Don't Let These 3 Assumptions Derail Your UC Deployment

Children's author Lemony Snicket perhaps said it best: "Assumptions are dangerous things to make and like all dangerous things to make -- bombs, for instance, or strawberry shortcake -- if you make even the tiniest mistake you can find yourself in terrible trouble."

To that list of dangers, I would add the deployment of unified communications (UC) technology, because many organizations make some core assumptions about UC that end up landing them in big trouble. Here are the three most common UC assumptions and how to avoid them.

Assumption #1: We can do it all ourselves

The biggest mistake organizations make is thinking they can go it alone when deploying a new UC system. The problem with this assumption is that many companies don't have all the required skill sets in house to implement UC successfully on their own. For instance, they might have technical folks on staff who are experts at managing a data network but who have only minimal experience with voice and video.

The truth is that UC deployments can be quite complex and challenging. For instance, UC involves both an application layer and a hardware layer, often including session border controllers and gateways, as well as many other devices. So getting UC right requires expertise across the entire technology stack. What's more, single-vendor UC is a myth. UC almost always involves many moving parts and multiple vendor solutions that need to be integrated properly.

That means organizations are well served by bringing in consulting partners that do UC implementations for a living, or leveraging the domain expertise of a managed services provider. They understand the issues and know what to do when trouble inevitably appears, whether it's network performance problems or jittery video calls that mysteriously freeze in the middle of a session.

Assumption #2: My vendor will move my entire UC deployment to the cloud

Many customers believe they can outsource everything to their UCaaS vendor and all their problems will magically disappear. But they soon realize that while some functions can indeed move to the cloud right away, others will remain on premises for several years. The reality is that most enterprises will have a combination of on-premises and cloud UC for many years to come. So be prepared to manage a hybrid environment for the foreseeable future.

As you shift to a hybrid environment, you first need to ensure that your network can handle the additional traffic and any and all changes in user behavior, such as increased usage of video and screen sharing. At a minimum, you want to make sure you have a reliable connection with sufficient bandwidth and the right level of service to meet the data requirements of your business. We recommend conducting a minimum 30-day network assessment of your environment to get an accurate snapshot of your true lifecycle.

Also make sure you understand what your UCaaS vendor has committed to delivering. Initially, in a hybrid environment, you'll be adding complexity, not removing it, so understand the service levels your vendor has promised and be sure to hold the vendor accountable.

Finally, understand all the other dependencies in your network and select a management tool that provides a true end-to-end view of your entire UC environment across all vendors. Proactive performance management is actually more important than ever in a hybrid environment, because you need to identify where issues are occurring quickly and avoid lengthy finger-pointing exercises before any minor problems escalate into major issues.

Assumption #3: My users will instantly adopt our latest UC deployment

The third mistake is assuming that users will immediately adopt all the great new features inherent in UC. UC is enabled by technology, yes, but it's driven by people. To succeed, you must create a clear directive that outlines the rollout's objectives and how UC can lead to greater innovation and productivity among users.

Also start with a phased rollout. Begin with a pilot and address issues early before moving to the next phase. Why? Because when you finally flip the switch, you may find that all the pieces aren't working as anticipated. The last thing you want to do is have all your employees come to work on a Monday morning and flood your support hotline with calls. You only get one chance to impress users. If your shiny new UC service doesn't work as advertised, your users will revert back to their old ways and it will take a long time to bring them around again and see the productivity improvements you promised.

Finally, offer training before, during, and after deployment to ensure people are comfortable with your new UC solution. Ongoing training is especially important because cloud vendors introduce new features on a constant basis, so users need regular training to keep up and stay productive.

Successful UC deployments come down to planning and preparation. Remember, whatever can go wrong will go wrong. But by avoiding faulty assumptions and taking a proactive approach, you can make sure everything goes right.