Skype for Business Adoption: Plan Early with End Users in Mind

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There are many things to consider when embarking on a Skype for Business deployment project—infrastructure, network architecture, device management, and IT bandwidth, just to name a few. But something that often gets overlooked until post-deployment is a plan for Skype for Business user adoption. If you deploy it, people will use it, right? Not necessarily. The success or failure of a UC deployment, more than any other IT project, ultimately rests squarely on the shoulders of the end users. If users don’t like the UC technology, they will find another way to communicate, and the project’s ROI could be put in jeopardy.

Plan with Users in Mind from the Start

So, how to get started? It is important to design the Skype for Business project with the end user in mind from the very beginning; start the adoption planning at the same time that the UC architecture is designed. A good way to get started is to survey end users to uncover their needs, and then define requirements based on those needs—people want to know what it’s in it for them. Be sure to consider the tools and devices they are using right now—users are more likely to embrace Skype for Business if it is integrated into applications they are already familiar with.

Utilize the Evangelists

A Skype for Business deployment is a major organizational transformation. It is important to have a core set of users to act as evangelists in order to foster adoption and maintain enthusiasm amongst their peers. What makes a good evangelist? The key is to find the people who are highly collaborative in their positions. In addition to the IT team responsible for the implementation, the group should be made up of a diverse set of individuals representing both technical and non-technical roles, executives, and people who have the most challenges in how they communicate today. Another thing to keep in mind? Administrative assistants rule the world. These individuals hold the key for not only the organization’s VIPs, but they are responsible for taking care of their teams and often represent the holistic opinions of their entire group.

One of the biggest blocking layers in a UC transformation is middle management—they have a business to run. If a user has a poor call experience, they will likely take it to that middle manager who may say something like, “We’re not using this anymore—it doesn’t work for us.” They will move on quickly to the next option that works in order to keep their employees productive and the business moving forward. To navigate this hurdle, it is important for key company executive’s to have bought in to the project early on, so that they can then trickle the message down that says, “No, this is an important initiative for the business – jump on board because the Skype for Business train is leaving the station.”

Manage the Naysayers

With any type of change come those individuals who are less than eager to adapt. How do you ‘sell’ UC to those who may not want it, or may not know that they need it? Asking users questions like, “What features do you want out of UC,” or “This is UC – how does it fit into your day?” may not garner the feedback you’re looking for. Instead, ask questions like, “What do you need in order to be more productive?” “What devices do you use?” “What are your current pain points?” “If I could make collaboration with your colleagues seamless – what would that look like?” By asking questions like this, IT can gather valuable feedback on how end users work. More importantly, this line of questioning gets users thinking about how they WANT to work in the future. IT can then adapt deployment strategies and training programs to fit the specific needs of the key business stakeholders.

“Skype-high” ROI

The key is to not think of the Skype for Business project like a product installation. Instead, switch the focus to understanding the people that will use the system. Plan early, utilize the cheerleaders, and communicate along the way, and the rewards will be plentiful in the form of a more productive workforce and “Skype-high” business ROI. Even more important than a strong ROI, the ultimate success or failure of the UC project may depend on the success of the adoption plan.

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