Every time you turn around it seems new technology is making your current phone system obsolete. You know you have to upgrade, but where do you start? Mobile, web, cloud—how do you weave all this into an affordable communications system for your small or medium-sized business? 

The impetus to upgrade could come from your customers, who are used to state-of-the-art performance, or perhaps even your competitors. Or, it could be your internal customers – your staff, salespeople or management – who are complaining about outdated phones that don’t support their communications needs.

Whatever the catalyst, when it’s time to take a hard look at your phone system, approach the process carefully and systematically. Here are three ideas to consider as you conduct your due diligence.

What are your current and future needs?

Begin with a thorough assessment of what your customers – both external and internal – need from your phone system. Where are their pain points? For instance, ask your customers, vendors and partners about any frustrations they have connecting with your organization. Are dropped calls an issue? Do they have difficulty quickly reaching the person they’re calling? In addition, your external customers can tell you what your competitors are doing with their communications systems.

Next, ask employees some of the same questions. What do they need that the system doesn’t deliver? What functions would they like to see in a new system Conduct focus groups, surveys and one-on-one interviews with key stakeholders. Touch every part of the business.

Look at different types of users within your organization. Who are the employees who spend most of their day on the phone? Who are your remote workers Who’s frequently away from their desk?

Use what you learn to determine which features are essential – as opposed to nice to have – for your business. For example, if customers often can’t reach the right person, consider active directories, which help callers easily navigate to the appropriate staffer.  

How will your small business grow?

After assessing current needs, consider what the future will look like. Will you be adding staff? Will they be remote workers or will they sit in-house? Will they need mobile technology that supports audio and video conferencing, as well as the sharing of heavy data? Is your workplace shifting to a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) culture, in which staff can use their own technology to manage their work communications?

Keep in mind that today’s expectations can become tomorrow’s demands. Be sure to dig deep in your customer interviews. Probe beyond the problems of your current system to find out what customers expect based on their experiences in the wider market or when communicating with your competition. Which technologies are leading the way?  

Because all of this may put new hardware and software demands on your organization, choose a vendor who has experience helping small and medium-sized businesses adapt to new technologies in a logical and cost-effective way. Look, also, for a supplier who’s ahead of the pack, innovating on the Internet of Things, cloud communications and mobile-first design.

How will the new system fit with your current infrastructure?

At this point, you’ve identified your business’s current and future needs. That’s great. Now you have to make sure your infrastructure can deliver. 

Start by performing a technical inventory of every piece of hardware and software you own. Which are most used? Which are on their last legs or are no longer supported? Consider shadow IT too; are your employees using software that’s not officially sanctioned? When the current system doesn’t fill a particular need, sometimes users go out and find something that does.

After that, compare your inventory to your needs analysis. Keep your overall goals in mind, and don’t get seduced by the latest trendy technology. Ask yourself whether a particular solution is what you truly need now and going forward.

Follow the process

There’s no question that selecting a new phone system can be daunting. That’s why it’s essential to use a clear process to assess your company’s needs and your customers’ expectations. 

Find a vendor who can help you navigate the communications industry’s fast-moving technological changes. There are many solutions available to improve your organization’s phone system. Choose a vendor that can create the best solution for the distinct needs of your small or medium-sized business.

Considering a new phone system? Our guide outlines the 7 steps you should take to find the right upgrade. >

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