If you are going to have a virtual office, you have to have a virtual phone system. And you need to pick, and set up, that virtual phone system before you untether the office.
Go back and re-read that last sentence. Because there isn’t a system without hiccups. One of those hiccups is making your users sign in and turn on the damned system. I know. Prior to us untethering our office, we went through the process of picking a new phone system and installing it on our users’ computers and cell phones. Then I, the leader, started using it first. And it seemed that I was the only one using it, as I would start to call my staff on their new untethered extensions and they wouldn’t answer. So I had to resort to standing in their office and dialing them. When they’d ask whom I was calling, my answer was simple - you. “Now, turn on your damned phone and answer your damned calls.”
Aside from getting users to use the system, you are going to have to go through a needs analysis like we did to determine which is the best phone system for your organization and its needs. And Google and the web is great for that initial research. GetApp is a wonderful site for comparing software, and its the first one I turned to when researching online systems. You can see our comparisons HERE.
Because we’d already gone to Microsoft’s online version of Office, every staff member got a copy of Skype. However, it has great limitations and is much better for freelancers or individuals than it is for distributed, virtual organizations like ours. We needed a system that
- has great integrations to some of our favorite tools such as ZenDesk, DropBox, Office 365, as well as API capabilities for whatever else we might want to connect it with;
- has PBX features such as an office directory, call routing and forwarding;
- conferencing features; and last but not least
- trend analysis and analytics.
The choices were to stay with Skype or make the move to something more robust. As if someone was spying on me, I started to get unsolicited emails from sales folks at RingCentral and LogMeIn. It turns out that LogMeIn had just purchased Jive and is going to be fully integrating it with GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar which we were already using and enjoying. So I did the research.
Our final answer
After our research, our final answer was to move to the Jive Platform.
It is now installed on every user’s phone (it damned well better be) and computer.
We have call routing and an office directory when you call the main number (my extension is 1438 which I hand picked for reasons I’ll give you if you ask me).
It integrates with ZenDesk (that’s done, right Sean?), Slack, and other tools we needed it to connect with.
And we also have trend analysis and reporting. Which is great!
The only thing I wish it would do is stop ringing on my cell phone when I’m sitting next to my computer. I’d love the ability for it to sense where my phone is, and when I’m in my home office have it ring on my desktop only. That’s be great...