can optimize performance at a lower cost.

Case study: CBTS helps distiller focus on growth

A Northern Kentucky distillery is tapping into the region’s boom in bourbon tourism. The startup has two dozen employees and is growing quickly after three years in business. CBTS delivers a fully hosted UC solution that helps the company stay focused on communicating with its core audience of bourbon sippers.
Read the New Riff Distillery case study here.

 

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