Unified Communications – How do I get started?

Stephen Mulligan
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On: 28 Jul 2015
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In our last two blogs on Unified Communications (UC) we looked at what it is and the benefits of investing in it for business. This time we’ll explore how you can go about evaluating and choosing the elements of UC that will work for your business.

Building a UC environment

UC is not a single solution but rather a framework for managing and optimising the various forms of communications within your organisation.

The key elements to consider when building a UC environment are:

  • Instant Messaging (IM) and Presence
  • Click to Call (integrating your landline phones with your PC and Mobile)
  • Collaboration (working together on centrally stored documents)
  • Unified Messaging (bringing email, texts and voicemail into one place)
  • Conferencing (voice, video and web conferencing – with High Definition video)
  • Mobility (the ability to do all of the above while not at your office desk)

The good news is you don’t have to do all of these things at once. Piloting individual elements of UC is quite common and it’s no harm to test how the different technologies work. There are of course some underlying infrastructural elements that are important. Your local and wide area networks (LAN and WAN) for example need to be able to cope with the traffic you are about to push through them.

However, what I would strongly advise (from personal experience) is to begin by looking forward.

Vision

Starting out with a vision for where you want to go might sound like the most obvious thing in the world, but you would be amazed how many times businesses plough straight into deployment and then wonder why nobody used it.

Have a look at what communication challenges you have at the moment. Talk to your business areas and see what they tell you. Finance, IT and Sales will likely have quite different requirements (or at least think they do) but you can expect a lot of commonality across the areas. You can then pull together an overall vision (one or two slides) for how you would like your business communications to run.

Bring your users with you

“Tell them early and tell them often” is a good maxim for any large organisational change. A UC rollout is as much about change management as it is about technology. Once you have created the vision, share it with your business users and keep the information flowing as the rollout progresses. Regular, short (even half-hour) training sessions will be better than a five-day snooze-fest training course. Quick explanatory videos on your intranet, team brief slides, cheat sheet handouts, Q&A message boards, etc. are all great vehicles for getting the message across.

Products, vendors and partners

Your choice of which products and vendors to use should flow from your analysis and vision.  Vendors will want to sell you their product and if you’re not clear about what you want, you may not get what you need. Many vendors don’t deal directly with end customers (unless you’re a very large organisation), so finding a good integration partner who can bring it all together for you is a really good idea. Your partner can assist with creating the vision and advise you on matching your requirements with vendor choice.

Taking the jump into the UC world is well worth it, but it’s definitely worth putting in the planning effort up front so that you have a reasonable idea where you are going before you start out on your journey. Next time we’ll look at how to get the best out of a UC environment once you have it.

 

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