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Seven steps for deploying unified communications

IT solutions and services provider says all seven steps are crucial for unified communications deployment

In an effort to educate its customers and to better position itself as an industry leading IT solutions and services provider, Dimension Data Canada has come up with a list of seven key consideration points for successful unified communications (UC) deployment.

While Darryl Wilson, area practice director for Dimension Data Canada says UC uptake across the country is growing, there’s still a ways to go before UC solutions become a part of the mainstream market place.

“We’re starting to see a lot of interest and UC is really taking off because of the whole mobility and going green aspect. These things are very attractive to organizations,” Wilson said. “Our philosophy is to lead in the marketplace with best practices. The seven considerations for UC that we’ve listed will be used as an education vehicle for our customers and the other Dimension Data (competitors) of the world,” he added.

With the company’s seven key considerations list for UC, Wilson says what has often happened before was that many businesses would often overlook the early planning stages leading into their UC project, which would therefore lead to a rocky implementation. While on the other hand, Wilson said partners would sometimes fail to relay the importance of implementing project management and ongoing support to its customers once the solution was in place.

“The list was made to address some things people may not consider when it comes to UC deployment,” Wilson said. “You can have a great solution implemented, but if users can’t use the technology or support it, it will be a failure.”

1. According to Dimension Data, the first step to help businesses successfully execute a UC solution is to ensure the company’s current and desired communications methods and needs are clearly understood.

2. Secondly, the environment needs to be prepared for UC deployment, which may include the establishment of a single-user identity, a configuration of the PBX or IP PBX and the deployment of client software to desktops. Wilson said in some cases, in order to run certain applications, desktops have to meet certain hardware and software requirements.

3. Once the environment has been assessed, Dimension Data recommends the architecture is defined as being either a distributed or centralized one.

4. From here, security policies and practices also need to be addressed to establish optimal functionality and efficiency.

5. After the initial UC implementation has been completed, Dimension Data says businesses should work on maximizing enterprise integration methods to take better advantage of the integration and customization capabilities that UC offers.

6. When it’s time to choose an implementation partner, Wilson said Dimension Data advises businesses to look for a partner that has experience in deploying large and small-scale sized projects, and to look for a partner that has a structured project management plan in place. This will ensure the partner has the capabilities and set of processes and guidelines to deliver and deploy the project.

7. And lastly, rounding out the seventh consideration point is for businesses to make sure that ongoing support is maintained even after the UC solution already has been implemented. Consistent maintenance and support is crucial to keeping the environment stable and it also helps reduce the risk of a business’s potential downtime, Wilson said.

“Having an upfront plan is important,” Wilson said. “Partners also need to tell customers how to manage the solution once it’s in place because the post-support aspect is also very critical for UC.”

Albert Daoust, a senior analyst at Mississauga, Ont.-based Partner Research Group, a market research and information company, said UC solutions are readily available but it becomes a question of how far an organization wants to go to implement it.

“What’s been driving people towards UC is the idea of having a mobile identity,” Daoust said. “It’s great for places such as hotels and restaurants where people can access information from nearly anywhere, whether it’s from their office or home location,” he added.

What partners should also be careful of, Daoust said, is in making sure they aren’t bringing on the pace of change too quickly because that can often lead to resistance on the end-user’s part.

“Moving too fast can lead to problems,” Daoust said. “Partners need to make sure the customer knows what they’re getting into and expectations should be set and delivered in a timely fashion. The pitch that Dimension Data has come up with seems to be sensible because they’ve come up with seven statements that your typical manager would feel comfortable with.”

While these seven steps are more for the customer’s overall consideration when implementing a UC solution, Wilson said following all seven of them is critical for any customer and partner that wants to execute a successful UC deployment. He says if even one step is bypassed, there’s a certain level of risk that then becomes associated with the project.

“If these steps aren’t followed,” Wilson says, “then what will happen on day two once the keys are handed over and the client needs to drive that solution in order to keep it going? UC is no longer just IP dial tones. It’s really all about integration and collaboration and instant messaging and all of the other complexities that today are making up UC. This list is our spin on the best practices we’ve come up with on how to implement UC.”