Most IT professionals have been on a project at one point in their career where the scope creep is infinite and seems unmanageable. Business partners can be demanding in their requirements to make their organization highly productive, improve accuracy and automate common agent functions. But, like with any project, keeping day one requirements simple or out of the box helps guarantee a successful roll out. Requirements, when they grow too complex, can delay projects due to budget and/or resource constraints.
When users haven’t had CTI before, they will quickly grow to rely on it. Organizations that had CTI and are transitioning to a new system or interface pose larger challenges because they typically are looking for feature parity. When comparing a softphone that lives outside of the CRM with one that does, there are usually variances. Users may be resistant to give up features that they have become accustomed to in order to gain others that they didn’t have outside of the CRM. Identifying a productized solution can help alleviate some of the negotiation burden assuming that the product can check the box of the most common requirements and those that provide the greatest return on investment.
Here are some simple tips to navigate CTI requirements successfully and kiss project woes away:
- Perform your due diligence during vendor selection.
- Ask for recommendations from your CRM and communication platform vendors.
- Research the level of experience the vendor has in the contact center space and the relationships they have with their partners.
- Compare apples to apples.
- Don’t forget to ask about services and maintenance/tech support when discussing the overall cost of a solution.
- A fast implementation or an inexpensive solution may blur shortcomings that can impact you in the future.
- Limit Day One requirements to must haves to avoid throw away work.
- Wait until after users have actually started using the system to identify custom development – this can illuminate the way agents are REALLY using the software and what modifications can/should be made to streamline that process. You may find that things that users had to have become less important after roll out or things that didn’t seem as important become more critical.
- Weigh out nice to haves with the ROI. Investing in custom development can take you down a long road of maintenance so make sure that agents will really take advantage of an automated process and that it is easier than a manual process.
- Anticipate any changes that you may need to make and defer any departure from standard functionality. Regulation changes that impact how you conduct business can throw off timelines or make some customizations moot so being closer to steady state can save some money.
- Treat your CTI project like a project instead of an afterthought.
- Document your requirements. Basic telephony features may seem very simple and easy to understand and for the most part they are, however, scenarios involving multiple agents, updated call attached data and exceptions can easily be overlooked and forgotten when ad hoc testing.
- Identify and document project dependencies and make sure that timelines and statuses are clearly communicated.
- Create and maintain a test environment.
- Most companies have a test environment for their CRM application but there are many organizations that do not maintain a separate test environment for telephony.
- A test telephony environment should be set up that is as close to production as possible including queues, IVR, dialer etc. to ensure there are no surprises and all integration points and features have been well vetted
- Create explicit test scripts to avoid any gaps or misunderstandings. Circulate those test scripts to the business to ensure that all use cases are covered. You’d be surprised how often customers conduct a pilot and don’t run through what the business deems critical scenarios.
- Make sure change control is handled well by communicating and coordinating across the teams. You don’t want to find out changes have been made to queues or your CRM has just been upgraded after you’ve completed your first pass of testing!
- Pilot to ensure user adoption and work through any issues with data flow.
- Offering new software to a pilot group helps build advocates and expertise and encourages user adoption.
- Big Bang rollouts can certainly be successful but require a lot of planning and testing especially at an enterprise level.
Simplifying and organizing your CTI project will not only make your life easier, but will allow you to work smarter, not harder! This may seem like a lot of overhead especially if you are a smaller organization with just a hand full of agents. The added documentation and the communication required to build that documentation is well worth it, though. The investment up front will pay off by reducing the number of iterations and surprises during testing and the business will be happy to have been involved in such a successful, well thought out roll out.