In a previous life, I made a good living helping companies salvage their CRM (customer relationship management) software implementations. Many of our customers were recommended to us because we had a reputation for turning things around. The funny thing is, even though most of our customers were screaming that the software they bought was terrible, the software usually wasn’t the problem. The problem was lack of planning, clear expectations and executives that weren’t engaged in defining processes or seeing the implementation through to a successful outcome. We would help companies solve these issues and suddenly the software didn’t look so bad.
The same is true with Unified Communications according to UC industry veteran Aldo Ramirez, the VP of Sales at ANPI. “In helping hundreds of companies deploy UC, the clear theme for those that considered the implementation a failure was that the employees did not use and were not aware of the capabilities of the application. Executives didn’t set clear expectations and the employees didn’t know what the product could do for them, even months after deployment, so it was perceived as a disappointment.”
In short, adoption was poor.
We’ve talked a lot about improving UC adoption at The UC Buyer - everything from deploying headsets, to effective training, to supporting remote workers and designing collaboration-focused offices. One area we haven’t delved into is the role that executives and corporate champions can play in ensuring UC investments pay off.
Engaged Executives Can Make All The Difference
Having a corporate champion driving the Unified Communications project from the beginning can deliver positive results in terms of adoption. “The struggles around adoption are almost always related to a lack of planning, a lack of employee understanding and a lack of training, all of which an executive leader can positively impact,” says Ramirez. Here are four areas corporate champions should focus their attention.
Clearly Communicate Why You Are Implementing UC
It is not uncommon for businesses to pay short shrift to communications around a UC roll-out, with the end result being employees think the company is just putting a new phone system in place. According to Ramirez, the communications coming from the executive champion should be focused on why the company is doing it.
“It is important to frame the communications in terms of the benefits UC can deliver for, a) the customer, b) the employee, and c) the company,” says Ramirez. Ensuring the team understands ways in which leveraging UC will improve the customer experience, make their work / life balance better and improve internal collaboration and productivity can go a long way to setting the project on the right track. Ramirez suggests that all on-going communications should build upon and support this approach.
Set Clear Expectations
Once executives have explained why the solution is being implemented, it is important that senior management clearly define their expectations. Doing so with real world examples drives the point home.
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According to Ramirez, “By communicating that ‘we are going to be a company that uses Presence Management and IM every day and each of you will be expected to open your software and keep your Presence updated,’ makes it pretty clear that this is more than just a new telephone.” The same thing can go for explaining that the new solution comes with an audio bridge tool and the day it gets implemented third-party apps will no longer be used. By setting expectations prior to training taking place, training sessions become more focused with team members looking for answers to specific questions.
Lead By Example
Clear expectation are great, but when executives lead by example it can make all the difference. “It is critical that executives show people they are using the tech and they expect the team to use it as well,” says Ramirez. Some things corporate champions can do is use presence management and IM early and often and encourage team members to keep their status updated. “Having access to your colleagues and knowing when they are free to speak or receive a text, or when they don’t want to be disturbed can quickly start to integrate UC into a company’s DNA.” It really starts to become apparent when team members realize how quickly this makes them more productive and starts resulting in success stories.”
Encourage A Collaborative Culture
Unlike CRM, Unified Communications will impact every employee in the company. Corporate champions can play a large role in ensuring the company culture embraces these advanced communications and collaboration capabilities and turns to them first. This can be as simple as executives scheduling their weekly team meeting over video conferencing and insisting everyone has their camera on.
“By clearly communicating the benefits of migrating to UC, setting expectations and leading by example, executives can help make the transition to unified communications seamless and quickly lead to a more nimble and collaborative corporate culture,” says Ramirez. So it seems like there may not be that much difference between UC and CRM when it comes to the role executives can play after all.