Far from being just a marketing buzzword, unified communications (UC) refers to the integration of devices, applications and communication methods to develop collaborative and productive methods of communication.
This could include a combination of real-time communication services such as instant messaging, voice over IP (VOIP), video conferencing and interactive whiteboards or non-real-time methods such as email, text messages or voicemail.
Ultimately, unified communications brings together various communication methods to create consistency across devices and platforms in order to streamline business processes.
If you’re looking to boost efficiency and productivity through unified communications – here are ten things you must think about before you decide to make the transition:
Top Tips for Adopting Unified Communications
1) It’s about the business first, not the technology
It’s essential to get clear on your business drivers for the project. What are your Unified Communications priorities? When you know the drivers behind the project, you’ll have an easier time building your business case to gain management support – as well as explaining the project and the benefits to the users to improve adoption. Don’t look at technologies until you define your business drivers first!
2) Get support from the top
Unified Communications is all about changing the way people work, so you’re going to need senior management support for a successful Unified Communications roll-out. When presenting the project, emphasise the increase in business responsiveness and employee productivity, cost reductions in travel, infrastructure and call charges to show the return-on investment.
3) Start with Discovery
Businesses today are fragmented, with multiple offices and remote workers which makes it harder for people to communicate, and often results in multiple tools and point solutions. The first step in a successful Unified Communications implementation is a thorough Discovery phase to understand who your users are, their business requirements and their communication habits. What tools do they have in place to deliver conferencing, video, messaging and voice? When are the contracts up for renewal? The best technology in the world will fail if it doesn’t enable your users to work when, where and how they want – so take this in to consideration from the start.
4)Is your network up to the task?
Integrated voice, messaging and conferencing may be more network intensive than your old systems. Before you select any technology, you need to understand if your network will be able to handle the increased activity. Voice communication is business-critical, it must have high-availability and resilience to enable the business to work. Plan and prepare in advance, spend time finding experts to conduct a network assessment to ensure you’ll be able to use the new system to its fullest once in-house.
5) Consider Cloud
Unified Communications solutions can be delivered on-premises or in the cloud. Many businesses believe the cloud won’t work for them – but it’s worth taking another look. Cloud services offer your users access from anywhere with single sign-on and reduce the burden of a new platform for your IT team. Ensure your chosen partner is giving you all the available options, including cloud or hybrid cloud/on-premises options to ease your transition. You should use the cloud on your terms, not the suppliers.
6) Protect your information
Unified Communication tools improve collaboration and communication amongst fragmented and mobile workforces and information will grow and flow more easily throughout your business. Be prepared to protect this information that could be valuable to your business. Consider compliance and regulatory requirements, and your own information governance policies. Investigate tools and services which enable you to secure and archive data such as instant messaging and persistent chat.
7) Create a delivery plan
Since Unified Communications integrates voice, messaging and conferencing, it tends to be a complex project to deliver within the business. It’s critical that you make a roadmap at the beginning, so that you can roll out the new technologies in phases and feel confident that you haven’t forgotten key components.
8) Ensure User Adoption
Technology is pointless if your employees won’t use it. Plan for user adoption and training from the very start of the project. We recommend rolling out modern technology in phases, to allow ample time for training and support. You might consider webinars, in-person training sessions and individual support in your adoption plan.
9) Know who will manage Unified Communications
Once you’ve completed your Unified Communications implementation, you need to know what happens next. Who will manage the system? Don’t assume you have to hire experts in-house. A Unified Communications Managed Service provides experts on-demand, guaranteed up-time and SLAs and monitoring of your business-critical systems. It lets you focus on your areas of expertise, while ensuring that your Unified Communications system is in experienced and safe hands.10. Consider a single supplier.
10) Consider a single supplier
A Unified Communications solution can be complex with lots of moving parts and when something goes wrong, who are you going to call? Consider working with a single supplier, who understands the end-to-end solution, and provides a single point of contact for all questions and issues. A single supplier also makes the implementation process easier, allowing them to focus on delivering a complete solution from system design and network architecture to call tariffs and hardware, rather than you project-managing multiple vendors.