The business-as-usual theme of my last few posts certainly is a fluid concept. Every business has a different sense of steady state, and this likely oscillates between periods of disorder rather than being the everyday norm. Regardless of how often this happens or how long the center holds, it’s pretty reasonable to assume this is what you strive for as opposed to every day being a surprise.
With that aspiration in mind, UC has a valuable role to play, even if just to keep things under control. I’m not advocating UC as the silver bullet to deliver a steady state, but it can go a long way to managing ongoing disruptions, and making it easier for employees to get things done. This thinking might seem presumptuous if you view IT’s role simply as the steward of network infrastructure, and if so, you need to get beyond that. Long term, that doesn’t bring much value-add, and you risk being outsourced if management sees better options elsewhere.
UC can help ensure this doesn’t happen, as it gives you an opportunity to be more strategic and position communications technologies as an enabler to drive the business. That’s a vision management can buy into, but will require IT to take a more active role. Deploying UC out of the box will not be sufficient, especially since you need employees to adopt the applications, and this is one area where IT has to be hands-on.
So, how do you do that? As noted in my last post, this isn’t a natural forte for IT, and often the best path is to use outside expertise. Regardless of how you go about this, the key is to identify problems that could be addressed by better communications technologies. In some cases, the current communications tools themselves are the problem, but others will pertain to tasks and processes that are touched by these tools. These are actually distinct issues, and the former can more easily addressed by most any UC solution. The latter, however, are more complex and require deeper investigation that goes beyond the technology.
This takes us into the realm of root cause analysis, and while I don’t expect IT to have all the answers, this is where the business case for UC really shines. The starting point is to look beyond the confines of IT and focus on what makes the business run more efficiently. Before commissioning expensive time-and-motion studies, below are some basic things you can do to identify where communications is currently not meeting the needs of the business.
- How have the usage trends of your phone system been changing? Activity is likely declining, but another indicator would be voicemail usage. Phone tag is one indication that this mode of voice isn’t very effective, but people may, in fact, not bother even leaving a message knowing they are more likely to reach people on their mobile phones or via chat.
- Proliferation of mobile devices. Aside from seeing them everywhere, if you have a BYOD policy in place, you can get a better sense how these devices are being used. Some activity will be on your network and some will be on their personal plans. There certainly are legitimate issues about employees using these devices for personal use on company time, but what you really want to know is if they’re doing business this way because other modes aren’t effective or reliable enough.
- Workflows with many manual steps. The more you step outside your domain and understand how things get done across the various departments, the easier it will be to filter workflow efficiency through the lens of UC. When UC is deployed to support CEBP, its value goes well beyond reducing telecom costs. By integrating communications applications into business processes, manual steps can be automated, resulting in faster and more accurate workflows. The legwork can be very detailed, but as a starting point, you can strengthen the UC case by identifying inefficiencies that it can address. Chances are your departments do not think along these lines, and if so, UC puts you in a good position to bring a viable solution to the business.
These examples are just starting points in a broader process that you can drive to make UC a truly strategic investment for your company. Even a high level approach will be worthwhile, and if a more scientific analysis is warranted, IT can still own this process. The key is to take a holistic view to both where and how communications adds value, and I’ll continue exploring this in my next post.