Unified Communications Featured Article

How Can The CIO Help Enterprise Users Migrate To UC?


December 01, 2009

There has been a lot of talk, but still relatively little action, on the enterprise unified communication, or “UC,” migration front. There are a number of practical reasons why this has been so, including:
  • Confusion about what UC really is all about as a concept vs. specific technology requirements.
  • Migrating to UC is an ongoing transition from proprietary, hardware-based communication applications to a “virtual” framework of interoperable, integrated, IP-based, software application servers and endpoint clients.
  • Legacy communications still work and those investments are being maximized, particularly expensive telephone systems.
  • UC-enabled telephony, or “UC Telephony,” goes beyond IP Telephony because it integrates with all other UC communication applications and business process applications. It will require a simple, flexible, and inexpensive integration framework to support interoperability between existing and new forms of communication, such as social networking applications, at the user interface level with to be successful.
  • Lack of demand from enterprise end users for new UC functionality is complicated by the fact that individual end users will all have different, personalized needs, including their choice of mobile communication devices and services.
  • Individual UC application technologies are still evolving, along with appropriate new standards, like SIP.
  • Confusion about who in the enterprise organization should be involved and when for UC implementation planning.
  • Since all forms of communication with people are considered elements of UC, they are all being labeled by the technology providers as “UC”, even if they are not properly integrated.
  • The recessionary economic climate has slowed down all enterprise technology investments.

The “Who” of Enterprise UC Migration
UC application implementations in enterprise organizations will be influenced by different groups within the organization because such groups have different perspectives of need and value for using UC-integrated versions of traditional communication applications.
There are three main constituencies in an enterprise organization that should be directly involved in the planning for UC implementations:
  • Business management – Primarily interested in improving business processes and operational performance through more efficient and effective means of people contact and information access through UC technologies.
  • IT management - Primarily concerned with costs to implement and maintain enterprise technologies, as well as the ability to integrate them with existing and future applications and services.
  • Individual end users - Focused on communication flexibility, ease of use, device independence, personalization, and saving time in doing their jobs whenever and wherever they happen to be.
The big question is: who should be driving the demand for UC solution implementations within an enterprise organization?
One would normally expect that the real users of the technology, those who benefit most directly, might be clamoring for the benefits of UC; for example, business management, who could realize faster operational benefits from the elimination of “human contact latency” in business process performance, or “UC-B”. Individual internal users might want the personal productivity benefits of UC, particularly when mobile, in order to do their jobs more easily and flexibly, regardless of their location, or “UC-U”.
External end users, such as consumers/customers or business partners, will also want the UC benefits of faster and more flexible contacts, particularly when mobility is involved. However, because such users are outside of the organization, they will be dependent on how enterprise communication technologies will interoperate with public network services that outsiders will typically be using.
UC Demand and Justifications 
IT management will traditionally support implementation of new technologies if there is, first, justifiable demand from the other two constituencies, including budgetary support. IT management will also be even more interested if the new technology can also significantly reduce current technology support costs that are the IT department’s responsibility.
However, because of the confusion surrounding what UC actually does and who will benefit most directly, there has been little serious demand – yet – from those first two constituencies. As a result, UC-oriented technology providers have been trying to sell IT management primarily on cost-saving benefits like Total Cost of Ownership, or “TCO,” which is usually of little interest to individual end users or even to revenue-sensitive Line of Business management. In the meantime, UC migration planning has not yet involved LOB management or individual end users very much, even though their different needs must help define UC requirements first!
The CIO as Enterprise UC Migration Leader
For several years the question has been raised as to who should be in charge of driving enterprise UC migration planning and how. The answers have ranged from the CEO down to Telecom management, the latter mainly because legacy telephony systems are being affected the most by new forms of IP communication and their integration under UC. However, now that IP Telephony, namely IP-PBXs and IP phones, are replacing TDM phone systems in both end-of-life and “greenfield” situations, those implementations should really be part of a broader “UC migration” plan for both business processes and individual end user communication needs.
Although Line of Business management and individual end users must help to identify their specific UC application requirements and their implementation priorities, it will still be up to IT to plan and manage the various steps required for migrating to UC in an evolutionary manner. For this reason, it will be in the best interests for enterprise IT management to start the UC migration ball rolling with two initial steps:
  1. Establish a convenient, cost-efficient integration approach to UC migration to be prepared for any initial pilot UC applications and integrations required.
  2. Promote awareness and understanding of what UC really means for those other constituencies and coordinate their UC requirements and priorities for initial application implementation planning.
Once migration to UC has successfully started, it will then become an ongoing, learning process for both users and IT support that will be a never-ending step 3.
Step 1. Establish an Integration Framework for UC Migration 
Although UC encompasses all forms of communication interoperability, voice telephony usage will be the most impacted because the traditional telephony endpoint devices and network infrastructures are changing so dramatically. However, legacy telephone systems cannot be simply replaced throughout an enterprise organization, especially in multiple locations with different phone systems because of both cost and complexity of traditional telephony system implementations. 
This is where a UC migration framework should be selected that will:
1.    Support a technology approach for integrating and simplifying future migrations from existing siloed communication systems to a centralized UC environment that is flexible, cost-efficient, and “future-proof.”
2.    Provide a UC migration platform that will cost-efficiently and selectively support evolutionary integrations of key UC applications including:
a.    Device-independent “UC Telephony” for desktops and mobile usage
b.    IP-based voice and video conferencing
c.    Interoperability with unified messaging servers and public social networking services
d.    Federated presence management integrations for enterprise IM, telephony, public social networking services, and business process applications
e.    Communications Enabled Business Process, or “CEBP,” integrations with enterprise business applications
f.     Integration of all forms of customer contacts with an enterprise organization that are inbound or outbound, device-independent, and will include inbound/outbound self-service applications. This will exploit UC capabilities for those enterprise communication applications that I have labeled as “Customer UC”.
g.    Providing consolidated UC activity data collection and reporting tools to cover all forms of communication activity with people, as either initiators or as recipients, both inside and outside of the organization. This will enable critical metrics to be developed to manage the ongoing effectiveness of UC solutions in business process performance.
There can be a number of choices for how UC migration platforms can be deployed, including premise-based, managed, hosted, or a hybrid approach. Whichever approach is selected, the availability of such a flexible “UC migration platform” will facilitate the next two UC implementation steps, including educating end user constituencies and identifying their UC requirements, to be carried out more effectively.
UC migration platforms that satisfy the need for both maximum, standards-based flexibility and low investment costs are relatively new technology offerings that simplify integrations of old and new enterprise communications technologies under a common UC framework. In particular, they can facilitate the creation of “UC Telephony” capabilities within any existing enterprise telephony environment, selectively and cost effectively. For an excellent presentation and discussion of this evolutionary UC migration strategy with a leading provider of this technology, view the UCStrategies.com webinar on Aastra’s “overlay” approach that exploits its “Clearspan” UC platform for flexible and low-cost migrations to UC.
According to Aastra’s cost analysis of migrating to UC by replacing an old PBX with a new IP-PBX, compared to simply adding an “overlay UC platform” that can control all necessary integrations with existing telephony infrastructures and other UC applications, the cost per user for “UC Telephony” is estimated to be one-third that of an IP-PBX replacement. That doesn’t include the savings and disruption avoidance gained by keeping existing infrastructure equipment, such as PBXs and desktop phones. This approach also facilitates selective, customized, and priority-based UC migrations based upon the real needs of the user constituencies as they evolve.

