Keeping the UC Implementation at Your SMB on Track

Paul Mah

Having recently explored the topic of whether SMBs need to care about unified communications, I found my interest piqued by a white paper from Avaya titled "Top ten reasons why UC implementations fail."


Reading through it gave me some fresh ideas, and I've decided to highlight some of the problems leading to implementation difficulties in SMBs. I also give my take on how small and mid-sized businesses can succeed in spite of the challenges.


End-User Requirements

First, you must fully understand the needs of your users. There can be nothing worse than putting together an expansive -- and expensive -- UC implementation, only to find that users don't actually need it.


Getting things right in an SMB will involve an unavoidable amount of homework on current and future needs, especially since small and mid-sized businesses are the most likely to experience growth spurts in which they quickly outgrow existing solutions. Because there is more than one component present in a full-fledged UC implementation, it's vital to fully study users' requirements.


Total Cost of Ownership Not Factored In

Total cost of ownership, or TCO, is a popular word that is often overused by sales representatives or executives pushing their own agenda. Of course it's crucial to keep track of TCO in a complex UC setup -- the cost can really add up as the various pieces of the system are being put together -- while ensuring that existing systems continue running flawlessly.


The danger here is that organizations might be so focused on the acquisition and implementation challenges and costs that they neglect to factor in the post-implementation aspects of the UC system. This is especially pertinent to SMBs because their smaller size often means they lack adequate support staff and end-user training. If not addressed, these post-implementation costs can mount quickly, causing distress to the IT budget and damaging the credibility of the IT team as a whole.


Executive Buy-in is Crucial

I last mentioned the importance of management buy-in earlier this month when writing about the keys necessary to a successful SMB disaster-recovery implementation. While it is true that implementing UC is an entirely different ballgame, both systems span the entire infrastructure of the organization.


With users of different proficiencies and seniority, an executive mandate is necessary to get employees across the company onboard in an efficient and organized manner. On this point, Avaya summed up the situation rather succinctly, noting:

Without clear direction, the UC train will fly off the tracks at the first turn around the bend.

Do you have any suggestions or pointers for SMBs to ensure that their UC implementations succeed? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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