One of the biggest challenges for unified communications is knowing where and how to get the answers you need to make good decisions. As discussed in earlier posts, UC vendors can tell you a lot, but will be highly varied, and if you’re not careful, can also be based more on what they have to offer instead of what you need today. Regardless of how well you think you understand your UC-related needs, nobody knows them better than the ultimate end users – your employees.
To tap into this, you should first accept that it’s not realistic for them to have the answers at the tip of their tongues. UC is an abstract concept for most employees, and you have to think in terms of their everyday tasks. They will certainly understand collaboration, team work, chat, IM, conferencing, mobility, multi-tasking, presence, etc.
These are the building blocks of UC, and if you can learn about how they’re using them, you’ll be much closer to getting it right when dealing with vendors. The phone system is usually the anchor for UC, and is the logical starting point for building this understanding. Outside of the contact center, PBX usage is not readily tracked, so there are two approaches to take here. First is compiling information directly from end users about their habits, preferences, expectations, etc. There are many methodologies to consider here, and I’ll explore those in a separate article. The main point is to devise a systematic plan where you can gauge some meaningful metrics about how employees are using the phones.
Direct tracking produces the best results, but the process can take a lot of time, effort and could become expensive if you engage external resources. To some extent, I still believe you need this type of data, but you can also gain useful insights from indirect methods. The simplest is doing your own observational monitoring. This may be less scientific, but is still a valid approach to see what’s happening. The key here is to learn from behaviors, especially in terms of how employees use the phone system along with other communications tools. Again, I’ll need a separate post to outline this further, but the main idea is to understand which modes end users are really relying on to get their work done.
If you have the luxury of doing all these things, it will be very interesting to see how well your data collection efforts align with the behaviors you’re observing. I’m saying this because my 20+ years of market research experience has taught me that what people say and do are often very different. Data you collect from employee surveys or interviews may be accurate but incomplete, and could lead to false positives.
The more closely you observe employees, the more nuances you’ll pick up that won’t be captured in any survey. Furthermore, for example, employees may say they’re only using IM occasionally, but you may well observe much higher usage. While it’s fair to say that people genuinely underestimate these things, they may also be trying to report minimal usage of a mode that is not viewed as a business application. Some companies see tools like IM and chat only as being social and will discourage – or even prohibit – its use.
This is just one example of the subtleties around trying to get an accurate picture of how employees actually communicate. I’m sure you can see how this can become a daunting challenge, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue it. Ignorance is bliss, but your employees truly hold the key to making the right decisions around UC, and I’ll continue this theme in my next post.
What have you been doing to learn from them?