Seven tips to help you choose a UC managed service provider

Today I would like welcome Tricia Cooper who is contributing an article to the Open Communications blog for the first time. Tricia is the director of North American Marketing with Siemens Enterprise Communications. She can be reached at Tricia.Cooper@siemens-enterprise.com  Thanks Tricia for this well thought out article on choosing a UC managed service provider.

The path to
unified communications (UC) is a journey, not a single event. Many organizations choose managed services to help them build, deploy and manage a UC strategy
. They can help you achieve lower total cost of ownership (TCO), predictable monthly expenses and get access to scarce skilled resources. Below is a seven-point checklist to consider when selecting a UC managed service provider (MSP).

Tip 1: Take a two-pronged approach

Focus on both your short and long-term desired results and set clear business objectives. Find an MSP who can be your single point of contact for service delivery, UC technology provisioning, and strategic planning and execution. This will help you balance short-term requirements and maintain focus on continuous business innovation. The MSP should help you identify both immediate cost savings opportunities and link UC to your business requirements and goals.

Tip 2: Cultural compatibility is key

Make sure your service provider understands more than just how to design, deploy and maintain UC. An MSP needs to be compatible with your company's culture, business objectives and working style. More importantly, they need to be a partner and an advisor to you in making recommendations for your ongoing evolution of UC.

Tip 3: Use standard methodologies

Find an MSP with proven, repeatable processes and standard methodologies. They should be able to take on mixed vendor, mixed technology environments and deliver services under a single SLA. They also should map delivery standards to ITIL and be able to migrate your existing technology to an open communications architecture. By using a service provider with a standards-based, consistent delivery methodology you will receive more effective and consistent services.

 Tip 4: Look under the hood

Inquire about the MSP’s infrastructure and staff capabilities. Multi-vendor capabilities are a critical component of service delivery excellence for UC. Look for an MSP that has a state-of-the-art support infrastructure, toolsets and people. The infrastructure should include globally linked secure network operating centers, technical assistance centers and service help desks. Staff will need to have the experience and certifications to handle complex, multi-vendor UC environments. Best practices to look for should include testing and staging labs co-located with the service help desks for hands-on replication of errors and technology that allows you a view into open ticket status and reporting.

Tip 5: Insist on flexibility and options

MSPs should offer flexible deployment and contracts with maximum control and accountability of delivery service levels. A rip and replace of your current voice infrastructure investments is not necessary and the MSP should be able to protect your assets while introducing the benefits of UC over a timeframe that meets your needs. Insist on this as part of your solution. Your contract should also allow you to modify service delivery models and integrate new requirements to your business needs. A flexible delivery partner can offer you a predictable and transparent service, achieved through provisioning on a price per user basis—a flat price, per user, per month for service delivery and new technology.

Tip 6: Build business case

Formulate a business case for return on investment (ROI) that is comprehensive and achievable. Managed services can reduce direct costs of operation by up to 35 percent for many enterprises. The MSP should offer a range of services that can both help you understand the cost of service delivery in your current design, and also identify the technology solutions that could bring down your communication related operating costs. Savings can be found by eliminating costly off-network charges such as toll charges or external conference service expenses. Another cost savings example is reducing the time costs of managing multiple suppliers by collapsing the vendor maintenance contracts into one simplified, manageable agreement.

 Tip 7: Ensure service is scalable

Rapid scalability – up and down – is essential to ensure that your managed services can meet your business needs as they change. Will your fixed monthly investment provide you with uncapped support at an agreed level and type of service? You can increase your control and agility by selecting an MSP that offers service delivery from a single, centralized point and who can deploy technologies and procedures that promote flexibility.
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