I recently conducted some research on Unified Communication adoption in the marketplace. It was no surprise that there are plenty of articles from industry “experts,” manufacturers, and suppliers espousing the value of UC. The common theme is consistently around the abundance of UC benefits in terms of productivity gains across the workforce.
Maybe this isn’t a surprise to you. It wasn’t to me. That said, I couldn’t find a significant amount of substantive end user data—the people that are supposed to be reaping all the benefits. I found plenty of studies involving IT organizations and business executives, but so what! They aren’t the majority of people that must rely on these UC tools every day to do their jobs.
I could find almost nothing about UC adoption, usage, or issues from the end-user’s perspective. Telling was that fact that while training and education are critically important factors in driving UC adoption, there seems to be a large gap between innovative learning tools and readily available classroom training. There is no shortage of UC courseware for the IT techies but only a smattering of traditional classroom and canned video-ware for end users. More telling is the fact that the majority of end users will not have access to existing training tools due to their IT/Telecom organization’s (lack of) design. Of those end users that do receive formal training, experience has proven that the single 30 minute (or less) exposure they are likely to receive is simply not effective.
To create the value UC promises we must reach the end user, and we must do it in a meaningful and nonobtrusive manner. Otherwise our ability to modify their behavior is extremely limited and the full benefit of UC will be difficult to realize. The most effective way to accomplish this is through repeated exposure and reinforcement. Consider the radio commercial you hear over and over again. It is designed to establish familiarity. Familiarity creates awareness. Awareness drives behavior. Traditional classroom education and canned do-it-yourself training does little to achieve this.
Creating an environment in which employees can be easily reached and incented can be established for the purpose of increasing UC adoption. Some of the best practices I have found for engaging the user community include:
- Establish user groups or audiences that logically organize staff with respect to their key roles (e.g., field sales force, administration, supply chain).
- Use each audience definition to identify the 2 or 3 UC services (e.g., audio conferencing, mobile messaging) that are most relevant to their jobs.
- Create a series of learning tools (e.g., checklists, reminders, webinars, video tutorials) for each service. Keep everything short—no more than 2-3 minutes if it’s an audio file or video message.
- Create and execute the learning program over an extended time period (8–10 weeks). Mix up the content that you electronical push to end users and use different media (e.g., email, text, voice mail, company newsletter) to maximize exposure.
Don’t forget about the End User. UC benefits can’t be realized without their engagement.