Crafting a UC strategy

If you have been putting off crafting your unified communications strategy, we don't blame you. The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know.

There are many ways to approach the opportunity, lots of competing technologies, loads of legacy investments to accommodate, political issues to address, and questions about everything from how to identify key business processes to how to measure success.

If that sums up your feeling about UC, take solace in the fact that you're not alone. Even some of the largest companies haven't figured it out. One Fortune 100 company recently appointed a UC czar to piece it together. His job: crafting a vision, a road map and an architecture, no mean feat in a company with hundreds of thousands of employees.

While you hear some talk about UC leading to cost savings -- minimizing a bit of travel or enabling you to consolidate some servers or voice mail systems -- UC is really about improving productivity by stitching together various systems employees rely on.

But what center do you build from? Should UC be anchored by your VoIP/voice mail system? E-mail/IM? Your mobile/smartphone platform? Your audio/video/Web conferencing systems? Maybe your desktop apps? Or do you even have to pick a core?

Don't fall into the trap of making that decision too early, experts say. While you need to be cognizant of the various capabilities/limitations of the platforms, don't pick one before you know where you want to go.

To figure that out, let the users be the guide. Do some internal survey work and let them tell you what would simplify/improve their jobs. After all, UC is all about helping these folks make better decisions faster, or improving their ability to serve customers, or facilitating the manner in which they collaborate on different tasks.

With that in hand, you can identify a few test cases and then match these targets to the capabilities of your existing systems and identify where you need to fill in the gaps. The tricky part, however, is assessing whether the resulting plan is resilient enough to support other foreseeable needs. You don't want to paint yourself into a corner. And it is perhaps this last worry that stymies more UC efforts than anything.

Paralysis isn't much of a strategy, though, so it is important to reach a conclusion and plow ahead. A controlled introduction will minimize the risks and, hopefully, lead to enough success to build onward and upward.

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This story, "Crafting a UC strategy" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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