Disrupting the way employees interact is often risky. And deploying unified communications (UC) tools can be riskier than other enterprise software rollouts because it affects employees\u2019 ingrained habits. \u201cPeople move at their own pace around [this] technology,\u201d observes Barry Libenson, CIO of Land O\u2019Lakes. \u201cIt\u2019s not like a new ERP system.\u201d\nInstalling Cisco\u2019s UC suite during the next few months is critical to the $13 billion butter maker\u2019s efforts to expand globally. One feature lets employees program their phones to forward calls to other locations, or to their iPhones, based on where their calendars say they will be. Another lets people launch a videoconference by clicking on a colleague\u2019s name in the company directory.\nBut UC tools create new expectations for how people will work together. Art Schoeller, an analyst at Forrester Research, says that makes it easy for UC deployments to fail because employees may not value the tools as highly as management does. \u201cUsers can ignore you and you lose the benefits,\u201d he says. \u201cYou have to establish and [invest] in a change-management program.\u201d\nSelling Change\nTo sell the new capabilities, Libenson took a tip from Cisco and set up more than a dozen flat-screen monitors that display weekly messages informing the company\u2019s 3,000 users about upcoming changes. He followed up the messages with paper mail and email, and offered demos for groups of 10. Then during each deployment (the tools were rolled out to Land O\u2019Lakes\u2019 two biggest facilities last month and are scheduled for use in its main dairy plant in February) Libenson designated IT staffers to wear orange vests and walk around answering questions or helping coworkers individually.\nLibenson says he\u2019ll judge how well the rollout succeeds by how employees use the new tools. \u201cIt\u2019s a failure if people still only use the [technology] traditionally.\u201d\nChristian Anschuetz, CIO at Underwriters Laboratories (UL), says he made it clear to employees that they wouldn\u2019t have a choice about using UC tools. But part of his implementation plan includes dedicating a team to communicating with workers and managing change.\nUL is using Microsoft Office 365 to unify phone, email and fax on desktop and mobile devices, and is shifting more than half of its voice network to voice over IP (VoIP). Before rolling out the technology, Anschuetz offered plenty of avenues for UL\u2019s 7,000 employees to learn about it in their own way, including through blog posts, newsletters, webinars and videos.\nAt CUNA Mutual, an insurance and financial services provider, CIO Rick Roy designated \u201cchange agents\u201d in each business unit to educate their peers about a recent rollout of VoIP phones and Cisco telepresence tools to 4,000 users.\n\u201cThe technology part of this project is complicated but proven,\u201d Roy says. The key to making it work is having the change agents explain to users how their business units will benefit. \u201cThe change agents [are] the voice of the audience they [are] representing.\u201d\nFollow Editorial Assistant Lauren Brousell on Twitter: @lbrousell.