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Employee input is critical to unified communications success

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Companies are no longer reliant on a single method of communication. While the business phone system still holds an important place in today's private sector, it is not the sole technology required to keep operations on pace and collaborative endeavors effective. Largely due to the proliferation of mobile devices in the workplace and other consumerization trends, such as cloud computing, enterprises are now leveraging a multitude of telecom applications in and outside of the office.

In many cases, organizations are replacing old phone systems with innovative, multifunctional collaborative technologies. This was highlighted in a recent study of more than 2,600 IT executives and employees by Ovum on behalf of Dimension Data, which revealed that businesses are forecast to spend $53 million on solutions that can be incorporated into unified communications systems during the next two years.

This means that enterprises are using voice, video text and other applications to enhance connectivity in the workplace.

"This is a surprising shift, especially when economic conditions and operational constraints normally put the brake on enterprise communications investment," said Craig Levieux, group general manager for converged communications at Dimension Data. "Typically, [unified communications and collaboration] has not been the subject of strategic ICT planning."

Yet decision-makers need to be wary when implementing these services, as doing so without consulting with employees first can result in significant deployment, maintenance and other financial challenges in the long run.

Why keeping employees in the loop is critical

The success of any business ultimately comes down to how efficient workers are, as an unproductive office will not be able to experience any truly substantial benefits to an organization. Therefore, enterprises that are opting to use unified communications need to ensure employees know how to use the tools and that the phone system features in demand are incorporated into the platform.

Unfortunately, many businesses simply deploy unified communications on a whim and fail to consult with the workforce prior to its implementation. The survey revealed that only 38 percent of firms profile users to ensure a unified communications system will meet their demand. Conversely, the study revealed that 21 percent of organizations that did not consult with employees believed that all workers held the same demands, while another 13 percent of respondents simply didn't see the benefits associated with talking to the workforce before installing the system.

"Our research tells us that organizations are failing to profile and assess their employee requirements," Levieux said. "This lack of employee awareness could pose a risk to the success of those UCC investments on today's boardroom agendas - especially since decision-makers expressed that they are basing their UCC investments on improved business processes and productivity."

A separate study by Michael Katz, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Bryan Keating, a Stanford-educated economist based in Washington, D.C., highlighted how converging voice, data and video systems into a single platform can deliver substantial business benefits. Beyond the financial advantages of consolidating resources, unified communications can also provide individuals with a unique collaborative platform that is inherently better than legacy solutions at managing interoperability issues and reducing downtime.

Despite the many potential opportunities introduced through the use of unified communications, organizations that impulsively deploy the services without first consulting with the internal and remote workforce will find it increasingly challenging to manage an unfamiliar platform. By taking the time to plan implementations, decision-makers can work with trusted service providers to find an offering that best meets their organizations' needs and requirements, giving them a leg up over rival companies that failed to take the proper precautions.