It’s estimated that over 80% of Unified Communications Projects fail, and only 1 in 10 is transformational to the business, helping to achieve business goals.
Of course there are far more than 5 reasons why UC projects fall. But I thought that 5 of the highlights would be a good place to start if you are considering a UC implementation, whether that be Hosted or On-Premises.
As we are a provider of Hosted Microsoft Lync, UCaaS, and having the largest Hosted Lync UCaaS in Ireland, our experience is in this area based on hundreds of deployed seats, but the same rules apply for On-Premises Projects, and you’ll see that from the high level outline below.
1. The Pilot Trap
Doing a pilot of UC, without planning it out will almost certainly lead to failure. Many organizations believe that the technical installation is the biggest hurdle. It is a challenge, but there are far more important areas to address before you should even consider the technical implementation. These include the next 4 items on my list.
If you have enterprise licenses as part of an agreement with Microsoft, the tendency can be to implement UC yourself. The licenses are free, so why not, Right? Don’t get caught in this trap.
Microsoft Lync is probably the only one that this applies to, as the other vendors (Cisco, Shoretel, Avaya, etc) aren’t really in the same position as Microsoft when it comes to licensing. By going down the DIY route, you’ll probably get so far, but won’t really get the juicy functionality, such as federation, voice/video conferencing, external call capability and much more. And what tends to happen is that the technology is blamed for the failure, and it’s left on the shelf, never to be resurrected again.
2. Executive Sponsorship
Unified Communications is all about collaboration, both within the business and with external stakeholders too. While it should be possible to show actual euro savings from a UC Solution, the greatest gains to the business are found in the increased productivity gains.
The senior management and executive team love to hear that a technology will increase productivity and reduce costs, but they need to be using it too. Pick an executive sponsor who is somewhat disposed to using new technology as part of your “Pilot” users, and they’ll do all the work for you to get the budget, because they’ll love it.
3. User Adoption & Training
All the Unified Communications software vendors will tell you that their UC is so easy to use; it’ll become second nature in no time. That’s somewhat true, and in fact you’ll find that some users will be so into it, they’ll find innovative ways of using the technology. They’ll even train colleagues, without realizing it.
However, the early users should get some level of training to get them off to the best start. This will encourage user adoption, and give the project the best possible chance of success. Strencom and most of the Hosted Providers offer user adoption dashboards available in real time, so you can measure it daily. Here is an example of one of these dashboards.
4. The Network – LAN & WAN Readiness
LAN – The main thing to get right here is internal LAN routing. This is even more important if you are using a Hosted UCaaS solution.
To call another user in your office, the call is initially setup by the UC server, and then the 2 users are connected directly, with just logging info being sent back to the servers during the session. If you don’t have LAN routing the call between 2 users will go through the UC server all the time, and this can lead to poor call quality, increased and unnecessary server activity, and ultimately, a poor user experience overall.
WAN – UC is all about the ability to connect everyone, everyplace (office, home, remote location) and every device (Smartphone, tablet, Laptop). To achieve this, calls will have to go out through the internet in certain cases, so a good quality connection from a business provider is essential.
Here is a free tool to check the quality of your Internet connection and specifically its ability to support a UC solution – http://mcs.strencom.net. For a more detailed quality check, give us a call and we can give you access to another free tool that will simulate multiple calls from your LAN over a period of 5 days.
By the way, don’t skimp on headsets either; there is a valid reason for the price difference.
5. Choose the Right Partner
We may not want to admit it, but UC is still a technology in its early days (at least from a deployment standpoint, versus the technology itself) , and while many IT Partners will claim to be able to deploy a UC service, you should look for an IT Partner that has experience with previous UC projects.
There is of course the technology capability, and it should be a minimum requirement that they can deploy a UC Solution, but it should also be a company that understands the benefits of UC to the business, how it can increase productivity and collaboration, and ultimately how it can address the goals of the business. A UC Solution must demonstrate an ROI that the business can see and measure.
Ask for references of past deployments, in the same size and budget as your project. Make sure that you speak to the references. Nobody’s perfect and there will have been challenges along the way, so ask the reference customer of any pitfalls they experienced, and then ask your partner, how they have addressed them and why the same issues won’t happen again.
Finally, the partner should have the certifications relevant to the UC vendor solution that they are promoting. For example, if its Microsoft Lync UC, then the partner should have a minimum of Silver Certification/Competency in the specific area; UC, Communications, Hosting, etc.
Whether On-Premises or Hosted, please give us a call if you’d like to discuss how UC can really benefit your business. We can have a Hosted Lync UC Pilot running for you in a matter of days; something that will take months to get up and running on-premises.
We have found that UC solutions are of particular benefit to businesses that have a large export business, have multiple locations, and/or a work force that is spread out throughout the country, or throughout the world.
A here’s something to make you smile… we’ve all been in one of these conference calls.