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If You Can't Count It...
One of my favorite management axioms is, "If you can't count it, you can't manage it." Whether it's orders processed, time to market, items returned or cash on hand, you have to be able to put a number on it. And if it's not to your liking, set an objective and figure out how to reach it.
That thought came to me when I attended the last stop on the Enterprise Connect Lync Tour in New York, hosted by Eric Krapf of NoJitter and Enterprise Connect and Kevin Kieller of enableUC and UC Strategies. In particular it came up with regard to the Lync Monitoring Server (a function that is is now collocated on each Front End server).
Jim Burton and Marty Parker have both written in one way or another about the importance of analytics in UC, but it wasn't until Aamer Kaleem, CTO for Microsoft's Worldwide Communications Team, brought it up in a panel discussing key performance indicators that I really got the full significance. Besides obvious quality monitoring capabilities for real time services (e.g. MOS scores, dropped packets, etc.), the Lync Monitoring Server function also collects information on what features users are accessing and from what devices (e.g. desktop, laptop, tablet, etc.). In essence, it provides a wealth of information on who is using what parts of Lync, and it can highlight the need for additional training or user communications, two very important elements in any UC deployment.
I first encountered Lync Monitoring Server on the first Lync 2010 deployment I worked on a few years back, when the project leader started rattling off all of these numbers related to feature adoption. Of course, the client did a rather poor job (despite our prompting) of putting that information to effective use.
One of the big cost savings we had forecast for Lync was a reduction in the use of outside conferencing services at a cost close to $12,000 per month. Nine months after the Lync deployment, we took another look at the conferencing bill and surprise, it was $14,000 for that month! I guess having an internal conferencing capability that no one knew was there or how to really use it didn't translate into significant savings.
That's a rather obvious use of analytics, but there are more powerful uses for this type of information. In the Information Week 2014 State of Unified Communications survey of 488 IT professionals, we asked organizations that had not deployed UC what factors contributed to that decision. Just as in the prior year, the top two reasons were "Other projects have higher priority" and "No definitive business value." Ironically of those who did install UC and conducted a post-installation ROI analysis, 67% met or exceeded their ROI predictions and another 29% came close. I guess someone saw "business value."
If finding value is the key to moving forward on UC, analytics may be the answer. One of the challenges in cost-justifying a UC deployment is that often much of the proposed savings can be in the way of "soft dollar" (i.e. unmeasurable or unmeasured) gains in productivity and efficiency, and hard-nosed CFOs aren't living in the land of "rainbows and unicorns," as one New York speaker put it. Toward this end, Blair Pleasant and Phil Edholm developed a UC ROI and Benefits Tool to help calculate the hard and soft benefits of UC, to help organizations build the business case, and this information could feed directly into that tool.
However, if it were possible to develop a methodology based on analytics that would demonstrate a measurable improvement in performance using specific UC capabilities, and to come to an agreed-upon monetary value for that improvement, then hard data on adoption could tip the argument in favor of UC. And if the adoption and usage aren't proving out after implementation, the analytics would highlight where to focus the change leadership and training efforts.
In the end, those of us who use UC on a regular basis don't need any convincing that it's worth the money. Sure there are challenges, such as the mobile part of UC, which may still be more trouble than it's worth. And in New York, Kevin Kieller even made the point that it's important to "manage expectations" with regard to Lync on wireless networks--I've always been a big fan of "meeting expectations." They should probably drop the term "mobile" and start calling it "wireless," as handoffs in a WLAN environment are still a difficult proposition, but wireless UC voice and video can work if you have adequate WLAN capacity and QoS, and if you stay in one place--or if you use the cellular data service which is designed for mobility.
It was exciting to see the enthusiasm that's building up around Lync and UC in general and to get a practical, down-to-earth assessment of what it takes to deploy Lync successfully. Lync is not a replacement for 2500-sets, but for those who work in a document-centric world and need a real communications/collaboration platform tightly integrated with the Microsoft productivity suite, Lync is certainly a contender.