The benefits of unified communications are well documented. By integrating voice, mobile, data and cloud communication channels into one unified system, businesses can communicate and collaborate more easily than ever before and use technology to unleash vast improvements in productivity and efficiency across the organisation.
Despite the numerous advantages, many organisations underestimate the complexity of implementing a UC system. Inadequate planning, mismanagement of the rollout phase and poor user training are just some of the reasons why organisations sometimes fail to realise the expected benefits from unified communications.
To ensure successful deployment of UC, organisations should have in place a well-planned UC strategy that carefully considers the key requirements of the business and addresses any challenges that may need to be overcome.
Here are five things that should be considered when developing a unified communications strategy:
1. Discovery and training
Discovering and learning about how your organisation currently communicates, the needs of the business and the key requirements of your end users is one of the most important phases of planning a unified communications strategy. It is absolutely critical to fully engage with all key stakeholders at the earliest opportunity and find out how they currently work, the issues they face, and opportunities for improvement. The information you uncover will enable you to identify the impact a UC solution will have on end users and help you decide which solution will be the most appropriate.
It is critically important that adequate time is spent on this phase since it directly affects almost everything else. By thoroughly reviewing the existing communications strategy, businesses will be able to make better decisions and ultimately build a new UC environment that has the best possible impact on the organisation.
2. The readiness of existing infrastructure
When developing a UC strategy, it is important to consider the impact of unified communications on your current infrastructure. You will need to conduct a network assessment and determine how well equipped it is to deal with the increased load brought by things like intensive messaging, document sharing and video conferencing.
Infrastructure like servers and routers will need to be able to adequately handle UC traffic, both now and in the future, so don’t forget to also factor in future company expansion and allow for increases in the number of users over time. A variety of measurements can be used to determine network readiness, including packet loss on WAN connections and average bandwidth utilisation. Any issues that are identified should be dealt with before the rollout of the UC system.
3. Communication Enabled Business Processes
Communication Enabled Business Processes (CEBP) involves embedding communication capabilities directly into the processes of a business, thereby helping staff to communicate more effectively and move forward with their workflow without unwanted delays.
When developing a UC strategy, businesses should carefully consider how UC can be best used within business processes to improve workflow efficiency and identify which processes could most benefit from being integrated with communications applications.
For example, a call centre might often receive queries that require outside expertise in order to resolve them. Through UC, it could be possible to provide call centre staff with easier access to this expertise, thereby helping the agents to answer more of these queries directly on the line and reduce the number of times it is necessary to call the customer back. This would significantly improve the experience for the customer and allow the company to deliver a higher level of service. In addition, UC and CEBP can make the job easier for call centre agents, which in turn might help to boost productivity levels, improve job satisfaction and even reduce staff turnover rates.
4. Phased rollout
The implementation and rollout of a unified communications solution can sometimes prove to be more problematic than many businesses first envision. For this reason, your UC strategy should include detailed timelines and responsibilities for rollout, as well as contingencies that plan for unexpected snags and problems.
It is generally accepted that it is best to rollout a new UC system in phases. For example, you might implement the new communication system in one department, test how it is working and then move on to the next department or branch once everyone is happy. This allows issues and problems to be ironed out before going further into the implementation phase, and it means that future rollouts should be smoother.
It is also important to give consideration to good communication during the rollout phase. It is absolutely imperative to ensure that all users and stakeholders are kept fully informed about the rollout and have ample opportunity to provide their own input and feedback during the process. This helps to ensure better user satisfaction and makes them more likely to get on board with the new system, resulting in a much better return on your investment.
5. User training
Unified communications can be used to significantly increase staff productivity and efficiency, but this really only works if staff actually get on board with the system and fully exploit the communication and collaboration tools at their disposal. After all, there is no point in introducing these tools if nobody knows how to use them.
For this reason, it is important to prioritise user training and ensure that there is a solid training plan in place from the beginning. You should also give consideration to user training during the rollout. For example, you might decide to introduce the system to more tech-savvy users first and then get their feedback before rolling out to other users who might require more training.
As we have discussed, there are many different things that should be taken into consideration when developing a unified communications strategy. By taking the time to properly research, plan and monitor the rollout of a UC system, businesses can maximise efficiency gains and ultimately improve their return on investment, while also helping to minimise the risk of things going wrong. At every stage, good communication with all key stakeholders and accurate feedback is paramount to the success of any UC strategy.