A UC System That Works for Every User

When you're managing your organization's UC environment, it's important to consider the needs of all the various "personas," whether they be salespeople working remotely or office-bound executives. Put yourself in their shoes and think. What does a road warrior need to meet sales goals? What does a C-suite exec need to be successful? Each persona has different requirements that your UC environment must fulfill.

For instance, salespeople are often in the field, visiting their customers and prospects in person. That means they have an immense amount of variability in terms of their connectivity and the resources available to them. One minute they may be hopping on a train and working on a laptop while in transit. The next, they may be sitting down with a tablet in a client's office, an office that may or may not have a reliable network connection.

Their needs are very different from the needs of office-based executives, who in theory have a stable network connection they can always rely on. Unlike road warriors, executives aren't obliged to frequently swap between devices or change their mode of connectivity from wired or wireless. However, many executives may opt to use devices of their own choosing.

So how do you go about making both road warriors and in-house executives successful with UC? In my experience, first and foremost you need a formal user adoption program. A user adoption program typically involves such steps as teaching end users about the right and wrong ways to use collaborative tools. For example, do they realize that their mobile device is connecting over a cellular network rather than a Wi-Fi network? Are they using third-party hardware that's not optimized for their particular UC environment and thus gives them a suboptimal experience?

The truth is that most people don't realize what's happening in their UC environment. They're not always aware of how they're connected, what they're connected to, and what the best practices are. Maybe they're not using the right audio device or they don't have an appropriate network connection. With UC, there are so many variables that are outside the control of the enterprise -- and this makes user training and guidance all the more vital.

Let me give you an example that perfectly illustrates the need for education and training. I know a sales manager in Chicago who holds weekly videoconference meetings with his reps, who are spread out across the country. This sales manager would complain bitterly about the videoconference system not working properly and the quality issues that plagued the calls.

In fact, the flaw wasn't with the UC system. The sales manager himself caused the problem because of the way he was operating the videoconferencing sessions. A quick evaluation of the network revealed that the UC system's performance was rock-solid, with low CPU and memory output and absolutely no congestion.

The real problem was that sales manager was conducting his conferencing sessions over a wireless network with poor Wi-Fi signal. What's more, he wasn't using an audio device optimized for his particular UC system. All of this could have been avoided if he'd had proper training on the system and access to proper audio hardware. Then he would have had a seamless experience.

Here's another critical lesson you can draw from the above example: It's essential to ascertain whether a UC issue is systemic throughout your environment or whether it's due to the actions of one bad apple. I've been on calls with terrible audio when it turned out the problem was on my end -- no one else was a having a poor experience. Whenever there's a glitch, you need to quickly figure out if the problem rests with just one individual or whether there is, say, a server or cloud service that has completely fallen over and caused a problem that's affecting everyone.

Here's the thing. You can't always rely on your people to expose issues for you, because sometimes they won't complain about their poor experience and they won't take the time to open up a help desk ticket. Instead, they'll just stop using the technology altogether. When this happens, it's a real waste of your UC investment and, worse, it could prevent your organization from truly taking advantage of its UC technology.

Fortunately, you can prevent this from happening. You can invest in UC monitoring and troubleshooting tools that help you see issues looming in your environment and solve them before your users even know that something is wrong. You can do this if you have a tool that helps you diagnose problems at all levels, from the network to the endpoints and across multiple vendors. Then you can identify root causes quickly to get back up and running without delay.

When users are well educated, well connected, and well armed with the right hardware and endpoints, that's when they can collaborate effectively -- and you can succeed with UC.