5 Tips for Ensuring a Smooth Transition to Unified Communications
Among technology leaders, the benefits of Unified Communications (UC) are becoming better understood. The ease of use, efficiency, employee productivity, operational scalability and business continuity benefits that the right UC solution offers are difficult to deny. In a survey of IT and business decision makers, nearly three-fourths of respondents said they would expect “significant” or even “enormous” benefits from UC. However, many remain apprehensive about the deployment and others admit that their legacy investments in office phone systems and telephony are barriers to making the transition.
As businesses prepare for the transition to Unified Communications, they should take the following steps to ensure a successful migration.
Look for an Intuitive, User-Centric Solution
Ease of use is one of the key considerations when selecting a UC solution. If features are complicated and difficult to use, then the UC solution will be no better than the legacy system it’s replacing. IT leaders should give especially careful consideration to ease of access for administrators and employees when selecting a solution. For example, cloud-based UC offers users universal accessibility with all of the system’s intelligence – from servers to user profiles and preferences – housed in the cloud, users can access everything from anywhere. This enables a more mobile, secure and disruption-proof infrastructure.
Self-management is a critical component of usability/user centricity. If users can easily make changes to their own system preferences, the amount of technical support needed will drop dramatically, benefitting both users and IT staff.
Enlist Commitment and Support from Senior Leadership
Like most technology solutions, UC works best when it’s closely aligned with business needs and operations. An understanding of the business should be so ingrained in the DNA of an organization’s UC strategy that formally integrating business and technology is hardly even a factor. To tie UC initiatives to business objectives and set the path for success, technology leaders must secure executive buy-in. To do so, IT leaders should familiarize themselves with case studies, using them to illustrate the real-world impact of UC. For example, Philadelphia nonprofit Interact leveraged UC to resolve the communications disconnect of its 400 staff members, circulating among five different locations. As a result, clients were able to more easily get in touch with the appropriate staff members – a mission-critical need for an organization in the behavioral health sector.
Reinforce the Top-Down Approach by Sourcing Bottom-Up Support and Input
With the support of C-suite leaders, IT departments should not overlook seeking input from individuals at all levels and in all areas of the business. Involving a variety of people helps ensure alignment and adoption – both because the resulting deployment will be more on-target to solve business needs and because individuals throughout the organization will be more personally invested in seeing it succeed.
Prepare in Advance to Measure ROI
Business and technology leaders should jointly define success for each stage and phase of the deployment. It is wise to additionally identify the checkpoints when the team can best assess progress and course correct as needed. To simplify this evaluation, the IT team should select UC solutions with business intelligence built into the system. The real-time insight on how the technology is being used will help ensure optimal ROI post-deployment, driving employee productivity and boosting customer satisfaction.
In 79 percent of UC deployments for which a post-installation analysis is done, companies reportedly meet or exceed their return on investment goals. By determining metrics ahead of time, IT leaders will not only be better equipped to prove ROI, but also to build trust among others in the organization.
Think Long-Term When Evaluating Solutions
Businesses must think long-term as they investigate potential solutions, reading the fine print for a full understanding what they’re getting. While the communications impact of UC is immediate, the cost savings of a full-service, subscription-based UC solution are best realized over time. Maintaining a long-term perspective, savvy IT leaders should select a solution that includes ongoing maintenance and offers software upgrades at no extra cost, ensuring that the technology remains operational and up to date without unplanned investment. The best UC solutions include advanced features such as auto attendants, unlimited calling and the latest mobile applications at no capital expense. Businesses should also not have to purchase new hardware, as the provider should include the physical phones as part of the solution.
In addition to evaluating long-term cost considerations, IT leaders should be very thoughtful about other long-term business impacts such as how critical software might be impacted by a change in communications technology. For example, if the sales organization relies on Salesforce to track prospects and customers, the company should investigate UC options that allow them to integrate the two in order to streamline call tracking, enhance customer interactions and easily enrich customer data.
The UC market is expected to increase to $2.3 billion in 2016. Wainhouse Research has put UC as a Service (UCaaS) on a particularly steady and strong market path, forecast to hit $5.3 billion by 2018. Whether businesses choose to make the transition solo or with outside partners, it is clear that they cannot afford to ignore UC. The question is more in how smoothly and effectively they make the transition. With the right solution, business buy-in, clear goals and structural preparation, IT leaders will be well positioned to modernize their business phone systems to meet the demands of today’s fast-paced businesses and highly mobile workforces.
Jeff Blackey is the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Broadview Networks, one of the top 10 UC cloud providers in the nation. Broadview’s cloud offerings include OfficeSuite® Phone, the easy-to-use hosted phone system that is 100% cloud-based using technology unique to Broadview. Mr. Blackey has more than 25 years of marketing management experience in the communications industry. Mr. Blackey obtained a degree in electrical and computer engineering from Clarkson University and his MBA in marketing and finance from the University of Rochester.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi