Leading UC Projects Focused on User Experience

Jeffrey Babe, Sr. Director, Professional Services and Field Services, Polycom
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Jeffrey Babe, Sr. Director, Professional Services and Field Services, Polycom

We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works. – Douglas Adams

IT leaders planning to deploy a Unified Communications (UC) solution have no shortage of articles and whitepapers to guide your project. UC has been a popular buzzword since at least 2008, and there is clearly a lot of growth momentum ahead.  A recent industry study has forecast the UC market will grow from $35 billion in 2016, to $95 billion by 2023. Yet, despite the abundant “best practice” guides to draw from, many UC projects do not achieve their ROI potential. That’s because nearly all UC best practice guides and projects focus on the following success factors: reliability, security, scalability, ease of integration, and affordability. What’s missing? User Experience. By failing to measure and focus on User Experience, these UC project plans are missing a huge success factor that will ultimately define your return on investment. 

Each User Group has their own definition of “stuff that works” based on how they interact with the communication tools in use today. Here are some tips to leading a successful UC project, with each project phase guided by User Experience. 

Discover: Define and collect the right user experience data, right off the starting blocks. 

Start your project with a structured Discovery phase, applying the same priority and data driven approach to User Experience as you would to planning firewall traversal or database migration. Who are your user groups? IT Admin, general users, Executives, mobile and Home Office workers, Engineering, creative teams… you get the idea. Each group will have different use cases for the technology; different use habits by region and job functions.

  â€‹Ultimately, planning your project around how users interact with the UC communication tools will drive user adoption, and maximize your return on investment  

Analytics on usage patterns is an objective way to measure ROI drivers, along with user surveys and industry benchmark data. What features drive consumption, what factors limit utilization?  Once you have user experience data on hand, set quantifiable utilization targets for your project success metrics.  We’ll discuss that more in the Delivery phase.

Design:  What makes a great UC Solution Design?

A good UC solution design is a comprehensive document that details network architecture and integration with your communication systems. A great UC solution design includes that technical detail, but also looks beyond the features and system configuration. Designed with user experience as the core value, a great UC Solution Design captures the user experience through user workflows.  Each user workflow should be driven by the data from your Discovery phase. Your design should be answering the question: “How will each user group use the communication tools?”  

For video, web conferencing and collaboration tools, User Experience factors are often more complex than communication tools like voice, email and messaging.  Each ‘User Group’ experience should be detailed by workflow in each segment of a call or session.  This starts with scheduling or pre-call initiation, various functions for media and in-call services, ending with post-call functions like archiving and analytics. Factor in that video call may be ad-hoc from a desktop or mobile device, a group video call from a huddle room, or could be an executive boardroom presenting a company meeting to hundreds or thousands of users.     

This may sound like a lot of complex detail to define and document, and, well… it is. A UC solution design requires significant time and expense in the project plan. But the investment is well worth it and IT leaders should plan for this in the project budget and timeline. The ‘User Workflow’ approach to UC solution design is critical to creating a successful integration, launch, and operations. Ultimately, planning your project around how users interact with the UC communication tools will drive user adoption, and maximize your return on investment.  

Deploy: Allow some project slack, and have a plan for scope change.

The Deploy phase of the UC Project is often the fastest part of the overall project.  That is, if the Solution Design is accurate, the technology works perfectly, and there is no Scope Change. Well, if “Change is the law of life”, then Scope Change is the law of Project Management. 

A Unified Communications project can encounter scope change for many reasons: new stakeholders, new technology introduced network changes. If you’ve built some slack in your project timeline to manage risk, and have a controlled process for handling scope change, you can embrace scope change. Think of it as an opportunity to refine the project deliverables to a better overall design, and final product that is a better fit for your organization. Scope change only causes major alarms and finger pointing when IT leaders do not allow for any slack in the project timeline or budget. 

Deliver: Develop a launch plan and operations framework that includes adoption and analytics.

Once you have deployed your new UC services into production, your service launch plan should include a comprehensive adoption strategy. For voice and instant messaging, end users will generally adopt the core services as part of routine work communication. For newer UC technologies: video and web collaboration, persistent chat, and media management, investing time and budget for a structured adoption plan will pay major dividends on utilization and ROI.   By engaging each user group during the technology roll out, adoption services help drive workflow integration on the behavior of each user group.

Equally important for maximizing your ROI, IT leaders need to plan for service analytics. Whether your UC services are cloud, hosted, or on premise, having a comprehensive analytics view into your usage patterns is critical to measuring and driving utilization. “Affordability, reliability, and scalability” are great, but who cares if people are not using it? To leverage data from an analytics dashboard, IT leaders need to commit a formal process to review, analyze, and act on the data. Plan for a monthly or quarterly analytics review with your service provider or management team. Return to your discovery questions for each user group: “What features drive consumption, what factors limit utilization?”  

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