Moving away from legacy systems often comes with a certain amount of stress, even when the transition will save money, time, space, and add capacity. Any major change often creates pushback from employees and creates a temporary drop in productivity. When migrating business communications technology to the cloud, the benefits are clear. Lower costs, expanded capacity, scalable platforms, and greater control are just a few of the immediate benefits, so the stress related to the switch is often more about choosing the right provider than concern about moving to the cloud. Here are a few simple steps that will help business owners migrate with confidence.
Step 1: Explore Contract Terms
Before making any vendor switch, it is crucial to know your vendor’s contract terms. Early cancellation fees might make a cloud migration more costly than it needs to be. Some providers require a notice period that is easy to meet and can save the business during the transition period. While checking contract terms, it is also a good idea to start thinking about budgets and cost. While a switch to the cloud is generally less costly than expanding a legacy system, there are upfront costs that may drive the price up past the current monthly billing for telecom services. Research providers that advertise rolled in capital costs to get an idea of a realistic monthly bill.
Step 2: Pick the Transition Team
After sorting out the budget and determining when to make the switch, it’s time to choose the people who will head up the migration team. For the best results, select a small team that has the right expertise to get the job done. Make sure to include an executive-level team member to handle the big picture — someone with the authority to approve plans as they reach the final stages is a must. An IT person is another crucial member. They will need to weigh in on how the new technology will integrate with existing processes and any possible issues that could crop up during the transition. An operations specialist is also critical. Someone who understands workflow and how communications flow through the business can catch errors before they start creating bottlenecks. Make sure every team member has the time for regular meetings to shepherd the transition through from planning to implementation.
Step 3: Determine Business Needs and Wants
Before developing a migration plan, it’s important to know what current communications technology delivers throughout the organization. With a blueprint of existing services, the oversight team can identify areas that need improvements and set baseline service requirements for a new cloud partner. During the process, price should definitely be one of the factors that go into a comparison. Hybrid models that only handle some of the telecom load might be more effective for a particular business, so it is important to compare services directly when possible. When looking at business needs, be sure to monitor capacity and scalability for a cloud solution that will exceed existing operations. Also, survey both internal and external users to identify pain points and areas that can be streamlined during the cloud migration.
Step 4: Create a Vendor Shortlist
Once the team has a plan and list of provider requirements, it’s time to reach out to some of the top providers. Online reviews and testimonials can help during this process, but it is also important to establish a clear vetting process. The first step is always to ensure that a vendor candidate can provide the level of service required. Does the vendor offer a Hosted PBX solution that includes all of the phone-based services needed? What about Unified Communications? These are just a few of the questions to ask before shortlisting a vendor.
With a short list in hand, it is important to get into some of the technical details. Each vendor should be able to provide an implementation timeline and training on how to use the new system. However, other issues like disaster recovery, uptime guarantees, and downtime management are also something to be hashed out before signing any contracts. With redundancies in place that help ensure maximum uptime and connect with satellite offices and offsite employees, a cloud communications vendor can dramatically improve levels of service without a dramatic increase in cost.
Step 5: Draft a Rollout Plan
With a vendor on board, work with them to get a finalized rollout plan ready. It is often best to start out with a system that closely mimics the legacy system that the new cloud-based communications platform will replace. People resist change, so by minimizing the disruption to users, businesses can maximize adoption. Plus, adding new services may also add costs and slow down the migration. It is always possible to add more services after a successful switch. While developing the rollout plan, be sure to loop in individual departments and give them a finalized timeline to expect the changes.
Step 6: Going Live
Anytime a business makes a major tech change, the potential for errors, bugs and unplanned downtime exists. Be sure to test the system ahead of time using realistic numbers. If the new system can easily handle 200 users, but an average day works out to more than 5,000 users, a small test doesn’t really offer proof of success. Make sure that all systems have the specifications they need to meet daily demands before switching to a new system. Bandwidth is often the biggest issue that can limit cloud-based services.