Unified Communications

01:15 PM
Erika Van Noort
Erika Van Noort
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

3 Steps To A Successful UC Strategy

A medical emergency provides lessons in collaboration that can be applied when building or updating a unified communications plan.

When it comes to creating a new unified communications (UC) strategy, or revisiting an existing one, I don’t know of many organizations that truly learn from their mistakes.

Most, if not all, approach a UC strategy with the goal of promoting better communication. The fact is if you don't have strong communication and collaboration to begin with, your UC implementation is bound to fail.

There are many skillsets outside the technical IT realm required to create a successful UC strategy. A recent event in my life helped me see their importance in an entirely different way. 

1. Play your position
If you’ve ever watched kids play hockey or soccer, you’ve witnessed the pack approach. This is where all players chase the puck or ball in a cluster-like formation, essentially, all playing the same role and position. When the ball breaks free from the pack, rarely is anyone in position to take it and score. Many organizations also operate this way when it comes to rolling out new technology, as they have not been clear on who is playing what role.

Recently, I got to see firsthand people in different roles come together to work on a project. I was in awe with the speed and focus with which each contributor worked, how concerned everyone was with the impact they had on the outcome, and how well they ensured others on the project knew everything they needed to know to get the job done.  This was not a UC rollout -- the project was me.

A few months ago, I had a bad fall that required my husband to call emergency services. Within minutes, police, paramedics, and firefighters were on scene, all with different roles to play. The paramedics were focused on me, my physical situation, vital signs, and ensuring that I was getting the attention I needed. Meanwhile, the firefighters and police were troubleshooting ways to physically get me out of the space I had fallen into. Once they got me out, and we arrived at the hospital, I was transferred into the care of the nurses and doctors.

The good news is that I came through it with all things being repairable. I spent a great deal of time in the hospital as an outpatient and, without a WiFi connection, defaulted to reading and people watching to pass the time.

It was in my people-watching mode that I came to realize some best-practices that we just expect to be there in healthcare that could easily be adopted by organizations when rolling out any large UC project.

2. Communicate and document
Communication is something we all take for granted. In my case, for example, having the radiologist communicate specifics of the many X-rays he took  to the orthopedic surgeon was pretty damn important. Everyone in the process had a form of hand-off communication they did with the next caregiver. This meant that the right ankle was operated on, and that the proper limbs were cast.

A UC project is really all about improving communication from an enablement perspective, but I'm often amazed at how broken some of the communication is among the people involved in the project. For example, knowing the impact of how an engineer configures the Presence Service within Cisco UC Manager can be critical for any future federation. Again, it’s about knowing your role and the impact it has on others.

Documentation is another important part of any roll-out strategy and really an extension of communication. We're all moving so fast today that we rarely take the time to document things in a way that will matter and be of use to those downstream in the process. 

We all know what assuming makes out of "u" and "me," yet we do it all the time. In a recent client debrief on why their UC project didn't realize its full benefits, I counted references to "assuming" more than five times. When I asked if proper documentation for the purposes of clear communication were performed, again, it was assumed it was being done.

3. Seek different viewpoints
My last observation from my people-watching exercise was following the many troubleshooting discussions the caregivers had as they solved different scenarios. I loved this part, as it makes perfect sense to have people with different backgrounds and expertise come together to look at the problem from their own perspective. Listening to ideas on how the emergency services were going to get me out of my situation meant that people were weighing in, looking at the facts they had in hand, and collaborating (dare I use the term) to form a plan.

With so many IT projects at the average organization, I think we could do a much better job of coming together at the start of a project to not only discuss the success metrics, but to troubleshoot or offer different viewpoints for what we are trying to solve.

So, while I continue to work on healing, I throw down a challenge. I challenge you to engage in open conversations within your own IT groups on communication, documentation, and troubleshooting. All three are implicitly linked.  

When I look at the clients who would earn a gold star on their UC rollout, they each could tick the boxes on how well they communicated, documented everything, and went outside of traditional roles to bring the right people together to solve their challenges.

Erika Van Noort leads the North American Consulting Group for Softchoice, working with clients to build understanding and alignment between lines of business and IT stakeholders.  View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
MarciaNWC
50%
50%
MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
5/13/2014 | 4:53:43 PM
documentation
Thanks for these tips Erika. On the documentation front, do you have any best practices you can recommend? Organizations do tend to rely on workers to remember infrastructure details -- a practice that's really shot when an employee leaves.


Best wishes on a speedy recovery!
Brian.Dean
50%
50%
Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
5/13/2014 | 6:20:00 PM
Re: documentation
Marcia, interesting question, I think if an organization has embraced UC and the flexibility it provides, then the documentation process could be taken a step forward by allowing video and audio documentations. At some instances, video provides better real-time collaboration or historic record keeping, and could prove to be helpful down the road to another employee.
MarciaNWC
50%
50%
MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
5/13/2014 | 6:24:15 PM
Re: documentation
Good tip Brian, thanks. It seems video and audio documentation would be a lot easier for some folks to produce, compared to text documents.
aditshar1
50%
50%
aditshar1,
User Rank: Ninja
5/14/2014 | 3:55:48 AM
Tools
One of the point i would like put here, in UC how we will leverage communications tools which still seems to be in very limited scope.
MarciaNWC
50%
50%
MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
5/14/2014 | 11:18:16 AM
Re: Tools
Hi aditshar1, can you elaborate? What do you think is holding companies back from leveraging communications tools more?
ErikaVan
50%
50%
ErikaVan,
User Rank: Strategist
5/14/2014 | 4:22:22 PM
Re: documentation
Hi Marcia - I find that if you dig a little deeper on the UC topic, you really are getting at collaboration.  Within this area, lies how you manage knowledge and content across the organization.  Great information exists in many companies today and to your point when people leave, so does the experience.  Finding ways to standardize on how people share, how they tag it and where they put it, goes a long way to supporting a more collaborative environment.  Thanks for the well wishes!
aditshar1
50%
50%
aditshar1,
User Rank: Ninja
5/15/2014 | 4:07:11 AM
Re: Tools
We do have large variety of tools available in market but these tools also present a new mode for viruses in the IT environment and especially if the tools extend to users outside the company (May be 3rd party employee, contractor or customer)
MarciaNWC
50%
50%
MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
5/15/2014 | 12:45:29 PM
Re: Tools
It looks like many share your security concerns, according to InformationWeek's 2014 Unified Communications Survey. 54% said they're worried about an attacker acccessing the network via a UC system and 36% are worried about voice phishing.
aditshar1
50%
50%
aditshar1,
User Rank: Ninja
5/16/2014 | 3:07:31 AM
Re: Tools
Thank You @Marcia, for the interesting infograph. 36% says that they worry about Voice phishing, curious to see how we will manage this threat.
MarciaNWC
50%
50%
MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
5/16/2014 | 7:05:17 PM
Re: Tools
That's a good question aditshar1. Not sure what else can be done for prevention other than consumer education.
Slideshows
Cartoon
Audio Interviews
Archived Audio Interviews
Jeremy Schulman, founder of Schprockits, a network automation startup operating in stealth mode, joins us to explore whether networking professionals all need to learn programming in order to remain employed.
White Papers
Register for Network Computing Newsletters
Current Issue
2014 State of Unified Communications
2014 State of Unified Communications
If you thought consumerization killed UC, think again: 70% of our 488 respondents have or plan to put systems in place. Of those, 34% will roll UC out to 76% or more of their user base. And there’s some good news for UCaaS providers.
Video
Twitter Feed