Unified Communications – I have it. What do I do now?

Stephen Mulligan
On: 11 Aug 2015
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Our first three blogs in this series looked at what UC is, what benefits your organisation can achieve by investing in UC and how you could go about choosing which elements of UC might work for you. To conclude, I thought we should look at how to get the best out of a UC environment once you have implemented it.

The summer, such as it was, is sadly drawing to a close and the long evenings are visibly shortening already. So that tells me it’s time to wrap up our summer series of blogs on Unified Communications (UC) before we all have to put back on our woolly socks and long sleeved shirts and hunker down for the cold dark days ahead.

Making the vision a reality

Previously we looked at the importance of starting your UC journey with a vision of where you want to be 6, 12 or 18 months down the line. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is that you not only define and document your vision, but communicate it to your users. Tell them early and tell them often!

If you’ve managed to get to this stage without doing this: DON’T PANIC. It’s never too late to start. I often work with customers who have put a UC system in place but, a bit like the dog that finally catches their tail, they are not really sure what they’re going to do with it. Mapping out your current communication challenges and overlaying how UC can help is never a wasted effort.

So, this is where your vision starts to get real. You now have the opportunity (duty even?) to implement real change in the way that your colleagues communicate and collaborate. If you have told your end users what they’re going to be getting, they should by now be chomping at the bit to get going.

Start them easy

Instant Messaging and Presence (hopefully you’ve integrated with the user’s desk and mobile phones) is a typical first port of call. This is a simple but incredibly powerful and transformative set of tools. It’s one of those “invention is the mother of necessity” situations where you will look back later and wonder how you ever did your work without it.

To communicate with a colleague, the user’s first thought should be to check their colleague’s Presence. Are they “Available”, “In a Meeting”, “On a Call”, “Out of the Office”, “Do Not Disturb”? Does that affect their chosen mode of communication? It should. If the colleague is already on a call, there is obviously no point in calling their desk phone, it will just end up in their voicemail. If they are “In a Meeting”, clearly calling their mobile isn’t a great plan either.

In these cases the user can now pop them a quick IM saying “I see you’re on a call – could you send me the latest forecast sheet (or whatever they’re seeking) when you have a sec please?” Getting a simple two letter “np” message back (no problem) can be enough to know they have the request and chances are they will respond when they are free. Compare this if you will to the more traditional flow: call a busy person, leave them a voicemail, wait for them to check the voicemail, they call you back, get your voicemail, leave you a voicemail, etc… Frustrating, time wasting and unproductive.

UC adoption

In a matrix type organisation, once you get a cohort of people working in this way, it will typically spread virally (that’s good). If you can, try to make it available to everyone, rather than restricting it to a chosen few. “The more the merrier” is never more true than in a UC environment. However, one point to note. If your organisation is quite hierarchical, getting the senior staff and management bought in early is key. If the senior eagles don’t use it, their direct reports will be less encouraged to do so and this then continues on down the chain. It can still work “bottom up” but adoption will be faster and longer lasting if the designated-car-space people are using it from the beginning.

Leverage early successes

Once you have established some new practices, you can then start to move on to the trickier stuff – real time document collaboration, video conferencing, remote working, etc. Again, the same model applies. Get some influential users using the tools and techniques and make it available to as many as possible. Offer as much support as you can – lunchtime briefings, intranet videos, laminated cheat sheets handed out in the canteen, whatever it takes to get the ideas into your users’ heads.

Brand and market

It can really help to brand the change program from the beginning. “New World of Work” was my own one from many years ago – I must admit, we shamelessly stole that one from Microsoft so if you want to rob it, fire ahead. This can help to link the different aspects of UC in the minds of the users. Telephony, IM, Video, Mobile and Document Collaboration can all seem like quite different things, but when they’re brought together as a single brand, those barriers can disappear and again, this can help with adoption.

To conclude, good luck with your planning, implementation and adoption of UC. If I can be of any assistance as you start to move forward with your plans, I’d be delighted to help.

And never mind the dark evenings, it will be spring again soon enough.