Any organization that’s about to embark on a major unified communications project will likely become greatly concerned with network assessments to check 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 the Avaya Professional Services organization. Before jumping in to the technical details, organizations need to understand why they’re getting into UC in the first place and how different employee groups will use the technology.
We reached out to Richard and Avaya because they have been receiving accolades in the market for the methodology they came up with to streamline UC projects and increase adoption. They implemented this approach about 2 years ago and have since seen the adoption rate of UC and collaboration tools rise at least 25%, English says. In the past, Avaya “threw in everything but the kitchen sink” on its UC implementations. Today, it takes the time to understand what employees do and outfit them with the technologies that make the most sense for their jobs.
The process is working well enough that Gartner cited Avaya as one of the UC adoption program leading vendors in its April 2014 report, “Optimize UC Adoption with these Best Practices.” In the report, Gartner warns that:
“Through 2017, 30% 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 a three-step process.
For Success with UC, First Define a Comprehensive Strategy
Step one is a discovery workshop, where Avaya identifies what UC would mean to the enterprise and to different sorts of users. “Not everyone uses it the same way, or needs to,” English notes.
Knowledge workers will have different requirements from those in a manufacturing plant, and different knowledge workers will have varying needs depending on whether they’re at headquarters, a remote branch or working at home. The idea is to come up with profiles for each type of user that describes what they do and what their UC requirements are, while recognizing the need for some commonality in how the company communicates as a whole.
For example, some remote or home workers may not need that much mobile technology while an engineer working at a desk who routinely works on projects with other engineers in different parts of the country will need the full suite of UC technology.
Create a Realistic Business Case for UC
With these detailed user profiles in hand, it’s now possible to create a detailed, accurate business case that shows what UC will mean for the business. Traditionally, sales would simply tally up the number of employees in the company, figure UC would save each maybe 15 min. 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.”
Don’t Ditch What You Have: Conduct a UC Solution Audit
The next step is to conduct an audit to determine what existing equipment and software you can leverage for the UC solution. If you’ve got some Microsoft technology that’s working, or Jabra headsets (headsets have been proven to increase the rate of UC adoption by workers), or some Polycom audio or video 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.”
I went into the conversation with English hoping to learn all about those network assessments, and how to determine whether you’ve got enough bandwidth, server capacity and the like. But I came away agreeing that it makes far more sense, and will produce a better outcome, if you first take the three steps he suggests.