When Collaboration Assessments Become Critical

September 11, 2017 Collaboration, Trends

AP67960I wanted to take a moment to discuss Collaboration Assessments. There are lots of scenarios where an assessment can make a huge difference. Assessments prior to installing a voice over IP phone system can identify network issues that need to be addressed. They can also identify issues that exist within the system, as well as provide insight to best practice fixes. More specifically, today I wanted to review specific situations where I fell that assessments are critical.

We work with systems where multiple partners have been involved over the years, as well as systems that haven’t been maintained regularly. As one may guess, this can create a lot of problems. When we take over a system that’s has involved multiple vendors over time, we often see multiple configuration strategies in place. When we take over a system that hasn’t been maintained, we often find relic configurations that are no longer in use. These can make a system perform poorly and unfortunately make troubleshooting difficult.

Maintenance Required: Let’s start with a system that hasn’t been maintained over time. We run into this quite a bit. It is common to see phones configured in the system that are no longer in use or run into sites that have been removed. Access to the PSTN also changes over time, as do voice gateways. When all this information is not removed from the system, it can become confusing to work with and troubleshoot and can sometimes require the skill of a high-level engineer to do work that should be able to be managed by a mid-level engineer. Another issue with a system that has old entries can be licensing. One of the vendors we work with went from a licensing model based on phones to a licensing model based on users being tied to the phones. This had the effect of requiring every configured phone to need a license and encountered this issue while upgrading systems. We did the cleanup as part of the upgrades, but it would have been much cleaner to have addressed that ahead of time. In this instance, an assessment could have helped to recognize these issues and remediate them prior to the upgrade.

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen: Another factor that can cause issues is when multiple vendors have worked in the same system over time. This is pretty common but the problem with this is that in IP telephony there are often many ways to achieve the same result. The configurations may all work, but one site may be done differently than another. The naming conventions might even be different between sites. This makes it more difficult for someone not familiar with the system to step in and do work. This is true for the client, partner engineers as well as support. From time to time we also encounter situations where things were not done in alignment with best practices thus potentially causing serious problems. In the long run, it’s worthwhile to clean these things up. An assessment can provide a key roadmap to doing so.

Details, Details, Details: Assessments are also valuable in detailing complex configurations. Contact center is a great example of this. Many contact center call flows are very complex. Working on them without having a clear picture of all the steps is pretty risky. Creating call flow diagrams and configuration summaries helps avoid issues with a critical customer facing application.

Prevent Problems Before They Occur: System problems are another element that can be discovered by an assessment. Running diagnostic test and checks lets you know that the system is healthy. This can help find potentially failure producing issue.

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail: Finally, an assessment is a great place to start a roadmap for moving forward. All the information and recommendations provided can be synthesized into a roadmap. This can be a long-term plan to address deficiencies, future upgrades, expansion, etc. Knowing where you stand and what needs to be done both short-term and long-term add to your confidence in the system. It also helps you plan for the future and know when upgrades and expansion are going to be needed.

As you can see, a detailed assessment can make all the difference in the success of projects and the stability of the system. Complex IP telephony systems are complicated enough. Why not take advantage of every measure possible to enhance the performance and lifetime of your system?


Curtis brings over 25 years of collaboration experience to ABS. As the Collaboration Team Manager, Curtis works to ensure that ABS is consistently providing the latest collaboration technology and support to ABS clients.