With the surge of working remotely combined with the increase in leveraging unified communications technologies over the past year, there has been enormous pressure put on business owners and their IT teams. Now more than ever there is a demand to improve network and communication connectivity, security, and overall functionality as businesses look to migrate both voice and data services to the cloud or minimally roll out hybrid solutions. The search for resilient, scalable, available, and cost effective solutions and partners can be challenging and quite time consuming leaving no room for error and requires oversight when it relates to the critical requirements.
As a Telecommunications & IT procurement professional, I strive to identify efficient, effective, and competitive solutions while bringing to the table strategic partners and providers who can fulfill my client's needs. Often, the current situation I walk into does not consider their future growth or the businesses current needs with a holistic view. There are typically too many stakeholders involved or those with both limited "vision" and decision making capabilities. It is common to work with client teams that are just too focused on keeping the lights on and their customers happy. Time is a commodity and by default limited; mixed with lack of resources the result is a lack of "vision" dedicated to the long term planning process.
My goal is to help identify that "vision" to address both the immediate and long term need while establishing the contingencies to address the unknown; essentially planning for the what ifs.
Proactive planning should incorporate failover plans, intuitive and alternative call routing paths, redundant services and suppliers. The vision should include looking at on-premise versus remote and hosted options. When creating contingency plans some considerations to help identify root causes for error are:
- What if there is a power outage?
- What if the carrier or supplier has a network outage or service issue?
- What if my equipment goes bad?
- What if we do not have access to our facilities?
Here are a few examples of both unforeseen challenges and lack of proactive planning; although in some cases understandable given the Pandemic driven rise in remote working and video conferencing:
I was jumping on a Microsoft Teams conference call with one of my customers consisting of 5 people. Unbeknownst to us all, during the month of March, Teams had been experiencing many outages causing inability for its users to hold scheduled conference calls. The client scrambled sending emails back and forth to figure out how to get us all together face-to-face in a cohesive manner, not really wanting to use cell phones. Fortunately, after about 20 minutes, my customer remembered they had one WebEx license remaining that was about to be decommissioned end of the month. We held the call and instead of talking about the project at hand, reprioritized to focus on immediate actions to prevent future impacts to conferences.
With a different client, a call center located in a large corporate building where several neighboring businesses caught fire, my client was required to leave the building for many days. With no automated call routing in place, numerous trouble tickets needed to be placed with the carriers, and eventually critical numbers were re-routed, tested, and managed. Additional tickets were placed to remove the forward once the client was allowed back in their offices. Post this event, we implemented emergency plans for all critical and client facing offices to mitigate downtime and automate activating redundant processes.
These examples can and did cause everyone to scramble, meetings to be pushed out, delays in decision making, and overall generated lost sales opportunities. Hence, proactive and continued planning must be implemented to ensure survivability of business operations and profitability.