Months of planning and deploying Unified Communications within a company the size of Sprint continually pushes us to examine what we have learned. We have learned many important lessons and by sharing them, hope to make things easier for others embarking on UC initiatives.
As an early UC adopter, we spent months working closely with Microsoft on computer, network configuration and technical software issues. The tagging and prioritization of voice packets on XP based machines, now resolved, is one technical example. Logistics of managing deployment to more than 30,000 machines with variable loadsets was another. In some cases, certain non standard software had to be removed before OCS would work in an optimized fashion.
Culturally we also had to address how people were using their laptops. Multi tasking resulted in degradation of voice quality when people were video streaming or if large files were being downloaded. This was particularly problematic during March Madness when NCAA Basketball was being broadcast across the Internet.
This quality issue was also seen during the first 30 minutes post initial start up of machines that had not been on the network over night to receive patch upgrades. Flexible options for software patch upgrades have proven to be a significant benefit for Sprint. Employees receive an email or pop-up directing them to the upgrade link, along with a deadline. This provides convenience for the employee, as well as the elimination of UC call interruption during download. We take control of the process for those who miss the deadline. Immediate security patches are not included in this deadline process.
As mentioned previously, number porting was a significant issue. In many cases when the work number was not widely broadcast outside of the organization, we give employees a new number. This was not always a popular decision, but one which guaranteed no interruption of voice service and brought the timing and elimination of the old number under our control. Ported numbers, besides adding expense to the conversion process, required significant interaction with local phone carriers and a flash cut of service line by line. Based on pilot attempts to port, it became apparent that local exchange carriers were reluctant to eliminate numbers, making service transparency for the employee almost impossible.
We also found that despite the initial hesitancy in certain areas to move to UC, user adoption has not been a large issue. Widespread enthusiasm because of the improved productivity and end user flexibility continues across the company. We continually receive requests for accelerated conversion schedules.
A key finding for us which allowed us to speed up deployment was the use of mass training sessions. Technical support personnel were available either virtually or physically to provide user configuration support if needed and a standard trainer provided a hands-on demo on basic operations. As a result we continue to have far fewer trouble tickets from users who were in the mass training than from those who weren’t. Note; we have not seen any measureable increase in end user tickets regarding the phone system with this technology change during deployment.
In addition to the training sessions, we produced several short training videos focused on specific topics. Quick tips such as how to drag people into a conference call or how to establish a sharing session are used for post-training reference. These vignettes could also be used for training itself. We would be very willing to share these vignettes with interested Sprint customers.
Since UC is really only in its second generation, we believe we will continue to learn from this deployment. People are using these tools in ways we didn’t expect; creative solutions that are driving productivity, employee flexibility and streamlining business processes.
In the final post for our series, we’ll discuss how UC fits in Sprint’s future.