Q

Successful UC assessment team structure and methods

Developing a solid unified communications (UC) strategy may require an assessment team. Who in your organization will provide the most value as a member of the team, and how should these team members conduct their UC feasability research?

Who in our organization should be part of our unified communications (UC) assessment group, and how should we assess UC?
Unified communication (UC)'s mission is to unify the communications of all individuals. In keeping with my dislike of committees, I think that the worst thing you can do is to get overpopulated with too many influencers. With that being said, and depending upon the size of your organization, you really do need to have influencers from every department. The danger is some departments may just haphazardly stick someone with this role and your organization's leadership needs to prevent this from happening. Input from every department includes those holding C-level executive positions all the way to the mailroom staffers. There's a saying in this business that "the communicators often fail to communicate", but even worse is the failure to communicate with your teammates.

Assessing and implementing UC will take careful planning and execution. Before you execute, remember -- the more planning you do up front the less reacting and troubleshooting you will do on the backend.

Again, depending upon the size of your organization you may need to gather more information in branch or satellite offices, divisions, and even extend the scope internationally. Start with a baseline within corporate but don't assume that what you determine will apply outside of corporate. Let's say for argument's sake that your company is a large enterprise and I tell you to "go out and shake a lot of hands and meet your users." Of course you may flash me "that look", a roll of the eyes, similar to what my wife would -- but I am completely serious. I met last year for certification and testing and the group I was with were astonished when I told them to get off their behinds "and do a physical inventory." They replied, "But we have thousands of locations regionally, nationwide and world wide!" So what? If I can do it, then so can you. Just do it. Don't depend upon outsourcing or some fancy system or techno-geek wonder. Of course online surveys are great and you can gather a lot of information from them, but unless you see the sweat on people's heads and the gleam in their eyes then you are missing key information. It's old fashioned management but it still works in high fashion technology. Get out and walk around, shake hands and find out the real story -- and start with the receptionist.

Lastly, you need to gather information on your external users and customers. The more we talk about UC the bigger it becomes. For this reason, you need to consider that UC can be layered in the solution. Meaning, you may want to develop UC solutions for internal customers (users) first in a greenfield manner. Start small, then gain the knowledge, experience and dynamics and extend those attributes to other areas -- especially before you deploy UC to paying customers. You don't want your UC solution to jeopardize the revenue stream. Speaking of money, it would be prudent to determine in your UC applications -- internal or external, which ones are directly impacting revenue and which ones are not. It's an exercise but in accomplishing it, at least you will know some priorities.

So you've asked me who now I need to ask why? Why do you want to implement UC? If you can answer that then you should be able to narrow the lines down a bit. You need a lot of input from all departments not just committees who have been stuck with a task to satisfy the IT gods. Most importantly, get out and walk around, shake hands, do that thing people do better face-to-face, because what you are attempting to emulate through UC is a precious and dear method of connecting with humans and you don't want to not understand what humans need in other departments or divisions of the organization including those on the outside.

Want to know more about UC assessment? Have a question about your own organization's UC plan? Send them in and get Matt's expert advice!

This was last published in October 2008

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