This past December Avaya rebranded its UC and collaboration suite as “engagement” products, and in doing so, it shifted the focus away from technology and on to user experience and business value. The company’s CMO Andy Cunningham emphasized that engagement goes “beyond collaboration to a positive value-creating relationship you have with customers.” In others words, it’s about the outcome, not speeds and feeds.
The move received a big thumbs-up from one industry analyst, who has been “harping on the importance of the end-user experience” for years. In her report on Avaya’s announcement, Blair Pleasant, principal analyst with COMMfusion LLC, said technology is an enabler that can support the outcome – improved collaboration – but it should never be the primary focus.
“We should be focused not on UC and collaboration technologies, but rather on the value and benefits these technologies and solutions provide to organizations and the impact to the individual workers and the businesses as a whole.”
Engagement might sound like another hollow industry buzzword, but the idea of empowering users to improve outcomes for collaboration projects is a concept whose time has come. According to a recent survey of 1000 IT and line of business managers profiled on Network Computing, UC projects are doomed for failure if the new tools don’t work as advertised, or if they don’t actually make users more productive. Not surprisingly, the survey also found that more than three-quarters of employees were not consulted before new UC and collaboration products were rolled out.
For many IT managers, consultation with business users represents a departure from their traditional modus operandi of implement first, deal with backlash later. But those who adopt more inclusive strategies for engaging both business users and management at every phase of a UC implementation stand to win big. Here are three strategies to help IT managers better engage internally, and in the process, improve adoption and use rates of new collaboration technologies:
Reframe the discussion: IT managers need to think of themselves more as collaborators in business transformation projects and less as implementers of technology solutions. In a column exploring why IT projects fail, former management consultant Paul van Essche insists that business transformation projects – such as UC rollouts – are much different from pure IT projects – such as a server upgrade – and they demand a more inclusive, consultative approach.
Engage up/engage down: Management sponsorship is an essential ingredient to project success, but without buy-in from the user community, new rollouts are often viewed as forced initiatives that are doomed to fail. If users feel their concerns and feedback are being acted on, they are much more likely to become proponents for the new technology.
Identify ambassadors of change: Change is never easy, but rolling out new software can go more smoothly if key business users are enlisted as agents of change. These ambassadors can help colleagues navigate through the change, and provide instruction and support along the way.
The hallmarks of successful UC projects are more than a measure of return on investment. After all, if only 15 percent of staff use the new tools, the project can’t be labeled a success. IT leaders need to start thinking about new metrics such as use rates (videoconferencing minutes, IM messages) and adoption rates (how many people in the organization use IM or audioconferencing) to frame the real picture of success.