Avoid Common Issues With Unified Communications

This article excerpt, by Processor, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/1vPpoXo
Unified communications (UC) solutions cover a wide range of technologies, including telephony and desktop clients, videoconferencing, instant messaging, and mobile applications.
When implemented correctly, UC can provide a big boost to productivity and collaboration inside organizations, but a poor UC implementation can lead to low employee adoption and wasted investment. Before you think about whether employees will actually use your UC solution, you have to make sure your IT department is capable of deploying and supporting it.
Encourage IT Teamwork
“Unified communications ends up spanning a couple different disciplines just within IT,” says Art Schoeller, principal analyst at Forrester Research. Before you worry about other departments throughout the organization, you have to make sure your telecom voice group, networking team, and desktop and collaboration teams, which all have different mindsets, are able to come together and agree on one suite of products or separate products that integrate well together.
Schoeller calls this the “UC civil war” and says it stems from a period in time where there were clear vendor winners in different unified communication segments. Now, he says, each vendor has a more complete suite, which can add a degree of overlap to a company’s overall UC approach.
The key is to pick the right solutions based on use case and not solely focus on remaining loyal to one brand over another. You also have to understand that even though one company has a foothold in a certain communications market, it doesn’t mean that a primarily instant messaging company, for instance, can’t provide a solid and reliable web conferencing experience as well.
Bern Elliot, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, adds that IT teams need to understand their expertise levels and focuses in order to help each other provide the best possible UC experience.
“Someone who’s used to the web conferencing part might not be aware of the telephoning part,” says Elliot. “Or if it’s a telephony person who’s responsible, they may not be aware of the importance around the directory integration and log-on or the desktop and laptop integrations that will be required.”
Drive Employee Adoption
Once the IT department has removed any internal disconnects, it can start figuring out how to make sure users actually take advantage of the UC implementation and provide a solid user experience, Schoeller says.
“Driving adoption is sort of a sticky problem because a lot of IT organizations don’t view their role as being the one that really gets out there to track utilization and train users,” says Schoeller. “In fact, our survey data a lot of times shows that one of the leading issues is that a lot of users aren’t on the system, or to a certain extent, aren’t aware of it. If you build it, will they come? No, you have to actually go out there and get them on it.”
One way to encourage UC adoption is to use collaboration champions within your organization to show how UC can be used to improve productivity between departments. Though perhaps the best way to make employees aware of the UC system and actually use it is to tailor it to their needs so much that they simply can’t avoid it. This requires you to understand your employees and their roles within the organization.
Although there is a lot of hype around mobility in that we think everybody is traveling and on a mobile device, Schoeller says, Forrester survey data shows there are still plenty of people who use phones. “There’s a certain persona that’s more of a desk-oriented worker who spends 60 or 70% of their time in the office. A payload of UC capabilities for that worker would be different than those for the road warrior who’s on the road 70 or 80% of the time,” he says.
Prepare For Technical & Organizational Challenges
When it comes to the technological ramifications of unified communications, there are some challenges IT needs to be aware of. For instance, UC will be a big burden on the network, so if you haven’t done the right network design from a quality of service perspective, Schoeller says, users might think the applications aren’t working when, in fact, you simply don’t have enough Internet resources. To help with this, he recommends reaching out for help from a service provider or vendor to make sure you have the requirements to run any given UC solution.
Elliot says that while there certainly are technical issues to pay attention to, the organizational challenges are often more difficult. It’s more than the IT department getting out of its comfort zone to become UC marketers in a sense to drive up adoption; it’s also training employees to deal with a new way of getting work done and a different form of interaction, Elliot says.
The closer you can get to a seamless experience where every UC solution simply works, the more successful your implementation will be in terms of employee support and adoption.