As summer’s end approaches, it’s time to close out my season-long series of “Top 10” themes for UC. My intent has been to provide short reads with concise lists of items that you can quickly glean to ensure you stay on the right track with UC. Some are cautionary reality checks and others have focused on the various forms of upside that come with a well-planned deployment.
My last post focused on the former in the form of risks you take with UC. The first five were covered there, and this post brings things to a close with the second set of five for ten in total. For all of these, the main message is that UC can be a great move, but all forms of change carry risk, and these are the key factors to be aware of.
6. No perceived benefit for UC
This form of risk is subtle, but very real. Note that I haven’t specified who is doing the perceiving here. Chances are good that employees won’t perceive any benefit since they know little about UC in the first place, and they aren’t the economic buyers.
Things get more complicated with senior management, especially if they see UC as an abstract concept, and that’s not a big stretch. If the value proposition does not resonate for them, they could dismiss UC on the basis that the existing applications work just fine and they don’t see how UC is additive. The power of this perception should not be underestimated since the proof points are difficult to demonstrate.
7. No actual benefit for UC
Prior to making the decision to deploy UC, perception is reality, and that’s why the above factor is so important. However, once the decision-makers get past that, all that really matters is performance. Of course, by getting to this point, the perceived benefits set the bar for expectations, and the burden of risk shifts from perception to reality.
Again, this is a subtle shift, but if UC does not perform as advertised, you have an even bigger problem to manage. This is why it’s essential for IT to get a defensible promise of performance from the vendor before sealing the deal. Vendors have their own pressures to make sales, but UC is still a work in progress, and you have to have a clear sense of your management’s tolerance for risk. If they expect a perfect deployment with measurable results off the bat, you need to get those expectations in line with the performance promise you believe the vendor can deliver.
8. Channel not able to properly support UC
While much of the risk ultimately lies with the vendor, there is plenty of risk in play with their channel partners. Depending on the customer relationship, most vendors rely extensively on dealers, resellers, VARs and systems integrators for the UC deployment and its ongoing management. Businesses have their own relationships to manage with the channel, so they have two masters to serve. As such, you have to be careful about how much faith you put in the channel.
To whatever extent you do trust the channel, it’s important to realize that vendors face an ongoing challenge finding the right channel partners for UC. To date, those relationships have been built around selling phone systems, and UC requires different expertise. Not only that, but as the cloud emerges as the deployment model of choice, the economics of UC change, and this won’t be attractive to everyone. These factors point to the need to be sure you have the right channel partner in place and not to assume they’re all created equal.
9. Employees feel imposed upon
Risk comes in many forms, and your employees are certainly part of the equation with UC. Let’s just assume that you’ve done all the right things to ensure both the vendor and channel partner are on target. As mentioned earlier, employees are not part of the buying process, but they are the ultimate end users.
This makes UC different from other forms of technology, especially those that are legacy-based. You cannot impose UC on them, since many of the core applications are already in use on a standalone basis. They need to see a reason to go with UC, and you can’t assume they’ll intuitively find the integrated environment a better way of doing things.
There is also a workload expectation that needs to be managed here. UC can be a great driver for productivity, but you’ll be adding risk if they don’t see this as a good thing. Everyone wants to be more productive, but you must take care to not present UC as a top-down mandate to make employees work harder without any additional reward.
10. Management has unrealistic expectations
This is a variation of some earlier risks, but speaks to something different. Having unrealistic perceptions or expectations of UC and what the vendor can provide is one class of risk. However, they may well have grander expectations based on what peers are telling them, and these could also be misplaced notions.
One such idea is that UC is just a simple suite of applications that is easy and fast to implement. IT knows otherwise, and you don’t want that mindset in the picture. Furthermore, management may well only focus on the big picture benefits without considering the technical challenges that will be transparent to them.
Another bad idea is for management to think of UC like VoIP in terms of being a cost savings exercise. That outcome is possible with UC, but it’s not the main selling point. To mitigate this form of risk, you need to get management to see UC as a strategic investment that may have some short-term hiccups, but over time, the productivity benefits will far outweigh these long forgotten disruptions.