How to Adopt Unified Communications and Collaboration: Three Phases

In the second part of his series on unified communications, Accenture's Bob Hersch explains how to move from the planning stage to the actual process of implementation. Equally important, he explains how to tell if this is really a good idea.

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By: Bob Hersch


The companion to this article ("Launch a Plan for Unified Communications and Collaboration in Three Steps") suggests taking stock of network readiness, migration approach, and choice of vendors before pursuing a detailed plan and implementation.

With this foundation in place, your organization must decide when the time is right to embrace unified communications and collaboration.

Early adopters are likely to be those with the strongest imperative to outperform competitors. These enterprises will have any combination of communication-intensive and time-critical business processes, mobile team members with constantly shifting preferred communications channels, work forces that are specialized or distributed, and flexible business-continuity options.

A word of caution: The benefits of unified communications and collaboration are terrifically appealing, which means that amidst all the buzz there's a tendency to want to run and plug it in. Move too hastily, however, and your organization may fail to secure enough return on investment and even expose itself to unnecessary risk. The idea is to spend only on the infrastructure and functions that bring value.

Unified communications and collaboration solutions therefore should have a tag that reads, "Don't plug this in until you know what's on the other end."

With the help of trusted partners, you can gain an understanding of exactly how to transform the existing infrastructure to be more cost-effective, scalable, flexible, secure, and reliable. By thinking through the business benefits clearly-before heading out the gate-your organization will eliminate any potential for waste.

A phased approach to creating a blueprint and executing the plan-combined with sound advice from solutions providers-will bring the best results. The whole implementation process should take anywhere from 15 to 22 months, depending on your network readiness, extent of projects and planning expertise.

Phase 1 â?? Discovery and Strategy (2-4 weeks): Validate that unified communications and collaboration is the correct strategy by completing a value proposition along with a timeline, preliminary business case, and strategy alternatives. Focus on simplifying, standardizing and consolidating the current server environment and on a clear and compelling business case with hard benefits. The benefits organizations are starting to realize can be applied to your context:

  • Streamlined business processes: Locate the right people on the appropriate communications channels and switch those channels seamlessly. Delivery and response times speed up as business processes are routed more effectively.
  • Cost reduction: Accelerate "collaboration in context" so it occurs seamlessly, virtually and instantly for team members, partners and suppliers. Integrate telephony to enable remote support. Achieve greater efficiency and revenue growth through incremental sales.
  • Leaner supply chain: Business partners, suppliers and customers form an expanding communications network with deeper efficiencies.
  • Enhanced business continuity: In the event of disruption, the communications network contacts key personnel, according to the business continuity strategy.
  • Tightened security: The same technologies used for unified communications and collaboration also mitigate risk, with unified logging across all channels (for compliance) and a connectionless environment resilient to component faults.
  • Greener workplace: Support your organization's green initiatives (such as work from home, and travel and office-space reduction) by making the best use of technologies like highly interactive videoconferencing on PCs.