success uc deployment

10 Tips for Successful Unified Communication Deployments

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.

Bandwidth

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.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

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.

Security

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.

Workforce Distribution

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.)

Mobility

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.

Technology Partners

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.

Implementation Partner(s)

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.

Testing

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.

Deployment Plan

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.

BYOD

The Ups and Downs of BYOD

When it comes to the next wave of Unified Communication platforms, to bring, or not to bring…that has become the question.

To bring what you ask? To bring your own device, that is.

Businesses and technology buyers everywhere are asking themselves this right now. With pressure mounting as CEOs and front line sales alike are looking to use their favorite tech toys at work, IT leaders are being forced to ask themselves another question.

Should we or should we not allow our employees to bring and utilize their personal devices for business purposes?

Undoubtedly we have all grown increasingly connected at the hip (pun intended) to our favorite iDevice or Droid product. With this we have also grown increasingly demanding about having the opportunity to utilize these tools for work.

But just because we want to doesn’t mean that we should. This is exactly why we have CIOs and IT leadership in our organizations. If you are responsible for making the decision for whether or not to allow your UC solutions to be run on independently owned devices, here are some things to consider.

BYOD: The Good

  • Integration: Most of the devices are running on the same handful of operating systems, most commonly Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. For the most part, BYOD integration with UC platforms is built on an application via iTunes or the Google Play store. This means setting up the device to work is usually a few simple settings, including pointing the device at the right server and then inputting user credentials. The experience on the individual device will be completely ubiquitous with the experience on a company issued device. If the employee should no longer have access, the app running on the device can be made useless by simply changing credentials.
  • Cost: Generally with bring your own device, a company is able to put more of the cost requirements on the worker. This also alleviates some of the headaches related to preparing hardware for every new employee or chasing down hardware whenever an employee leaves. (Note: A lot of companies doing BYOD today still have company issued hardware.)
  • Employee Satisfaction: Employees are generally appreciative of the opportunity to use their preferred devices, which is good for morale. As a side effect of this, the employees are often going to have the newest tools which would be very hard for a company to keep up with. We have all seen the life cycle of new products become so short that even when you issue your employees the newest thing they almost immediately become replaced by what is next. This way the integration with your UC platform isn’t as much device specific as it is operating system specific, so the company can provide some guidelines to employees interested in utilizing their own device and then let the employee take it from there.

BYOD:The Bad

  • Security: As I mentioned above, security for BYOD and UC isn’t necessarily all bad. The real challenge is chances are that BYOD won’t be “only” used for UC. And if that is indeed the case, it is more difficult for a company to manage security when they allow personal devices to be used for work. Generally the company has to set acceptable use policy that lives on top of the personal device, but it is hard to mandate certain things. Take for instance social media use. Your company may not want workers on Facebook during the workday, but what about an employee checking in from their personal (BYOD) at lunch? Creates a real grey area. The other consideration may be requiring use of certain security tools such as anti-virus or locking their devices at all times. These can be part of the use policy and part of the expectations set for companies allowing BYOD.
  • Compliance: If your company is governed by any sort of compliance laws, for instance HIPAA, then you have to make sure those rules are followed regardless of who owns the device being used. If contact information or UC integration with CRM or other systems that contain sensitive data, then the systems must be in place to make sure that the data is safe and secure.
  • Data Retrieval: This goes along with security, but if an employee leaves or is let go the data that resides on the personal device will need to be retrieved. This expectation has to be set and agreed upon prior to BYOD deployment. Most UC applications are closely tied to customer records, contact information, sales and financial data and more. The good news for IT departments is this isn’t really a new challenge. In many organizations that have webmail interfaces, people have been “popping” email to separate accounts where they can access them from a personal device. What does need to happen is this needs to continue to be better managed to make sure important and sensitive documents aren’t left out there after the person has parted ways from the organization.
  • With widely available applications for UC on your own device, BYOD continues to gain momentum. Could a BYOD friendly UC deployment have a place in your organization? It just may, so long as you plan correctly and set the right expectations with your users up front.

    This blog was written by EC3 CEO Daniel Newman and was originally posted on Commercial Integrator. The original article can be found here.