Deploying a UC solutions can be a complex and hazard-ridden enterprise for channel partners. But with a little planning, Walter Monasterio from IR says you can streamline implementation and build a successful UC practice.
Today's workforce is increasingly mobile and decentralized. In fact, U.S. employees are away from their desks up to 60 percent of the time, according to research firm Global Workplace Analytics. And 80 to 90 percent of workers say they would prefer to telework at least part time. So it's not surprising that more organizations are looking to implement unified communications (UC) solutions, from companies like Microsoft, Cisco or Avaya as the modern workforce demands the mobile capabilities these types of solutions offer around collaboration, video conferencing and softphones, to name a few. These capabilities work across most mobile devices and keep employees connected and productive no matter where they are.
While UC has many undeniable benefits, deploying the technology can be quite daunting for channel partners. Implementation hiccups increase costs, hinder user adoption and negatively impact the experience. Here are four tips to ensure a successful UC rollout.
1) Be the knowledgeable partner
As with any big project, organizations can use all the help they can get. Certified partners reduce implementation headaches and increase delivery speed by helping conduct thorough analysis and planning. When presenting to the customer for the project, it's important to show you can meet requirements specific to their organization and perhaps improve the rollout strategy.
The method by which a UC system is deployed varies among customers, so it's important to highlight your prior experience deploying the solution in a scenario similar to what they envision and to help them confirm their assumptions. For instance, after you understand how many people will be consuming the UC solution in your organization and whether it will be on-premises or in the cloud, challenge and validate the customer's assumptions. Understand the drivers for the choice. Is the customer looking to reduce costs, for example, or increase mobile access? Whatever the reason, make sure the plan aligns to those important goals.
When customization is involved, the level of management and support will also vary. Your ability to service and support before, during and after deployment is crucial to the continued success of the implementation. It's critical to understand and clearly define those ongoing needs to deliver the best customer experience.
2) Conduct a proper assessment
The next critical step to a deployment—whether it's on-premise, cloud or hybrid cloud—is ensuring IT infrastructure is optimized to cope with the demands of real-time communications. Many organizations often fail to pre-assess their network and UC environment and later find out during deployment that the network is unable to handle the demands. This will result in a poor user experience across modalities. The complexity of a UC infrastructure, with its many elements, can make it difficult to anticipate the source of a problem. Conducting pre-assessment helps evaluate the infrastructure to detect potential issues in performance of voice, video and desktop sharing applications, before they occur.
3) Partners promoting user adoption
To receive the maximum benefit from UC solutions, partners and business leaders need to place equal emphasis on implementation and adoption. That means open and direct communication with end users is critical. After all, the goal of UC is to make life easier and more productive for employees. Organizations should solicit opinions from end users to better understand their needs and pain points.
Additionally, while UC technology is meant to ease workflow, it shouldn't be assumed that employees will automatically know how to use it. Consider creating a comprehensive onboarding and training program that first outlines the basics, and then further explains features and functionalities in later sessions. Training should be tailored to the needs of each department, since not every job function will need or use the same features of the UC solutions.
Businesses should also consider promoting UC rollouts internally through company newsletters and intranet forums to ensure maximum interest and engagement.
4) Enable visibility into UC environments with experience management solutions
IT infrastructure assessment and management is not only critical prior to deployment. After the rollout, it's important to continue maintaining the infrastructure and managing the customer experience from the outside in. The UC application and network should be monitored throughout the lifecycle of the solution, because the network and environment are always evolving, which can affect application performance. IT teams or managed service providers need to be proactive when it comes to understanding the UC environment and leveraging solutions that identify issues, such as hardware failures, misconfigurations or connectivity issues.
To effectively manage the health of the infrastructure, businesses should consider implementing communications experience management solutions to support their UC solutions. If users are experiencing issues with audio or video quality, the management solution should be able to detect and help resolve the issue. Ongoing testing and comprehensive reporting with valuable analytics can present a holistic view of their environment with insight into what issues need to be addressed, and how they can be remediated.
Customers can optimize their UC investments by leveraging automated solutions that monitor, optimize and report on the user experience.
The bottom line
For a successful UC deployment, remain focused on the objective: an enhanced user experience. Remember that UC technologies are meant to benefit all employees by making them more collaborative and productive. Taking the right steps beforehand and having an ongoing management strategy will ensure an excellent customer experience.
This article first appeared on The VAR Guy.