Debunking Common UC Misconceptions for Business Success with UC
While Unified Communications isn’t a new topic, it’s still important to recognize that its massive footprint and complexities makes it hard to master overnight. We’re here to share the collective Unify Square learnings spanning the last decade (since we founded the company) in the form of the 10 Commandments for Business Success with UC. We start off with the rudimentary and fairly common, and work our way through to some concepts that could be classified as unique findings, thanks to an intimate feedback loop with our large and diverse Unify Square customer base.
1. Don’t assume moving your UC workload to the cloud is an all or nothing experience.
Your UC journey to the cloud (if you are currently operating on-prem) shouldn’t be rushed. Not every business is equipped to make the move directly to the cloud. In many instances, operating in a hybrid environment (for even multiple years) is the best course of action.
It’s also important to recognize that the cloud is not a set it and forget it solution. Just because your UC workload is in the cloud doesn’t inherently mean that it’s well managed. If you are running Skype for Business on-prem, and decide to move to the cloud, you can’t just wash your hands of the ongoing 24/7 management responsibility for your UCaaS solution. Such an action (or inaction), will likely set you up for disaster.
2. Do onboard UC management tools at the same time that you make your platform and cloud service decisions
Using specialty management tools can help supercharge end-user productivity, improve collaboration performance, and provide data regarding UC utilization. While many enterprises plan to look into specialty management tools, less than half of companies that use management tools actually buy at the right time. This can drastically affect how much companies can save in operating expenses.
Implementing specialty management tools early on can help large organizations see cost savings of up to 65% with implementation of administration management tools, and 43% in operational expenses. Unify Square joined forces with Nemertes Research for a deep dive on how to reduce costs with management tools – including where the right specialty tools should surface in your roadmap.
3. Don’t be afraid of multiple collab app tools’ coexistence
Most companies today are operating in some type of hybrid environment. For example, we continuously run across companies who are simultaneously utilizing multiple collab tools, like Microsoft Teams and Slack. Many organizations aren’t willing to hedge their bets on a single collaboration platform just yet – the collab sub-market is currently still forming and norming. Even if you are a gambler, it’s simply not practical to click your fingers and suddenly find your organization happy and healthy on a single system.
Instead, key Unify Square customer learnings from piloting Microsoft Teams have taught us that it’s best for an organization to “endorse” a platform or small set of platforms, where everyone can expect to perform specific tasks, and to standardize the platforming process over time.
4. Do perform a thorough network assessment before deployment
Networks must regularly be optimized for UC systems, and an assessment can help you prepare to align with your cloud service provider’s recommendations. Traditional corporate WANs route traffic back to headquarter data centers, which can create long delays, decreasing video and voice quality for UC systems. To make matters more complex, corporate security stacks create additional delay and can compound performance challenges.
By performing a network readiness assessment prior to deployment, it might become clear that the existing business internet connectivity to a UC system may not be sufficiently robust for mission-critical video and voice applications. Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that many workstream collaboration tools offer mobile applications, which uses software clients on smartphones and PCs. The mobility of these tools increases performance demands on WLAN infrastructure to maintain the required user experience.
Network assessment readiness provides a clear understanding of the demands that will be made of the network when deploying (or making changes to) a UC platform. Unify Square’s network assessment tests for signal strength, same channel overlap, NMOS degradation, and connected access points. We provide network recommendations, customizable survey locations, and reporting & analytics to help ensure your team is ready for business success with UC system deployment.You can sign up for our upcoming webinar to learn more about the importance of a pristine and robust network.
5. Don’t underestimate the power of the App Store
To date we’ve seen Slack, Facebook, Cisco and Microsoft all make an App Store that represents a core part of their collab tool value proposition. This can be a double-edge sword for IT teams. The good news is that by opening an App Store to everyone, it gives users the ability to choose integrations that matter to them. This can light a fire from a user adoption standpoint. The App Store is also useful for integrating with other applications, including internal IT-led apps – we put together a starter-pack of Apps for Microsoft Teams to help IT teams get their organizations started.
