We were moving offices, we had our desired outcome and our strategy. But before we started on any building-related discussions, we already had an immediate challenge to deal with. Our Cisco phone system was old, it was going end of life. It wasn’t as simple as upgrading it, we were on the last version that the hardware supported, it required a fundamental change. The system had been in place for over a decade, so it logically felt like a good time to consider our options. But what did we want?
To answer that question we turned to our strategy documents; flexibility, accessible anywhere, in the cloud (no infrastructure). Those were our initial considerations, but we weren’t the experts, telephony isn’t our bag, so we sought help. We engaged a consultancy, Stablelogic. They added to our list; simplified support, has a contact-centre product, good integrations, global.
The journey in this area was then significant. We gathered requirements, we started the Request for Purchase (RFP) process with three vendors, which was then reduced down to two, before a final vendor, RingCentral. We liked them for a number of reasons, ultimately they had a great product that matched our requirements.
They were confident about themselves and their product, very confident. And they had every right to be, they had a strong product and they had clearly demonstrated this by becoming a leader in the US market. Their challenge was now to deliver this same capability in the UK. Their confidence showed a desire and flexibility to deliver the FT a great product, which on the whole they have achieved. They felt like a great match for the FT; forward-thinking, positive, striving for success, flexible.
Having gone through a lengthy and significant process to decide on the new product, the hope was the migration to it would be much simpler. It transpires that migrating a new phone system is not that simple, who would have thought! We were focusing globally, but the initial urgency was to ensure the product was in place before our UK office move. We weren’t installing new telephone lines at the new location, nor did we want to install significant infrastructure, so the pressure was on to deliver it before the organisation moved.
We also wanted to get it rolled out before anybody moved to stagger the change that staff would go through. Moving into a new building and getting to grips with a new system felt like a lot to expect, hence needing to deliver months ahead of the move. This decision presented its own challenges; not only did we need to make this work in the new building, with its new network, but we also needed to make it work on our ageing network in the old building.
So off we went trying to get it to work. Others more technical will do a better job of explaining this, but routing a telephone call across your network has lots of complexity. First, you need a network capable of handling your call along with all its other traffic, we had this. But, you then need to think about what happens if suddenly all that other traffic consumes your entire network, it’s bandwidth, and at those times you need rules in place to make sure your telephone call always takes priority. This is known as Quality of Service, or QoS. Not only do you need this on your own internal network, but you also need it on your external internet circuits.
I’ve picked out one particular part in regards to technical readiness, but there were many other elements that needed time, effort and thought; testing over multiple internet routes, how we routed calls between the old and new platforms mid migration (SIP forwarding) how we would handle calls over the ageing wireless (we couldn’t). Luckily there was a dedicated team who worked tirelessly in their strive for perfection.
Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding though. How did our users find it? On the whole it was a positive change, but there were some that didn’t see it as such. There is a significant point to note though, not only were we implementing a new phone system, but we were moving people to a softphone solution. Meaning we were taking away the physical phone from their desks and asking them to plug headsets into laptops. There was a correlation between those that struggled most, and those teams that worked most from a static location with a fixed phone.
This change to a softphone solution was justified, we wanted people to be agile, but the impact was significant. I genuinely believe had people been provided desk-phones configured to RingCentral there would have been no impact. But as it was, for some people it wasn’t a smooth change, as we saw in this article by one of the Editorial team. But for every person who struggled with the change there was always someone else who loved it, or at the very least felt comfortable with the move to it. Another significant point to note is that we were offering more than our staff ever had; now they could access calls on any device from any location. But by allowing staff this freedom to use the product, we were reliant on them to ensure their connection was good enough. In adding functionality we ultimately added some complexity. Perhaps it is this that some struggled with.
As we currently stand, we are still migrating the product globally, with the US just completed and only our Hong Kong office after that. It’s been a much longer migration than expected, perhaps that is a result of over-confidence at the start, but, outside of timeframe it has been a success. A significant highlight being our Philippines Contact Centre now taking UK calls over the internet, across the globe, without impact.