6 Steps to Success With Collaboration Services

Marc F. Beattie Bill A. HaskinsBy Marc F. Beattie and Bill A. Haskins

**This article is an excerpt from the July 2013 report, “Channel Road Map for Success in Collaboration Services,” by Wainhouse Research, with underwriting support fom ACT Conferencing, and is published by Channel Partners with their permission.**

About Wainhouse Research: Wainhouse Research is an independent market research firm that focuses on critical issues in unified communications and collaboration (UC&C), including aoplications in distance education and e-learning. Wainhouse Research publishes a variety of studies that cover all aspects of UC&C and a free newsletter, The Wainhouse Research Bulletin.
About ACT Conferencing: ACT Conferencing is a global provider of audio, Web and video collaboration solutions.

Many IT teams find the creation of a unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) road map daunting. Therefore, its critical that a solutions provider add value upfront, helping its clients carefully plan and successfully deploy against a well-thought-out UC&C road map. While no two road maps are the same, the process should include the following high-level elements.

1. Assess the current environment. Understanding what technologies are in place today, what skill sets the IT team has and what the current state of the infrastructure is will ensure the team understands what is required from start to finish.

2. Assess the current user experience. Helping the client understand its end users’ needs is a key, and sometimes overlooked, step in the road map process. It is easy for an IT team to jump quickly to a technology deployment conversation. Assessing the end users needs can be as simple as holding a series of interviews with key staff members, or as formal as running an organizational survey to quantify the current experience or a combination of the two. Regardless of the approach, it is critical to understand what tools the end users rely on, and what tools are missing, to ensure that the planning process starts off on the right foot.

3. Define solution bundles by role. Not every user, nor every function will require the same communication tools, hardware, and solutions. It is important to segment the user population by role and common communication requirements. Functional examples could include:

  • Administrative assistant
  • Standard cubicle employee
  • Manager
  • Executive
  • Road warrior

Depending on the organizations size and complexity, it may be appropriate to add specialized roles, such as:

  • Heavy collaborators (i.e., training teams, project managers)
  • Secure collaborators (i.e., legal and financial teams)
  • Technical collaborators (i.e., IT and operations teams)

Once collaboration roles are defined clearly, hardware and services can be associated with each group. For example, cubicle employees may receive headsets, while managers (or other office workers) receive desk/speaker phones. Heavy collaborators may receive host accounts on high-touch Web conferencing services, while everyone else leverages the UC data-sharing experience.

A key point to remember in this step: not one size will fit all. Accounting for the niche users” who require non-standard solutions is as important as providing a standard communications solution. This is especially critical for those functions that regularly interact with people outside of the enterprise, such as HR, procurement and sales teams. The IT teams that attempt a one-size strategy invariably find rogue solutions popping up as end users attempt to solve their own communications needs, often with unsanctioned and consumer-oriented solutions.

4. Promote, deploy and train. Deploying a new service is often the easiest road map task for most IT teams. However, ensuring the end user adopts the solution successfully can be hit or miss. Therefore, the pre- and post-deployment activities must include successful and concerted promotion, deployment and training phases.

  • Promotion The most important step in promoting a new solution is to engage the business as partners in the communication. The most successful rollouts include a heavy dose of executive engagement. Find the right executive sponsor and ensure that cross-functional leaders are involved in early pilot stages. An end user is much more likely to start using a tool when its the best way to communicate with her boss than when the IT team sends her an email.
  • Deployment The actual deployment process will vary widely by organization. Many will start at core sites and move out to smaller sites over time, while others will focus on sites with aging or dying equipment. While the tactical rollout will vary, a key step is to communicate use-case and real-life examples as part of the deployment.
  • Training The most important element in user adoption is a successful training program. A combination of on-demand and instructor-led sessions will provide an option for every employee. This is often a critical value-added service delivered by most hosted providers, as training is often a necessary core competency to ensure their solutions are adopted successfully.
  • Continuous Promotion End-user communication on a new service should not end when the training program is complete. On the contrary, research shows that users require five impressions over 30 days to successfully change their habits. Engaging the users frequently via newsletters, contests and other promotional activities will help ensure the new solution is adopted successfully.

5. Measure, monitor and adjust. Now that the enterprise has rolled the service out, it must monitor usage to understand what is being used, by whom and how frequently, and, as or more importantly, what is not being used. Adding a quantified view of the user behavior will allow the IT team to make critical adjustments to the service. Perhaps a site has a problem with their local LAN and is unhappy with the new video experience; without taking a macro and quantified view of the new traffic pattern, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to ensure the users expectations are being met.

6. Establish a collaboration steering committee. The age of user-driven IT has taken on two distinct flavors:

  • organizations that are seeing IT budgets subsumed by the marketing, HR or other functional teams who are purchasing their own IT-related solutions
  • organizations that are successfully engaging the business to formally turn feedback into solutions that hit squarely on the end-users requirements.

Fostering a cross-functional, user-oriented steering committee is an excellent approach to engage the end users and ensuring that collaboration solutions evolves with their needs in mind. A collaboration steering committee should include key representatives from the business and IT team and will be responsible for gathering feedback and requirements from the business. It also should include a forward-thinking element acting as a technical advisory board responsible for staying in touch with emerging trends and advancing solutions in the collaboration industry.

Mark F. Beattie is a senior analyst at Wainhouse Research where his area of expertise is hosted and managed collaboration services.




Bill A. Haskins is a senior analyst at Wainhouse Research with a strategic focus on unified communications products and services.

Twitter: @whaskins, @wr_tweets


Download  a copy of the full Wainhouse Research report, “Channel Road Map for Success in Collaboration Services,” sponsored by ACT Conferencing from the White Papers section of the Channel Partners Resource Center.

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