Most people wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it. The same applies to trying on a suit or fancy dress before purchase. From looking at a TV in a store to asking the deli for a sample, “try before you buy” is an important part of the decision-making process.
The same principle applies when considering UCaaS solutions. In fact, given that a new communications system for an organization is a much bigger deal than buying lunchmeat, getting real-world experience is critical.
It’s one thing to have a company say, “Sure, our system does that.” It’s another to test a system by using it in your normal, day-to-day environment to confirm that it does what you need and works with your operations.
Whether you call it a pilot project, a trial run, or a proof of concept, you should test drive both the technology and the vendor before you commit a lot of money and time to a UCaaS system.
What to Look for and What to Ask
A new system begins with the people who will use it and rely on it every day. A good service provider will meet with a variety of end users or organize a focus group to solicit the following information:
- What end users want
- What end users need to do their jobs more efficiently
- What features and capabilities are on their wish lists
- What they do and don’t like about the current system
Based on their findings, the vendor should recommend solutions based on your requirements and established best practices.
Be wary if a potential vendor only talks to management before presenting a proposal. A system that isn’t designed around the people who will depend on it probably won’t meet the organization’s needs.
Also, when testing, make sure the vendor will provide the actual hardware and software that will be used in the final system. End users will want to know how the phones or applications work and sound, how easy the software and equipment are to use, etc.
If the proposed system includes a contact center, ask about call handling options and reporting capabilities. Look at sample reports. The trial should include the same call routing options and reports you would receive if you rolled out the system for everyone, ideally with data in a format that you can use for internal reporting purposes.
How to Conduct a Proof-of-Concept (POC) Test
When conducting a proof-of-concept test, keep these two guidelines in mind.
First, use the equipment as you would if it were your new system. Include users in different areas of the organization and remote or home office environments. Perform the same operations your team does every day. Have managers pull reports and monitor the system. Check the reliability and stability. Are calls dropped or garbled? Are there any technical issues? If you use applications like Microsoft Teams or Salesforce, ask to see those applications integrated and working live with the POC test. (Note: Certain API integrations may not be a test option for apps that require custom programming.)
Second, explore new capabilities. If your wish list includes advanced call center capabilities like multimedia, text queuing, email queuing, or other features, ask your vendor to implement these features so you can see how they’ll fit your operations.
Run the test for at least two weeks, typically with 5-10 users, to ensure you get a full and accurate look at how the system will (or won’t) work for you.
How VOIP Networks Conducts Proof-of-Concept Tests
To help our clients make an informed decision about a proposed system, we follow a multi-step process:
- Conduct a focus group meeting with end users to accurately determine needs and wish lists
- Install the actual hardware and/or software applications, including IP phones and/or softphones, that will be included in the final system, if approved
- Set up integration with popular software applications, such as Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Outlook 365, Gmail, Salesforce, or collaboration tools
- Use multi-instance architecture, which is more secure and flexible, not the multi-tenant architecture that many vendors employ
- Provide U.S.-based, white-glove service and support
This process allows organizations to experience every aspect of our service offering—from initial discovery to ongoing support—through the pilot project.
VOIP Networks designs, installs, and supports UCaaS telecommunications technology for organizations of all types. For more information, or to discuss your communications needs, please contact us.