UC Hanging On Users’ Permission

M. Halama

M. Halama

Summary Bullets:

  • User adoption challenges UC deployments.
  • Permission by presence status fits some corporate cultures but clashes with others.

Customers and providers of UC services cite low adoption and usage by end users as challenging.  Both buyers and providers of UC services have a stake in encouraging end users to adopt UC services; once demanding UC projects have been rolled out, finance directors are keen to see some sorts of return on investment.  Some UC features fare better than others (typically telephony gets high use) and they vary from user to user, but the power of ‘presence status’ to give contact permission can both deter and appeal to users.

It is easy to impose IP telephony and e-mail elements of UC on a workforce by directing fixed line calls and e-mail through chosen equipment and service providers.  People are accustomed to using telephony, so encouraging use is unnecessary.  Newer elements of UC such as instant messaging (IM) and enterprise social networking (ESN) are not so familiar.  In theory, these elements benefit from viral uptake, but in the work setting, some individuals investigate these elements and are sold, others have enough means of interaction and are too busy to explore the benefits, and some may even actively resist IM and ESN.

Uptake is not always a problem with individuals so much as the organization’s culture.  Vendors design ESNs expecting individuals to be unavailable occasionally during working hours – a practical and realistic expectation.  However, this may not be accepted culturally in all organizations.  Organizations managed by command and control can imbue end users with diffidence in personal authority, but for UC in general, and elements such as IM and ESN in particular, to work most effectively (and enjoy viral uptake), end users need the authority to update their presence status accurately, even when it renders them ‘unavailable’ (at least to some means of contact).

Where users feel they ‘have’ to be available (particularly during working hours), they miss the opportunity to improve productivity with efficient workflow by time shifting interactions with the ‘do not disturb’ presence status.  Others permanently mark themselves as unavailable, leading to similar difficulties.  Either way, adoption and actual usage will be impaired.

UC project benefits are limited without all elements being widely adopted.  So, even where providers and buyers are enthralled, newer elements of UC often need incentives for end-user adoption.  Senior managers can mandate that employees adopt ESN and IM; making employees use all UC elements is difficult, but without compulsory adoption, ESN may not get a chance to go viral.

Not all ESN initiatives suffer this; for instance, Orange Business Services’ ‘Plazza’ internal ESN service recorded significant voluntary adoption by users.  UC sales people, consultants and buyers need to recognize customers’ cultural readiness for successful UC deployment – not just those with budget and keen buyers.  For command and control cultures, a better UC pitch emphasizes presence functions modified to mark users as always available, or to have their presence monitored, recorded and compared with the ideal.  Is that overbearing and could it bring UC deployments into disrepute, limiting viral usage, or will it better fit many UC customers?

About Michal Halama
As a Principal Analyst for the Current Analysis Business Network and IT Services team in Europe, Michal's coverage areas include leading and emerging providers of managed services. He has a special focus on managed unified communications, data center services and the cloud.

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