Your Transformation is Important, Please Hold
Pilots cannot demonstrate the benefits of organizational transformation that UC&C can enable. If the company isn't fully committed to it, why learn it?
As our technologies evolve, so does our vocabulary. The last decade was all about convergence. The term was mostly associated with physical networks, specifically the convergence of voice and data traffic onto a single network. But convergence didn't stop there. Soon after, we saw departments, servers, even managers converge as well.
Now the conversation has shifted again. We speak less about technologies in general and more about benefits and business drivers. One of the common topics we discuss now is collaboration. Collaboration is not a new term, but the demographics and logistics of the enterprise have changed dramatically, refreshing its relevance. Collaboration is no longer as natural as showing up to the office, because we don't show up to the office as we did in the past.
The environment changed, and thus behaviors and technologies need to change as well. A common term used to describe this conversion or change is transformation. This is where UC&C overlaps with Enterprise 2.0 or the Social Enterprise.
Operating by the old rules is highly inefficient in a mobilized, connected environment. We can throw all kinds of technologies at the workplace to make it better, more efficient, and more productive. But there is no use if the organization is trapped in a Mad Men episode.
Transformation involves throwing out the old practices, assumptions, and attitudes, and collectively embracing the new. There are lots of examples--attitudes about working from home or practices that judge productivity via visual supervision are the kinds of things that need to change. Collaborative technologies impact the way an organization functions, which includes: knowledge transfer and sharing; communicating and aligning; innovating; learning; and more. The current workforce are the guinea pigs--most of us learned in and knew of a different approach.
If corporate transformation is the topic, then the audience and buy-in better include the C-Suite. We all know resistance to change is the norm, thus organizational change requires some swift kicking (and wingtips are most effective).
None of what I have written so far should be news: The point here is that transformation is not something you pilot.
Organizations need to do things in their own corporate time. This involves gathering the right buy-in, testing the products and services, getting folks trained, and implementing pilots. This is tried and true corporate process with everything from new copiers to chairs. But it doesn't work with unified communications and collaboration.
What recently caught my attention was an article in eWeek:
"More than 80% of enterprises are using Instant Messaging (IM) solutions today for business communications. However, only 10% of those enterprises that have deployed IM have also deployed a full feature set to include audio, video and conferencing for their users, said Bill Haskins, senior analyst in unified communications at Wainhouse Research, citing a survey it had done."
The article was focused on Lync specifically, but I hear it over and over regarding other brands. Organizations are testing UC&C in pilots--pilots that never end. Here's a tip: If the pilot isn't yielding the desired transformative results--expand it to the whole company. In other words, skip the pilot and just do it. Take a page from history: Cort&eactue;s burned the ships and committed his forces to success.
This is why I like the word transformation. A caterpillar doesn't do a pilot on the butterfly thing. Transformation requires full commitment. Pilots cannot demonstrate the benefits of organizational transformation that modern UC&C can enable. If the company isn't fully committed to it, why learn it?
When it comes to transformations, pilots are fundamentally flawed, but even more so with the transformations that involve organizational collaboration. Collaboration is all about getting individuals to share, communicate, and engage more. The big opportunity lies between folks who don't normally interact--sometimes referred to as weak ties. Strong ties are collaborative by nature. Strong close relationships often already exist within organized groups, so telling a group to pilot collaborative software solutions is as effective as a thin person testing a diet.
Collaborative solutions better leverage weak ties. A great example of this is Twitter, where I regularly interact with people I hardly know. I get answers to my questions, opinions on ideas, find interesting reads, and I know various experts I can directly interact with. These types of relationships exist throughout organizations, traditionally fostered with random interactions in elevators, cafeterias, large meetings, and at the water cooler. They wither away in distributed companies without collaborative technologies.
Pilots offer a degree of safety, and I don't want to be the one to advocate dangerous untested transformations. UC&C does require advance planning and technical training for administrators and staff. The solutions should be carefully selected based on specific organizational requirements and objectives. UC&C should be implemented for the right reasons, with clearly defined objectives. It's just that there is truth to the urban myth that size matters, and transformative collaborative pilot groups are pointless.