We examine the benefits that three very different charities experienced when they integrated their telephony into Microsoft Teams
This article is sponsored by Class Networks - trusted experts in charity sector communications
The rush to remote working solutions such as Microsoft Teams since the onset of the pandemic has been well documented. But what began as a change borne out of necessity has become a strategic operational decision with a place in the future of many charities.
As we emerge from the 2nd national lockdown with the possibility of future restrictions uncertain but expected, organisations must consider their approach to remote working. Organisations that have adopted Microsoft Teams now have an opportunity to optimise as they continue their digital transformation journey; particularly by making the most of existing solutions to integrate external telephony into their Teams environment.
In this feature, we’ll share the experiences of three very different charities who have successfully moved their external telephony off of a traditional telephone system and on to Microsoft Teams through Class Networks’ Teams Voice service. Each organisation started from a different place, but all have made the journey to a very similar destination.
Two organisations, Friends of the Earth (FoE) and the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) need little introduction, whilst the third, the Legal Services Agency (LSA), is a Scottish Law Centre and charity which provides skilled legal advice, assistance and representation to vulnerable people and those who would otherwise find it difficult to get legal advice.
Friends of the Earth (FOE) were an early adopter of Teams Voice, migrating in late 2019. At the time, FOE’s primary objective was to save money by moving off their on-premises telephone system, removing system maintenance costs and lowering call charges.
FOE also found that it was becoming more difficult to manage the multiple communication platforms that the organisation had adopted over time. Having researched potential solutions, FOE identified Microsoft Teams as a single communication platform that could support traditional telephone system functionality like ring groups, auto attendants and voicemail alongside chat, audio and video conferencing, screen sharing and file storage.
Apart from significant cost savings, a number of other benefits were realised:
As remote working becomes more commonplace, many charities are actively moving to a fully remote model or at the very least are downsizing to reflect a reduced need for physical space.
The Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) owned its head office building in Cardiff and two regional office buildings in Rhyl and Aberystwyth. All the offices were larger than needed and so the plan was to sell all three buildings and then rent smaller office spaces thus still retaining an office presence at 3 locations across Wales.
WCVA’s digital services strategy was established in 2018 with the principal objective of having no reliance on in-house infrastructure or equipment except for a printer, good WiFi and internet access - staff would just need to plug in their laptop.
WCVA’s digital services strategy underpinned the organisation’s ability to migrate office workers in the regional offices to home workers, whilst downsizing their Cardiff operation and moving into smaller premises.
The decision to integrate external telephony into Teams was an easy one to make, as WCVA were already trained and comfortable using the solution for all internal communications and meetings.
WCVA effected the switch-over to Class Networks’ Teams Voice service at the start of the first lockdown. Staff left the office with a phone on their desk and worked from home using a softphone. When they returned to the office their desk phone had gone.
The key to WCVA’s successful migration was having an accurate and up-to-date documentation on all users, ring groups, 0300 numbers and Helplines. As a result, the move to Teams Voice was seamless - it was switched on and it worked.
The feedback from staff was positive and respondents found that when used with a mobile, the solution truly allows staff to communicate when and where they want. In lockdown, this can be while waiting at the school gate or running other personal errands.
The move to Teams and Teams Voice coupled with the lockdowns has led to a drop in traditional telephone calls, as staff are using other electronic means. People are also becoming more accustomed to homeworking and the technology it involves. WCVA have found some staff are geared up for home working and have helped facilitate this by allowing staff to take home office equipment like chairs and monitors. Some staff still prefer an office environment.
WCVA estimated Pre-lockdown that head office occupancy was normally under 50%, dropping even as low as 30%. As a result of staff working successfully remotely WCVA are downsizing further the hot desk requirements for their new head office.
Like many charities, the Legal Services Agency (LSA) were not so well prepared for the first lockdown as they had a robust but dated analogue telephone system that was not suited for remote working. LSA adapted quickly to resolve the ability to work remotely – in particular, the ability to remotely manage their main switchboard number.
However, this meant that they had to have two different systems running at the same time: the existing Panasonic system and a temporary VOIP solution.
LSA needed to find a solution that would not only provide flexibility to address their immediate needs but be future proof and provide long-term benefits. So LSA also undertook what was to be a successful external telephony trial with Microsoft Teams.
LSA found that while staff have had to deal with a number of changes, Teams is an application that staff were already familiar with. So, whilst there were still changes to get used to, they remained within the same environment for calls, messaging and file storage.
LSA chose to move all their telephony to Class Networks’ Teams Voice service. Ahead of the migration, Class Networks were able to help LSA understand what was happening with their existing line rentals and various phone numbers. As a result, LSA were able to cancel unnecessary services and create a clear picture of what needed to be replicated in Teams Voice. This made for a smooth transition and additional cost savings.
Bespoke onboard training played a key role in ensuring good user adoption. It took into account LSA’s specific needs and showed staff how to navigate through LSA’s particular set-up better than an online training session could. Recording the training not only for those who missed it but also as a reference document proved really useful along with bite-size guidance documents
LSA summarized the key benefits of Microsoft Teams and Teams Voice below:
These benefits are representative of those experienced by most organisations.
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