Sometimes, you’re just due for an upgrade. That sounds like a routine process, but when you’re a huge supply company spanning the country, things can get extremely complicated.
In one particular case, a customer wanted to update its telephony infrastructure—about 500 branches of work over a relatively short period of time. Having been a customer of SHI for over a decade, the company came to us for help. Even with our extensive knowledge of the client and their equipment, it was true that this was going to be a challenge.
Despite these doubts, the initial complications of pilot testing and rollout, and the overall complexity of the project, SHI managed to find the perfect set of resources and people to get the project done right. Here’s how we did it.
Big project, big challenges
The company’s inventory of IT devices was substantial—reaching into the tens of thousands across all of its U.S. branches. In 2014, it decided the time had come to swap out and update its telephony infrastructure, replacing all the old systems with new Cisco equipment that better fit the company’s modern needs, as well as switching to a more cost-effective service provider.
The system would eventually roll out across all of its branches, each with its own requirements and specifications. About a third of them—500 or so—needed to be switched over to the new infrastructure during this specific project. To help conquer such an ambitious rollout, we partnered with iTeam, which was responsible for handling the on-the-ground installation of all the new systems.
The company had an idea of what it wanted, but had not yet done a full analysis and evaluation of how the rollout would operate. SHI, iTeam, and the customer each had their own responsibilities to handle, internally and externally, to make the rollout a success. And while dividing the responsibilities broke the process into more manageable pieces, it meant that coordination, communication, and management were key to making sure everything got done in the right way at the right time.
Sensing the difficulties of all that coordination and communication, SHI took extra steps to expedite the project and make sure all the teams were on the same wavelength, so that the project could get done on a reasonable 18-month timeline.
Under new management
In the spring of 2015, to help with the growing day-to-day matters of this extensive rollout, a project manager was brought on to fulfill functions related to the on-the-ground operations. In the beginning, the role mostly dealt with organization and communication—running pilots to see how things were working, figuring out who should be contacted at the client company and iTeam for different aspects of the project, and setting up lines of communication among them all.
Part of this was in the form of an IT Helpdesk, set up by iTeam, which allowed the various branches of the project (SHI, the hardware provider; iTeam, which was doing installation; and the customer) to interact, and learn crucial information about the sites, such as what electric and wireless infrastructure was already in place. It also served as a makeshift timeline, tracking each piece of the project, from the timing of the pilot tests to the specific hardware that needed to be swapped, and allowing the various teams to leave notes on each along the way.
The project manager served as the touch point for the different teams, collecting and distributing information to each, scheduling next steps, and monitoring pilots—all with assistance from the helpdesk portal. With 60 to 70 branches making up each wave of the expansion, the helpdesk, organized neatly for each individual branch, worked to make coordinating branch-specific tasks a much simpler matter. After two or three months, the process started to run itself.
A smooth, stable transition
As a result, the new phone system was successfully rolled out across 500 branches—and the customer may be looking to add even more. Its new system brought these branches up to corporate standards, moved everyone over to voice over IP, and updated network closets. The process was smooth and efficient.
Even with the best equipment and team in the world, a lack of proper management and communication will spell doom for any IT project. That’s why we offer the resources—through our people and technology—to complete even the most complicated projects.