Unified communications (UC) has two main purposes: to provide employees with accessibility to an array of communications tools across a variety of devices using a single interface, and to incorporate that communication capability into existing processes and applications that can benefit from the access to information. By keeping both sides of this duality in mind, businesses can help ensure that both productivity and mobility are maximized when deploying a UC solution.
When adopting a UC solution, it is critical to consider the three main factors that influence deployment: infrastructure, interoperability, and training.
The first element to consider is infrastructure. Is the current network capacity sufficient to carry the additional load that UC will place on it? The network will be strained in general by the additional functionality implemented as part of the UC service; staff will be using it more often, and will be using it to perform a greater number of tasks. If unanticipated, this additional load can push a network past its limits.
Network infrastructure will also be stretched in other ways. Asynchronous network loads, where one part of the network is used more than others and where the part of the network that is seeing the heaviest load can change, doesn’t happen as frequently with traditional data usage — but with UC it certainly can.
There are a few different types of interoperability to consider here. The first, and most basic, is interoperability between applications from different vendors. It is important to determine in advance if the chosen UC service provider can support the various applications and components a business plans to use.
There is also the consideration of interoperability between business processes. Are there elements of the business that would benefit from being connected to each other through the UC system? If so, how much control will be possible over those connections?
The single greatest factor that determines if a UC system will succeed or fail is user adoption, and the single greatest influence over user adoption of a new system is training.
Identifying more technologically competent employees and targeting them for advanced training or even an early roll out allows them to become a resource during the full deployment. Well-trained power users can act as ambassadors for the new system and assist their coworkers in smoothing out any adoption wrinkles.
The other consideration when developing training for a UC system is to make it interesting and practical. This requires that there be a clear understanding of how end users use current tools, so that they can be shown how to use the new tools to accomplish those same tasks more easily and efficiently.
In the end, a successful UC strategy depends on the usability of the new system. That usability rests primarily on the ability of the infrastructure to support the system, the ability of the system to support the applications, and the willingness and ability of employees to use it.