“You’re kidding, right?”
That was my response as my executive assistant dropped two pounds of telephone invoices on my desk to review and sign in my first month as a new healthcare CIO. With a smile on her face that looked suspiciously evil as she turned to walk away, she replied, “Nope! Have fun!”
Such was my introduction to our legacy phone system and the beginning of the journey to our Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS) transformation. Little did I know that a two-pound invoice (along with 39—mercifully smaller—invoices) would be the start of a very important expedition towards adopting cloud-based communications and collaboration for a more digital, future-proofed future at our healthcare facility.
Open the door to innovation
Unless your health system started from scratch in the last couple of years, its history is likely cluttered with growth, acquisitions and reorganizations. In tandem with this organizational growth, digital transformation is becoming widely adopted within the healthcare industry, breaking down barriers and enabling smarter work and easier communication for end users.
A recent report found that the market size value of UCaaS in 2021 is roughly $46 billion, with a revenue forecast of $210 billion by 2028.1 Organizations are using UCaaS to empower their increasingly mobile workforce with cost-effective, secure solutions that benefit employer and employee alike. But for some businesses struggling to keep up—like mine at the time—the priority is simply to get things working.
Take baby steps
Thinking back to when our healthcare organization started the transition process, it’s easy to recall the team at Windstream Enterprise being a true partner. They helped us compile the list of phone numbers (from all those invoices) that belonged to the hospital. Together, we dug into our antiquated PBX to discover all the extensions and call routing in place. Armed with that information, we met with each department director to learn more about what phone lines and extensions they had and how they used them.
There were many first steps—like these—that contributed to our organization building a solid layout to successfully implement a UCaaS solution. Yet, the most essential piece was having this alliance with Windstream Enterprise, to walk us through how UCaaS works, why it solved our existing problems and how UCaaS left us with improved connectivity, collaboration and an enabled workforce.
The inner workings of UCaaS
UCaaS does the job of integrating all key enterprise communication types, including audio, video conferencing, messaging and collaborative web functionality. By combining these separate tools, UCaaS enhances organizational workflow, operational efficiency and productivity. The result was also seen through a positive patient and employee experience within our environment.
With any large transition, you must be prepared for any obstacles—they are bound to happen. For us, one of those challenges was proving ownership of the phone numbers, which are done via invoices. But zooming out, I’m happy to say that the process of implementation was worth it—it was an essential part of our organization adjusting to a more innovative, digital health system.
Looking back, if I were to go through this UCaaS transition again, there are a few lessons I would apply to make the implementation process even more seamless:
- Document everything. A common implementation pitfall occurs when poor documentation causes delays and mistakes—this I can relate to. Keep detailed records of the current phone system and document the needs and processes required for the migration. This includes users, auto attendants, call routing, all locations of phones, and current phone numbers and their uses. Documentation provides the information required for a smooth rollout.
- Prepare for the future. Last year greatly changed the way health systems function. Increased patient loads and more network traffic from work-from-home staff can cause major functional and security disruptions. Organizations with mission-critical environments require survivability for unexpected events. That’s why Windstream Enterprise unveiled a new solution, WINpod, to support hybrid cloud enterprise networks to enable 100% uptime and unparalleled resiliency. Look for solutions that can give you peace of mind during a time of great change in the healthcare industry.
- Zoom out. When undergoing implementation, it’s easy to forget that cloud-based UCaaS systems have to rely on other things to deliver on their promise. One of those things is network connectivity. Often, quality and reliability appear as two key problems that enterprise customers run into when executing a UCaaS strategy. But the real issues behind quality and reliability might require a wider look into network optimization as a way to overcome performance issues of a unified voice, video and messaging solution. SD-WAN technology can provide a more flexible network that supports the growing disparate workforce, which is why it’s helpful to zoom out and consider network connectivity and solutions as well.
- Prepare the workforce. UCaaS provides amazing capabilities, especially when it comes to disaster recovery and business continuity, but your healthcare workforce likely knows and trusts the analog system. Be honest about the changes the organization will undergo and recognize there might be challenges. Take action and enlist their assistance in resolving them. Rather than downplay or hide challenges, bring them to light and ask if anyone else is experiencing the same. In doing so, enough employees will come over to the team to make it a UCaaS win for your entire health system.
- Lean on the experts. There are a lot of moving pieces when it comes to implementing a robust unified communications solution. Your business requirements are unique, and it helps to have an experienced service provider properly guide your charge into a successful UC implementation. Working with a trusted partner can help maintain your solution’s life to ensure its longevity and best performance—proper maintenance is key to longer-term success. For those who prefer to self-manage things, our customers rely on WE Connect, a centralized portal that provides real-time visibility and immediate access to all the information about your services in one place, on any device.
Make no mistake about it: A UCaaS integration is a major undertaking. Following these tips can make the process easier. There’s a lot of prework to be done—what better time to dive in than now?
- “Unified Communication as a Service Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report by Deployment (Public Cloud, Private Cloud), by Industry Vertical (IT & Telecom, Healthcare), by Region, and Segment Forecasts, 2021 – 2028.” Grand View Research. March, 2021.