Communicating and Collaborating in the Workplace
Q&A with UCC Expert Lou Chiorazzi
To stay competitive, businesses need seamless technology that allows unified communications and collaboration (UCC) from any device, in any manner (voice, video, chat, etc.), and from any place. In this Q&A, AVI-SPL UCC expert, Lou Chiorazzi, Vice President, UC&C Solutions Engineering, discusses important aspects of designing, building, and integrating a UCC solution.
Q: Can you give an overview of what the term unified communications and collaboration means?
LC: The term has grown over the years, evolving from voice communications to encompassing everything needed to communicate and collaborate in a business environment. The term comes from unifying all these collaborative technologies to an IP network. The move to the network allows for a lot of innovation and capability around voice, video, presence, and messaging that wasn’t previously possible.
Q: What benefits are there for companies that adopt a UCC solution?
LC: The biggest benefit of UCC adoption is historically cost savings. Unified communications lets organizations use assets or investments they already have in interconnected IT network technology or infrastructure for voice communications such as intercompany toll calling.
Benefits have evolved to enable speed and efficiency in communications such as visual collaboration tools. There’s the existing story around video collaboration saving money on travel, but what video-cultured companies have realized is the competitive advantage gained by enabling more modalities and more accessibility to video that allows for faster, better, and deeper remote collaboration.
Q: There are a lot of UCC options on the market. How does a company go about selecting the right one for their business needs?
LC: What is best for each company is usually very individualized and specific to what investments they have, what cost challenges they have, what opportunities they see in better communications, and what will fit their user constituency best.
The best way to find the right solution is to use a consultative approach with an experienced UCC expert and trusted advisor – one that understands both the AV and the IT world. You want someone who has AV integration plus IT service expertise in designing, building, operating, and maintaining the successful operation lifecycle of both AV and UCC services for an organization.“Early engagement with a keen focus on IT understanding the business objectives is crucial. IT needs to understand what the full scope and effect of the project is to the company.”
Q: What types of questions do you ask customers to ensure the right UCC solution for their current and future needs?
LC: You first need to understand the business objectives of the company. What are they trying to achieve? How do they communicate between employees? Is there an opportunity to improve that communication? What technology can they apply to those communication channels? It really comes down to understanding what their communication paths are between each other today, where there is room for improving, where technology can be applied, and what opportunity there is for cost savings or to increase their competitive position. Then, you can build user cases that talk more about the user’s needs.
Q: What are the steps you go through with a client to design, build, and integrate the best UCC solution for a company and its needs?
LC: The first step is consultative with a focus on current, desired, and recommended use cases and summarizing all those use cases into how that will impact the business. It’s also important to make sure, at the start, that whatever is built or designed incorporates a plan for training and adoption of the technology so new users get the maximum value out of the solution. A design also considers the solution sustainability and maintenance with total cost of ownership in mind.
After a successful design phase that incorporates sustainable technology applied to user cases, the next step is to create a mock-up or demonstration of the technology. Typically called “piloting,” this is an important step, particularly for a larger UCC integration. Next, you have the implementation phase. Finding the right sponsorship within the company is important during this phase. The adoption of the technology starts during implementation, and a strong sponsorship is key to increasing adoption. Finally, there’s ongoing maintenance and training that must continue after the primary implementation, including ongoing training of the user base as updates occur.
Q: How does an AV integrator coordinate with the IT department throughout the process?
LC: Early engagement with a keen focus on IT understanding the business objectives is crucial. IT needs to understand what the full scope and effect of the project is to the company. Then, IT needs to take a key stakeholder position in the success of the project. I think it’s vital that it becomes one logical, critical project for a company, not just the AV integrator or the facilities in this case, if there is separate ownership from IT and AV within an organization. Common key items for IT’s stake in the process include physical and logical network readiness from a LAN/WAN perspective, as well as a thorough understanding and proper implementation of the security requirements of the solution.
Q: What are some future trends for UCC in the workplace?
LC: Companies will be driving more adoption of their current UCC investments, and investing where they can deliver more options for collaboration. Those options are required to address more collaborative spaces in the open workplace of the future. At the same time, those companies are driving the adoption of video technology in as many modalities as possible, increasing accessibility with, for example, WebRTC and Skype, and also enabling UCC as a service to provide more options for consumption. Ninety-six percent of conference rooms worldwide do not have video technology. Only four percent do. Driving UCC adoption outside of the conference room can increase the need for more closed-door meeting spaces with UCC technology. Where it wasn’t possible before, there are now more options in the market to address these new spaces.
AVI-SPL is the world’s leading AV and video communications partner, one that designs, builds, integrates and supports the systems and environments that enable unified communications and collaboration for all types of organizations. AVI-SPL’s Microsoft Silver Communications competency and Cisco Premier certification in advanced unified communications represent our commitment to giving customers the finest in UCC solutions.