UC&C is a business technology, but it's a mistake to view it as merely a technology. It's a new way of communicating and collaborating, as the name strongly indicates, and has the ability to revolutionize how organizations do business and get things done. UC&C is about enabling. It's about productivity. It's about better business processes, lower operational costs, and embracing digital transformation. Network administrators and other IT professionals often get so wrapped up in the golly-gee-wow technology behind UC&C (or the technical challenges involved) that they don't see the benefit to the culture, productivity, and profitability of the organization.

Why is it important to understand this? Because if the business is solely focused on the technologies that empower UC&C, they will fail to understand what it is capable of providing the organization in terms of improvements in corporate culture, customer service, productivity, profitability, and other aspects outside the realm of IT. While the network administrator often sees only the additional strain it places on the network, it's important to also understand the value it's providing while doing so. UC&C has to be evaluated in terms of how it enables the business to meet all its goals. Keep these in mind to assure your UC&C project stays on track.

1. UC&C Must Support Mobility

Enterprises need a product with strong mobile capabilities, not just a UC&C solution that works well on premises.

UC&C definitely has on-premises advantages. It's far cheaper than traditional landlines, and much more efficient than trying to use a patchwork quilt of various Internet offerings. A bit of email here, a dabble of social networking there, sprinkle on some chat and messaging features with a dollop of video conferencing, and what you have is, well, a mess. But the real power of UC&C is in its ability to serve the organization and its staff no matter where they happen to be at any given moment.

Whether it's your CEO who regularly travels to China for business, your sales staff who frequently visit their customers across the country, or simply one of your production workers who needs to work from home today because her kids are sick -- UC&C makes this remote work simple and streamlined, as if the communications took place in the office.

What the network administrator will notice most about UC&C is that many of the services formerly handled by the folks in charge of telephony are now depending on your network. This can be an excellent argument for increasing your budget, hiring new network support engineers, acquiring new networking equipment, or other things you've been wanting to get senior management to sign off on.

2. UC&C Must Enable Teamwork Across Departmental Borders

Another advantage of a well-designed, smartly-implemented UC&C system is that it connects the entirety of the organization's staff. If just one department adopts UC&C, it won't deliver the impact and ROI that it can when implemented and adopted across the enterprise. One of the advantages of UC&C is its collaborative abilities, and few enterprises are truly satisfied with the level of collaboration they achieve across departments.

There are natural human tendencies to congregate with those we share common interests with (people in our departments who share our specializations and responsibilities). These congregational tendencies often stand in the way of departments' ability to collaborate with other staff members for the best possible outcome for all involved. Besides the tendency to congregate with others "like us", there are established rivalries between some departments. Historically, sales and marketing teams have had tensions between them. Similarly, tech sometimes fails to communicate well with the production workers, and finance teams tend to have some strife with departments that insist on doing their own budgeting and planning. UC&C has the ability to bridge these real or perceived gaps, allowing for easier communication and collaboration among various departments and teams.

While the organization can see cost savings and communication improvements when a single department adopts UC&C, the real potential lies in a holistic adoption across the enterprise. It's the network administrator's job to assure that the level of network performance supports easy, fast, seamless collaboration using the UC&C solution.

3. UC&C Must Work With Other Productivity Applications Across the Enterprise

It's a mistake to view UC&C as "just another business application". Each department has certain software and systems they use to do their jobs. When UC&C is well integrated into those processes and functions, it greatly simplifies the flow of work within the department. Plus, those communication notes can follow the project through the process, delivering insight along the way. Many vendors, especially those offering SaaS products, are building UC&C tools and capabilities into their software applications. Make sure your UC&C solution integrates well or works in conjunction with the other applications and services you have in use already, or those you plan to add in the near future.

Choosing applications that offer UC&C features means that the network administrator doesn't have to worry about additional high-bandwidth applications competing for network resources. These functions might make any given application a little faster in terms of resource use, but overall it's less impact on the network than adding another application that's rich in video, audio, and other high resource consuming applications.

4. Successful UC&C Requires a Strategy, a Goal, and Metrics to Determine When You've Nailed It

First, set a goal. Then determine what metrics you'll use to determine when you've met that goal. After that, choose the UC&C solution that can help you meet that business goal.

Adopting UC&C isn't a goal. It's a means to an end. Unless UC&C is the means by which you choose to meet a viable business goal, it won't be an inevitable success. There has to be a comprehensive strategy in place for selecting, implementing, and encouraging adoption of UC&C. That means convincing users "why". Why should they use this tool instead of their personal cell phone service when they want to speak to customers? Why should they use the video conferencing functionality instead of calling an organization-wide meeting? Why should they use this service to communicate back to the team when they're on the road? These "why's" are your goals. UC&C is merely the means to achieve the goals.

Additionally, you need a way to determine when your strategy has been successful and when you've actually met those goals you set out to achieve. Again, the goal isn't "95 percent adoption of the UC&C solution". A goal is a measurable improvement in the business. The metrics should be something like "X percent improvement in handling customer queries on first contact" or "X number of projects kept on time and within budget" due to the new ways of communicating and collaborating.

UC&C is just one aspect of network administration in today's enterprise. There are many facets to digital transformation that the network administrator needs to stay abreast of. Are you prepared? Learn more when you read our white paper, What it Takes to Effectively Manage Unified Communications and Collaboration.