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Integrating Unified Communications apps into an existing infrastructure.

The main goal of a unified communications strategy should be to facilitate an innovative business process regardless of the communications medium. Read what steps contributor Bill Trussell advises for your unified communications integration.

We're trying to develop a strategy to integrate UC apps into our infrastructure. What are some steps we can take to develop a good plan for now that will also provide the foundation for future additions?
The main goal of a unified communications strategy should be to facilitate an innovative business process regardless of the communications medium. Given this as an assumption the first step in formulating such a strategy is to fully understand your current business process and to incorporate the input of your business partners into that strategy. Answers to questions like "what portion of our business human resources is mobile?" or "what are the current barriers to communications?" would be important to know and understand early on. Those who are responsible for the formation of your UC strategy might consider becoming "imbedded" with your business partners for a while in order to understand what their pain points are and how your UC strategic planning might assist them in the performance of their duties. Doing a good job of investigation early on and rooting out the "needs" of the business will save you time and disappointment later on. You may also find that your priorities insofar as picking anchor applications and infrastructure elements might be different than the ones you envisioned once you understand better what business problems you are trying to solve.

The next step would be to outline a product or service roadmap that would let the business know what you are working...

on and in what order. Starting out small with your rollouts tends to go better than "revolutionary" changes throughout and entire business infrastructure. Plan on communicating your successes throughout the entire business so you can ease into some of the changes that might be disruptive later on. "Build a little-Test a little" strategies are often appreciated by the business partners as it affords them an opportunity to participate in small programs and provide valuable feedback.

Picking infrastructure elements that will not preclude the addition of "best of breed" providers later on has proven time and again to be a winning strategy. There is little need to narrow your options too early in a process only to be disappointed later on that certain functions can not be added due to infrastructure limitations. The more standards based elements you can utilize the better things will be later on.

Gaining credibility with your business partners on small projects that are deemed helpful to them in the performance of their job functions is also a proven methodology. Say you can eliminate the use of Fax for taking orders from customers where no one can remember why they are doing by fax in the first place. They will thank you profusely and give you half a dozen other functions to automate for them. Your strategy is now working!

This was last published in February 2008

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