Top Five Best Practices for Replacing Your Phone System with Microsoft Teams

by Joe Rice, CEO CXponent, September 2, 2021 

The pandemic, aging technology infrastructure, security, and employee demands for flexibility are pushing most companies to permanent hybrid working models.  A first area of opportunity is often to replace outdated phone systems with Microsoft Teams or other UCaaS solutions. Joe Rice, CXponent CEO lists five best practices you should know when buying and implementing this technology. 

The circled features are not included in Microsoft Teams

Components of using Microsoft Teams as a PBX

Buying Teams as a PBX:

5 things to Know

Building a foundation for buying better communication

The remote and hybrid working model is here to stay.  Many companies that initially approached the pandemic with a “band-aid” solution for hybrid working are now realizing careful planning and investment in a permanent solution is required.     

A great number of companies are buying and implementing Microsoft Teams (currently over 250 million monthly users), Zoom, and other cloud-based collaboration and contact center platforms, with remote office flexibilty, security, collaboration workflows, and overall permanence as top of mind.  

While these technical and functional considerations are important and needed for any successful user experience, there are other buying-related best practices that vendors don’t necessarily lead with.  The decision to follow these best practices is in your control, and will make you better prepared to buy, and deliver successful project outcomes for Teams and UCaaS. 

The circled features are not included in Microsoft Teams

These components are not included in the Microsoft Calling Plans

1. Gain consensus on requirements internally before vendors set them for you (Read more in this June 2021 CXponent Medium article).

Before talking with vendors about using Teams as a phone system replacement, its best to get key stakeholders aligned not just on technical requirements, but on their business, financial and program/resource requirements.  Most buyers get educated from reading or engaging with vendor sales reps, who help them articulate the benefits of the new technology.  It can feel like a chicken and egg scenario in terms of deciding whether to talk to vendors before or after setting internal expectations.  You don’t need to include everyone, but you need to understand the stakeholders and influencers that need to be included the decision. IT has an opportunity to consult with the key stakeholders to align the technical requirements to business needs.  Examples of buying committee stakeholders include Head of Customer Care, Sales, Inside Sales, Business Development, Finance, Security & Compliance, Procurement.   consolidating or weighing the costs, benefits, and risks and technical and business requirements before you go talk to vendors. 

2.  Align stakeholder interests with technical architecture and requirements (independent of vendors).

After you’ve done the extra effort to determine the most important things for your business, focus on aligning interests with technical requirements. Don’t let vendors drive your architecture.  You have your unique  opportunities and constraints you have to balance – they should be clearly documented and communicated to vendors so they will be informed on how to design a recommended solution.   For example, outbound sales reps may need to have Salesforce integration.  An opportunity could be having an integrated Teams and Contact Center environment that reduces tech stack and vendor complexity. A constraint could be that the business has manufacturing facilities that require analog integration. Today more than ever it is important to understand your user and employee profiles.  Designing architecture has shifted from a location-based segmentation to user based, e.g.: “I have call center reps, senior execs, field service people, etc who all have different requirements.”  But don’t try to create an exact solution design.  Leave room for each vendor to deliver based on their own products and clear understanding of your opportunities and constraints.    

3. Maintain financial responsibility throughout the buying journey.

Financial responsibility evolves throughout the buying and deployment journey.  During planning, it means doing the work to build an estimate of costs (TCO), benefits and risks to demonstrate why the project is valuable and worth spending time on.  The next phase of financial responsibility is to confirm and narrow your estimates, understand your points of leverage, and negotiate a final configuration and deal with the vendor. You can only get the best price when you have a final design worked out with your vendor of choice. If the vendor doesn’t know exactly what will be purchased, it’s hard for them to set the stage for a deal requiring executive approvals if you are moving in and out of different product SKUs and margins while negotiating. Lastly, tracking adjustments of what actually gets implemented, and validating those results after deployment should wrap up the financial journey.  

When you are clear with your financial targets and what internal stakeholders are expecting, vendors will be in a better position to advocate for the wins that you need. Conversely if you are loose in your financial guidance and targets, your vendor will have less support on their side to get you the best price and terms – they are unlikely to proactively suggest and push for things that you need.

4. Don’t skimp on reducing (implementation) risk.

If you think there could be risk in your Teams or UCaaS implementation, don’t wait.  Early on you should advocate internally to get the right resources to reduce that risk.  Don’t be cheap on one-time expenses if there’s risk to mitigate.   For example, do you have the resources and skills to manage interconnected parts (on both the client and vendor side) such as number porting, configuration development with vendors, vendor building and testing of configuration, installation and physical network infrastructure, user acceptance testing, training, and change management?   If you think you don’t, strongly consider bringing in a third party and other resources (contractors) to bridge the gaps throughout deployment.

5. Be clear on the Future Operating Model  roles, responsibilities and expectations. 

Implementing Teams or other UCaaS will change your future operations.  Be clear on roles and responsibilities on day to day things, such as help desk ticket flow.   When a user has an issue, does your internal help desk have the ability to do triage and resolve with the vendor if its their responsibility?  Who is responsible for MACDs?  What are the SLAs?  If you are expecting a managed service, what type of reporting or user metrics (especially for contact center) are being monitored to measure and improve service and the employee experience?  If you don’t consider these things early, your organization may think the vendor is not delivering or that IT is getting worse at service and understanding business objectives.

Real time voice and communication is extremely important to get right, especially post-pandemic where expectations are for robust and secure systems. If it isn’t working, everyone knows immediately. Teams and UCaaS solutions can have a myriad of features and choices and third party options, and its crucial to gain consensus and set requirements early in the buying process.  Microsoft Teams calling plans (intended to replace your PBX) don’t have the features, support model, or architecture to support most mid-market business requirements.

Subscribe to the CXponent Newsletter for insights and best practices for technology sourcing and implementation.  

Contact CXponent to Apply these Best Practices to your Business