What is the Process of Installing a Communications System Solution?
Installation Time Required
The amount of time required to install this technology depends on a number of factors, including whether the solution is hosted or premise-based, whether applications and integrations are being deployed (e.g., unified communications, texting/instant messaging, smartphone integration, etc.), the complexity of network integration, and whether carrier circuits are being installed.
Problems that Typically Arise during Installation
Maximizing efficiency and helping to minimize installation time, some basic steps can be taken to prevent problems that commonly arise. A clear set of requirements, (i.e., a “Scope of Work,” deliverables for each phase of the project, and an approved timeline) allows the project manager to communicate the status effectively throughout the installation process. It is important that the key individuals who were involved in the development of the requirements be assigned as department champions during installation to ensure that tasks and schedules are being adhered to and that expectations are being met. Most commonly arising problems during installation are caused by a lack of clear communication, usually resulting in lower efficiency and higher costs for the vendor and/or the client. Here are a few examples:
- Failure to agree on the deliverables, which is key to ensuring that all items are clearly understood once negotiations are complete
- Failure to agree on the IT resources required to manage programming changes to the LAN/WAN, or on resources required to provide support during the cutover, which may result in a shortage of resources for the client or a loss of profit for the vendor
- Failure to agree ahead of time on the required changes to, or removal of, the WAN/T1/PRI/Centrex circuits, which may result in a penalty due to the client’s undisclosed, existing contract terms
- Improper or time-consuming internal coordination and the delayed approval of scope of work, deliverables, and timeline, which often translate into lost productivity and revenue for both client and vendor
Prep Work Preceding Installation
To ensure a smooth installation, a significant amount of prep work must be completed by the solutions provider. Here is a snapshot of a typical project plan for a communications system solution installation.
Kick-off Meeting: First, a kick-off meeting is held to address the following:
- Introduce team members and decision makers.
- Review scope of work, proposal requirements, and overview document.
- Review proposed type and quantity of devices.
- Conduct site survey of physical and network infrastructure.
- Develop floor plan layout reflecting where each device will reside.
- Address any cabling issues, (i.e., whether needed cables will be added by vendor or user).
- Confirm IT network topology and review network diagram of multi-building connectivity.
- Review and discuss server provisioning, IP addressing, and numbering plan.
- Confirm the detailed call-flow requirements, (i.e., How will incoming and external calls be handled or routed per department and/or per user? Who is responsible for this level of detail: consultant, user, or vendor?). This should be included in the RFP.
- Review proper phasing of technology rollout and how this affects user experience, (i.e., summer vacation and/or other competing projects can sometimes influence timing of implementation).
- Review timelines for successful implementation.
- Discuss phased rollout of new UC desktop and/or mobile applications so as not to overload user during early acceptance of the base system.
- Establish power users to be the champions of the technology, and create early acceptance within the specific departments.
Milestones: After the kick-off meeting, the following steps are taken by the solutions provider and constitute major milestones:
- Conduct final design review. Review and discuss the communications solutions data collection sheets.
- Receive all data collection from the kick-off meeting, and finalize and approve decisions and schedules.
- Place material orders.
- Conduct and pass enterprise LAN/WAN network assessment.
- Receive material and begin remote configuration and programming.
- Begin onsite installation:
- Install any data networking components.
- Install new headend communication components.
- Provision server infrastructure components.
- Verify and test the network connectivity between buildings and the telephony/applications server infrastructure.
- Hold major project-status meeting prior to user training to ensure that proper operational procedures, which are consistent with the client organization’s communications policy, are provided to the end users.
- Conduct pre-go-live user training.
- Execute cutover and go-live.
Training, Maintenance, and Managed Services Post Installation
Post-installation work, such as training, ongoing maintenance, and managed services, can vary widely depending on your organization’s needs. Therefore, it is important to specify requirements in the RFP. For example, your RFP should specify the pre-go-live training mentioned in the prep work milestones, as well as whether a 30-day follow-up refresher training will be required. As another example, are there train-the-trainer requirements where the vendor trains power users, who, in turn, train the everyday staff? This approach is recommended and highly successful.
In addition to training, RFP requirements should specify software maintenance—including free software patches and upgrades—and remote maintenance for troubleshooting problems quickly. Onsite break/fix maintenance should be considered if your organization’s internal IT/telecom staff is not initially comfortable with the level of support they are able to provide. Spare phones should be factored into a larger purchase in order to reduce costs of onsite maintenance. If an organization has T1/PRIs, then a spare or overnight advance replacement should be considered.
As you have probably experienced, it can be challenging to express in an RFP the full scope of what is needed in a communications system solution. Save your organization invaluable time and resources by outlining in as much detail as possible your organization’s structure, existing technology, network and physical space, budgetary restrictions, and specific needs when it comes to both technical requirements and vendor qualifications. As an industry leader in the design and installation of communications system solutions, SIGNET Electronic Systems offers these tips to guide you in writing an effective RFP.