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Unified Communications- Top 5 Reasons UC Projects Fail

STCM All POSIt’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.

 

Lync adoption dashboard

v:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

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.netFor 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.

 

 

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Is the WAN Market ready for Utility Based Pricing Models?

Over the last number of year’s enterprise IT departments have become more and more comfortable moving some of their more important workloads into a cloud environment. The benefits of this are widely known and range from reduced infrastructure maintenance costs to increased resource utilisation allowing the enterprise to only pay for the resources used when they are needed and scale down when not.

I have been considering the impact of this business model on cloud based connectivity, There are numerous companies providing private Wide Area Connectivity to the enterprise, based either on RFC2547 IP-VPN, Traditional point to point circuits or NGN based VPLS and layer2 service. Most deployments I have come across the customer pays a fixed amount for a connection, of a specific size into each of the branch offices it decides to connect into the Wide Area Network.

I think the market is getting closer to a utility based pricing model, where enterprise IT departments will have the ability to control the bandwidth and levels of QOS available to each of their branch offices as their business needs dictates.

The best way to explain anything is through a use case; take for example a chain of cinemas. This industry has recently migrated away from shipping large physical film reels around the country often days or weeks before film launch to a digital distribution model where movie content is distributed either encrypted Blu-ray disks or via a MPLS WANS where it is cached on local digital players for streaming to the high definition digital projectors. In the MPLS distribution model the amount of time it takes to stream the content to the premises is not that important as it is cached locally and can be done overnight, so this traffic would traverse the enterprise as a best effort traffic class with error checking done to account for any lost packets in transit.

Lately I have seen cinema’s start showing live content, Ballets, concerts etc etc. for this distribution best effort traffic class would be unacceptable as any lost packets would be blatantly obvious to the viewing audience as onscreen artefacts or audio defects.

In a utility based modem the enterprise It department would be able to provision an Expidited Forwarding (EF) queue to that branch for the period of time the live shows are running to ensire all packets in the video and audio stream get delivered in real time to the theatre without having to pay for that high level of service all year round.

So what would need to happen for this “Vision” to come true. The technology side of things is easy enough, telcos and service providers need to collaborate on creating an open API to their orchestration engines to allow enterprises order bandwidth on demand. The more challenging side of the house is contracts, billing mechanisms, network capacity management. All of which are items that can be overcome.

The main question I would leave you with, “Is the market ready ?”

Feel free to drop me a line with your thoughts to edmund.ronayne@strencom.net