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Stand-alone vs. integrated collaboration: 3 factors to consider

Moving from legacy communications is no small task. Three factors must be considered to ensure successful adoption of new integrated collaboration tools.

Migrating from stand-alone, legacy tools could be one of the least-understood challenges when adopting an integrated collaboration environment. IT decision-makers will focus on more strategic aspects of the new platform, such as whether to remain on premises or how far to go with the cloud. On a more detailed level, organizations need to decide which features and applications will best support their collaboration objectives.

When moving ahead with new technology, it's easy to overlook the effect on the tools in place now. To fairly assess unified communications and collaboration's business value, IT must recognize that most UC applications will not be new. Whether it's telephony, messaging, video or conferencing, most workers will have well-established legacy applications in everyday use.

For UC to be successful, end-user adoption is paramount. To help make that happen, three factors should be considered to get workers to migrate from stand-alone legacy applications to an integrated collaboration environment.

  1. Providing a better user experience

No matter what IT thinks or what vendors say, nothing matters more than the user experience for your workers. For example, it's common to have multiple stand-alone messaging or IM platforms in regular use across the organization. Workers simply gravitate to the platforms that their co-workers are using. If the platforms meet their needs, they become entrenched into workflows.

With UC, a behavior change is needed. In most cases, workers will need a good reason to move off these legacy applications. A UX that's almost or just as good is not enough -- all else being equal, people only change when something better comes along.

  1. Better collaboration outcomes with an integrated platform

A better UX is just the first step for ensuring end-user adoption of an integrated collaboration platform. Regardless of the UX, a defining characteristic of legacy applications is their stand-alone nature. Communication modes, like messaging, calls or video chats, are typically used in isolation. Of course, workers will also multitask -- cradling the phone on their shoulder while typing an IM -- but usually for unrelated tasks.

Another key challenge is moving workers away from these behaviors, where legacy methods of working are defined by legacy applications, to a unified interface where all applications can be used in one place. The best way to make that happen is by providing a better collaboration experience. Workers need to see how much easier it is to get things done with the new platform. Since this is a new way of working, some education will be needed to set proper expectations.

  1. Business case to continue supporting legacy applications

No matter how well IT addresses the above challenges, all workplaces have a diverse mix of people and some will not adapt well to something new like UC. Not all job functions or tasks require UC to be effective, and some technology laggards can still perform at a high level using legacy applications. Even with a successful UC deployment, IT may still need to continue supporting legacy applications.

IT could take a heavy-handed approach to migration by simply shutting down legacy applications, such as moving from a PBX to IP telephony. But, in some cases, workers can access legacy applications on their own, making them impossible to eliminate.

A better way is to recognize that UC is not a one-size-fits-all approach for all modes of working. To maximize adoption, it will be necessary to keep supporting legacy tools for use cases where UC may not be a better approach.

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