July 15, 2022

Article
5 min

Moving to a New Phone System? Plan Ahead

Preparation before migration helps to avoid pitfalls that leave users disconnected.

Andy Kleinheinz

Close up image of a people sitting around a conference room table listening to a conference phone..

If you are considering a move to a new phone system, several things need to happen for a successful migration. In my 25 plus years of experience with collaboration, there are a few preparations you can make that will favorably impact your overall experience with your new system:

  • Review your current dial plan as well as the active users. 
  • Conduct business stakeholder interviews.
  • Identify potential third-party applications.
  • Determine where softphones and hardphones will be used.
  • Ensure your network bandwidth implementing/verifying QoS configuration meets vendor requirements.
  • Thoroughly test the new system and call flows. 

Completing these steps will go a long way to avoid costly, time consuming investments, and it will improve the experience for users and admins during the transition.

Review your current system

First, gather a station review/user list on your current phone system. You’ll want to do this first because many phone systems are based on users and user counts. This analysis can have a dramatic effect of the cost of the new system. 

Also, review your dial plan before transitioning. Some common problems to troubleshoot include overcomplicated/overlapping dial plans such as unnecessary hair pinning calls; having several levels of forwarding when not required; and same numbers existing in the system that go different routes. These can complicate efforts to migrate. 

Not all customers have the means to do a dial plan review, and conducting a user review can be a long, tedious process. Yet, it is certainly worth it. As they say, “garbage in/garbage out.”   

Conduct stakeholder interviews

Never underestimate the value of a business stakeholder interview. Many times, I’ve personally heard, “If x person/group is happy, I’m happy.” The business stakeholders typically can identify abnormalities and critical components that no one else would know. Remember, these people represent your users, and if it doesn’t go as they expect, they’ll be the loudest voice against it. These stakeholders need to be heard, and getting them to buy into the new system is absolutely critical.

Identify third-party applications

Using technology to help users collaborate, automate and improve business process can have a dramatic impact on success. Applications serve a wide variety of functions that are critically important to business. Some of the most popular third-party functions include:

  • Paging 
  • Faxing 
  • Alarms tied into the phone environment
  • Security systems
  • Call/screen recording
  • Elevator phones 

Contact centers bring their own specific needs to the conversation, such as reporting, outbound dialing campaigns, multi-channel support, dashboards/wallboards and more. Identifying these systems before selecting the new solution is important to ensure it integrates with your existing third-party applications. And if it doesn’t, the effort to ID those systems will help you find an acceptable alternative.

Identifying the hardware you will require

Before COVID-19 impacted our world, companies were already shifting toward more softphone clients and not requiring as many hardphones. Taking an inventory of the hardphones you have and what hardphones your business needs will also impact the cost to move to your new environment. It is also important to verify compatibility of the hardphones. All platforms or solutions will have a list of compatible phones, headphones, adapters, etc. 

It’s not uncommon to try and get by with old phones or not make a priority of verifying compatibility and investing in these. You can potentially do everything right, but if the end users run into poor call quality, it could result in reduced productivity. Negative experience will affect the business.

Prepare the network

The most important factor that determines the success of a collaboration solution is the user experience. It is key to obtain the vendor requirements to ensure everything in your control is done beforehand. This may involve working with your carrier to ensure QoS is in place where possible. It is also a good idea to have network diagrams and to include carrier detail where available.  

It can be very challenging to work reactively between voice engineers and network engineers resolving voice quality issues; it requires going hop-by-hop to ensure QoS is configured correctly. However, validating before the move with careful planning and collaboration is a vastly better experience than taking on the task while users are having an issue. 

While bandwidth becomes more affordable, a common misconception is that QoS doesn’t matter because, “My bandwidth is enough when I don’t need it.” Keep in mind, QoS ensures that the voice traffic is prioritized over other traffic, which in turn ensures a consistent and better user experience.

Test and test again

When the new system is in place, testing and user acceptance testing is essential. Take the time to carefully think out all test cases and use the previously mentioned topics as a basis for creating those test plans.

Go back to your stakeholders and involve them in the user testing. Test out the most critical call flows; make sure all call flows/interactions work all the way through the destination, whether that be an agent or a third-party system. Verify softphones and clients pass the test of your users, ensure the new phones/headsets are all working as expected and thoroughly test any third-party systems. 

Avoid shortchanging testing to hit a deadline. The last thing anyone wants is a poor experience to upset the business owners and end users right out of the gate. Negative opinions are difficult to change, and can result in potential lack of adoption.

Going through the process of migrating to a new phone system can be intimidating, but CDW can help navigate the entire process step by step. CDW also has options to help with adoption and support of your new system.

Story by Andy Kleinheinz, a senior technical architect on the R&D team at CDW. More than 22 years at CDW, Andy has gone from an intern on the help desk to working up to his current position. He enjoys figuring out business problems for customers and providing the value and support they’re looking for.