Unified communications (UC) is revolutionizing the way organizations collaborate. That is, when it’s done right.
Because of the increased productivity and efficiency it brings to enterprises, the UC market is expanding rapidly; a recent report from Allied Market Research predicts the market will reach $74.2 billion by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 12.6% from 2017 to 2023. Yet, despite its benefits, a flawed UC migration can actually do more harm than good. Common culprits include deployment delays and failure to deliver measurable productivity gains.
White Paper Download: How to Best Approach a UC Migration
With so much riding on a successful UC deployment, CIOs and senior executives need to be certain all the pieces for migration are in place before the process begins. There are five key questions they can ask that can mean the difference between success and failure:
- Why am I considering a change in my communications infrastructure? Auditing your current challenges and capabilities will help you make decisions about which solutions to consider, what features to prioritize, and what resources you will need to complete the task. One common reason organizations look at UC is disappointment with organizational work efficiency metrics. Several factors can lead to diminished productivity, but from a technology, communications, and collaboration standpoint, it typically stems from:
- An incomplete or flawed deployment or configuration
- Multiple disparate, overlapping systems that stunt efficiency
- End-user confusion about how to leverage more than basic features
- A lack of a defined, company-wide communications plan
CIOs and IT leaders must carefully assess where previous implementations came up short and how those same mistakes can be avoided. Regardless of what kind of migration is selected, it is critical to recognize that any strategy should be approached step-by-step and phased in incrementally.
- What mistakes have we made in the past? Oftentimes, difficulties in communication and collaboration stem from a flawed organizational strategy. For instance, in the past, businesses may have implemented disparate tools and technologies—like Microsoft Skype for Business for instant messaging and presence one year, followed by a Cisco solution for videoconferencing the next—to meet specific communications challenges they were facing at that given moment.
White Paper Download: How to Mitigate UC&C Platform Migration Challenges
Once these systems are in place, they are difficult to integrate and consolidate, forcing companies to continue to maintain and pay for the redundant functionality that inevitably happens. Even organizations that can somewhat successfully integrate multiple systems may still struggle to translate the technology upgrade to gains in employee productivity. These issues may stem from the lack of a robust end-user training plan; if employees don’t understand clearly when and how to use various features to maximum effect, they are likely to just use what they know and ignore new features that could improve productivity.
- Is the migration full or partial? Answering the previous two questions will provide IT leaders with a clear understanding of what kind of migration makes the most sense and what challenges may arise. For those organizations with partial UC solutions in place, integration and deduplication will be paramount. If a company still uses a legacy PBX, for example, and also leverages a UC system for IM and presence, phasing out the PBX and relying on the UC system voice communications and all other functionality should be a primary migration objective. An organization with solely a 15-year old PBX and a legacy third-party IM system, on the other hand, will likely be looking for a more complete overhaul.
- What resources do you have? You will need to audit the skills and knowledge necessary for UC implementation to determine whether an in-house, co-sourced, or outsourced model makes the most sense. Some of the most critical resources and capabilities will likely be:
- The ability to measure workforce productivity
- The expertise to create a design and migration plan around a UC strategy
- The technical capability to execute the plan
- The ability to deliver training to push robust end-user adoption from a technical perspective
- The capability to establish fully developed relationships and buy-in from key organizational stakeholders will help drive the cultural side of end-user adoption
- The skill set to measure quality of experience and to support the solution with ongoing maintenance
A co-sourcing model that leverages both in-house prowess and the expertise of an IT services provider may be ideal for many companies.
- How will you measure success? You will need qualitative and quantitative data to clearly demonstrate success to peers and the C-suite, and also to make any tweaks to the system after it is in place. Qualitative feedback should be gathered from all stakeholders in the organization, including personnel in marketing, sales, business development, the C-suite and any other division with a vested interest in improved collaboration. Hard data—such as voice and video quality metrics, for example—is also critical to assessing the project’s success. Many organizations, however, struggle to gather this information accurately.
It is in the quantitative realm, specifically, where an IT services provider with UC migration experience can be a valuable resource. Combining research with hard data is the most effective way to get a full picture of how a UC solution is being leveraged post-migration.
Meticulous planning and preparation will make the process considerably easier and avoid potential pain points. Organizations stuck in a cycle of diminishing productivity will typically look to CIOs and other senior IT leaders for guidance. If you have been tasked with enhancing collaboration and boosting efficiency for your company, the stakes will be quite high.