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What is Holding Back UC?

Last week I participated as a guest speaker at UC Connections 2013, a Unified Communications industry event organized by Westcon (a leading distributor of communications equipment), this year held in Nashville. In between conference sessions and organized line dancing lessons at a local saloon, I had the opportunity to spend some time with my friend and industry analyst Michael Finneran, Principal at dBrn Associates. (Michael and I are both strong advocates for UC, sharing a dry sense of humor about UC and life in general).

Michael presented a well thought-out break-out session on UC adoption titled: "Identify and Overcome UC Adoption Challenges".

As a result of Michael's presentation and our discussions, here are some thoughts on the issues and suggestions to partners selling UC solutions:

ROI Complexity--With money still being tight, any new investment in capital or operational expenses must have a very clear and short ROI. Reduced travel, improved efficiency, reduced closure time...all these are relatively soft ROI items that take much greater effort to prove for any one particular business. Advice: If you run a pilot, it's important to track the effect on efficiency and other soft returns.

"Don't Touch that PBX"--Making changes to the voice infrastructure in a business is just too risky for some when compared against the perceived benefits of UC. In other cases, the argument for UC is reducing the maintenance costs on the PBXs--but for that argument to work, the business must actually be paying for maintenance (which often is not the case). Side effect: UC often must be initially presented as an enhancement to the PBX, not a replacement--and make sure you find out if the business is still paying for maintenance before you pitch the savings.

Selling to the Wrong Audience--A common entry point for selling UC is the IT team, which can be a big mistake. The IT team in some cases has become a blocking factor, seeing a UC implementation as a whole lot of work and disruptive to their network and home lives. Best practice: Start at the top--sell to the executives, using business reasons, and then once the decision has been made, let the IT team figure out how to implement UC.

The Cloud may be Clouding your Vision--There have been a lot of discussion and success stories from businesses that have moved business applications into the cloud. Meanwhile, the fast-pace of new solution providers (especially for Lync) now offering full-featured cloud solutions for Unified Communications seems to cause buyer "brain freeze", making a decision hard to reach. So make it simple--Nobody wants to enter into an agreement that is obsolete the minute the ink dries on the contract.

Trained Resources--With UC and Microsoft Lync only being a few years old, it's really hard to find someone that is well trained--especially an "expert". This makes it hard for a business to roll-their-own implementation, requiring them to pull in an often-overloaded partner for the project. Channel partners: prove you have the resources during the pitch.

Old Fart Factor (this one I love)--As Michael noted in his presentation, often the senior management in the business has gray hair, rarely uses SMS on their phone and "just doesn't get UC". You know...they're "old farts". Side effect: If the management of the business doesn't see the need for their own personal use, it's a hard sell to provide it to the rest of the employees.

So what did I learn while in Nashville? Two very important things:

1) We need to do a lot more education with business executives on the ROI of UC, to help them see the value of getting "UC smart"; we need to spend less time talking to the IT staff.

2) It's a lot more fun watching people line dance who know what they are doing vs. stumbling over your own feet.

I hope to get back to Nashville soon and work on both.

Continue the conversation with your comments or suggestions: Alan can be reached at [email protected]