Why Unified Communications Requires a Strategic Approach

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Unified communications can dramatically increase productivity and enhance interactions between employees, customers and business partners. However, a new survey by Integrated Research Ltd. reveals that many organizations fail to approach UC projects strategically, limiting the potential value of the technology.

While sometimes overlooked by IT, UC can play a central role “digital transformation,” the concept that new technologies can streamline business processes, create efficiencies and enable competitive advantages. As organizations continue to grow geographically, for example, UC solutions allow employees to easily communicate and share information across global offices. Organizations can more easily use video to interact with their customers, giving the conversations a more personal feeling. With mobile devices, meetings can happen anytime, anywhere.

The challenge lies in the fact that UC involves a very complex digital ecosystem with a high potential for failure if not implemented properly. Imagine that your employees can’t connect to a conference call or video chat. Then when they get connected, the quality is poor, or it gets dropped, or files won’t transfer. According to a study by the Epson Centre for Economics & Business Research, workers already believe that half of their time spent in meetings is wasted. Communication issues can further sap productivity and aggravate worker frustration.

The potential for lost money and reduced productivity can cause IT decision-makers to doubt whether their investments in UC systems will yield the desired ROI. However, the problem isn’t with the UC platform per se but with organizational and operational challenges. According to the survey, the top issues include:

  • Inability of the existing infrastructure to support system requirements (cited by 30 percent)
  • Failure to conduct a pilot and provide end-users with sufficient training (30 percent)
  • Lack of support from executive management (25 percent)
  • Concern that the technology won’t deliver as promised (25 percent)

Clearly, pre-deployment planning is critical to the success of any UC project. Organizations must carefully evaluate their IT infrastructure against the requirements of the UC platform. Network upgrades may be required, as well as a thoughtful approach interoffice connectivity to ensure reliability and Quality of Service. A solution provider with expertise in IP phone systems will be able to perform this assessment as well as any remediation work.

End-users should be involved in the evaluation and selection of the UC platform, and provided with adequate training once the phone system is in place. Low user adoption is a leading cause of UC project failure that can be remedied by including users in the process.

Industry experts also agree that organizations need the right tools to ensure the ongoing success of UC deployments. According to Gartner, “Regardless of whether a VoIP/UC environment is self-managed or maintained via a third party, VoIP/UC-specific monitoring tools are a fundamental prerequisite to the success of any VoIP/UC project.”

It all begins with a strategic approach to UC that starts at the executive level and involves stakeholders throughout the organization. By putting the right infrastructure, training and ongoing management tools in place, organizations can deliver an optimal user experience and ensure the long-term value of the UC solution.