To take Unified Communications (UC) to the next level in terms of success, organizations are challenged to focus on user adoption. While the business case for UC often is extremely compelling in terms of overall savings and productivity benefits, none of these gains can be realized unless UC is embraced by an organization's workforce.
The first challenge to adoption lies in how a UC solution is presented in the first place. "All too often when Solutions Integrators are proposing a communication solution – whether it is basic VoIP or a UC solution for collaboration, instant messaging, unified messaging or even communication enabling business processes – they get so involved in the technical aspects of the solution that they overlook one of the most basic components of business communication," writes Pam Avila at Unified Communications Strategies, a portal devoted to UC trends and opportunities.
"That component is the 'equipment' that sits on the end-user’s desk or travels in their pocket or briefcase. We refer to this equipment as the 'end points,' which sounds very official and technical," she adds. "In reality, however, it’s all about the end-user experience. Provide a great end-user experience and acceptance of technology is almost assured. Conversely, move the end-user too far out of their comfort zone and a disaster looms."
Mike Sapien, a principal analyst for Ovum, contends that UC services should be introduced in the enterprise the same way as new PCs have been introduced. As he explains, users gain upfront training. They are educated on new applications, features and the value of these capabilities.
"Just like with new PCs, UC users may at first be completely unfamiliar with some new features and have only very narrow experience with others," he contends. "The assumption that end users can immediately jump in, knowing which tools to use to improve their productivity, is a bad one."
He explains that some of the most successful UC implementation results are produced when companies create formal and informal teams to focus on training users, encouraging adoption, and identifying valuable uses of UC capabilities. In most of these cases, top management also embraces the technology and leads by example. The rest of the enterprise, in other words, is watching what they do.
"Consider earlier communication technologies, such as voice mail and e-mail, and how often senior managers relied on administrators to manage these tools for them. Some managers went so far as to ask assistants to type up their voice mail." he adds. "This sort of avoidance technique won’t work with UC features such as instant messaging and telepresence. It has to be clear to employees that they’re expected to use UC features, and bypassing these tools will leave them behind professionally. Senior management has to model regular and effective use of the UC features so that others will respond similarly."
When senior managers embrace Unified Communications, they set the stage for widespread adoption across the enterprise. They accelerate time to value by taking steps that encourage others.