Sullivan & Worcester is a growing law firm that is expanding its international footprint. Headquartered in Boston, S&W has strategic locations in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C. and London, and international alliances in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
The firm is expanding its excellent reputation as well. In 2013, it received 19 national rankings and 18 first-tier metropolitan rankings. In 2014, it received three additional national first-tier rankings.
For IT Director Nancy Wahl and her team of 12 technology professionals, the ongoing challenge is to support the expansion by building out a stable, reliable infrastructure, while providing seamless services that help sustain the firm’s reputation.
Meeting the challenge head-on, Wahl reached out to Harbor Networks to orchestrate the firm’s recent major transitions. It began in 2010 with the implementation of a new ShoreTel phone system, which was part of a complete overhaul and renovation and of the Boston office. Following the success of that project, Harbor implemented the same best practices to orchestrate a ShoreTel rollout during an office move in Manhattan (2011), and expansions into D.C. (2011) and London (2013).
The Harbor Relationship
“The renovation of the Boston space included technology as well,” says Wahl. “The plan was to relocate and build out a new primary data center within the office. So we just decided that was a very good opportunity to put in a new telephone system.”
The folks at Harbor Networks had been in touch with Wahl and her team for years, so she had a strong level of comfort with the knowledge of the office phone systems. “They had always given me updates and provided me with information on ShoreTel,” she recalls. “And we had some general meetings.”
One of the stated goals of the renovation was that the work that Harbor would conduct in Boston would result in a phone system template for each of the other offices to follow. “We wanted to start with the Boston office,” says Wahl. “ The idea was whatever we selected, subsequent to that we would update our other offices in the same fashion.”
Wahl and her team solicited RFPs in each area of technology with a vetting and interview process.
“It was actually a very methodical scenario,” she explains. “We worked with a local consulting company to help us with the review process. We started out by identifying the technologies that we were going to evaluate. We put ShoreTel on the table because, based on what I’d learned from Harbor over the years, I believed ShoreTel would be a good solution for a company our size.”
The team rated the various features of the different systems and weighed them according to both overall company needs and individual employee needs. “We ended up putting together a matrix of everything,” she says. “We then used that as a baseline to evaluate all the different technologies.”
Part of the selection process was to evaluate different vendors, and pick one for each of the technologies. As part of the RFP, each vendor received a questionnaire and were then interviewed. Says Wahl, “Harbor Networks reached the end of the process and was definitely the vendor that we thought would do the best job for us should we select ShoreTel.”
In the end, the Harbor-ShoreTel solution won out over the incumbent solution. “Starting with the general selection process, the initial take-away was positive,” says Wahl. “Then after we went through the whole evaluation review process, and we tallied up the total points, it was clear that ShoreTel was a very good solution for our business.”
“Harbor lived up to their proposal,” she maintains. “I had familiarity with Harbor. And from my conversations and interviews with them and from their references it was clear they understood the legal space.”
“I had connections and contact with other vendors who dealt with ShoreTel who seemed to be knowledgeable. But I just felt Harbor definitely understood my business. They were local, they had a good presence, and they had a good track record. They were very well thought of. I was very impressed with the people I had met there in terms of their understanding. “
“To some extent, it’s just telephones – we’re not reinventing the wheel or doing anything ground breaking. But Harbor understood the product really well. And they understood, for example, the carrier space. And they understood how to explain our different options and what we really needed to think about.”
“ShoreTel Communicator was a big piece of it,” recalls Wahl. “Everybody has a different way to work remotely and this works for them. There’s flexibility. That was a big component and it fits that bill very well.”
“It’s a nice thing when an attorney can be working in his office at home and his secretary is still picking up their calls for him. Of course we have many attorneys who go back and forth between the offices. They just go into a guest office and login to the phone system like a regular user.”
“When we went through the deployment process, Harbor was great,” says Wahl. “I reference that because we were in the middle of a top-to-bottom renovation. So we were moving people off of floors into temporary space, we were building out a brand new data center room. Let me put it to you this way: it was highly stressful.”
