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There has been a lot of talk, but still relatively little action, on the enterprise UC migration front. There are a number of practical reasons why this has been so, including:
The “Who” of Enterprise UC
UC application implementations in enterprise organizations will be influenced by different groups within the organization because such groups have different perspectives of need and value for using UC-integrated versions of traditional communication applications.
There are three main constituencies in an enterprise organization that should be directly involved in the planning for UC implementations:
The big question is, who should be driving the demand for UC solution implementations within an enterprise organization?
One would normally expect that the real users of the technology, those who benefit most directly, might be clamoring for the benefits of UC; e.g., business management, who could realize faster operational benefits from the elimination of “human contact latency” in business process performance (“UC-B”). Individual internal users might want the personal productivity benefits of UC, particularly when mobile, in order to do their jobs more easily and flexibly, regardless of their location (“UC-U”).
External end users, such as consumers/customers or business partners, will also want the UC benefits of faster and more flexible contacts, particularly when mobility is involved. However, because such users are outside of the organization, they will be dependent on how enterprise communication technologies will interoperate with public network services that outsiders will typically be using.
UC Demand and Justifications
IT management is traditionally willing to support available new technologies if there is, first, justifiable demand from the other two constituencies, including budgetary support. Secondarily, IT management will be even more interested if the technology can also significantly reduce technology usage and support costs that are in IT’s responsibility.
However, because of the confusion surrounding what UC actually does and who will benefit most directly, there has been little serious demand (yet) from those first two constituencies. As a result, UC-oriented technology providers have been trying to sell IT management primarily on cost-saving benefits like Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), which is usually of little interest to individual end users or even to revenue-sensitive Line of Business management. In the meantime, UC migration planning has not yet involved LOB management or individual end users very much, even though their different needs must help define UC requirements first!
The CIO as Enterprise UC Migration Leader
For several years the question has been raised as to who should be in charge of driving enterprise UC migration planning and how. The answers have ranged from the CEO down to Telecom management, the latter mainly because legacy telephony systems are being affected the most by new forms of communication and their integration under UC. However, now that IP Telephony (IP-PBXs and IP phones) are replacing TDM phone systems in both end-of-life and “greenfield” situations, those implementations should really be part of a broader “UC migration” plan for both business processes and individual end user communication needs.
Although Line of Business management and individual end users must help to identify their specific UC application requirements and their implementation priorities, it will still be up to IT to plan and manage the various steps required for migrating to UC in an evolutionary manner. For this reason, it will be in the best interests for enterprise IT management to start the UC migration ball rolling with two initial steps:
Step 1. Establish an Integration Framework for UC Migration
Although UC encompasses all forms of communication interoperability, voice telephony usage will be the most impacted because the traditional telephony endpoint devices and network infrastructures are changing so dramatically. However, legacy telephone systems cannot be simply replaced throughout an enterprise organization, especially in multiple locations with different phone systems because of both cost and complexity of traditional telephony system implementations.
This is where a UC migration framework should be selected that will:
There can be a number of choices for how UC migration platforms can be deployed, including premise-based, managed, hosted, or a hybrid approach. Whichever approach is selected, the availability of such a flexible “UC migration platform” will facilitate the next two UC implementation steps, including educating end user constituencies and identifying their UC requirements, to be carried out more effectively.
UC migration platforms that satisfy the need for both maximum, standards-based flexibility and low investment costs are relatively new technology offerings that simplify integrations of old and new enterprise communications technologies under a common UC framework. In particular, they can facilitate the creation of “UC Telephony” capabilities within any existing enterprise telephony environment, selectively and cost effectively. For an excellent presentation and discussion of this evolutionary UC migration strategy with a leading provider of this technology, view the UCStrategies.com webinar on Aastra’s “overlay” approach that exploits its “Clearspan” UC platform for flexible and low-cost migrations to UC.
Step 2. Who Needs What? – User UC Requirements
Obviously, a critical step for moving an organization towards an operational UC environment is to fully understand the existing communication problems of high-value business processes, the communication requirements of different user groups, and even individual end user “role-based” communication application needs. Personalization and “role-based” application needs will be key to determining selective individual end user UC requirements.
As the high-value operational business communication problems (or “Hot Spots” as my UniComm colleagues call them) are identified, IT management can proceed to do its job of planning the implementation for specific UC applications/solutions. These can then be prioritized and associated with existing and new communication products and services that require UC integrations. (Filling in the UC “holes!") This will also enable IT management to evaluate various available vendor offerings from a broad UC perspective, rather than just on an individual application basis, for interoperability, functionality, usability, supportability, and costs.
This user-based information will then lead to identifying UC’s impact on IT’s infrastructure and integration responsibilities for wired and wireless networking requirements, integration with business application servers, user endpoint software client needs, mobile device independence, traffic and usage management, access security, etc.
Step 2 for a CIO or IT management is therefore NOT to simply select technology replacements for legacy telephony systems or other communication applications such as IM or CEBP applications, nor even to start worrying about the implementation or support costs involved in UC applications. Rather, that step must be to help the “user” constituencies in the organization understand the different user perspectives of UC and participate in identifying, justifying, and prioritizing specific UC solution implementations. While reducing costs is always a valid UC planning objective, that alone will not justify the kind of disruptive change that UC is bringing to both technology management, business operations, and end user communication procedures.
Step 3.UC Migration Learning
With a UC migration platform in place and user requirements being identified, a flexible, selective, and self-paced learning phase (pilots, trials) can begin for an organization to quickly realize important performance benefits for high-value business processes (UC-B). In addition, individual end user productivity benefits in doing their different jobs (UC-U) will also be gained.
In the latter case, there will also be an opportunity to identify specific end user “role” needs and usability requirements for different endpoint devices. Finally, it will also be a learning phase for IT to gain experience in supporting the various old and new communication applications of a UC environment. This is a critical point where IT management has to both learn its new responsibilities and help guide operational changes being introduced by UC solutions and mobility changes.
Based on the results of Step 2, migration planning for UC can be finalized for the business processes trialed, and extended to larger groups of users. While it is always nice to have individual end users create demand because of the viral nature of individual user benefits of UC, (UC-U), the CIO must take into consideration the business process performance benefits (UC-B), as well as costs (TCO), for supporting UC migrations cost effectively. IT management must insure that their UC platform can collect activity data across all forms of UC communications, as well as reporting tools to provide the metrics for evaluating and managing both UC-U as well as UC-B benefits.
Perhaps most importantly for enterprise IT organizations, internal IT resources must be evaluated in order to decide to what extent UC solutions can be managed and supported internally vs. using third-party services.
Enterprise IT will have its work cut out for it in terms of migrating to a UC-based environment. The justification and priorities for making the moves must, however, come from the other enterprise constituencies. This is where the CIO can play a leading role in organizing and managing the migration planning activity, including being prepared to quickly respond to important user needs for UC solutions that will result. Because there will be little internal prior experience with UC implementations, this may require the services of outside consultants to identify UC solution needs and their potential value to the enterprise and to users.
This paper is sponsored by Aastra.
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