I went away for the weekend and while i was driving home i realised how easily the weekend passed … you might ask what the hell is this guy on about but i want to explain that without proper planning for the whole weekend i would have had a much stressful time!

Anyway this got me thinking about the importance in planning a Unified Communications Roll-Out…

I have lost count how many times i have heard the phrase “it will do” and still it makes my skin crawl a little!

What i am referring to is clients/customers etc… not taking the time to plan the system and roll-out properly or when you discuss pilots etc.. they try to reverse engineer your proposal in to something that will do…

Unified Communications is a beast in its own right and should not be attempted without full commitment from the teams and management. So here is some points i think should be followed which i hope others find useful!

1. Assess the companies intent – some companies want the technology and all its features but you have to be realistic from day one and if it is beyond their reach in terms of implementation cost you would be safer to walk away.  Never compromise on the quality of your design this design and implementation becomes your reputation.

2. Define the requirements of the solution – this is for 2 reasons, one is the ensure you fully understand what the company wants out of the unified communications solution and to ensure it is obtainable. The second is so the company understands what they want if only at this point from an IT or Management perspective.

3. Arrange Meetings with the departments which will have to adopt the technology… this again is for a couple of reasons, the first being that user education is paramount in a unified communications roll-out as if you do not at least inform the departments of the plans and how the technology can benefit then you will run into stumbling blocks very very quickly. the second being that the other departments might come up with useful solutions and questions about how to make there life easier with the technology being rolled out.. the importance of this comes from the following example a customers management team recently request a full UC solution with Microsoft Exchange and OCS and when we started the consultation process we took it upon ourselves to talk to the staff as the management were not keen on getting everyone involved, we ended up coming up with really clever ways of bringing the technology to them and made it easier for them to adopt the technology and change there daily process to become more efficient around it!

4. Define pre-requisites and stick to them! and more so VERIFY EVERYTHING is in place before you start – common sense i know but you would be surprised the amount of people who take the customers word… and yes i know it sounds terrible you should trust your customer but i always safe better safe than sorry!

5. Define pilot users – here you want to ensure you have a definitive list of people who the technology is being rolled out to, i find this important so your roll-out does not spiral out of control and you do more than what your department or company is getting paid to do. Also it gives you the chance to hand pick a mix of technology users so you can ensure you get a good variety of a user base for the pilot

6. Deploy the system in steps – again common sense but there is no point in rushing and building an entire system and only getting to the end and realising half it was not done properly it will save hours of troubleshooting. So in relation to the MS environment, Deploy the active directory updates first… then verify.. then prepare the server …. verify… then roll-out the front end server and you got it verify.. Microsoft have excellent validation tools for there products and Best practice analyzers for when you deploy each roll.. so ensure you validate, verify as you go rather than getting to the end and trying to do it then…

7. After you roll-out to the first 10 or 15 users STOP for a couple of days and measure performance metrics on the servers and network and review the end user experience and modify the process and/or training for rolling out to the client for the next batch… this way you get you process documented and reviewed as you go. Plus you will be on top of any problems before they occur usually and you do not risk upsetting a lot of people.

8. A Pilot is a Pilot – ensure every end user, management and any team involved in the roll-out understand the meaning of a pilot and that they know this is a pilot… A Pilot being a test system which is being tweaked and modified as it is being rolled out, this has the possibility for downtime. Make sure this notification is sent out regularly to everyone so there is no mistake that the system is still in pilot until the day you upgrade its status to Production!

9. Training – ensure the teams are appropriately trained and that you supply documentation for the relevant procedures they might require! again i know this is common sense but it is often overlooked.

10. Review – once the pilot is deployed allow for at least one month testing, check in on a weekly basis to ensure everything is going to plan. Ensure the management and teams are happy and that their understanding of what is deployed matches the definition of the solution.

 

Well i hope this helps…….

Please comment if you have anything to add as i am always interested in improving my methods ….

 

John

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