As noted earlier in this series, compared to VoIP, the signs aren’t as obvious with UC that your business is ready for the move. At least with VoIP, the hard dollar savings are plain to see, and they flow to the bottom line almost immediately. Also, when moving from legacy to IP, the phone systems are pretty similar, so there’s a high degree of familiarity. Not so much with UC, and the reasons have been addressed in previous posts.
When thinking about the business case for UC, some examples are self-evident, while others are not. This depends largely on your point of view, and that’s why this series is being written. Those having an IT-centric perspective will see UC as a technology and/or a network-related solution. Fair enough, but management will be listening for different selling points, especially around productivity. There are several ways to frame that for management, and one of them is presented below.
Sign #3 – operations are decentralizing
There are times when you are willing/able to be proactive and anticipate how needs are changing. In terms of earning accolades with UC, these are the best scenarios, but they don’t happen very often. This approach isn’t part of IT’s job description, especially when it comes to making a call on something as amorphous as UC. Not to mention the fact that IT is usually in ongoing crisis mode, with few cycles available to plan ahead.
More likely, you’re largely confined to being reactive, and hopefully in ways that are just a step or two behind the curve, rather than off the curve altogether. Think about BYOD, and how ill-prepared most companies are in dealing with it. Even when IT saw BYOD coming, it was already too late. When end users have this much influence over network resources, IT simply has to go along and figure it out on the fly.
UC isn’t quite so disruptive, but decentralization is another big trend where these capabilities can solve a lot of problems. The main issue here is that businesses are decentralizing on two levels. First is operationally, where globalization is requiring businesses to establish more local presence to support customers.
Related to this is the fact that as our economy shifts from being manufacturing-based to being knowledge-based, there is less need to maintain the traditional business model where all operations were centrally located around the production facilities. This means that businesses can build up their workforce around where the skills are, and it’s not unusual to have operations spread out over a broad geography. For example, R&D could be located near a cluster of schools that have a particular focus the business needs, back office operations can be based in lower cost locations, and sales offices can be based close by to major customers or target markets.
On a secondary level, there is growing decentralization among employees on an individual level. Working from home has become a major lifestyle choice for some people, and if they have the right skills, businesses are happy to accommodate them. Others are constantly on the road as a matter of course, and many have next to no reason to have a regular office to call home. Add in everyday mobility enabled by mobile devices, and it’s clear that fewer and fewer people spend their full days in the same location or even cubicle any more.
Classical management styles are built around the command-and-control model, but that’s getting harder to sustain with all these changes. Most of these trends should be familiar, and if so, this should be your clue to start looking at UC as being part of the solution. Management will support these trends so long as they help reduce costs and allow them to maintain reasonable control over the operation. Try as they might, these trends will be very difficult to reverse, and the old model isn’t coming back.
As such, this presents a great opportunity for IT to show how UC can be a win-win all around. Whereas you may not have seen a good reason for UC before, decentralization presents one now, and you just have to connect the dots. Decentralization can be very good for business, but the more disparate the workforce, the more essential it becomes to have a robust communications platform to hold everyone together.
UC truly is the lynchpin, especially since most of the applications are real time. When you haven to bring a team together from multiple time zones to share data and collaborate on projects, there is no better way than with UC. I’m sure you can think of other examples, but the main idea is to position UC as a solution to ensure that decentralization can continue unfolding in a way that aligns with management’s objectives, along with allowing employees to feel engaged from wherever they’re based.