What is Unified Communication Success?
In a world that is more connected than ever, organizations everywhere are exploring the benefits of migrating to a unified communications (UC) solution. UC is an all-encompassing set of tools for your organization that allows for you to connect via voice, video, and instant messaging in a collaborative environment from anywhere you are, just as long as you are connected to the network.
Simple enough right?
Well, maybe it sounds simple, but in the end the ability to make all of these capabilities work together isn’t actually that easy. It takes many pieces of technology to bring up a UC platform within an organization. However, there is good news. A successful UC deployment won’t elude you — you just have to know the right steps to take.
Here are 10 tips for success in UC deployment.
Cross Functional Input
Even before your first thought about which platform you want to embrace or which partners you want to talk to, you have to realize that UC for any organization is a major project and often it is a complete change from the way staff operates currently. Too many times new technology rollouts are decided in a vacuum and then forced upon the user population. While I certainly don’t recommend an attempt to gather consensus on every feature and function, what I do recommend is that you determine your most important communication needs as well as the use cases of personnel in different roles. Do this first then take the next steps towards choosing an UC system. This will make the rest of the process more manageable.
The availability of bandwidth has changed everything. At one time the idea of VoIP handling hundreds of voice calls using precious bandwidth seemed questionable. But with the steady proliferation of fiber offering five, 10 or even 25 times more bandwidth than a T1, bandwidth is more readily available than ever before. Therefore, the options that you have for UC are almost limitless. The availability of this network resource should be explored early in the process to determine not only what bandwidth you have operating your websites today, but what you could have if additional bandwidth opened doors to more flexible and powerful solutions.
One major note of consideration is to make sure that bandwidth is coupled with properly configured Quality of Service (QOS) on the routers at each site. (QOS allows for you to prioritize specific applications, including your voice and related applications. This way any inconsistencies in your Internet service does not impact your call quality.) Despite its assistance, massive bandwidth doesn’t guarantee a great communication system. Properly configuring the system will be the key to leveraging that bandwidth for maximum usability.
Does your organization desire or intend to support devices that aren’t company issued? BYOD is one of the hottest technology discussions today. Many workers, especially younger workers, are looking to use their often more powerful tools for workplace productivity. This presents opportunities for additional work to get done but can be a nightmare for technology leaders. If BYOD is in the plan, make sure that security considerations are made as well as policies.
What are the security requirements of your organization? I know in all cases the desire is a high level of security. But in some cases there is sensitive data or even legal requirements for security. Being aware of what requirements your organization may have for keeping its intellectual property secure is important. In certain cases security requirements may force a company to have a private cloud versus a hybrid or public cloud application if a cloud operation is the choice. If you need to secure all of the hardware for the UC offering onsite, then you will approach a different set of vendors than if you are looking to virtualize or fully embrace cloud.
Where do your employees reside? Are they all stateside in offices or are they global? Do they often work from home? This affects a few of the topics above including bandwidth and BYOD. For UC deployment, you must consider who is operating on minimal requirements. Can the person in your organization with the oldest machine and the lowest available bandwidth make use of what you are looking to implement?
Another substantial consideration is Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) expense. (SIP, is an application-layer control (signaling) protocol for creating, modifying, and terminating sessions with one or more participants. Basically SIP is the signal that allows calls over IP to be connected.) These sessions include Internet telephone calls, multimedia distribution and multimedia conferences.
In cases where a company does business globally, SIP origination can greatly impact communication costs. Your organization may need to set up various trunks to allow for call origination across different geographic locations. (A Trunk is the termination point that has associated call paths (SIP Channels) You need a call path for every in and outbound call.)
What are the requirements for mobility in your workplace? In a world quickly moving beyond the Virtual Private Network (VPN), how can your workers access everything they need from anywhere they are? (In this case your voice client or your unified messaging.) Mobile tools are becoming increasingly a requirement for businesses and should be a core consideration for any successful UC deployment.
Since UC has such a massive technology umbrella, there are a very large number of UC providers out there. Undoubtedly there are the market leaders such as Microsoft, Cisco and IBM, but there are many other smaller and often more flexible/affordable solutions out there for consideration. What is important is that you make sure to consider the entire need based on a number of the factors above and that you seek out a technology partner that meets the requirements for both technology and budget. Many providers will want you to turnkey (end to end) with just their products. That may be beneficial for their marketing, but it doesn’t mean it is the best for you. There are many best of breed manufacturers in Route/Switch or Security that may make more sense to align with than the company that tries to be everything to everyone.
One step removed from the technology itself are implementation partners. Just like most Customer Relations Management (CRM) and Accounting applications, rarely does the technology maker also do the implementation, but rather they have a channel of certified partners who can handle the deployment, including the onsite needs and connections that often need to be made. As much as we’d like to think we can just download an application, integrating a UC solution requires a lot of nuance and configuration. So once you have nailed down the technology platform that you like, you will need to vet the implementation partner as well. Often the perfect technology can become a nightmare if installed by the wrong partner.
Prior to committing to any one platform or technology you should be able to gain access to demonstration products/services/licenses that you can test out the platform. Given the critical nature that your communications platform has to your operation, you shouldn’t have to make a blind purchase. If you are being told you have to buy it to try it, then I would strongly recommend moving on. Any credible provider of UC technology would not only allow you, but likely implore you to try their solution. So test away and make sure the product matches the label.
Once you know your requirements and you determine the product you want from the integrator that can get it done, make sure you have a plan for successfully deploying throughout the organization. This isn’t a one size fits all consideration. For a small company it may be a same day cutover, for a larger organization it may be phased in over months. But have a plan…UC is a strategic advantage for any organization if the right solution is matched with the right customer.
This article was originally published in Corporate Tech Decisions and can be found here.