We’re so inundated with negative news, that sometimes a success story is just what we need. The great news is that there are more and more such stories in the Unified Communications space as businesses extend, and employees adopt, UC solutions. I had the opportunity to hear firsthand about one of these successful implementations during a recent conversation with Deborah Wenger, The COO of Jabra. “Our products are not only an important component of a successful UC solution, but we are an organization that has significantly improved processes, shifted corporate culture and realized meaningful return-on-investment as a result of our own Microsoft Lync deployment,” said Wenger.
We discussed five keys aspects of the project that were critical to making UC pay off for Jabra (to the tune of 4-to-1 ROI in the first year):
Begin With Goals and Objectives
Spoiler Alert: It turns out that good UC projects are just like any good IT project. You need to begin begin with the end in mind. In this case, Wenger explained, this meant starting by clearly defining project objectives from a company and employee perspective.
“We are a distributed, global enterprise with 875 employees and offices in more than 20 countries,” said Wenger. “We knew that a successful UC implementation could knit the company closer together and help us achieve some key goals.” These included:
- Consolidating all disparate communications solutions into a single application
- Easing and improving collaboration, both between employees and with external stakeholders
- Driving down the significant travel costs associated with an international company
- Dramatically lowering overall telephony costs
By defining what the company needed to accomplish operationally, financially and for the employees, the project started off on the right foot. According to Wenger, “Our objective setting and planning meetings allowed us to go forward with a consistent message, set expectations for employees and keep our eye on the ball throughout the process.”
Delivering a Successful Lync Implementation in Stages
According to Wenger, for Jabra, a phased implementation made the most sense. “We decided to focus on internal collaboration, productivity and cost savings out of the gate. This addressed our biggest concerns early on and allowed us to see some early benefits and ROI.” To deliver the project in a manner with the highest likelihood of success, Jabra broke the Lync deployment down into four stages:
- Internal Collaboration: This stage focused on presence management, internal phone calls and instant messaging. Wenger says that employees ate it up. “Being able to see when colleagues were available, sending them a quick chat as opposed to an email and being able to call a co-worker anywhere in the world with a single click got the team onboard. We keep track of the applications our employees use most often, and within a couple of months, Lync was in the top three.”
- Conferencing: “We had employees demanding phase two, soon after we launched phase one,” says Wenger. This consisted of team meetings and conferencing and allowed team members so set up meetings both internally and externally via web or video conferencing. “This is something that immediately became part of our corporate culture and our way of doing business. I don’t think we could go back…sometimes I don’t even really remember how we worked before this.”
- Lync Enterprise Voice: Phase three was getting off of the PSTN and moving all phone calls – both incoming and outgoing – to Lync. This took some getting used to for some workers, and the organization provided a safety blanket for those employees slower to adopt.
- Mobile Apps – The morning we had this discussion the IT team had just announced they are supporting Lync on mobile apps. Now road warriors can have the Lync functionality they are used to on their computers straight from their smartphones and tablets.
Taking Away the Safety Blanket (The Deskphones Had to Go)
According to Wenger, even though adoption rates had been very high, even after Phase 3 they were far from 100%. “We allowed employees to keep their deskphones for up to a year after we deployed Enterprise Voice, and I have to admit I was one of those people that kept theirs to the bitter end,” explained Wenger. “Even though I was using my headset to make and receive Lync calls and collaborate with other team members all the time, old habits die hard and it was like a safety net.”
However, that planned safety net was keeping some team members from fully leveraging the capabilities of the UC environment and therefore keeping costs higher and productivity lower than expected. “We made sure every team member had a professional grade headset that was ideal for their telephony use case and pulled off the bandaid,” said Wenger. “Usage spiked, as we knew it would, and ROI increased.”
We’re not surprised since we recently wrote about all the buzz surrounding the important role headsets play in unified communications adoption.
Don’t Forget Training
As with any new IT tool, providing ample training is critical. In this case Jabra’s IT team organized a series of webinars for each stage of deployment and provided links to online training for all employees to access. “By using the web meetings we were able to not only provide instructions on how to use the technology, but also to clearly explain why the company was investing in this solution,” explained Wenger. “We were able to set expectations and discuss the cost savings and productivity associated with all being on one communications platform and we have been able to reinforce that message in the training for each subsequent phase. We made it clear that technology was going to help them do their jobs more easily and effectively.”
From the beginning the company has tracked both hard and soft benefits associated with the UC deployment. They have seen widescale, trackable adoption by employees throughout the enterprise that has resulted in a culture that has evolved to look to online collaboration first. According to Wenger, “We have more employees teleworking at least part-time. We have reduced air travel significantly and employees now routinely ask whether this meeting requires getting together or if it can be accomplished via video conference. We have even seen the conference room bookings go way down as employees look to desktop collaboration whenever feasible. If we were to be looking for new office space now, my guess is we would need less square footage and fewer conference rooms as a result of this initiative.”
And when it comes to hard numbers, the entire program paid for itself in the first phase. “Between software, hardware, headsets, and IT resources, phase one of the project cost around $220,000. Hard savings related to inter-office phone calls alone resulted in over $1 Million in savings in year one, or well over a 4X return-on-investment,” explained Wenger.
“I have to admit I was a little skeptical when they first introduced the concept of UC, but now I can’t imagine working without it,” explained Wenger. “Our productivity has increased, our culture has evolved and the numbers speak for themselves.”