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As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, IT leaders may be wondering how to future-proof their unified communications investments. Before delving into best practices on this topic, let's first explore the nature of both unified communications and investment strategies.
Unified communications (UC) has always been a moving target. As a result, you can only do limited future-proofing of UC investments. You'll have to accept the fact that the value proposition will continue to evolve. When trying to future-proof your UC investments, you should not view UC as a static technology.
You should understand the term investment in two dimensions. The first dimension is financial, where best practices are based on economics. The associated costs of an on-premises platform must be weighed against the costs of cloud-based UC. The second dimension is your investment in technology. The decision to stay with on-premises UC or move to a cloud-based UC deployment is an investment -- or a bet -- on which technology you think will best serve your organization's collaboration needs.
With technology changing so quickly, the time frame to future-proof your UC investment is much shorter than with legacy technology. Realistically, for UC, it's difficult to plan more than two or three years out. You can't invest in a UC deployment and simply forget about it.
Rather than focusing solely on technology, your UC investment should be guided by how collaboration tools are used and how to support them. Along those lines, consider the following three best practices.
1. Ensure vendors can support all the UC deployment models.
This should be the starting point for your best practices unless you're completely comfortable with a wholesale migration to the cloud. UC is complex by nature, and many businesses prefer to deploy on site where they can still own and operate the platform.
On the other hand, that complexity can be a deterrent for overworked IT departments, where the cloud may be a more welcome option.
A mix of these two scenarios is common, as sometimes a hybrid deployment model is best. To support hybrid, however, you need to be certain the UC vendor can truly deploy both ways. Not all vendors can, and this should be your first criterion when shortlisting UC providers.
2. Proactively drive end-user adoption.
No matter how good the technology, a UC deployment will only succeed if your workforce adopts it. Unlike legacy technology that IT would roll out and that workers would need to use, UC depends entirely on end-user adoption. A UC platform is generally a portfolio of applications that workers are already using, so they need to see a benefit to using UC.
Furthermore, with the prevalence of cloud-based, user-centric applications, workers have many choices for applications supported by UC. As such, before deploying UC, IT must devise a plan to drive adoption. The plan should be a proactive effort that educates workers about UC and how it will make them more productive.
3. Assess worker needs and preferences for collaboration.
IT must understand what workers need to collaborate effectively and how their current tools are falling short. UC can support a range of applications -- not because more means better, but to support a variety of preferences.
Most workplaces are multi-generational, and each age group collaborates differently. The starting point is to recognize that UC is not one-size-fits-all. Some offerings are telephony-centric, while others are video- or messaging-centric. The best way to future-proof UC is to understand those needs and preferences to ensure the platform you choose is properly aligned with them.