Unified communications (UC) is a double-edged sword. Done right, it can enhance and improve communication across a company, with customers and suppliers. It can save money, improve productivity, and enhance employee engagement by giving employees the tools to work anywhere, anytime, from any device.
Done poorly, the results can damage customer relations, create unnecessary human resource problems and stunt innovation.
UC is not new technology, and over the years there have been many different types of solutions and implementations. Yet a survey of UC stories reveals the same mistakes are made over and over. Apparently, we’re not learning from UC history.
Here’s a look at the top ten reasons for UC implementation failure.
- Incomplete or unclear requirements: As with any project, if you don’t know what you want to end up with, the results will usually be unsatisfactory. Failing to define, determine and understand user needs, for example, can result in an expensive system that goes underutilized.
- Poor planning: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Any UC implementation needs to be considered carefully. If real estate is about location, location, location, UC implementation is all about the details, details, details. Overlooking one or two small items can lead to chaos. A detailed project plan is a must.
- Insufficient resources: All projects need resources, both human and financial. You can have a brilliant UC plan, but with untrained team, or a leadership unit working toward conflicting goals, success is anything but certain. Before a UC project moves forward it is critical to ensure there is end-user engagement and an approved strategic plan that provides finances and the training resources that match the scope of the project.
- Lack of executive sponsorship: If management isn’t onside, the proper resources won’t likely be allocated, and employees won’t be encouraged to use the new solution. Support must come from the top.
- Improper infrastructure configuration: UC works over the network, and puts new burden on the infrastructure. Supporting UC requires servers, which must be properly sized. There will likely need to be configuration changes, and potentially an increase in available bandwidth, both internal and external, to accommodate the additional traffic. Neglecting to build the infrastructure will impact performance, lead to poor call quality and slow or interrupted communications. There is nothing that discourages employee adoption more than a so-called “new” system that introduces more problems than it fixes. In technology, as in dating, you never get a second chance to make a great first impression.
- Lack of support for users: One of the chief selling points for UC is its ease of use, but that doesn’t mean users should be thrown in without any support. They need both training and the right tools to take advantage of the new system. A good headset, for example, can make all the difference in a user’s experience. (A cheap headset, on the other hand, can cause users to abandon even the best UC system because it proves unusable for calls.)
- Poor choice of partner: Solution providers vary in skills and expertise, and while choosing the cheapest quote may be appealing to budget-holders, it’s more important to choose a provider who has successfully deployed the selected solution, holds appropriate vendor certifications, and is able to supply good customer references.
- Failure to plan for support: Implementation is just the tip of the iceberg – once the system is in operation, it must be maintained. A good operational plan will ensure companies don’t come up against significant unplanned expenses for security staff, IT staff or additional helpdesk resources.
- Failure to allow for change: No system is static. Users often use technology in unconventional and unintended ways with great results. Technology itself changes rapidly. UC implementation and operational plans must be malleable. Without the flexibility to adapt, the system will quickly become obsolete.
- Failure to evaluate options: Is onsite implementation the best way to move forward? Would a hosted UC solution be a better option given the budget available and pool of IT resources that can be tapped? Unless you’ve evaluated all the options, answering this question incorrectly can have weighty consequences. Companies should thoroughly examine their options before deciding on a UC approach.
Avoiding these pitfalls may help ensure a successful UC implementation that can increase user productivity, support innovation through collaboration and still trim costs.