Step 2. Who Needs What? When? – Evolving User UC Requirements
Obviously, a critical step for moving an organization slowly, but surely, towards an operational UC environment is to fully understand the existing communication problems of high-value business processes, the communication requirements of different user groups, and even individual end user needs for “role-based” communication applications. Personalization and “role-based” application needs will be key to determining selective individual end user UC requirements.
As the high-value operational business communication problems, or “Hot Spots” as my UniComm colleagues call them, are identified, IT management can proceed to do its job of planning the implementation for specific UC applications/solutions. These can then be prioritized and associated with existing and new communication products and services that require UC integrations. This will also enable IT management to evaluate various available vendor offerings from a broad UC perspective, rather than just on an individual application basis, for interoperability, functionality, usability, supportability, and costs. 
This user-based information will then lead to identifying UC’s impact on IT’s infrastructure and integration responsibilities for wired and wireless networking requirements, integration with business application servers, user endpoint software client needs, mobile device independence, traffic and usage management, access security, etc. 
Step 2 for a CIO or IT management is therefore NOT to simply select technology replacements for legacy telephony systems or other communication applications such as IM or CEBP applications, nor even to start worrying about the implementation or support costs involved in UC applications. Rather, that step must be to help the “user” constituencies in the organization understand the different user perspectives of UC and participate in identifying, justifying, and prioritizing specific UC solution implementations. While reducing costs is always a valid UC planning objective that alone will not justify the kind of disruptive change that UC is bringing to technology management, business operations, and end user communication procedures.
Step 3. UC Migration Learning
With a UC migration platform in place and user requirements being identified, a flexible, selective, and self-paced learning phase can begin for an organization to quickly realize important performance benefits for high-value UC-B. In addition, individual end user productivity benefits in doing their different jobs, or UC-U, will also be gained.
In the latter case, there will also be an opportunity to identify specific end user “role” needs and usability requirements for different endpoint devices. Finally, it will also be a learning phase for IT to gain experience in supporting the various old and new communication applications of a UC environment. This is a critical point where IT management has to both learn its new responsibilities and help guide operational changes being introduced by UC solutions and mobility changes.
Based on the results of Step 2, migration planning for UC can be finalized for the business processes trialed, and extended to larger groups of users. While it is always nice to have individual end users create demand because of the viral nature of individual user benefits of UC, the CIO must take into consideration the business process performance benefits, or UC-B, as well as costs, or TCO, for supporting UC migrations cost effectively. IT management must insure that their UC platform can collect activity data across all forms of UC communications, as well as reporting tools to provide the metrics for evaluating and managing both UC-U as well as UC-B benefits.
Perhaps most importantly for enterprise IT organizations, internal IT resources must be evaluated in order to decide to what extent UC solutions can be managed and supported internally vs. using third-party services.
Summary
Enterprise IT will have its work cut out for it in terms of starting to migrate to a UC-based environment. The justification and priorities for making the moves must, however, come from the other enterprise constituencies. This is where the CIO can play a leading role in organizing and managing the migration planning activity, including being prepared to quickly respond to important user needs for UC solutions. Because there will be little internal prior experience with UC implementations, this may require the services of outside consultants to identify and quantify UC solution needs and their potential value both to the enterprise and to specific end users. 
 
What Do You Think?
You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Art Rosenberg, a veteran of the computer and communications industry, contributes his column, The Unified-View to unified communications. To read more of Art’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Kelly McGuire




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