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