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How to Prepare for Your UC Test Drive

From meetings to messages, we spend most of the workday communicating with each other. We rely on video conferencing, collaboration apps, and pervasive chat to stay in touch -- all of which can improve communication and collaboration, but require significant investment.

The process of choosing the right UC system starts with engaging the right stakeholders, deploying the right strategy, and measuring the right metrics. But it should also involve taking a UC test drive.

Also known as a pilot, proof of concept, or simply a test, a UC test drive involves asking a vendor to set up a small deployment of all the tools and apps in the new system, and inviting employees to use it during a regular workday. After a certain duration, employees and leadership evaluate the system and decide whether a full deployment is worth the effort.

If your organization is ready to pull the trigger on a UC system, it's time to take a test drive. A test drive will help increase adoption, streamline training, and ensure efficiency in communications after full deployment.

Before you launch your UC test drive, consider the following:

  • Engage everyone, including difficult users --

    At the beginning of the process, leadership should identify a mix of department leads, IT staff, remote employees, and other stakeholders to test the new system. They should also consider including a few "noisemakers" -- employees likely to push back on a new system or speak up when things don't work properly. The inclusion of noisemakers ensures that you've pleased your most difficult users. After all, you should think of a test drive as a stress test for the new system. You're trying to break it and find holes in its reliability, and the outspoken critics are valuable to this process. As an added bonus, skeptical end users might become your biggest advocates and sing the praises of the system to the rest of the team.

  • Don't be afraid to ask questions -- Ideally, you should set weekly meetings with the UC vendor to evaluate progress. During this time, if the vendor has the capability, dive into the data of the test drive team's use. How many phone calls have users made? How long have they spent video conferencing? Is anyone using the messaging solution? Monitor and track this data over the duration of the pilot. Analyze how the test group is using each tool, and keep an eye out for any participants falling back on the previous solution. If this is the case, engage with the vendor to identify the cause.
  • Make sure your partner can support your rollout -- The work isn't over when your test drive goes well and you decide on a full deployment -- there's still the process of rolling out the system and ensuring that adoption goes smoothly. Make sure your vendor will be able to monitor and provide usage data after the launch, so you can measure usage across the network and decide if adjustments are necessary. Additionally, don't neglect the effort required to achieve change. Allow champions from the test drive to help coworkers troubleshoot and learn about the new features. Most importantly, listen to the whole team. Get regular feedback and make sure the vendor can make changes when your employees demand them.

You don't buy a car sight unseen. You go to the lot, evaluate the features, ask the dealer questions, and make sure it's the right fit for you and whoever else might drive it. It's the same with UC systems. A thorough assessment will significantly reduce buyer's remorse, and ease the adoption process.