How to Consider End Users in UC Purchasing Decisions
Though unified communications (UC) is a worthwhile investment for enterprises, poor implementation could lead to disappointing ROI. According to one benchmark study, just 43 percent of IT leaders rated their UC efforts as “successful” in 2015, down from 61 percent the previous year.
Although it’s easy to chalk this up to flaws in the technology, this reasoning doesn’t tell the full story. The same benchmark study found that employee usage is one of the primary indicators IT leaders rely on to measure UC success. Rather than reflecting on whether or not your organization invested in the right UC platform, the real question IT departments need to ask themselves is:
“How well do we involve end users in the UC buying process and what are we doing to enable them to successfully use the services after the sale?”
Failing to involve end users in UC adoption and procurement increases the likelihood of adverse reactions once a new tool is implemented. Employees who aren’t satisfied with the features or functionality of an enterprise-approved solution frequently turn to (potentially consumer-grade) alternatives that IT can’t control or secure properly.
Follow these end user-centric tips to make the most of your UC investment and mitigate the risk of shadow UC:
1. Collect User Feedback
Before selecting a new UC solution, IT leaders need insight into what they already have – and who better to fill in the blanks than the employees who use these tools each day? The first step in any UC initiative should involve surveying end users about their communication habits, the solutions they currently use and the functionality they wish they had. The more specific you probe (i.e., on which devices do employees use UC software the most? What are the communication challenges they encounter regularly?) the better equipped you’ll be to select the right tool.
It’s also important to compare answers across teams and job functions. Engineers, marketers, C-level executives and remote workers may have distinct UC preferences and habits. Knowing these nuances, IT teams can tailor deployment so that each end user gets the functionality they need – rather than overpaying for a suite of bells-and-whistles they’ll never touch.
2. Appoint a Project Team
UC tools impact an entire organization, so there’s no reason to isolate purchasing decisions to the IT department. Establishing a UC project team that consists of IT decision-makers and line-of-business managers helps to ensure that end users’ needs are closely considered when navigating vendor selection and adoption. This team should be responsible for not only capturing end users’ feedback, but synthesizing those insights with the organization’s business needs and culture to create a UC vision that guides the entire implementation process. And involve your UC service provider as well. Any high quality provider should have good insights and offer on-boarding programs to enable successful implementations. This capability should be confirmed and reviewed before signing a contract.
3. Formalize an Internal Communication Plan
An initial end user feedback survey shouldn’t be the only time employees hear about a new companywide UC initiative. Responsibility lies with the project team to develop a plan that outlines multiple “milestones” for communicating important information to end users, such as when a new UC vendor is selected or the expected timeline for deployment.
By establishing a regular cadence for communicating key project updates, end users won’t be made to feel like they’re the last to know about a major IT overhaul. And the more they learn about the project, the more likely they are to feel invested in its outcomes. How project stakeholders communicate these details is just as important as communication frequency. Explaining how a new UC solution will slash operating expenses or deliver a healthy ROI won’t resonate powerfully with end users. Instead, highlight the pain points it will solve for them, like taking the hassle out of connecting to weekly sales team video conferences, or facilitating easier document collaboration outside the office.
Organizations around the world are projected to spend nearly $43 billion on unified communications solutions by 2020, according to Gartner. By looping end users into the UC decision-making process, business leaders can ensure that those funds are well spent.