Lesley McKibbon is the lead project manager for Allstream’s UC operations, managing the delivery of hosted and cloud solutions for medium to large businesses in North America. expertIP talks to Lesley about how unified communication (UC) is helping businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic and what this means for customers moving forward as we manage uncertainty.
What’s the role of a UC project manager at Allstream?
We manage the delivery of unified communications solutions, which includes leading the project throughout its entire lifecycle. We also act as an advocate for customers, making sure the solution they purchase is the solution we’re delivering. We have dedicated technicians and project managers that work with larger customers to make sure we optimize their solution — they might be unaware of what they could do differently to improve their experience.
How were UC project managers able to keep businesses running at the start of the pandemic?
Our team works well under pressure, given that collectively we have well over a century of telecom experience. We’re able to get things done relatively quickly — not just pushing things through, but guiding customers on what will work well for them in the moment and what we could do to support them in the future. At the start of the pandemic we put some customers into service in less than a week, and we’ll continue on that journey with them when they’re ready for the next phase.
What were some of the biggest challenges that customers faced during the initial lockdown?
We had existing customers that already had a UC solution in place but hadn’t fully implemented it, so we helped them get their employees set up at home with soft phones — which is a critical piece that a lot of customers were missing. We also delivered training, walking their IT team through the features and functionality of soft phones.
For new customers, we set up solutions from scratch, often with little time to get it done — knowing the urgency. I’ve worked with several new customers since the start of the pandemic, but we’re doing a phased approach. Phase 1 involves getting employees up and running remotely, and then Phase 2 involves setting up the solution at their office when they’re ready to send workers back.
How does our UC technology address these challenges?
Our UC product suite helps businesses stay connected whether it be through soft phones so employees can work at home, a Webex solution providing conferencing or IT CloudView for managed IT and security. Knowing you have security in place that you can access remotely from a dashboard can give our customers peace of mind when they can’t be at the physical office.
What are the next steps as employees return to the office?
With many offices remaining closed until next year or taking a staggered approach when returning to the office, our team is helping customers with that transition — whenever it happens. In some cases, IT staff are saying this is the perfect time to roll out new technology while employees are working from home. They’re also looking for cost savings. Depending on the solution, if you’re using soft phones as opposed to physical sets, you don’t have the costs associated with buying, leasing or maintaining equipment.
What’s a differentiator for Allstream?
I have customers who have been with me for five-plus years, and same with others on the UC team. We develop relationships with them and we work with them to understand their needs. We’re not just facilitating calls and action logs, we deliver training we work through designs and discuss solutions with them, and we try to understand the unique needs of their business. Even when we’ve finished a project, we have an ongoing relationship. Despite these uncertain times, and the uncertainty that lies ahead, we’re helping to support our customers in any way we can — we’re just a phone call away.