For the past two years, technology companies big and small have flaunted the major impact Unified Communications (UC) is said to have on business’ bottom lines. They often cite the ability to converge and streamline communications, thus cutting telco expenses and boosting productivity. And while this is true, driving companies from point A to point B has proven a challenge. There is an understandable and important first hurdle to clear when it comes to organizational buy-in of UC that includes question marks around change management, user adoption, network strain, deployment options, scalability, initial and long-term investment, etc…
The view from the other side
In the quest to win over decision makers, user benefit is, unfortunately, largely overlooked in favour of technical specs and gains, which are essential to the global endorsement of UC but don’t necessarily reduce buyer fright or address the operational concerns that keep companies from investing. Technology companies and service providers that offer UC should, instead, place more weight on influencing end user perception, experience and adoption habits, opting to develop solid proofs of concept (POC) tailored to tackling one or several of a business’ unique objectives.
If you build it, they will come…
Done correctly, building a POC is enormously reassuring for companies purchasing a technology as all-encompassing as UC. It is effectively a test run that showcases the potential of UC while enabling organizations to gauge internal awareness, user training and adoption, to gather feedback, monitor costs, and assess savings – all before committing.
“You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it first!”
Five steps to building a (three-month) POC
- Profiling: At this beginning stage, it is essential to identify and delineate the demographic of employees that will return the most accurate results, and to define the specific set of success criteria (for example: travel reduction)
- Education & awareness: Much of the success of a POC (like a full UC deployment) will depend on training and internal adoption. If users are unaware of how to use their new UC applications and their questions routinely go unanswered, adoption will plummet and the overall chance of success will disappear.At this stage, an on-site presence is highly important. Depending on your requirements, have your provider host a kick off, in-office training sessions, virtual events like webcasts and webinars, best practice email support, and any other activity that will boost user understanding of and familiarity with UC.
- Surveying: Regular user feedback is the heart of a POC. Surveys should be conducted frequently and be paired with detailed reporting to give decision makers easily-digestible information on trends that directly affect business objectives. This feedback will also signal a potential need for further training.
- Delivery of the business case, focusing on highlights and recommendations
- Deployment: Enlarging a POC to a full-scale solution deployment is as easy as widening the pool of users. At this stage, organizations normally have access to the exact applications and tools they need as a result of the initial test run; therefore, additional employees can be phased in effortlessly and continuously as and when benefits are realised across an increasingly greater number of users.
Even when it comes to existing on-premise UC solutions, it’s never too late for a POC! The constant evolution of enterprise and workforce demand necessitates routine adjustment to the scale of UC solutions. However, without the benefit of user feedback or an effective change management process, a UC product runs the risk of becoming “just another tool” on users’ desktops. Before rushing to scale up or down, companies should take the time to (re)assess their user needs by developing a business case, thus maximizing ROI and hopefully sidestepping a case of buyer’s remorse.