In my early years as a naïve young marketer, a wise and considerably more experienced sales manager told me “Andy, this marketing stuff sounds like scifi techno babble. Does anyone in the ivory tower ever actually listen to what our customers really need?” Or at least something to that effect. She may have been slightly less polite! But it taught me a lesson. Marketing isn’t about the feeds and speeds, product features or all things shiny and new. It’s about listening to customers, understanding their needs and solving their problems. Tech marketing is no exception.
Which is why I was excited to recently get an invite to participate in a “technical workshop” with a huge AudioCodes end customer. And I do mean huge. This company operates in over 75 countries and employs a workforce of over 75,000 people in its factories, R&D departments and offices. You will undoubtedly be familiar with the company’s portfolio of brands, but I’m not revealing that here!. The workshop topic was all about the organization’s global migration initiative to Microsoft Teams for enterprise voice and collaboration, a journey which AudioCodes technology underpins.
Tech Marketing is All About Listening.
Let me be clear. Jim, if you’re reading this, please excuse my colourful language. My fellow Star Trek fans may relate. I’m a marketer not a technical expert dammit!
So when I say “excited” I admit I was daunted by the prospect of a detailed technical deep dive with brilliant and well trained IT experts going well beyond my comfort zone. Fortunately, my early misgivings were quickly proven as unfounded. The technical discussions were all linked to clearly relatable business challenges. Following is a quick summary of the high level observations I made during the workshop, including some insights which I believe are relevant to any large enterprise considering migration to Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft Teams is Quite Literally a Team Effort
I was initially surprised by the number of people at this workshop. On top of the customer’s IT team and AudioCodes senior tech consultant, we were joined by several Microsoft experts and the customer’s system integrator for telephony. It very quickly became clear to me why. For a migration of this scale, a broad scope of skills and expertise is needed to successfully achieve the project objectives. So many questions, so many potential issues and most of them cross vendor boundaries. The challenge indeed called for a multidisciplinary collective response.
Phased Migration is the Reality for Large Enterprises
The customer was looking to migrate from their current environment to Microsoft Teams for meetings, collaboration and enterprise voice. But I learned very quickly that this was not to be a direct and universal roll-out to Teams covering every capability across the entire organization. The strategy was, in fact, to move to Microsoft Teams for meetings globally, but to roll Teams out in phases for collaboration and enterprise voice on a case by case basis depending on department needs. This also meant a temporary move to Skype for Business en-route to Teams for most employees. “Why move to Skype for Business?” I asked (as a naïve marketer I’m allowed to ask why!).
As it turned out, a few really important business considerations are at play. First, a desire to quickly move away from existing infrastructure to avoid escalating support costs. The financial motivation is compelling.. Second, in some key countries, the company’s leadership was not keen on too much disruption too soon. Such a move to Skype for Business was perceived to be less disruptive to local operations in terms of telephony functionality and user adoption.
Takeaway: First, always ask why! What may seem a counter-intuitive move from a technology perspective may make perfect sense in the context of business challenges. Furthermore, it’s clear that enterprises need to engage and embrace the opinions of influential leaders across the business when planning a global migration project. The success of a new technology deployment is largely predicated on user adoption. This factor is so critical, I highly recommend introducing it as a key metric before embarking on a migration project. AudioCodes has a great whitepaper on this titled The People Factor – a critical ingredient for intelligent communications.
Analog Connectivity is Still Important
As a marketer in technology it’s easy to get distracted by shiny new things. The assumption is that everyone in the business not only wants but indeed needs the shiny new tech in vogue and the sooner the better! Surely it is wise to follow the old adage “out with the old and in with the new”. As you may have guessed, it’s not always that simple. The reality is that most businesses, especially larger enterprises, correctly prioritize the ability to connect new technology with legacy technology as essential to business continuity.
This could be attributed to financial considerations. It is quite common to sweat a legacy investment for as long as possible, an existing PBX infrastructure being a case in point. Alternatively, as was the case for this particular business, analogue devices may address a critical capability that is essential to worldwide manufacturing facilities. Specifically, the distinct need was for robust analogue phones that provide both low cost telephony and direct PSTN access supporting emergency calls. Replacing these devices was simply not an option. So the new technology solution must provide connectivity to the legacy technology.
On-Premises, Cloud or Hybrid? Full Speed Ahead!
One of the more technical discussions in the workshop was exploring which version of AudioCodes Mediant session border controller would best serve the customer’s requirement. The answer was several of them! Approximately one third of the company’s locations would be served by centralised, cloud based SBCs hosted in datacenters across the globe. But the rest would require local premise-based appliances and gateways. All monitored and managed via AudioCodes One Voice Operations Center and all benefiting from AudioCodes professional services to support the deployment and ongoing use case.
From a network connectivity perspective, the company had considered Microsoft Calling Plans but relatively high costs and limited global availability meant that they were planning to use Direct Routing for Microsoft Teams, so that they could leverage the more competitive calling tariffs of existing service providers.
Takeaway: Organisations often seek a simple answer regarding adoption of an on-premise or cloud-based IT strategy. While moving as much as possible to the cloud is driving many organisations’ IT strategies, the reality for most larger enterprises is that a Hybrid deployment model makes more sense given the varied connectivity requirements in remote locations across the globe.
Overall, I listened, learned, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that my day at the technical workshop was an enlightening experience. It was evident that technology decisions are very much led by business challenges. Fortunately, it’s human nature to favour pragmatism over perfection. The larger the enterprise, the greater the need for a phased migration approach that addresses all of these challenges, encourages user adoption and addresses the many and varied connectivity issues faced by different locations. One size does not fit all, so it’s essential that enterprise organisations seek expert advice from vendors, system integrators and service providers in a collaborative format to meet their project objectives. I was delighted to see that AudioCodes plays a central role in this, as a trusted advisor in guiding organisations through the complex migration journey to Microsoft Teams.