ABI Research predicts the global unified communications (UC) market will be worth US$2.3 billion by 2016, as businesses seek enhanced productivity and cost savings. Today, no one would expect to work for a business without email access. In 10 years time, business professionals won’t want to work for a company without UC technology.
UC is fast becoming an essential tool to communicate and collaborate with anyone, anywhere and on any device. Today’s business environment is evolving to a more virtual, mobile workspace, enabling greater flexibility and easier communications. As a result, more businesses are turning to UC platforms to not only save money, but to help maximise their existing infrastructure and communication investments.
However, experience has shown that too often the trial, planning and deployment stages of UC technology are fraught with pitfalls that can ultimately result in users refusing to adopt the new technology and the IT department having considerable explaining to do to management.
The first experience users have with their new technology is of critical importance. Humans are primarily creatures of habit; consequently supporting ‘the moment of truth’ on the first UC voice call is pivotal. Unless businesses delight users and provide them with a compelling experience and numerous benefits, they will continue to do as they always have. If their first experience with a UC voice call is of similar or worse audio to a traditional voice call, users will instinctively revert to their traditional telephone. Likewise, if the ‘presence’ indication is not accurate, users will ignore it and revert to email and voice mail and, in doing so, will derail the benefits that realtime collaboration can bring to a company.
For this reason it is essential that the various needs of users are considered and the appropriate UC endpoints are matched to their role. For example, are they a road warrior requiring a UC solution that can be used on the road and in hotel rooms? Do they require in-office mobility? Test trials and scenarios should be established using different UC devices, with the results analysed. It is also important to measure and communicate success. For example, you might collect data on key success metrics such as the number of users, calls made, support calls and exchanges, and determine how they are tracking relative to set expectations.
When selecting UC endpoints, high-quality audio for transmitting and receiving calls is critical. Consider noise-cancelling microphones, especially for users working in loud environments. Providing users with endpoint solutions which meet their unique needs is vital to the success of a UC trial and ultimately the adoption once deployment follows a successful trial.
It is vitally important that businesses understand the needs of various individuals early on in the UC process. It seems impractical to derail the time and investment put into a UC implementation by making the endpoint an afterthought.