In my last post, I outlined the idea of thinking differently about how you roll UC out in your organization. I stressed the need for an active approach and to take ownership since so much is at stake here. With an IP PBX, you can afford to be passive – everyone knows how to use the phone, and they’re going to use it regardless of how you handle the deployment. Not only that, but there is no upside for IT to go above and beyond – the phone system is first nature and there’s not much value to be added.
UC is another story, and once you view it as an opportunity to do something different, you’ll key in on this “out of the box” theme. Think about this in two ways – first, it’s an opportunity to enable employees to be more productive with something new, and that will serve the business very well. Perhaps just as important, UC also gives IT an opportunity to contribute in a more strategic way and be more involved in making business-level decisions.
You’d be right to say there’s a bit of ego at play here, but it’s more than that. Think about the pressures facing IT today and how hard it is elevate the role beyond one of managing the plumbing. If IT takes the right steps to “own” UC – and if tangible results are achieved – management will view IT more favorably as a driver of change and keeping the company on the leading edge of technology. Now think about what that could mean for getting budget increases, or faster approval for deploying other new technologies.
So, how do you think outside the box? First and foremost, you need to identify where and how UC can add business value. Where can it have an impact beyond just making communications more efficient? Another example is using UC to engage employees in new ways that empower them to adopt higher-order capabilities that can truly drive productivity. I’ve got a few examples to share, and let’s get to the first one for the balance of this post.
Using UC for federation
This can be an abstract concept, but federation offers distinct value in the right situations. In its most simple form, UC creates internal federation by having all employees on a common directory. That’s the starting point for any communications platform, and for UC, the key is to integrate everyone regardless of what IM client they’re using. UC vendors can do this to varying degrees, and the real value comes from doing more than just checking presence or trading chats on the fly. Any IM platform can do that, but you need UC to support real-time multimedia communication, which in turns leads to collaboration via sharing of information across multiple modes.
With that in mind, think about how UC could be used to federate employees with groups from outside your organization. Not only is UC flexible enough to do this in a variety of ways, but it offers up a new role for IT to play, especially as a neutral party to negotiate and manage these connections.
One example would be with select customers your company works very closely with. Perhaps there might be a desire to have ongoing collaboration to develop new products. This could be done just with a specific department or region with your customers to keep the engagement manageable. To some degree, you can do that now with conventional modes – email, phone calls, conference calls, etc.
However, if all parties see a benefit for a tighter environment to support more intense collaboration, the conditions would be right for federation. The key is establishing enough trust to integrate across the various directories, and then ensuring that the UC platform will support all the various networks and endpoint involved. Presuming this can be done, UC now provides a new way of working that benefits everybody.
You can also extend federation across your supply chain and even with industry peers. For the former, think about the efficiencies that can be created with this kind of integration among suppliers and partners. Similarly, there are numerous scenarios where peer level collaboration is needed, and UC would be an ideal solution to tie everyone together. Consider a scenario where new regulations are coming, and all the players need to develop a united response. Or an unforeseen event creates a need that no company can address on its own, and an industry-wide effort is needed. Presuming all the technical hurdles can be addressed, this type of federation offers a powerful use case for UC.
I’m sure you can think of other examples, and the main idea is that federation is one way think outside the box for everyday UC applications. The above scenarios really should serve to start a conversation inside your organization for IT to take UC beyond the expected. This is just one possibility, and I’ll move on to a few others as this series continues.