Unified Communications: Seven Pitfalls to Avoid

Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) can provide many benefits to a business from multiple perspectives. Businesses can gain from the reduced cost of implementation, speed of installation and improvement in employee productivity. However, there are pitfalls to avoid when migrating to a Hosted UC solution. Here are seven major ones:
1. Lack of Vision and Employee Engagement in the Selection Process
Answering the question “Why” is very important when changing the tools and ways in which employees will communicate and perform their job functions. Employees need to understand the reason for the change, and be given the opportunity to provide input with regard to their unmet needs. If the decision process is made in isolation by management without input or review by employee representatives, then adoption of the UC solution will be slow or possibly fail.
2. Assuming the Existing IT Infrastructure and Network Can Handle It
Bringing the convergence of voice, video and data to your network without significant improvements can lead to poor voice quality and poor overall network performance. A proper LAN assessment to comprehend post-installation usage and capacity is essential. Otherwise, the budget for implementation will require an unplanned increase for the acquisition of additional equipment and broadband to support operating the UC solution. Moreover, if the initial user expectations are not met, the business will not experience the forecasted ROI. Tweaking the existing infrastructure to support voice may impact data traffic, resulting in slower response times, longer downloads or impede mission critical applications. A proper LAN assessment is required to determine LAN condition and, with ongoing monitoring, maintain network performance objectives.
3. Incorrect Device/Phone Selection and Assignment
Bad policy and/or process in assigning phone models can negatively influence employee productivity. Basing device/phone selection on employee position and cost versus functional use requirements is a mistake that will affect the long-term success of the UCaaS implementation. Phones should not be deployed in terms of office worker, manager and executive, as this leads to cheaper, less functional devices for office workers and expensive, underutilized devices for executives. It is better to evaluate and assign the phones by matching the functions of the phone with the job attributes of the worker. Therefore, employees that are located in a single location and conduct their primary job without cross-departmental communication may not require video cameras or mobile clients. However, employees that are geographically distributed may benefit from cameras. Employees that travel to customer meetings or between office locations may benefit from mobile phones and UC clients.
4. Feature Overload and Use of Jargon when Discussing UCaaS
When discussing your new system, focus instead on those features that are most desired or needed by users, and will generate the fastest adoption rate and deliver the greatest productivity improvements. Basic PBX features such as extension dialing, call forwarding, simultaneous ringing and conferencing are critical to day-to-day operations and should be well understood. Logging into voicemail and the user portal to personalize the service should also be covered. However, many features are either esoteric or irrelevant to most employees. Remember, only 20% of the PBX functionality available is used by 80% of the employees.
5. Overemphasizing the Benefits of Video Calls and Video Conferencing
The adoption of video continues to be problematic in a UC environment, with more than half of users avoiding it entirely. Presence and instant messaging are considered the most valuable UC features, and users also find the option of adding their smartphone as very useful. Being able to maintain and depict your company profile using either a company provided or personal smartphone is essential to most mobile workers, and should be the goal of the company. Moreover, being accessible anywhere and anytime by a single phone number is very valuable to on-the-go employees, whereas video conferencing continues to be viewed as an intrusion and unwelcome form of communication. However, a growing minority of users (24%) find video essential and a key reason to transition to a UC solution.
6. Underestimating the Cost and Time Required to Properly Set Up and Train Users
UC consists of several major elements, each of which requires training, practice in a workshop environment and repetition to learn. The elements are the basic PBX functionality, Unified Messaging (voice-to-email, fax-to-email), instant messaging and presence, mobile/desktop/laptop clients and collaboration tools (audio conferencing, video conferencing, web meeting and desktop sharing). In the interest of time, training is usually conducted in one day, without workshops or enough follow-up. For users, it is like drinking from a fire hose – too much information in too short a time. Proper training should separate the various elements so that users first understand how to make a call and use the PBX functions. Second, they learn about the Unified Messaging, IM and presence. Third, they learn about how to install, login and use the clients and softphone. Fourth, they learn how to set up and use the collaboration tools. Proper teaching leverages oral instruction, question and answer, practice and reinforcement.
7. No Assigned Evangelist
Within the user community, a number of evangelists need to be identified and made known to the organization. These individuals should be the most active in promoting the new IM, presence and collaboration tools. They should also be able to provide ongoing training as required by the various departments or company. The evangelist should be viewed as embodying management’s vision of the UC implementation through their use and promotion of the UC features and functions. While a CEO can be an evangelist, the position is best served by a mid-level manager with the support of the management team.
If your business avoids these seven pitfalls, then your implementation and adoption of UCaaS will go smoothly and deliver upon the calculated ROI and productivity improvements. In today’s competitive business environment, embracing UC across the organization will improve customer satisfaction through better communications, enforce team-building and effectiveness through ongoing collaboration, accelerate decision-making by enabling responsible parties to be easily found and contacted and centralize call management reducing telephony cost and complexity.
This article excerpt, by David Byrd, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/1xVuvcr