immedia MIGRATES FROM LEGACY VOIP TO A MICROSOFT TEAMS VOICE SOLUTION
The immedia ecosystem
MICROSOFT SOLUTION AREA
• Remote workers
• Ageing hardware
South Africa 🇿🇦
After the presidential announcement that all South Africans would need to adhere to strict lockdown regulations, the immedia ecosystem needed to transition from being an office-bound team, to fully remote within the space of a week.
Nearly 3 years before, Geek Managed Services installed, implemented and trained the immedia team on Microsoft 365, to the point where most daily communication was trafficked through the Microsoft Teams application, and collaboration on Office 365 documents became commonplace throughout the organisation.
However, this response to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic would cause an immediate impact to the telephonic helpdesk and other support channels that the teams provided for their clients – all of which were underpinned by a legacy PABX solution.
immedia preserves business continuity during COVID-19 Lockdown with the implementation of Microsoft Teams Voice by Geek Managed Services.
Durban-based technology company, the immedia ecosystem (known simply as immedia) is staffed by a team of software developers and technology consultants in Durban, South Africa. Their managed services tech team Geek Managed Services also provides in-house tech strategy and support to the ecosystem.
The immedia ecosystem, a technology team based in Durban, South Africa, are the kind of client that IT teams love – they are always interested in the benefits from adopting newer tech, many of which include quicker, more effective results at a lower price-point. That’s why the power of the Microsoft 365 platform, underpinned by Azure, offered the most appealing modern workplace solution for them.
As with many small-to-medium business, immedia’s technology needs constantly shift based on opportunity and necessity. When planning the transition from Slack to Microsoft Teams as their modern collaboration tool, immedia opted for a phased approach – starting with a focus on apps & integrations, collaborative documents, and inter-team video calls & presentations.
For their telephony, immedia had been using a legacy PABX solution which provided services such as switchboard management, call-waiting, call diverting for after-hours or emergency support, and even allowing facilities such as do-not-disturb.
A move to a Teams-based phone system had been lower down on the project list, but was rapidly re-prioritised once the Coronavirus pandemic was declared a national emergency in South Africa.
MAKING INFORMED TECH DECISIONS
An underlying factor in moving to Teams was one of ageing hardware. Due to immedia's PABX system being damaged by electricity load shedding early in 2020, their entire system had to be replaced at a significant cost. Instead of incurring that capital expenditure which would also include the cost of more modern landlines for each employee, the decision had been made to go all in on a Cloud solution.
In early April 2020, the South African government announced a national lockdown to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Every institution, public or private, educational or recreational, would be closed. All South Africans were instructed to shelter in place and only permitted to visit local supermarkets for groceries and household supplies.
Whilst immedia’s various tech services categorised them as an essential technology provider, a company-wide decision was made in the interest of the health of staff members and their families that everyone would work from home and only use their travel permit should the situation demand it.
As technology professionals, this transition would be relatively manageable for most of the immedia staff. For the previous 2½ years, immedia had leveraged new ways of collaboration through Microsoft Teams, OneDrive for Business and the other cloud-based applications.
The major implication from a business continuity perspective was to be reachable by clients. The team needed to be able to answer their customer care and sales lines, route calls to individuals’ mobile phones, forward external calls to different individuals for escalations, and handle conference calling with multiple partners & clients - especially at a time when all meetings would become virtual.
In addition to voice calls that most customers were used to and that the original PABX system would manage, customers seemed to prefer video meetings; likely to combat the overwhelming feeling of disconnection and isolation that can occur with extreme social distancing.
Geek Managed Services decided that the best solution to meet the required collaboration, productivity and a secured remote working solution was to implement Microsoft Teams Voice.
Nhlanganiso Shabangu, senior Systems Engineer and certified Azure Administrator at Geek Managed System shares some of the factors that led to their decision: “Whilst the previous phone system worked fine, it was not providing immedia’s strategic needs for better collaboration, productivity and security. They required a modern solution which would provide flawless operation and allow its workforce to securely work remotely.
“An additional challenge faced during the country’s lockdown period included configuration changes to the PABX, which had to be done on the business premises. We needed to ensure the voice configurations were accessible from remote locations and thus opted for a cloud-based solution. We wanted to ensure the cloud voice system didn't just solve this problem; but also provide a better overall solution by integrating with the daily operational and collaboration tools used by immedia as part of their daily workflow.”
"We wanted to ensure the cloud voice system didn't just solve this problem, but also provide a better overall solution by integrating with the daily operational and collaboration tools used by immedia as part of their daily workflow."
NISO SHABANGU, SYSTEMS ENGINEER
In addition to the importance of empowering collaboration with tools such as Microsoft O365, Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Teams, cost-saving was a key deciding factor.
