Who Owns the Phone System?
Hint: It Isn’t No One and It Can’t Be Everyone
As a company that sells business phone systems, understanding which person in an organization is responsible for the phone system is pretty important. After all, we need to know who we are trying to reach with our marketing and sales messages. Turns out, it isn't that simple. There are good reasons why different companies make different choices about who should select, manage and administer the phone system. But that doesn't mean that there aren't key responsibilities that should be carefully considered and assigned by each company. Here’s what we've learned.
The Phone System’s Place in the Technology Ecosystem Has Evolved
Sometime in the middle of the twentieth century, it became clear that businesses needed phones. The phones were treated much like the plumbing or running water - necessary, but not strategic to the business. In fact, often the phones were considered, or literally were, just part of the building. It made sense then that the person responsible for the phone system was usually the same person responsible for the facility. In larger companies it was a dedicated facilities manager, but in many it was a more general office manager. (Or, let’s be honest, whoever got “stuck” with this un-glamorous assignment.) As phone systems became more and more sophisticated and advanced technical skills became necessary to administer them, many companies shifted this responsibility to the IT department or even a dedicated communications manager. All this makes sense as long as the phone system is considered a non-strategic, complicated but necessary, basic tool for doing business. But what happens when companies start to think about the phones as a strategic revenue generating weapon and a source of competitive advantage?
If You Own the Customer Relationship, You’ll Want a Voice
Recent leaps in the ability of business phone systems, especially those that are cloud-based, to impact the business by playing a role in optimizing staffing levels, evaluating employee performance, analyzing marketing spend and understanding customer behavior have changed the game. Those that are closest to prospects and customers should play a part in the selection and implementation of the phone system. They need an intimate understanding of the integrations, intelligence and productivity improvements a modern phone system can mean for them. Of course, it makes no sense for the VP of Sales to administer the phone system (she’s not going to want to reset your lost voicemail password), but she should be a key player on the communications team.
So…. Who is It?
Working with thousands of customers over many years, we have found the best approach is to identify the best person in your organization and the best phone system vendor to fill five critical roles. The person’s job title will vary by organization, with size playing a key factor, but the fact that an individual needs to be responsible for each role won’t change.
The Decision Maker – This is the executive sponsor who is ultimately responsible for the selection of a vendor and the mix of products and features that will be used. This person should be close to the prospects and customers, or thoughtfully involve those who are. He or she should understand the strategic priorities of the business and be in a position to identify solutions that align with those objectives and to select the other members of the team.
The Phone Manager – This is a more tactical role and it involves understanding the number and types of users, the feature requirements of each user group and the best way to train and communicate with the organization’s employees. It is not important that the phone manager report directly to the Decision Maker.
The Technical Contact – Even the easiest to use cloud-based systems need a technical resource to ensure that the network is properly setup and managed. But, rest assured, with a fully managed cloud phone solution, this does not need to be a full time job. In fact, if you don’t want to assign a technical resource at all, the best vendors will provide these services for an additional fee.
The Emergency Contact – This person (who may also fill one of the other roles) is responsible for enacting business continuity plans. This should be someone who is responsible for the organization’s disaster recovery plan and can make choices about how to work around failures to ensure that the business remains functional during unexpected natural or man-made disasters.
The Vendor – If you select a managed, hosted business phone system, most of the heavy lifting lies squarely on the shoulders of the vendor. The vendor, not your staff, is responsible for system maintenance, software updates and end user support. Don’t underestimate the importance of this member of your communications team.
In our experience, clients that appoint the right person for each of these roles have the most chance of both a pleasant transition to their new phone system and long term business improvement. After all, the phone system connects your customers, prospects and employees, you wouldn't want it owned by anyone other than the dream team.
Who owns the phone system in your organization?