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Achieve UC success with strong user adoption strategies

Unified communications is not just about the technology; it's about the people, too. IT leaders at Enterprise Connect share their tips on how to support end-user adoption.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Many organizations are modernizing by updating their communications infrastructure and rolling out the latest collaboration technology. But a successful deployment does not simply rely on the success of IT teams. End users need to embrace the new technology and workflows.

"You could have the best technology in the world, but it doesn't matter if they're not using it," said Blair Pleasant, president of COMMfusion LLC in Santa Rosa, Calif.

Organizations should create user adoption strategies that encompass all aspects of adoption, from designing and deploying a new system with user needs in mind to change management and training to get users on board.

Pleasant and a panel of IT leaders from a variety of industries spoke at Enterprise Connect this week about their experiences with user adoption as they rolled out new unified communications and collaboration technology.

Build adoption strategy based on employee needs

Creating end-user adoption strategies starts with understanding that new technology will change how employees work.

"Two years ago, nobody needed these tools," said Denis Rousseau, digital workplace leader at the National Bank of Canada, based in Montreal. "They covered everything with emails and meetings; they didn't know they need collaboration tools."

As the National Bank of Canada updated its offices to support open workspaces and remote working, the bank built its adoption strategy around teaching employees the concept of the freedom to work from anywhere.

The strategy was tricky, Rousseau said, as the bank needed to address different job roles, such as bank tellers, human resources and lawyers. The organization had to define different ways of working with the new collaboration tools.

Let end users test the technology

For MedStar Health, a nonprofit healthcare organization based in Columbia, Md., moving its nursing and inpatient staff away from desk phones to mobile phones and softphones meant getting its staff involved from the beginning.

Kristina Russell, director of unified communications at MedStar, said before rolling out smartphones to nursing staff, the organization brought multiple devices to its hospitals and let nurses test them and choose the devices that best supported their work.

"We left the decision in the clinicians' hands," she said. "I certainly can't do what a nurse does or what a physician does, but I can support them on the IT side."

Letting the nurses test the devices before a complete rollout helped to build excitement for the changes, Russell said. The healthcare organization followed up with town hall and staff meetings to keep its employees updated on the latest information.

Internal marketing and training is key

Northwestern Mutual, a financial institution based in Milwaukee, has started moving its on-premises telephony system to the cloud and updating its contact center as part of its digital transformation strategy.

Digital ambassadors or champions, who are employees, can go a long way in building trust among end users by showing their peers how new tools can enhance workflows.

"Perception is king," said Norm Buchmann, lead product manager of unified communications at Northwestern Mutual.

Training is also a vital part of user adoption strategies. While employees are familiar with some modern collaboration tools in the consumer world, they need training to transition that knowledge to their work. But training methods should vary and cater to how employees work.

MedStar nurses, for example, had hands-on training with their new smartphones, because the nature of their work is hands-on. Administrative staff, however, was better served with training videos.

"You'll want some training early on and want to do follow-up training," Pleasant said, especially if an organization plans to add more capabilities and features.

You can't make everyone happy

It's key to remember that as strong as user adoption strategies may be, it's possible not everyone will be onboard with using new collaboration apps or devices.

Laureate International Universities, based in Baltimore, has educational facilities across the globe and began migrating to cloud-based UC about two years ago.

"It's always difficult; you're not going to make everyone happy," said Ken Neimo, vice president of customer engagement platform technology at Laureate. "There's always some group that's going to pull their head out of the sand and say, 'Whoa, why are we doing this?'"

This was last published in March 2019

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