Following a defined Unified Communications (UC) roadmap can help you maximize your communications investments - driving productivity and cost benefits as you deploy a solution that is built to scale and flex per your specific business needs.
Among companies interested in adopting collaboration solutions within their workplace, most possess some knowledge of Unified Communications, yet its interpretation varies from one organization to the next.
UC is a single platform that supports almost all communication types or modalities – voice, video, collaboration, presence and instant messaging. It runs in the background and offers a single interface on Internet-enabled devices for end-users, and an interface in the background for supervisors to manage and support the various services.
Unified is the key word – bringing it all together. It’s one solution, with an integrated user interface and with one point of management.
When asked the question: “What does UC look like in your organization five years from now?” most companies provide a vision which includes investments they’ve already made in voice or video. How to get from their current state to the desired state is uncertain. That’s where the Unified Communications roadmap comes in.
The five steps
Many companies take a ‘best of breed’ approach when addressing their communications technology needs. This strategy often results in silos that are hard to integrate, use and manage. However, with a phased approach to UC where attention is paid to the interplay between the various component services, companies can progressively leverage all modalities – voice, video, collaboration, presence and instant messaging – from a common platform, protecting their existing investments while ultimately moving to a true unified communications and collaboration solution.
Phase 1: Deploy the application
At the start of most UC transformations, companies are concerned with safeguarding current investments in voice (including phone systems) and sometimes video. That’s why we begin by deploying a common application, which is usually instant messaging and presence. Delivering incremental value over the existing communications platforms is a simple but strategic way to introduce UC into the organization, build familiarity with it and encourage its adoption.
Phase 2: Add additional UC capabilities
Once the UC application is deployed across the organization, adding key value-add capabilities is the logical follow through. Layering in conferencing and collaboration functionalities to enhance team work is typically the next step. Users gain the ability to schedule and conduct meetings, inviting anyone, from anywhere. The existing voice or video investment is not being disrupted, and users can complete more than just instant messaging with integrated conferencing, desktop sharing and document collaboration.
Phase 3: Deploy to multiple devices
The ability to be mobile is critical in any modern workplace. In phase three, the common UC services get further deployed to all devices that employees use to stay productive wherever they are, including laptops, tablets and smartphones. Now, UC extends beyond the office, enabling users to communicate and collaborate from any location with an accessible Internet connection.
Phase 4: Activate voice
In this phase, the voice modality of UC is not meant to fully replace an existing phone system (PBX) or voice platform; rather, it is used to enable new sites and to extend the reach to mobile employees and remote locations. Many companies opt to pilot voice capabilities at this stage, primarily to familiarize the support team and stakeholders with its capabilities. With lessons learned from the pilot, IT teams can modify implementation rules and processes to effectively support their users on the solution. The goal in this phase is enabling UC as a common platform for most communication modalities at new sites, and for conferencing, instant messaging and presence at pre-existing sites.
Phase 5: Retire legacy platforms
At this point, the existing voice platform or phone system (PBX) is either aging or failing. Rather than replacing or upgrading it with costly new equipment, companies can make the final move to true UC by turning on voice functionality across the organization. Once the UC voice capabilities have been adopted consistently throughout the organization, companies can confidently retire their older voice platforms. It is important to note that phase five does not happen overnight, and only makes sense when phases one through four have been adopted successfully over a period of time.
Discipline and guidance are the keys to success
While the urge to move to UC commonly begins with an event – either old technology is reaching end of life or the business is launching a new site – implementing UC properly, ensuring successful adoption and maximizing its benefits takes discipline and guidance.
Supporting the vision for true Unified Communications requires an outlook which welcomes new tools as a means to drive engagement, productivity and profitability. Organizations that take the time to plan for digital transformation, what the technology encourages, how employees will adopt it and the impact it has on the culture across groups often realize greater success.
Because UC is an investment in your organization’s future, it is critical to find a partner that has a proven track record in successfully implementing UC across businesses of varying sizes, each with their own unique requirements. There is a great deal of discovery and exploration required – your vision, existing technology investments, work culture, business value assessment and budget justification are prime examples. Beginning the conversation with a TELUS UC specialist will provide the clarity and guidance you need as you embark on this transformation.
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