Driving user adoption for Unified Communications & Collaboration

two men looking at tablet device

As readers of my articles and blogs know, I’m very focused on the importance of user adoption, and believe that the key to success for any unified communication and collaboration (UC&C) deployment is directly related to end-user adoption.

I’ve been speaking with many UC&C vendors, system integrators, and VARs about ways in which they’re helping their customers increase adoption, and recently I had the chance to speak with AT&T Consulting about what they’re seeing and the types of services they provide to their customers.

As we all know, businesses today have many challenges when it comes to optimizing business communications and collaboration effectiveness.

There are too many tools that may not be as intuitive or easy to use as they should be, and these tools don’t always work well together. In addition, end users may not be aware of how to properly use these technologies and don’t recognize their value and how they them be more productive.

Workers often end up bringing in and using technologies that they use in their personal lives – but are not sanctioned by the business and don’t integrate with the technologies and application that the business uses, which can cause problems for the IT department. Unless workers see the value of their business UC&C tools and technologies – and understand how to use them – these solutions will go unused and underutilized, and the businesses will not get a proper return on their investment.

Getting more out of your UC&C investments

To help combat this, organizations like AT&T Consulting have developed tools and programs to help enterprises improve user adoption. While these tools and services aren’t free, they’re well worth the investment in order to get more value from your UC&C deployment.

There are several aspects to increasing adoption of UC&C solutions, including end-user training, aligning UC&C services and solutions with business goals, and understanding the business transformation brought on by the new solution. The solution design must be done with end-user adoption in mind. Adoption will be low if:

  • The solution is not solving a problem or having a business impact.
  • No one knows about the new solution, its capabilities, and why it’s being deployed.
  • People are not trained how to use it.

Consulting services ranging from pre-planning to post deployment

AT&T offers a variety of UC&C solutions from various vendors, including AT&T UC&C Voice with Cisco Jabber, Microsoft Lync Hosted and Managed by AT&T, and AT&T Mobile Office Suite. In order for its customers to enhance the benefit they get from these solutions, AT&T Consulting provides a variety of tools and programs from pre-planning to post deployment, including:

  • Upfront planning before implementation, including user segmentation and profiling, training to help ensure that appropriate IT Service Management (ITSM) people, processes, and tools are addressed.
  • Execution of the deployment, including pre-migration communications, as well as user support immediately following the implementation and “office hours” for non-urgent user issues or questions.
  • Backend support and monitoring, including platform telemetry and user satisfaction surveys, plus integration with the organization’s business processes and applications.

Why it’s important to plan your user adoption strategy early on

While design sessions are often all about technology, equal time should be spent on user adoption planning and strategy. For example, AT&T has developed the Rapid Adoption Marketing Programa set of non-branded assets that will help customers to inform, inspire, and educate their organization’s users about the transformational changes the company is going through.

I’ve long believed that UC&C isn’t just about the technology. Understanding the transformational changes that UC&C brings is an equally important aspect of user adoption.

An important best practice is to establish clear business objectives to be achieved by adopting UC&C, and identify how they would be measured.

Business objectives can include reduced time to market, shorter sales cycles, shorter product development time, or better customer service and satisfaction. Having an executive sponsor for these initiatives who can publish the successes back to the target adoption community can be very helpful, and should be part of the initial planning.

As part of end-user training, these objectives need to be articulated – to emphasize the value of the UC&C solution and how it will help the users be more effective and help the organization meet its business goals. It’s also helpful when organizations segment or profile users based on how they work to help users understand how the solution helps support business and business goals.

The importance of change management and communication

AT&T Consulting looks at organizational change management and how UC&C impacts people and processes. This involves acting as a trusted advisor and working with the customer teams and individuals to identify business goals and desired outcomes.

Case in point, AT&T Consulting recently worked with a large railway provider that wanted to be able to reach and involve experts in near real time in case of an emergency or accident in order to figure out the triage and emergency response. They worked together to determine ways to do this, such as integrating the railway company’s contact center with UCC capabilities such as IM and presence to quickly identify and reach experts.

Before deploying any technology, it’s important to work with the customer on the front end to understand their business drivers and desired business outcomes. The business goals must be aligned with the UC&C solution, and the users must understand not only how to use the UC&C capabilities but also why these solutions can help improve productivity.

A big part of increasing user adoption is communicating with the various user groups about what they’re trying to accomplish before designing and deploying any kind of UC&C solution.

“Early engagement and the ability to get in front of the customer and get insights into their unstated needs is crucial. Some customers may not recognize that a holistic UC&C strategy is to their benefit, and they often need to help understanding how mobility, multiple work streams, and business transformation work together. If we can ask probing questions, it’s ideal,” Eric Sineath, Chief Architect and UC Practice Director with AT&T Consulting, points out.

“What’s most important is early engagement,” Sineath adds. “It’s better to engage early and assist the customer with developing their UC transformation strategy rather than simply responding to an RFP.”

As an example, AT&T Consulting held a workshop for a defense contractor that brought together a dozen of the stakeholders in a room and it was the first time many of these individuals had talked to each other one on one. They discovered that many of them were making independent decisions instead of working together. By driving consensus across IT and involving the line of business individuals in the upfront planning, they were able to develop a more cohesive solution that everyone would be happy with.

Getting users excited about new UC&C solutions

As mentioned earlier, adoption will be low if the users don’t know about the new solution being deployed. To that end, AT&T has put together a User Adoption Communications Toolkit.

Described as a “campaign in a box,” the AT&T UC&C Services user adoption toolkit includes a full range of communications tools that can be deployed in a pre-launch, launch and post-launch environments.  Designed to inform users about the UC& C solution, the kit contains:

  • Digital user guides
  • Customizable emails to send to workers informing them about the transition to the new UCC solution
  • Copy blocks for extending the campaign messaging to other education and adoption activities, such as the company intranet or internal blogs
  • Online web banners to promote useful information
  • Videos to highlight some of the challenges that the UCC implementation can overcome
  • Microsite splash page as the interface page for the organization’s UCC portal

An important aspect of user adoption is being able to measure adoption and identify what capabilities are being used, and what’s not being used.

For its Microsoft Lync/Skype for Business practice, AT&T Consulting uses tools from leading vendors to generate, collect, and collate surveys asking users questions such as: What tools do you use? Did you use audio conferencing today? And did you have any problems?

This provides firsthand voice-of-the-customer information that can be correlated with Lync management tools.

Looking beyond the UC&C technology to find the right partner

To get the desired return on investment, businesses moving to UC&C need to encourage user adoption.

Many vendors and solution providers offer UC&C products and services, so it’s important to choose one that looks beyond just the technology. Working with a partner that has the tools and methodology for helping organizations increase user adoption is just as important as the UC&C solution itself

Blair Pleasant President & Principal Analyst COMMfusion LLC About Blair