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Enterprise Communications Strategy: It's All About the User

Hello, world. So, I'm starting this new blog here on NoJitter today. My intention is simply to provide you with some food for thought on topics that I believe should at least be considered in the creation or evolution of an enterprise (or organizational) communications strategy. Yes, full disclosure--I work for a vendor (Alcatel-Lucent--and no, I will not be commenting on any rumors regarding the future of our Enterprise business; there are plenty of others doing that today!) However, I'm writing this as someone who has been around in the enterprise communications industry for 25 years. I cannot say that my thoughts are not influenced by my day-job, of course, but I promise my blog articles will not be veiled product advertisements. I have many thoughts about possible topics, so I'll begin here today with some simple, perhaps intuitive thoughts on what I believe to be the central starting point--the user.

At the core of an enterprise communications strategy should be the user--plain and simple. It’s not about technology and the latest trends--these are the means to the end, helping you provide more to the user perhaps using fewer resources. It's not about a Cloud strategy or a SIP strategy. It's about what the user--employee, customer, partner, student, patient, guest, citizen, or whatever you have--needs to communicate more efficiently and effectively, or about providing more cost-effective alternatives as budgets and staffing tighten, without sacrificing existing user capabilities. It's about examining how users within and outside your organization interact with each other, and uncovering road-blocks or time-sinks that aggravate their daily lives.

For example, some of my colleagues recently did a business assessment with a hospital, and in talking to the pharmacy staff discovered that in order to fill the roughly 1,000 prescriptions that come to them each day, about 20% needed up to 5 follow-up calls to verify and research the request. Imagine the time and therefore cost savings that could be realized if we could make that process more efficient. So then we look at how these issues can be improved or remedied through technology. And of course to do that, we need to know how "the cloud" or SIP (or whatever technology) can provide real solutions to real user problems, in this example forming the "Improving Pharmacist Efficiency Strategy".

Technological solutions also need to center on the user--not the device, not the location, not the media. The overall goal of enterprise communications is, and has always been, helping people who aren’t standing right next to each other, well, to state the obvious--communicate. A seemingly endless choice of devices, applications and media may be available to effectively connect people to do their communicating, but adding in these capabilities tends to render them useless from the start if they are siloed and complicated. It’s not a "nice to have" to make this seamless and natural to the user--allowing them to switch between media, move from location to location, and change devices to suit the needs of the moment without disrupting the conversation. It's really a make or break requirement to enable user-adoption and allow you realize the return on the investment in terms of improved efficiency and higher user satisfaction.

And finally, as we all know, the user is changing. For sure the millennials and digital natives (like Abbey here in this video clip), with their practically-from-birth exposure to technology, drive I-want-it-my-way-and-now expectations as they start entering or interacting with your organization. And even among the other generations, it's clear that advances in personal communications are setting a fast pace. With a broad choice of smart-phones, the "apps" craze, easy and inexpensive video, and the social networking phenomenon, we are all changing as users and bringing new expectations to the workplace. This means solutions need to be highly customizable, flexible and adaptable to personal preferences or they simply will not be used. And while you may still have some (albeit diminishing) control over the devices, applications and media that your employees use, you certainly can no longer fight the "bring your own" trend with your extended circle of constituents--and how long until this wave overtakes the organization fully? More on that for sure in a future blog-post.

So, my thought for today: start with the user, keep the user in the center of the strategy and look for solutions that can seamlessly and flexibly help the ever-changing user. My hope is that you will find my insights helpful, and of course I welcome any discussions or counter-arguments.