by Goran Velickovski, Director of Engineering for West IP Communications
Installing an enterprise-wide IT solution is not always a simple task. Even more so, when it comes to communications solutions, namely unified communications (UC), the effort is arguably even more intensified. Pricey mistakes are avoidable if an organization is exhaustively equipped before embarking on the selection and deployment of such significant technology to a business.
UC is predominantly challenging within the enterprise infrastructure because of the varied application needs of users, the mobile nature of a business, or the geographic strains on the overall solution. So, it is no wonder that costly mistakes can be made and some stand out more than others when it comes to UC deployments.
First, it is very important that IT assess how all UC services (voice, video, instant messaging, collaboration, and mobile) are used in the organization. This requires due diligence and a thorough understanding of the business and its operations. Do you have to support a mobile workforce? What are the geographical demands for the solution – regionally, countrywide, and globally? These and other issues need to be thoroughly vetted before going too far down the deployment path.
One issue seen too frequently is organizations trying to attack everything at once, i.e. addressing all the communications demands as an all-encompassing project. Such an approach is not recommended. Trying to deploy every communications tool at the same time will most likely generate a project that will be impossible to manage, impossible to deploy, and one fraught with missed deadlines. It will ultimately be viewed as a failure. The desired goal is to arrive at an optimal end state for users and to support the overall business in a managed, well organized fashion.
Another common mistake is that during TCO/ROI modeling, IT often creates unrealistic scenarios that don’t take into account both “hard” and “soft” costs. Hard costs are easy to quantify as they are hardware, software, vendor implementation and support, PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) and network charges. Soft costs, on the other hand, are difficult to capture, but they are every bit as real and should be part of every TCO model. Included in those costs are not only things such as productivity, customer satisfaction, and resource management, but also opportunity costs associated with what the business is missing without having the new deployment to improve the operations.
One of the major mistakes concerns hosted solutions. During the evaluation process, don’t dismiss UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) as unproven, unreliable or not secure, regardless of your industry. In fact, hosted solutions should be looked at as a primary option since they require less capital expense, are quicker to implement, provide a better scale, and are easier to evaluate financially. Also, it is a misconception that on-premises and hosted solutions cannot be integrated. They actually can and are effective in meeting business needs. Hosted solution implementations are trending up and offer a lot of flexibility regardless of the industry. Wainhouse Research predicts that UCaaS revenue will grow 47 percent from 2011 to 2015. Frost & Sullivan is even more aggressive predicting the UCaaS market will total nearly $2 billion in 2013. Deploying in whole or in part some hosted solutions in an organization is inevitable considering today’s computing environments and the distinct business advantages they offer.
For organizations pursuing hosted solutions, it is important to understand how they are delivered and supported. The ever increasing mistake IT organizations are making is they will evaluate on features and price, but fail to understand how UC will be delivered and impact their networks. Also important is evaluating the actual hosted service provider and making sure you can trust what is said and delivered. Will voice and data be delivered on the same pipe? How will the networks work together – yours and the provider’s? And, what support is there for redundancy? These and other questions are important to address, and a clear understanding of delivery and support is essential.
And, finally, when choosing a supplier, it is important that the supplier, from the very beginning of the engagement, is a trusted partner and one that is committed to helping you solve your business challenges with communications solutions. A good supplier will be one who even well before the contract is awarded works with you to understand end-user needs, organizational needs, and what the end state should look like. People buy from people, and people buy ideas. Quite often, you are buying a mindset and a working relationship more than a product or solution. A good supplier will offer added value throughout the process and stick with you from beginning to end.
When it comes to addressing your communications needs, the best approach is to crawl, then walk, before you run. The approach will pay off in the long term for your organization.
Goran Velickovski is Director of Engineering for West IP Communications, a provider of cloud-based communications for enterprise and mid-market companies (www.westipc.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.