In my job, I spend a great deal of time in front of IT leaders. These are the people who are not only responsible for keeping the lights on (so to speak), but for enabling their whole organization to break into new frontiers through the power of technology. With so many new technologies coming out all the time, and so many tools already at our disposal, getting everyone in the company standardized on the same ones can be a daunting task.
In a recent meeting, a VP of IT for a midsize retailer told me that an internal business partner of hers once asked if UC really stood for "utterly confused," as that was his view of unified communications. He was overwhelmed with all technology choices available to him and others in the organization, and he wanted IT to set clear standards on what tools to use and when. This business partner guessed he wasted at least 60 minutes a week just trying to figure out the best communication means for meetings based on the preferences of different teams or individuals within the company.
When the VP of IT and I discussed this further, I learned the organization was growing quickly, both organically and through acquisition, and employees tended to stick to the communication platforms they’ve always used or that they simply liked the best. There was no consistency across the company. The organization was craving communication standards as a way to improve productivity and streamline collaboration, but no one really knew where to start.
Standardizing on technology, like unified communications, requires some brave and bold actions. Often times, the brave part comes in the form of asking employees for their feedback, knowing this alone may spark a mutiny against the new communications tool you just spent a lot of money implementing!
These candid conversations, however, are the best way to understand the needs and preferences of end users, and they provide the crucial information you need to decide what technology is right for the organization. So what are the right questions to ask? In my experience, this is a good start:
What are people using today and what do they gravitate towards?
Sounds simple enough, but this doesn’t just cover the corporate communication tools that IT provides. You also want to dig in to all the other technologies people bring to work on their own (especially apps on their personal devices).
Why do they like the tool(s) they use today?
“Simplicity” tends to be at the top of many users’ lists, but this question is really meant to get at the specific attributes of the tools they are using.
How are they using technology today?
You may be surprised how the same technology can be used in so many different ways. It’s a good idea to canvass different teams and roles across the organization to get a full view of the company.
What's critical to getting their jobs done (and done well)?
So often we provide employees with more than they need. We focus on the new and exciting technologies, and not enough on the basics to help them be efficient and productive.
Regardless of what any technology manufacturer tells you is the latest and greatest product available on the market, remember the role of an IT leader is to wade through all that noise and standardize on a solution or solutions (yes, I said it, more than one) that just make sense for your people. Every organization is different, and it’s your job to figure out which UC technologies will enable them to be the best at what they do each and every day.
Be bold, be brave and, most of all, make UC easy for people to understand and use. And let's help those who are utterly confused get back another 60 minutes in their week!