Unified Communications — Wow, Can I Do That?

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a pretty geeky guy.  I am fascinated by new gadgets.  Looking around my desk I see at least nine different electronic widgets, gizmos, and sometimes practical appliances.  Even worse, I have an almost immoral curiosity about what makes them do whatever it is they do.  Scattered amongst those gadgets are tools to take them apart and hopefully put them back together without ending up with too many “spare” parts.

This is why I am so interested in protocols.  This is why I love sitting down with Wireshark traces deciphering call flows and client/server interactions.  Frankly, this is why I write my SIP blog in the first place.  I figure that if this stuff is exciting to me, it must be just as exciting to the rest of the world.

However, there is one thing about technology that doesn’t excite me and I run across it all the time – technology that users don’t understand.  No, I am not talking about the kind of understanding that involves screwdrivers and packet traces (my kind of understanding).  I am talking about not understanding how it’s used let alone used efficiently.   I am talking about a company that puts a new application on its user’s PCs without a speck of training.  Sure, geeks like you and me will eventually figure it out, but the vast majority of folks will either struggle with it or not use it at all.

I see this all the time in the communications arena.  A company will spend large amounts of money on something like Microsoft Lync, install it on every desktop in the company, and then wonder why the adoption rate is so low.  Now, I am not picking on Lync and saying that it’s difficult to use.   It has a number of features that are easily understood without training or a user manual.  However, there are many sophisticated and workplace transformational aspects that don’t just jump out at you.  You don’t make a major investment in a unified communications product for presence jellybeans.  You do it because you expect workforce efficiency, reductions in ongoing expenses, employee productivity, customer retention, and improved teamwork.

I travel around the country speaking at user’s groups and conferences.  I also meet directly with companies large and small.  I speak to directors of IT, heads of contact centers, business unit leaders, and the worker bees that do all the heavy lifting.  I’ve seen some very successful implementations of unified communications, but I have seen far too many halfhearted attempts.  I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve shown someone how to actually use the product on his or her PC or smart phone.   I love hearing someone say to me, “Wow, it can do that?”


There are ways to avoid computers filled with unused applications.  User training is certainly important, but just as import are technical evangelists.  These are people who are so excited about a product that they need to make the rest of the company feel the exact same way.  They spread their knowledge and excitement through emails, workshops, webinars, or by becoming the to-go power users.  I have seen a drastic increase in product adoption simply because the excitement of these people becomes contagious.  People stop being afraid of that new thing on their PC after they see the amazing things that it can do.

Okay, it’s Friday, the weekend is a few hours away, and I should stop complaining.  The point of this blog is that technology is exciting.  It can radically change your job, your life, and the lives of your coworkers and customers.  However, misunderstood technology can hinder you and drive you away from innovations.  We live in a time where every corporate dollar spent should be scrutinized.  Don’t waste good money on unused software.  Don’t sacrifice your employees’ productivity on poorly understood applications.  Embrace change, but be prepared to light the light and show the way.

Can I get a witness?

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