Let’s face it, legacy communication systems just weren’t designed to deal with modern work environments with mobile devices, numerous forms of communication, and an increasing number of mobile and remote workforces. The legacy phone and communications systems that a lot of organizations still use today were designed for 1980’s work culture, where once you left the office, all communications ceased and you were free to do as you please (barring the late-night emergency phone calls). Today, it is business as usual whether you’re in the office, out on the field, or driving around in your car — the show must go on. It’s also about a lot more than just voice, text, and updating your boss over the telephone now and modern-day communications involve automated processes between enterprise systems like ERP, CRM, and ITSM tools.
Modern communication systems
Organizations have come a long way from communicating via fax, phones, and pagers to now using modern communications like emails, mobile phones, chat, and messenger apps that even incorporate AI and machine learning. While organizations of all shapes and sizes are scrapping traditional, on-premises phone systems in favor of cloud-based PBX (private branch exchange) systems, there are those that are going a step further with their modernization efforts with office collaboration apps and ChatOps. This is probably because in spite of the numerous benefits to a cloud PBX system, phones are pretty one dimensional in the sense that you have to get your point across in voice mode. Collaboration apps, on the other hand, are a whole different ball game altogether and give you an endless amount of choices to do the same.
Collaboration apps are on the far end of the evolutionary spectrum as far as office communications are concerned. While people in the 1980s thought long distance calling was a luxury, to employees working on modern collaboration apps, distance is dead — period. Digital collaboration tools are location agnostic and you could be sitting in Alaska, working on the same document with someone on the other side of the planet, sharing, viewing and making edits in real time. In addition to everything being stored safely in one location, different versions of each file are also saved along with who edited what and when, so in case anything breaks you can trace the changes back pretty easily. Collaboration tools also enable DevOps, which is absolutely essential if you want both relevant and competitive in today’s enterprise scenario. Let’s take a look at three companies that moved from legacy communications systems to modern ones, and made the shift successfully.
One interesting success story of an organization that started by upgrading communications and now runs a neat, self-service hybrid cloud is the case of Paychex. Paychex provides payroll, human resources, and other benefit services to businesses, and when it saw that a lot of its competitors were offering disruptive online services, it knew some serious changes needed to be made. No. 1 on that list was communications as there were 100-plus offices spread across 12 regions, each running its own version of a legacy phone system. This was basically because they had all been installed at different times. A Paychex senior manager was quoted stating “we had 12 different systems that didn’t talk to each other, and 12 different versions of code. It was challenging to administer.”
Paychex initially went with Cisco’s in-house management tool instead of cloud-based software since it allowed for more control and custom configurations. The organization continued to grow in its quest to disrupt the disrupters and has since moved toward Agile development and collaborative DevOps by switching to Red Hat Solutions. Updating the phone systems no doubt had a number of benefits including cost savings on internal communications, but the infrastructure teams still recognized that they needed to do more to get to market faster. Not content with simply upgrading the phone systems, Paychex sought new technology solutions to provide the necessary Agile and cloud computing capabilities. Paychex now uses Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform as the core of its new infrastructure, with development teams now boasting three or four times more product deployments.
Another interesting success story is of an actual telecom company — Tele2 — and some issues it was facing in Kazakhstan. Tele2 is one of Europe’s fastest-growing telecom operators and has more than 17 million customers in nine countries and more than 8,000 employees. The company was facing serious problems in Kazakhstan with regards to optimizing communications across different technologies, devices, and time zones. What they needed was a unified digital platform that would allow them to implement changes uniformly, without patches and issues with version control. After a lot of deliberation and market research, the folks at Tele2 Kazakhstan finally settled on the Office 365 cloud platform, mainly because of its customer-centric and “unified” approach.
In addition to enabling Tele2 to deliver the kind of customer service it needed to remain relevant and competitive, the move also allowed for centralized rather than local IT management, thus significantly simplifying operations. Since moving to the cloud, Tele2 employees now walk around with a virtual office in their pockets and are able to regularly communicate with colleagues or customers in different regions via video conferences and group chats. This new level of “agility” not only allows for quick discussion and resolution of issues but also paves the way for future adoption of DevOps and cloud-native practices. Using Office 365 to collaborate also reduces costs associated with travel and training. Looking ahead, Tele2 is exploring even more cloud-based products in the quest to become more transparent to clients.
Yet another story of an organization dealing with aging communication systems is that of Foot Levelers, which has been in business for 65 years developing well-designed orthotics to help patients avoid costly treatments like drugs and surgery. Foot levelers were using a decade-old system that not only lacked most modern features but was increasingly difficult to manage. Mike Chittum, the company’s director of information security, was quoted stating “our legacy system was extremely time consuming and required a very specific skill set to keep it up and running. It needed sizable amounts of dedicated hardware and wiring, and was difficult to administer.” Additionally, a similarly configured replacement would set the organization back $120,000, plus a fat phone bill at the end of the month.
After a thorough investigation of cloud-based business phone vendors based on stability, price and usability, Foot Levelers decided to go with 8×8 Virtual Office. In addition to integrating seamlessly with the Foot Levelers Salesforce instance and its call center application, the 8×8 softphone technology also enables employees to route their calls to virtually any device irrespective of location. The move to 8×8 not only helped Foot Levelers reduce its phone bill by $1,500 a month but also saved the $120,000 it would have cost to install a new system. Foot Levelers’ employees now use collaboration tools that feature fax, messaging, full remote meetings and conference calls and have the option to use the company app to make work calls from their computers or mobile phones.
Yes, modernize your communications systems
Communications are key in any work environment and if your legacy systems are dragging you down, now is the time to change. Remember, it’s not just costing you time and money, it’s also costing you in missed opportunities. Go ahead and modernize the way your organization talks.
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