Microsoft recently released their new Office 365 Skype for Business Online Voice Services capabilities including Cloud PBX and PSTN Conferencing which are some of the last barriers customers need to go “all in” on Microsoft for their collaboration VVX-Woman.pngand communications platforms (it may not be a perfect fit for all organizations, but more on that later). Though not all capabilities are available worldwide, Microsoft plans to roll them out throughout the year and already has thousands of organizations starting to figure out how to determine fit, strategy, and replace their legacy PBX with these new capabilities. 

 

Polycom is a Microsoft Gold Communications Systems Integration Partner and brings years of experience helping customers deploy Skype for Business on premises solutions powered by Polycom voice endpoints such as the CX and VVX products.  With these capabilities and new voice and video endpoint offerings including RealPresence Trio conferencing devices, CX8000 room video systems, and soon Group Series video room systems, Polycom can enable these experiences to satisfy many more collaboration use cases. Polycom Services can use our experience to help customers design voice solutions, features, and workflows and employ proven deployment methodologies to accelerate a customer’s migration and license activation on the Microsoft Voice Services platform.  

 

In an on premises deployment, most organizations do a great job of planning for and thinking about the costs and complexities of deploying Skype for Business in the data center(s), making sure it is highly available and resilient across sites (Disaster Recovery), making sure the voice trunking, E911 services, networks and servers are robust. Most organizations will want to implement Cloud PBX with PSTN on premises in hybrid mode as part of their migration strategy.  If you have Lync 2013 or Skype for Business On premises with Enterprise Voice enabled it is relatively quick to enter into Hybrid mode and enable Cloud PBX.  If Enterprise Voice is not yet enabled, that will be a prerequisite. 

 

Beyond that the network and infrastructure needs to handle the compute and bandwidth intense Lync UC capabilities with voice, video, and content sharing to ensure a great user experience. But once that core infrastructure is built how do you plan for, budget, and migrate perhaps thousands of users in dozens of branch sites around the country or worse, around the world, to the new Voice Services platform?!?   We need to treat the branch site migration process as a phase that is equally as important as the core infrastructure and focused on the user experience to ensure success.

 

Branch site migration is all about developing a robust user adoption and migration process for the initial branch(s) and refining the process with that feedback for each successive branch. The process should be cookie cutter and executed over and again for each branch.   Here is our framework to help scope and budget for thinking through the process of deploying Skype for Business Voice Services across multiple branch sites.  You need to make sure that you plan for and budget each of these activities whether it is executed by your internal resources or outsourced to a partner to maximize the probability of success for your migration.

 

Branch Site Survey and Planning

Each branch or site should be treated as its own project with a Project Manager. Make sure that you include the branch owners in the planning process to incorporate the unique branch requirements related to hours of operation, unique calling features, or other business processes.   Communicate the user adoption and Migration plan so they know what to expect and when.

 

Conduct a comprehensive branch site survey to document the different use cases and calling features that the different departments are using. Document each user, the physical location, the type of handsets or headsets they will be assigned, special features each needs such as boss/admin scenarios, reception, auto-attendant, etc.  Include other devices such as analog Fax, ACD, call recording, overhead paging, shared line, intercom, etc.  Remember you’re replacing the PBX, so whatever features your users are consuming at the branch need to be migrated to a Skype for Business feature, a VVX or phone feature, or discontinued. Or perhaps a third party application needs to be purchased to support the business requirement.

 

Document the default configurations and setting for each device and handset. Make sure your local network is ready and has proper DHCP and provisioning server capabilities and that phones can boot, download new firmware, and operate correctly. Put all of this information into an Installation Checklist, it will be your bible for the duration of the migration process.

The branch site survey will drive which hardware and software (handsets such as VVX or CX, headsets, analog gateways, etc.) needs to be purchased and staged for the branch migration

 

Small Branch Appliance and Infrastructure Deployment

Prior to migration day, you will want to install, configure, and test as much of the new equipment as possible. Make sure the SBA is installed and E911 Services are working. Make sure any network changes to support VVX handsets such as Provisioning Servers and DHCP options have been setup and tested.

 

Analog Services

There are many analog devices that may be configured on the legacy PBX beyond fax machines and analog handsets. There may be modems, overhead paging, doorbells, gate controllers, and other communications services that will need to be migrated or replaced as part of the plan.  Make sure the Analog Gateways are installed and each port is configured and tested prior to migration day.  You don’t want to be running around testing these devices during the cutover process.

 

Handset Services

Voice handsets are simple to install but can be time consuming. Each handset needs to be unpacked, assembled, the firmware updated, configuration applied, placed on the users’ desktops and a tested to verify it is working correctly.

 

Voice Features and Handset Provisioning

Most users in a branch will typically be standard business users and will not require special features to be provisioned for them within Skype for Business or on their handset. However there are always a percentage of users (typically 5-10%) that require some type of special voice feature.  These can include call coverage, boss/admin, reception, special voicemail features or distribution groups, etc. and will need to be provisioned within Skype for Business or the VVX Provisioning server. Identify what they are as a part of the Branch Site Survey, and make sure they are all documented on the installation checklist and implemented prior to cutover.  They all take time and testing.

 

End User Training

There are many different ways to educate end users. They range from distributing Quick Reference Guides, through online training sessions, to formal classroom based, instructor-led training.  The method you choose depends upon your user community and their willingness for change, how you expect them to use their new Skype for Business features, and the budget you have available.

 

Cutover and Support

Have onsite resources available to help end users when you cutover. Pay special attention to the boss/admin users and receptionists.  Have people walking the floor asking users how they are doing, answering questions and being pro-active.  Make sure that there is an escalation path and document each issue so that you capture where users have problems and remediate. Feed that back into the adoption and migration process for the next branch.

Once cutover is complete and the branch is stable, make sure they are transitioned to your Day 2 Support organization and that the branch understands that is their escalation path. Allow your migration team to move onto the next branch. If the migration team is doing both migration and support they will slow down.

 

Miscellaneous and Contingency

Make sure you factor in 10%-20% of your budget for contingencies that occur during the migration or for capabilities there weren’t identified in the branch site survey process or to cover other.

 

Travel and Expenses

If you have a migration team that you will send to each branch, budget for their Travel and Expenses accordingly.

If you are exploring making the transition to Skype for Business Enterprise Voice or have enabled hybrid mode with Skype for Business Online and are now planning to migrate your user community to Skype for Business Enterprise Voice, Polycom Services can help with everything described here to ensure your success. Contact us at msft-uc-services@polycom.com to start the discussion.

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