Deploying ShoreTel – A project managers notes!

May 11th, 2012

Having deployed literally thousands of phone systems of all sizes and levels of complexity, we have distilled a set of rules and check lists that work.   (see our “network readiness check list” and our “VoIP planning guide”) When phone systems were analog or traditional TDM based solutions,  deployments were challenging enough!  You always had the User group, Call flow and “K plans” to hammer out along with the usual Telephone carrier challenges.  With VoIP solutions however, the level of complexity has dramatically increased.  This technology touches so many other infrastructure domains that it is becoming increasing more difficult to draw a box around what is included in the project!   Consider that you are required to  integrate a phone system with Active Directory,  Exchange, CRM applications and deploy over a geographical topology that might be global in scope!  You need a road map for success and  project management becomes an essential component of a successful deployment.

The first post sale step should be to organize a “kick off” meeting.  The kick off meeting  is an opportunity to set expectations and establish guidelines that will help complete the project on time and within budget. When you leave the kickoff meeting, everyone on the project team must be on the same page.  It is imperative that we identify the key “stake holders” in this project.  Minimally this list has to include an Executive sponsor, the Account manager and the Project manager.    During this meeting you will want to spell out goals, objectives and deliverable identities then obtain “buy in” from the kick off team.   You will introduce the project team members and identify their individual “roles and responsibilities”.   Setting a target for “go live” often helps drive the milestones that have to been executed if that time line is to be achieved, so I am a big proponent of working backwards from a target date!   Developing a contact list should be accomplished at this meeting and if the project will use a web portal for communicating, it should be demonstrated.   Allow for the possibly that there may be outside vendors that need to be identified at this time and added to the contact list.  Finally, assign “home work” and set due dates for the next meeting.

The kick off meeting is almost a social event and is a time for people to associate names and faces.   It is not a working session, but an effort to set expectations for all that will be either on the project implementation team or will be impacted by the implementation process.   There is a wide range of personalities and skill sets at a “kick off meeting” so it is important to adopt a language that is comfortable for all.  The team will consist of very technical people, financial  professionals and technology consumers (We are trying to avoid using the work “users”.  There are only two industries that call customers users.  The IT community and the drug trade).   It has been my experience that we will almost always get all of the technical stuff settled; all the speed and feeds, bits and bytes.   The area that is always the most difficult to extract is the Call Flow information .  For this reason it is imperative that the team have a representative that can speak for the User group.   Someone has to define a callers experience and the scripts that are head by the caller as they progress through the telephone system (see also: http://www.blog.drvoip.com/call-flow-the-callers-experience-when-reaching-your-business ).

Some of the internal players that will need to be included on the implementation team are responsible for key infrastructure components.   Active Directory integration is now almost always a part of a VoIP deployment.   Messing with a companies domain and user authentication polices are never take lightly and you will need to get key intellectual resources involved to pull this off successfully.   Clearly, the computer network both LAN and WAN will touch the the new phone system and this area requires even more planning and communication.  Generally, there will be outside vendors involved especially as it relates to the WAN connectivity.   Getting the carrier to the table early on in the process will greatly facilitate the success of the project.

Facilities management or property management and the bag full of deal killing goodies needs to be addressed early on!  If you are deploying in a “greenfield” you will have a different set of challenges then if you are replacing an existing phone system.   Often a “greenfield” is another word for “new construction” and construction always means scheduling conflicts and delay.  This is where your project management software really gets exercised!

The actual deployment of equipment is almost reduced to a task list. Properly managed most of the heavy lifting has already been accomplished before the equipment is actually installed.   The network has been assessed, made ready, routes updated and QOS applied.   The user database, IVR scripts, trunk facilities, Extension lists, Hunt groups and system definition have already been programmed.   We are down to “rack and stack” and set placement in anticipation of exercising our detailed system test and acceptance process.

It is about this time that we will want to have the Training team make an appearance.    Generally, it is best to schedule user training as close to the “go live” dat as possible.  We have found that we can brake user training into two groups.  The first group is a an abbreviated session design to assure that all can answer an incoming call, park, transfer and conference.  If users can do that by “go live”  only good things can happen.    The second group is an extended session augmented by multimedia and other online solutions.  This training is for your power users and special users like Operators, Agents and Supervisors.  Actually, this is a process not an event and your training program has to be ongoing over the life of the deployment.   People come and go in any company.  Your reputation and phone system stay. Make sure new users have a good impression!

The “go live” is also more of a process than an event.   Moving the old numbers to the new phone system, might be a single task in time, but it is part of a process that includes a series of collateral events.  For example, how do we get our Voice Mail off the old system?   In fact, what happens to the old system?   Was Garbage removal in the project plan?   A new VoIP deployment needs a “post cut” support plan that includes establishing a “help desk” and identifying a problem reporting process and resolution team.

If there is a “kick off” meeting there should also be a project close and review meeting.    This is where we can review what happen and how to transition the project to a support mode.   There should be an “as built” documentation package that is handed off from the project team to the operations team.  These documents will be outdated in less than a month, but it makes ongoing support viable if we have a record of changes to date, so make the extra effort to get this package completed as part of your project plan.   Ultimately you will want to have a 30 day review.   Keeping a client takes as much effort as getting a new client, so make ongoing client contact and system optimization part of your service offering.   Include ongoing training and you should be able to keep a client for life!

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