Ten years ago Setec was implementing its first major VoIP project, involving over 4,000 lines at one site. Five years go we were involved in the first major national Centrex projects at hundreds of sites (respectively 4,000 lines and 10,000 lines) with each site made live right after the other. Today Aastra – a Mitel Company, offers a Cloud-based solution.

What lessons can we learn from the past for this transition?

Beware of misunderstandings from the outset

Even when people use an identical term they may be talking about very different things – this is often the case with terms that have strong marketing connotations. This can lead to misunderstandings that are sometimes fatal to the successful completion of a project.

For example, when a CFO uses the word “Cloud” he or she is undoubtedly referring to a service purchased in the form of a monthly subscription by users who have the capacity to cancel the subscription through a simple process. When a business division manager, in Customer Relations for instance, refers to the Cloud, the focus is perhaps on a configuration dashboard with lines that can be quickly configured and changed, reviewed or deleted. An IT director may interpret a Cloud solution as being an application that can be run on a virtual machine or machines in a “private” Cloud. This wide divergence of terminology may cause surprises when one stakeholder discovers that the options taken do not match his initial expectations and vision. We could also mention ‘unified communications’ as an example of a “one size fits all” expression.

Beware of new problems

The first generations of solutions were often hard to scale up or down and involved transferring responsibility from facilities or general services management to information systems etc. These challenges have not entirely disappeared even if feedback and the experience acquired make it possible to look ahead and take steps to mitigate the unwanted impacts.

However, project initiators do face new challenges – if the new tools are to offer more than just telephone services and must provide the components of unified communications touted by equipment and software suppliers, then they must also integrate the various building blocks (such as VoIP and directory services, VoIP and e-mail, instant messaging, CRM, Extranets, etc.).

These perspectives call for skilled capabilities in communications systems architecture and these capabilities can be scarce. It makes more sense to exploit them and ‘amortize’ them on projects spanning the whole company or organization. Clearly this perspective may not be attractive to those who have participated in global ERP projects and understand the challenges that these raise.

Rome was built stone by stone

However, there is no need to be overly cautious. If an organisation follows general principles for project management and includes stages such as feasibility and opportunity studies, overall framework and budget management and careful choice of vendors (who can provide references, appropriate resources and skills) then these challenges can be overcome.

Just as Setec IS acquired its expertise and competence, not in a day, but over its 30-plus years of existence, “Cloudification”, no matter how diverse in its various forms, will take a few years.

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