Unified Communications: Getting End Users On Board

Now that enterprise customers are buying in, how can they get their user adoption rates up?

Driven by a convincing business case for cost savings, businesses have finally begun to embrace unified communications (UC). As usual, new costs from equipment and services have to be weighed against potential savings. But one of the most frustrating elements of these large projects is that they require user adoption to deliver your planned ROI.

In many cases, introducing UC services in the enterprise should be treated the same way as introducing new PCs. It’s typical for users to require some training up front, learning a few features immediately upon delivery. Once users get established, you can train them on specific applications and expanded uses.

Just like with new PCs, UC users may at first be completely unfamiliar with some new features and have only very narrow experience with others. The assumption that end users can immediately jump in, knowing which tools to use to improve their productivity, is a bad one.

Some of the best UC implementation results come from companies that create internal teams, formal and informal, that focus on training users, promoting adoption, and finding creative uses of UC features. Senior management must also start using the technology and continually encourage its use in mainstream internal communication.

Consider earlier communication technologies, such as voice mail and e-mail, and how often senior managers relied on administrators to manage these tools for them. Some managers went so far as to ask assistants to type up their voice mail. This sort of avoidance technique won’t work with UC features such as instant messaging and telepresence. It has to be clear to employees that they’re expected to use UC features, and bypassing these tools will leave them behind professionally. Senior management has to model regular and effective use of the UC features so that others will respond similarly.

Once employees see senior managers using the services, setting up meetings or asking questions using some of UC’s features, it won’t be long before more end users get on board.

Mike Sapien is principal analyst for Ovum.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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