Unified communications (UC) integrates your business communications with the goal of optimizing processes. When users can communicate seamlessly using a suite of integrated components, productivity improves, plain and simple. Adopting UC for your organization, however, isn't simply a matter of flipping a switch and assuming everything will go swimmingly. As with any major business upgrade, rolling out UC requires care and consideration to avoid problems.
Here are the five most common UC mistakes, along with foolproof ways to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Assuming Your IT Infrastructure is Adequate
If you ignore the potential for infrastructure issues, your UC rollout could be far more painful than you imagine. When a business doesn't take the time to understand how UC will impact their networks, technical problems can plague the system after implementation. You need to know whether voice and data are delivered through the same pipes, how your network works with the provider's network, and what redundancy levels you require. Furthermore, during and after deployment, you'll need to monitor and measure network performance to ensure your IT infrastructure is handling the new system competently.
Mistake# 2: Charging Ahead Without Performing a Needs Assessment
If you're implementing a new communications system, you have a prime opportunity to determine your business and technical requirements. Besides finding out what kind of productivity enhancements your UC provider offers, speak to a representative cross-section of your users to learn what they require in order to be more productive. This is helpful on two levels. First, you're more likely to choose a system with features your users need, and second, when users have input into the UC selection process, they're less likely to resist the changes the new system will inevitably bring. Find out how voice, video conferencing, instant messaging, mobile, and other communications modalities are used in your organization before you select a UC provider.
Mistake #3: Making an Unrealistic TCO and ROI Prediction
Even talented IT teams can be unrealistic when it comes to the costs associated with unified communications. In addition to the easily quantified "hard" costs like network charges and technical support, total cost of ownership and return on investment should consider "soft" costs. Soft costs are not as easy to model, but they are critical. They include things like resource management, productivity, and customer service improvements. You should also consider the costs of not deploying, in terms of opportunities that might be missed.
Mistake #4: Lack of Strategic Planning
Look beyond the day the IT department finishes rolling out your UC implementation. From there, you need to plan for exactly how the system can improve business processes and communications, from employee productivity right through customer experience. While it is obviously critical that your IT team integrates the system with your current business operations, seamless integration isn't the endpoint. Once rollout is complete, you'll be living with your new UC system for the long run, so ensuring that you have proper support is just as important as system selection.
Mistake #5: Insufficient User Training
Many organizations are short-sighted with respect to user training. After all, everyone knows how to make a phone call, send and receive email, and listen to voicemail. But user training during and after a UC implementation is essential to gaining buy-in and making the most of your UC system's capabilities. Inadequate user training can easily send your UC deployment into confusion, as end users grope around trying to figure the system out. Simply having a support process in place isn't enough. Your users need training—you won't extract much value from your UC system if people don't learn how to use it or avoid the features they find confusing.