Rolling out Teams Voice would work out to be far cheaper than to replace the traditional PABX, which amounted to a once-off cost of approximately R70 000. Teams Voice operates on a monthly subscription for a contractual period with initial set up costs which are a fraction of the PABX cost.
The company was also delighted to save on purchasing telephones as Teams Voice is connected via an app available on smartphone and all desktops.
Jarred Ellis, the implementation engineer for the project, kicked off the project through a rapid but thorough needs assessment: “We identified that the employees in the business were already using Teams’ native calling/meeting function to collaborate internally with each other, and that the voice solution was only required for external collaboration with business partners and immedia’s clients. The employees who had this requirement were highlighted for licensing and configuration requirements.
“We then partnered with a PSTN provider to handle the porting of the existing telephone numbers as well as to provide immedia with temporary numbers while porting was being facilitated with the legacy provider.”
PREPARING PEOPLE FOR CHANGE
immedia’s Microsoft 365 tenant underwent configuration to include the resource accounts required for the solution as well as caller queues, auto-attendants, licensing requirements and calling policies. It was important to maintain familiarity in call routing in the business to minimize the impact of the change, while still adhering to calling policy restrictions such as international calls being reserved for sales-focused personnel.
One of the technicians from the Geek team, Markus Krenzer, was then assigned to migrate to Microsoft Teams Voice in stages from piloting, testing, going live and training. He quickly began working with the identified employees that would require O365 licenses to enable Microsoft Teams Voice.
Says Markus, "The success of the project hinged on the immedia personnel being able to successfully use the platform. Because they were already working 100% remotely at that point, we arranged via a Teams screen-sharing call to educate and train all licence holders so that they could switch into the Teams environment with as little hassle as possible.
"This training began with two basic training sessions with demo's on making/receiving calls, call transfers, conducting group call and screen-share setup.
"After a few weeks during which the staff were given some time to adjust to the solution, an advanced session was held to address any experience-based questions, and for us to share more guidance around conducting conference calls/meetings, retrieving voicemail, and setting automatic call forwarding. We also used the opportunity to introduce the attendees to some of the latest Teams features such as statuses, setting up meetings and customising your Teams experience.
Following these meetings, training resources were made available on Teams for staff to revisit at any time should they need a refresher.
"The success of the project hinged on the immedia personnel being able to successfully use the platform."
MARKUS KRENZER, PROJECT TECHNICIAN
GETTING BACK TO BUSINESS ACCELERATED
Microsoft Teams Voice is redefining how immedia works, it is a complete collaboration tool that has increased productivity and allowed the immedia workforce to securely work from home during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Reevana Thomas is one of the immedia team who often speaks to external people using her landline. Whilst the change to remote-working would greatly impact her ability to receive calls from jobseekers and conduct telephonic interviews, she was able to continue her normal routines because of the transition - and benefitted from numerous unexpected efficiencies.
"We have curbed the lag I usually experience with interviews. I no longer need to spend time booking a meeting room, looking back and forth from my screen to the phone to tap out a number or craning my neck to keep the phone receiver wedged between my ear and neck. I can simply copy and paste a phone number on the Teams Voice dial-pad and refer to history to quickly call back if needed later.
"Being able to walk and talk in the comfort of my home with either my earphones connected to my phone or simply with the volume on my laptop has improved conversation quality and created allowance for achieving higher call volume, especially after hours when candidates can interview with ease.
"Recruiters and candidates were blown away to discover that our switchboard was fully operational during the lockdown. That itself addressed uncertainties about our business being operational during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The result is speedy, valuable placements.
"What I love most about using Teams Voice is that I did not need to touch a phone with my fingers, ears or mouth. Less stress about the spread of germs equals more productivity!"
Based on the statistics available in the Admin portal, we can see how immedia's phone call usage increased after the Teams Voice implementation.
Due to the mobility and convenience of Microsoft Teams' availability on all devices, staff members no longer need to use their personal cellphones for business calls when they are out of the office or on the road between meetings.
Microsoft Teams is transforming the way immedia works by accomplishing:
Rich Meeting Experience, PSTN calls allows dial-in conferencing
Cloud Vision: The combination of Microsoft Teams, Office 365, SharePoint and OneDrive for business supports immedia’s cloud-first vision.
Mobile connectivity, allowing phoning from laptop to the Microsoft Teams App on the phone.
Security: End to End encryption is implemented on Microsoft Teams which allows for safe collaboration.
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FIND OUT HOW TO USE MICROSOFT TEAMS AS YOUR BUSINESS PHONE
Microsoft Teams Voice Calls using Direct Routing enables you to make landline, mobile or international calls from your mobile or PC from anywhere in the world with a local outgoing number.