Tips & Advice

3 steps to finding out if you’re ready for Unified Communications

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February 27, 2015
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4 minutes

If your organization is starting a major Unified Communications project, you’re probably thinking about things like assessing LAN and WAN capacity, switches and routers, and all kinds of speeds and feeds. While it’s certainly a good idea to go through such an exercise, it’s wise to take some measured, far less technical steps beforehand.

That’s the advice of Richard English, director of strategic consulting for Avaya Professional Services. Before worrying about the technical details, organizations should understand why they’re getting into UC in the first place – and how different employees will use the technology.

We reached out to Richard and Avaya because they’re experts in simplifying UC projects and increasing user adoption. In fact, they have received accolades for their methodology. They implemented this approach about 2 years ago and have since seen a 25 percent rise in user adoption, English says.

In the past UC projects, Avaya “threw in everything but the kitchen sink.” Today, the company tries to better understand what employees do and make sure they have the tools that make the most sense for their specific jobs.

The process is working well enough that Gartner cited Avaya as one of the leading vendors in UC user adoption in its April 2014 report, “Optimize UC Adoption With These Best Practices.”  In the report, Gartner warns that:

“Through 2017, 30 percent of UC projects will fail to meet their objectives because the UC solution deployed does not adequately meet user needs in terms of functionality or user experience quality.”

To help its customers avoid that fate, Avaya follows this three-step process:

Step 1: Define your UC strategy

Step one is a discovery workshop. Here, Avaya identifies what UC means to the company and the different users. “Not everyone uses it the same way, or needs to,” English notes.

Knowledge workers have different requirements from those in a manufacturing plant. Similarly, employee needs depend on whether they’re at headquarters, a remote branch, or working at home.

For example, some remote workers may not need that much mobile technology. On the other hand, an engineer who works at a desk while also doing projects with others in different parts of the country will need the full range of UC technology.

The idea is to define profiles for each type of user, describing what they do and what their UC requirements are. Of course, it’s still important to recognize that the company as a whole has some shared communication needs.

Mobile workers need the flexibility to work from anywhere.

Step 2: Create a realistic UC business case

With these detailed user profiles in hand, it’s now possible to create an accurate business case that shows what UC will mean for the business. Traditionally, sales would simply count the number of employees, estimate that UC would save each of them – say – 15 minutes per day, and tally up the ROI.

“That’s not a realistic expectation,” English says. “A business justification has to take into consideration user profiles, who’s going to use what level of UC, and then determine the amount of time savings, productivity gains, and efficiencies you’ll gain on each user profile.”

Step 3: Do a UC audit – don’t ditch what you have

The next step is to determine what existing equipment you can use for the UC solution. If you’ve already got some working Microsoft technology, or Jabra headsets (headsets have been proven to increase the rate of UC adoption), or some Polycom solutions that you’re happy with, you should be able to use them going forward.

“If it’s a solid product that’s doing its job and has useful life left, we look at integration with those products to deliver a holistic UC and collaboration environment,” English says. “Once we understand what products can be repurposed or need replacing, then we’ll get to a network assessment.”

Sure, it’s important to find out if you’ve got enough bandwidth, server capacity, and the like. But it makes far more sense – and will result in a better outcome – to first take the three steps above.

If you’re in the middle of a UC project, Jabra can help you make the most of it.
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