It’s time to switch things up and focus on some business-level issues. For the next few posts I’m going to address five indicators that tell you UC is a good next step. Some businesses will figure this out on their own, even without prodding from vendors or channels. The majority, however, will need outside help, and one way of doing that is planting some clues to get your thinking pointed in the right direction.
This is harder to do than it looks with UC, especially if your frame of reference is VoIP. I’m citing VoIP for a few good reasons. First, when it comes to new communications technologies, this may be the most recent investment you’ve made. Not only that, but it may also be the first investment you’ve made regarding telephony since, well, as long as you can remember. Many businesses have had legacy telephony for so long prior to VoIP that they don’t even know when they bought their last phone system.
The legacy of legacy telephony
Think about that – it could be a couple of decades, back in a time when broadband was just starting to displace dial-up. You may not remember it all, but there was no VoIP, no WiFi, cell phones were a luxury – and only used for telephony, Apple was a fledgling computer company, pictures were taken with cameras, and Google was a very large number. Today, all of these are vital elements for any UC solution, but when legacy phone systems ruled, they were just minor footnotes with little relevance to the workplace.
For all the time you’ve had a legacy phone system, there has been practically zero innovation. Few things are as reliable as a PBX, but it likely worked exactly the same way from Day 1 as to when you took it out of service, to be replaced by VoIP. Whether you had that system for 5, 10 or even 20 years, it remained incredibly static, and while that’s a great source of comfort, it’s also fair to ask whey nothing ever changed. Can you think of any other mainstream technology that stood still for so long? Over that timeframe, virtually every other mode of communications have reinvented itself a few times over, continuously adapting to the technology changing around it.
Telephony has managed to avoid this and stay in its own bubble, mainly because it provided such a high value service to the business. That statement is generally quite true, but only until the time when VoIP came along. What made VoIP so disruptive was the ability to provide a reasonable alternative to TDM at a fraction of the cost. Even by accepting a modest compromise in quality and/or performance, the trade-off was worth it for businesses looking to cut costs any way possible.
And so, how does this relate to UC?
The back story is important here, as VoIP is likely a major touch point in how you think about UC. After all, VoIP is a necessary condition for UC, and your experiences will carry weight. Presuming VoIP has served you well, that will be a good thing, but even if its performance has been middling, you should be positively predisposed to UC once it gets on your radar.
To be fair, the precedent of VoIP cuts both ways. On the plus side, it serves as a proof of concept that IP communications works and delivers value to your business. Conversely, VoIP might set unrealistic expectations if cost reduction is your main driver. This may be the prime attraction with VoIP, but UC is more about enhancing productivity. As such, you need to go into this with an open mind, along with the understanding that VoIP may be the foundation of UC, but not the overall blueprint for success.
In the same vein, this article provides the foundation for this series, but not the full story. That will unfold as I explore five distinct signs for UC readiness. Each may be reason enough to choose this path, but only if you clue into the signs. There is a big difference between seeing and observing, and my intent in this series is for you to do the latter.
Your history with VoIP can really help here, and if you don’t see the signs, you could end up using VoIP for as long as TDM. You may save money this way, but it won’t end well for a variety of reasons. On that note, I’m going to stop and continue in the next post by discussing the first sign that your business is ready for UC.