The flip side is that the App Store can pose a potential problem as users begin to install solutions on their own and thereby make outside connections without getting IT approval. Rogue apps can open up security risks for apps that have not fully been vetted and where data-leaks may become problematic. Microsoft has introduced, but not yet fully launched, admin settings for apps in Teams which allows IT to both better control app usage and also develop their own apps for enterprise use. Admin can manage external apps individually, turning them on or off to control which apps you want users to have access to. This is an important control to tame the dark side of the App Store.
6. Do prioritize security and governance issues as you standardize on your collab app(s).
While there are certainly a myriad of complexities for the voice portion of UC, especially voice in the cloud, IT shouldn’t ignore the importance of governance issues. “New-age” governance topics for collab apps include such complexities like DLP, guest access, exfiltration risk, data-residency, eDiscovery, data lifecycle management, connector management, and more (look for a future blog post from us on this issue soon). And even though collab app software providers offer some capabilities, it’s important to note that they may not have given thought to governance and compliance day-to-day operations from a customer IT point of view.
Existing models around governance, compliance, and security will continue to evolve as cloud collab takes root in the enterprise, and will need time to reach maturity. IT Teams should be prepared to have a proactive approach anticipating governance needs and executing on appropriate solutions before disaster strikes.
7. Don’t let the amount of UCC platform features overwhelm
A UCC solution is often robust with features for voice and video calling, persistent chat, document management, screen sharing, and more. We often find ourselves reminding customers that just because a UCC platform has evolved into a Swiss-army knife of functionality, doesn’t mean that IT has to make every feature available to end-users from day one.
By promoting a phased migration path, new features can be activated only when employees have mastered the tools, or only when IT is ready to manage that portion of the app. An example of this could be focusing on just chat to start, while giving the app room to grow with the team over time. Some of the more advanced video and voice calling features can then be phased in later once employees (and IT) are more comfortable.
8. Do UA and device fitting before, during, and after deployment
Just because a user had a traditional desk phone prior to a new UC system rollout, doesn’t mean that they still need one. Conversely, just because the user is asking for a high-end DECT softphone doesn’t mean that’s the right phone for them. By doing the work upfront, you can ensure that the right devices are available based on an assessment of end-user needs.
Typical device challenges that surface with a UC system go beyond selecting the right devices, but also include receiving user acceptance of headsets and softphones versus desk phones, keeping devices up to date, and supporting devices from multiple vendors. Working user adoption and device fitting early-on into your UC system deployment can help mitigate user pushback, offer best practices, and be prepared to show users different features and functionality (such as how to use a conference room system).
9. Don’t just rely on help-desk tickets – search for end-user truth
Help-desk tickets may be useful for tackling UC problems, however they usually do not include any core metrics relating to end-user satisfaction. When a UC system continuously experiences problems related to poor call quality or service availability, users can simply lose faith and may choose to give up on trying to seek out help. In such a case they would simply move on to using their mobile phone for collaboration activities, or they may start experimenting with new freeware UCC solutions. Using metrics from ratings systems like Rate My Call or PowerSuite’s User Satisfaction solution allows for a deep calibration of end-user satisfaction which may often be more definitive and actionable than just the ‘mundane’ task of isolating jitter.
10. Don’t assume all UCaaS providers are created equal
There are many UCaaS providers out there, but there are several areas to evaluate that can make one UCaaS provider a better choice for you. UCaaS providers are most conveniently broken into 4 different categories: communications service providers (CSPs) like AT&T, office suite vendors like Microsoft, application specialists like RingCentral, and UC Platform vendors like Broadsoft.
Selecting a vendor that can deliver on all your requirements will require IT application leaders to evaluate the UCaaS landscape. Be prepared to do research on different providers and develop a clear understanding regarding which platform will best suit your company’s size and needs. In today’s collab app world, it’s especially important to evaluate these UCaaS players with respect to their inclusion of “collab” in their portfolio — is it baked in like with Microsoft Teams, or is it in the portfolio, but included as a separate app like with RingCentral, or is it simply non-existent like with AT&T? Choose wisely.