“And it was all being done within a very specific drop-dead time frame. We did not have the option to go long – it had to come to an end. And in the middle of all that, we were selecting, installing and rolling out a new telephone system.”
“So, in terms of managing the project and keeping it focused, the Harbor people who worked with us on that were just terrific. The project management was some of the best that I worked with. We had meetings and they gained an understanding of how we worked. At the end of every meeting it was, this is what we’ve done, this is what’s next, and these are the open questions and issues. They said they would get answers to us and those answers came back immediately.”
“With everything that was going on, it was good to have that quick turnaround time. Getting the answers that we needed was invaluable – just absolutely invaluable.“
For the telephone roll-out, it was decided that the best strategy would be a cold cut-over.
“We had the benefit that because we were building a new datacenter, we brought in all new carrier equipment and connected that up to the ShoreTel,” says Wahl. “And because what we were putting in was IP based, the way we transitioned from the old to the new was to put two phones on everyone’s desk – the old one and the new ShoreTel. So to establish a comfort level, inbound was still coming to the old phone but the ShoreTel phone was live — if you wanted to pick it up and make a call out, you could.”
“After a couple days of two phones, we performed the cut-over at 5 o’clock,” she says. “On that day, all the incoming calls switched over onto the new T1s that we had installed and came in on the ShoreTel phones.”
The very next morning, Harbor came in to run all-day training sessions. “We basically told our employees they have to give us 45 minutes to get familiar with the phone. Everyone was given cheat sheets about the things that they really needed to learn. And then we took the old phones away.”
“It went very smoothly. That first morning we had the whole crew from Harbor walking the floor. They made up special buttons that said Ask Me, and it had a picture of the ShoreTel phone with our logo. They were helping people at their desk while the training sessions were going on. They made sure that everyone was comfortable and able to get past that deer in the headlights moment. By lunchtime everything was really pretty calm.”
Repeating the Process
Wahl again called on Harbor and ShoreTel to modify the process for the New York and D.C. offices in 2011 and for the expansion to London in 2013.
“In New York, we were actually expanding to new office space. This time we didn’t actually have access to get in and install equipment until the week that we were moving. The move was happening on a Saturday so Harbor was out there with us on both Friday and Saturday installing the telephone equipment, putting phones out, and testing.”
“Logistically it made more sense for the Harbor people do the training session the week before. It was a brand new telephone system and again it was the same drill. There were people there to walk the floor, answer questions, help people with different features and functionality. Before you knew it, we were done.”
S&W has now connected 225 employees in Boston, 65 in New York, 35 in Washington, and another 15 in London, for a total of 340. And all have been upgraded to the same ShoreTel phone system.
Wahl’s service and support philosophy is that she loves to work cooperatively with her vendors, but at the end of each engagement she wants her internal team to be able to maintain and support the technology day in and day out.
“We use Harbor for support, but for the most part we are trying to be self reliant. Of course we contact them if we are trying to figure out a way to do something we haven’t done before. Sometimes we go back and we look at our documentation or we look at how we set something up and we ask them to us remind us why we did something a certain way. So they are very familiar with our account.”
“We also rely on Harbor when we are doing our upgrades, which have always gone very smoothly for us. They work with us getting the baseline in place. In fact, we have upgraded several times in the years since the launch.”
Recently a consultant asked S&W’s leadership to recall a deployment that had gone extremely well. The projects that most pointed to were the telephone deployments. “They thought they were done very, very well,” says Wahl. “It was very well received, it introduced features that people wanted, and in many respects we kept it simple and uncluttered. We didn’t overwhelm people with features.”
“It was really important to us that any new systems were going to be a Voice over IP system. It was also critical to connect to our other offices so we could do 4-digit dialing over the WAN to keep down our ad hoc expenses and charges. The ShoreTel is more cost-efficient with better performance than our previous phone system.
“It’s all the things that are important to us,” Wahl concludes. “It’s easy to manage, it doesn’t require a lot of IT overhead. And it doesn’t require an investment of time. The telephone system we invested in couldn’t be high maintenance and the vendor that we were working with really needed to understand our business and be responsive.”