Unified communications technology touches lots of different people in an organization, which is one of the reasons it can be so powerful – but also one of the reasons getting buy-in for implementation can be difficult. With so many different stakeholders who have to sign off, it can be tough to convince them all.
But there are some strategies you can employ to convince the unimpressed (or the set-in-their-ways), including starting with applications that have an immediate return on investment (ROI), starting small and adding on over time, and by all means, making it simple to use.
Shoot for UC Applications with Rapid ROI
ROI can take a couple of forms, including cost avoidance or suppression. I recently talked with a systems integrator (who prefers not to be named) who says his company did a job for one large client that was paying some $20,000 per month for audio conferencing – mostly for internal employees who were conferencing with each other. Putting in a premise-based conferencing system saved the company at least $15,000 per month, and produced a 7-month payback. It also enabled the firm to tear out more than 20 T1 lines.
“The result was we found money to do a proof of concept if not a full UC deployment,” he says.
Another strategy is to implement tools that can be shared among many employees, says Wade Hamblin, Director of Product Management for Cisco’s UC business. Take videoconferencing, for example. Rather than putting a high-definition video end point on the desk of each employee who may use it, follow a hoteling scenario where you set up a few stations that can be shared among employees as needed.
Start Small and Add on UC Apps Over Time
Cisco has long been preaching the idea of using a platform that can grow increasingly sophisticated over time, enabling companies to get their feet wet with one or two applications and dive deeper as they see usage and comfort levels rise.
Today, for example, customers that use UC tools such as the Cisco Unified Communications Manager can get started with video for little or no additional cost, using the Jabber client that works on Windows, Mac, Android, IOS and Blackberry devices.
“Jabber on any device is essentially free; it’s included with most user accounts,” Hamblin says. It’s a fairly simple proposition to install and demonstrate the use of video on a tablet or other device, he says, and integrate it with other applications.
Cisco is also looking to create “reasonably priced” packages that include a mix of video-capable desktop devices with two or three of its units that work with HD monitors in small conference rooms. Coupling that package with folks using Jabber on myriad devices and you have a number of different potential videoconferencing scenarios, he says. Such a setup would enable users with single number reach to take a call on their cell phone while walking down the hall, transfer it to their desktop when they reach the office, then upgrade to a video call once at the desk.
“I didn’t know how much high-def video would help me until I started using it,” Hamblin says. Most of his team is remote, so he now uses it frequently, sharing his desktop, zooming in on whiteboards and the like. “Seeing is truly believing. Get users to take it and try it and you’ll soon be going to production.”
Make UC Simple
Such scenarios only work in practice, however, if they are simple. “One reason smart phones are so prevalent is they’re so easy to use,” Hamblin says. UC has to be the same way, with the ability to initiate any type of call with just a few clicks.
Jabber, for example, “just works,” says Mark Royle, Marketing Manager for UC at Cisco. “I’ve never read the manual on how to use it. It’s very easy and intuitive.”
Cloud-based offerings can also help with respect to simplicity, by making UC easier to implement and at low entry cost.
“A lot of companies are leveraging cloud as their entry point onto the freeway,” Hamblin says. “They have voice on premise, collaboration tools with WebEx, then a video room in the cloud and that’s the on-ramp [to video-based collaboration].”
Once employees start using it, the company can better understand its usage patterns and whether it makes sense to bring in dedicated, on-site video resources.
For UC Success, Get an Executive Sponsor
As with just about any IT project, it’s also crucial to have an executive champion in your corner, pushing for the UC implementation. Almost inevitably, you’ll run into someone who doesn’t want to go along, for whatever reason. Without someone in a position of authority to push the project through, it could well stall.
That systems integrator I mentioned told a story about a company with some 13,000 employees that wanted a single UC solution across all of its different devices. The integrator was ready to do a proof of concept but was stymied by a voice engineer who was afraid that putting in a remediation server would wreak havoc. Without an executive sponsor to deal with the engineer, the project was stopped in its tracks.