In case you didn’t have enough reasons already, I’ve got another one here to close out this series. Over the past few posts, I’ve examined various scenarios – clues, really – that tell you your business is ready for UC. A common theme across this series is the idea that you’re not likely to come to this decision in a vacuum. The UC value proposition is too new and fluid for most IT decision-makers to grasp out of thin air.
Of course, the vendors will spare no effort to tell you why you need UC, but if you believed everything they said, you’re probably better off working for them than trying to run a network with way too many moving parts. While the UC vendors are definitely improving their messaging, they are highly motivated to push UC into the marketplace, so it’s incumbent on buyers to make informed decisions that are right for the business.
As you should know by now, UC doesn’t fix something that’s broken, or replace something you already have – it’s additive, and you have to understand where it’s going to fit into your environment. This means you have to make an effort to understand where it adds value, how it streamlines workflows, why it can make employees more productive, when it will have an impact – and not least of which is making IT’s job a little easier. With that last idea in mind, here is your next clue:
Sign #5 – employee use of offline applications is out of control
While UC is very much about making employees more productive, IT still has to support it, and that has several implications. Since you’re already using VoIP and your employees are likely spending more time working on screens than via the IP PBX, it’s safe to say you’ve moved on from the legacy model of command-and-control.
This assumption may not be true if you think VoIP is a step down from TDM, and that the network better serves the business when IT has control end-to-end. Times have changed to the point where that’s no longer possible or practical, but the other extreme poses a different set of challenges.
With the combined rise of VoIP, the Web and mobility, end users simply have too many touch points that are beyond IT’s control. One can correctly argue that the PBX worked so well because employees were end users and nothing more – for every savvy employee with a good idea, there are many others who do more harm than good and waste IT’s valuable time sorting out simple problems.
Clearly, this is a risk management issue, and IT has to make decisions that serve the greater good. Thinking about UC, however, there really are two factors at work here. First would be the technology changes cited above; all of these shift the balance of power for network utilization from IT out to end users. Second, however, is an interrelated trend in the form of demographic change. As the workplace gets younger, Millennials bring a native sense of tech-savvy that is often ahead of what IT can deal with.
Their experiences in the consumer world have conditioned them to believe they can – and should – have total control over their online activities, and those expectations have carried over into the workplace. Part of this is a sense of entitlement that comes with Millennial sensibilities, but another part has to do with their always-on lifestyle that blurs the lines between work and play. Whether employers like it or not, they have to go along with this to a point – otherwise they’ll never be able to attract and retain quality talent.
Defining a reasonable accommodation here is a slippery slope, but it’s fair to say that for many businesses, offline activity is way beyond their comfort level. While you have to allow some degree of personal time communication at work, there’s a bigger concern when work is getting done this way. When employees are using the likes of Google and Skype for work, these sessions are beyond your purview. Whether it’s for voice calls, chat or ad hoc video conferencing, these forms of work are taking place without any direct connection to the tools employees use everyday under IT’s watch.
I’ll leave the Big Brother angle for another time, but in this context, it should be easy to see the appeal of UC. The vast majority of offline applications that employees are using for work can also be done under the UC umbrella. All UC solutions can support various forms of native Web-based VoIP, chat, video, etc. While changing habits isn’t easy, by getting employees to work this way, IT gets total visibility into how they’re working.
More importantly, employees will work more productively since they’ll now have all their work tools integrated with these applications. Conference calls will be easier to run, files will be easier to share, and employees will have more tools to collaborate with.
This is just a high level picture, but it should be enough to show how things would be better for both employees and IT if that offline activity could be shifted over to a UC environment. Getting people to change their behavior is a topic unto itself, but for purposes of this series, I hope you can see why this can be a driver for adopting UC.