As Unified Communications (UC) continues to cause a buzz among IT leaders, more focus is being put on how to incorporate this communications strategy into the business. A recent survey conducted by Info-Tech found that most enterprises have begun to implement one or more UC technologies (Figure 1). However, when it comes to communications as whole, very few organizations are thinking in terms of an overarching UC strategy.
Figure 1. UC Technologies Implemented
The reality is that UC in the enterprise is indeed providing more efficient and richer collaboration experiences to early adopters in the field. Reduced communication lags, improved employee productivity, and streamlined daily processes are among the most commonly reported benefits gained by organizations using UC technology.
The UC Vision Is a Bit Blurry
Undeniably, UC is a topic of much interest in the IT community. However, most enterprises are lacking in the creation of a formal UC strategy. This is often because the business fails to see communications as a strategic priority, sometimes due to lack of awareness, understanding, or financial availability.
Even among early adopters, very rarely is implementation a result of an overarching UC strategy. In fact, one of the most common drivers of UC is the obsolescence of aging telephony systems. When legacy systems are no longer being supported by the vendor, many IT departments see no other choice but to move to IP telephony. This change often starts a gradual movement towards other communications technologies, such as unified messaging. Through this evolution, some organizations are finding themselves with segregated pieces of a UC system without having strategically set out to do so.
Imagine a World With UC
Although Info-Tech studies have found that many early adopters are not following a defined UC vision, IT leaders should continue to follow UC trends and begin educating the business on its possible opportunities. Be proactive and outline a long term UC plan that realistically fits into the organizational strategy.
1. Seek experienced advice. As UC technology matures, be sure to reference the experiences of others. Vendors, consultants, and early adopters all have valuable information that can positively influence the organization's creation of a UC strategy.
2. Be realistic about the future of UC in the enterprise. There is no standard model of acceptance or common strategy that yields a positive response to the idea of communications technologies. UC strategy very much depends on a number of factors unique to each business. Be realistic about the feasibility and timeliness of UC in the enterprise and set strategies accordingly.
3. Educate the business and drive UC awareness. Now is the time to start driving awareness of the benefits to be gained by UC technology. Begin educating management and end users on the functionalities of UC to set the stage for future implementation.
When it comes to UC, the majority of organizations fall short of having a strategic long term vision. Instead, many organizations are phasing in one communications technology at a time to align with management expectations and approvals. Benefit from the experience of early adopters and leverage these lessons to start envisioning the UC strategy.
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