The main goal of a unified communications (UC) 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 their business partners for a while in order to understand what their pain points are and how the 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 and no one can remember why they are doing it 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!
Bill Trussell is the managing director of networking and information security with TheInfoPro and is SearchVoIP.com's resident UC expert. Do you have a UC question for Bill? Send them in!
Ask the expert: How should we go about creating a plan for unified communications within our organization?