UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS

  • 11/10/2014
    7:30 AM
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Unified Communications: Words Matter

When it comes to UC, one word can make a huge difference. Calling your UC investment an initiative instead of a project increases your chances of success.

How you view something really does define how you will approach it. Think of how you start your workday. Personally, I scan my calendar, prioritize tasks, and get in the right state of mind for what needs to get done. Some people like to tackle the biggest task or most pressing need first. Others like to knock out a few easy tasks to feel an immediate sense of accomplishment. Neither approach is right or wrong.

In a recent meeting with a client on one of my favorite topics -- collaboration -- I came across a great example of how our different points of view dictate how we approach challenges and view progress and success.

We were discussing my client's investment in unified communications and how the project -- which had been going well -- stalled just before the rollout. We discussed the many elements of her project, from the overall vision and execution to buy-in and resourcing. She didn't call out any of them as the reason the project stalled. Then, I had a "eureka" moment. It was there right in front of me. Why had I not seen it before?

She referred to her unified communications program as a "project." I asked her why, and her response was, "That's what we always call things like this."

We then decided to play with words, with a goal of changing the mindset of those involved to see their UC investment as something more transformative. After all, the company was making some big bets on this investment, and it felt that providing front-line people with strong collaboration tools, which they would use to interface with customers, would give them a competitive advantage in their marketplace.

When I think of a project, my mind generally goes to the list at home of not-so-thrilling yet necessary things that my husband and I refer to as the "weekend project list." I see "project" as something with a specific focus -- a start and an end. In many cases, this is something I just want to get done and over with. By comparison, my husband has never called golfing a project.

Replacing the word "project" with "initiative" brings different sorts of things to mind. "Initiative" has a more creative feel to it, almost as if positive change is implied. It also feels like an ongoing commitment, as opposed to a project with a specific end date. Once my client and I settled on this new idea, she thought a rebranding would be a good test for her UC investment.

I tested my new way of looking at UC with a few other IT leaders. It was interesting. Most of them paused when I asked them if they saw a fundamental difference in calling an investment a "project" versus an "initiative." Most agreed, and when I asked them to reflect back to something that had not gone as well as planned, in most cases, they had referred to it as a project.

I am not saying you can guarantee the success of your UC investment by calling it "our collaboration initiative." I will say that the people working on it will have a much greater sense of the outcome and will see far beyond the rollout to how people are using the tools they can access. It also means there may be greater ownership for user impact, which in turn translates into user adoption.

It's not often that you can improve the odds of success for an investment so cost-effectively. After all, what's the cost of a word?

I'm sure I will find out soon. Once my husband reads this, I am sure to hear about the investments he plans to make in his golf initiative.


Comments

"Project"

There is also a separate, distinctly negative connotation to "project."  I've heard the term used synonymously with "pain in the [rear]."  ("That's another big project I have to deal with.")

word choice

I agree that initiative has a more positive connotation than project, and overall is the better word choice to gain more buy-in. Although I imagine there are some who might be skeptical of something called an initiative.

 

Re: word choice

@Marcia, great point about the skeptical individuals that brand certain resource deployments in terms of short term goals when the requirements of success demands that the focus be on long term improvements. UC and collaboration go hand in hand, this leads to a situation where the success of UC depends a lot upon the overall culture of an organization. Separating UC from collaboration is like separating learning from education. 

Re: word choice

I think you're right Brian. Without a culture where collaboration is already a key characteristic, it seems that an organization might have a tough time with its UC effort, no matter what it's called.