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Evolving the Organization for Unified Communications

I'm starting to read through the presentations for VoiceCon San Francisco (early bird registration ends tomorrow--go here to sign up), and the thing that's jumped out at me so far is the increasing sophistication with which users and consultants are starting to approach the organizational challenges that UC presents.We're very fortunate to have Jamie Libow of Travelers returning to the VoiceCon podium in San Francisco. Jamie spoke at VoiceCon Orlando 2006 as part of the User Forum we always do, and the change in his title between that show and this one says a lot. Two and a half years ago, Jamie was Telecommunications Director at Travelers, but when we see him again in San Francisco, it'll be as Engineering Director, Unified Communications Group for the company.

Next month in San Francisco, Jamie will be part of the panel on Building the New IT Organization, and he'll talk specifically about Travelers' plan for rolling out Microsoft Office Communications Server, but I think you can take OCS as a proxy for any UC effort, because the principles are going to be the same. Here are the teams at Travelers that are involved in the OCS rollout:

* email * Windows/Active Directory * IS Security * Data Network Engineering * Firewall /DMZ * Disaster Recovery * Server Build * Desktop * Project Management * Operations/Help Desk * Vendor Management * Procurement * Corporate Finance * Internal Business Groups --Purchase approval --Client rollout --Training --Application Developers

It'd probably be easier to list who's not involved. Interestingly, the project leads are the email group and the internal business groups. Telephony seems to be remaining on the company's Cisco and Avaya systems, at least for the time being, though Microsoft Office Communicator voice capabilties are part of the rollout.

Jamie suggests in his presentation that UC won't necessarily shake up the org charg within IT/communications at Travelers. Rather, "The biggest organizational change for organizations will be the coordination required among all parties involved."

I'll just drop in one other point that Jamie makes in his slides: "Implementing a UC system is ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE more complex than implementing a legacy PBX or VoIP system."

To give a fuller appreciation for how to organize for UC, we've got our friends from PlanNet Consulting set with a Monday half-day tutorial on this subject. One of their more intriguing suggestions is that you create a position, or at least a role, or Solutions Architect. In their suggested org chart, this person sits between the CIO and the Network/Apps/Security/Support layer, and PlanNet describes the role as being responsible for "Independent oversight of changes to infrastructure, applications and services, user experiences and interfaces." Note the idea that this person's bailiwick includes not just all facets of the IT organization, but also the user experience and interfaces. This, in turn, obviously necessitates that this Solutions Architect work closely with the business units under which those users function.

PlanNet also suggests that UC may require more staffing, rather than less. They propose that for 5,000 voice users, pre-UC, you'd require 1 Lead FTE, 1.7 Engineer FTEs, and 3 Staff FTEs for a total of about 5.7 FTEs. Converting just 2,000 of those voice users to voice + UC users ups the requirement to 2.7 Engineer FTEs and 5 Staff.

I suspect various people from the vendor world and elsewhere may push back against this estimate, but I suspect PlanNet can defend it pretty well. After all, you're adding functionality and complexity to the network, and if you spend the money to do that and then can't support it, you're much less likely to get the business benefit that you went into the whole thing in pursuit of.

At the very least, I hope PlanNet's calculations start a conversation, and help people to plan for all the likely costs of a UC deployment.