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As described in my contact center upgrade post, Cisco recently upgraded the Cisco Unified Intelligent Contact Management Enterprise (ICME) and Cisco Unified Communications Manager (UCM) systems that serve our contact centers to software Release 8.

Here are the top lessons we learned from this activity and the recommendations I would offer to Cisco customers who are planning a similar upgrade.

  1. Create an overall upgrade plan. It’s more difficult to implement an upgrade when your systems are several versions behind the latest release. Create a plan for regular upgrades to your contact center infrastructure and get a dedicated budget for this plan. Otherwise, you may face the situation of upgrading in a crisis mode and competing with your day-to-day operations budget for the necessary funds.
  2. Identify the upgrade’s impact. Any change to a call routing system like Cisco Unified ICME will have a ripple effect throughout your network and contact center infrastructure. By creating and regularly updating detailed information on version compatibility and hardware and software dependencies, you can avoid the time-intensive and error-prone effort to gather this data just before implementing an upgrade. And by drilling down all the way to the agent desk phones, you may be able to avoid impacting all phones in the company with an upgrade that is intended only for the contact center phones.
  3. Plan the upgrade activity. Develop detailed plans for the upgrade tasks including code freeze dates, time windows for taking systems out-of-service, and failover plans for rerouting calls during the upgrade implementation. Also create rollback plans so you can easily return the affected systems to their previous state if you encounter a problem while installing the upgrade.
  4. Communicate with affected employees. Any upgrade to the central call processing systems can disrupt contact center operations, which means you need to communicate in advance with contact center managers and employees. Answer their questions, offer reassurance for their concerns about the potential disruption and changes involved, and give clear instructions for their involvement.

The key takeaway for our customers? Upgrading to a new software release of a major contact center system like Cisco Unified ICME is a big effort. But when it’s done with the right planning and preparation, the process can go smoothly and with minimal disruption of service to employees and, most importantly, to customers.

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