Closing the Loop With UC

Closing the Loop With UC

Michael Finneran JPG 125
Closing the Loop With UC by Michael F. Finneran

Our colleague at UCStrategies, Marty Parker, had a very interesting UC eWeekly post on NoJitter point out that based on the standard licensing arrangements customers buy, many already have the licenses they need to start doing UC. He has found that to be the case in spades with his clients at UniComm Consulting, and he goes into detail with the Microsoft’s Enterprise CAL (Client Access License) and Cisco’s Cisco Unified Workplace Licenses (CUWL). So UC is “bought and paid for,” but it’s not “deployed and used.”

This does present a rather embarrassing situation for IT departments. However, it is exactly the problem we in the technical community have faced over the decades: how do you get users to get on board?

Interestingly, we don’t seem to have this problem in the mobility space. Users have grabbed hold of the great new products the mobile industry has produced, often struggled with the complexities of setting it up, formed their own support communities, and then bragged about it to all their friends leading to the next wave of takers. Why hasn’t UC enjoyed the same level of success?

Mobile technologies do have some specific advantages. First, they are tied to everyone’s favorite piece of consumer electronics – the smartphone (and increasingly the tablet). Mobile technologies have also benefitted from an overpowering advertising campaign. I’m not talking about the ad budget that Apple threw behind the iPhone – that was just “seed money” for an advertising blitz you can’t even call “viral” because every news outlet on earth has jumped on the bandwagon to demonstrate how “with it” they are.

There are still some folks who can ignore the onslaught, stick with their BlackBerries (or even, gasp, “basic cell phones”) and independently strike out on their own course. We have baseball fans like that here in New York – they root for the Mets. Most people (if they can afford it), take the “cool” option if for no other reason than to avoid the derision of their children.

Then we have UC – it runs on a Dell laptop. Dell (or HP, or Lenovo, or whoever) makes a solid, dependable laptop, and one with way better battery life than my iPhone, but no one’s getting warm and fuzzy or anywhere “slightly excited” about it. It’s a DELL LAPTOP! That would be like an auto mechanic getting excited about floor jacks. We use smartphones to do all sorts of fun things all while on the go. We use Dell laptops to do email – the curse of the modern enterprise. Comparing the two is like choosing to spend a day hanging at the beach or working in a coal mine.

My analysis is that users are not taking to UC, because nobody has bothered telling them how it can really make their work lives better and more productive. Yeah, UC is about their “work lives” which is a bit of a downer when you think about it, but we’ve all got to work (except the Kardashians) and UC does offer some wonderful efficiencies to the process. That’s what I find most frustrating about the UC experience: it really does provide a better way to communicate and collaborate, so why aren’t people flocking to it?

In a word, the problem seems to be marketing. I’m not talking about a national TV blitz (though that would be a worthwhile investment if the UC vendors could see their way clear to foot the bill), but that’s not likely to happen. Rather than a “shock and awe” campaign, we’re going to have to slug it out in the trenches on a shoestring budget. The “we” in this case is the IT department.

Likely we’re not going to get a lot of budget to “market” UC to our users, as there remain an anti-user bias in technical departments that seem to say “I’ll lead that horse to water, and it damn well better drink!” Unfortunately, people aren’t like that and they’ll more than likely not drink just to spite you.

Last year I worked on a 100% Lync migration involving 1,300 seats. One of the big incentives we were hoping for was taking a bite out of the $12,000 check the client was writing for audio conferencing services every month. Six months after the deployment someone took a look at that audio conferencing bill and it was still $12,000 per month. It seems no one had gotten around to showing the users how much better and easier Lync conferencing was, so they kept right on doing what they had always done.

In truth, the job isn’t over until the user is receiving the full benefit of all this wonderful stuff we can put together – otherwise, why bother? Marty is right, we already own most of what we need to do UC, but we need a marketing/education/awareness plan or whatever you want to call it to complete the cycle. It would be nice if users took to this like they do to their iPhones and Androids, but that simply isn’t the case. The vendors aren’t promoting it in a big way, the mass media sure isn’t picking up on it, so if this UC thing is going to fly, we’re the ones who’ll have to promote it.

Of course, there is another scenario which involves the users continuing adoption of the UC like capabilities they get on their smartphones in conjunction with social network functions from the likes of Skype or LinkedIn, and our fancy UC things become less and less important to the user population.

So the lessons for SI’s are clear. If all you’re looking at is selling a couple of servers to activate the licensed capabilities the customer already has, you’re not cashing a big check on that UC sale. However, if you can get in on the real job, which is helping the client get the value out of what they already own, professional services is where your payoff is in UC. 


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