IT leaders who take the time to develop a thorough communication plan can vastly improve user adoption when introducing unified communications tools in an organization. This document starts to take shape during the sales process and continues on through testing, piloting, implementation, and evaluation. At each milestone, the communication plan should be updated and improved, ensuring a closed loop approach to user reaction and feedback to new services or new features and functionality.
Identify Priority Audiences
The communication plan is your guidebook for how to let users know that change is coming to their workflow as well as how they interact with one another. In the case of unified communications, the communication plan would outline the delta between what tools are already in use and what is new.
In addition to general end users, the communication plan needs to address the IT project managers who will oversee the implementation, and any support teams throughout the organization who will have involvement. It’s important for executives to communicate their decision drivers and the overall vision for the project to get buy-in from this audience as engagement from the project team will be key to keeping the project timeline and deliverables on-track.
Get Specific on the Benefits the New Solutions will Provide
Resistance to change is common in most companies. However, when employees have a clear understanding of the benefits associated with the changes, chances are they will be less resistant. For IT leaders, focusing the communications plan on specific benefits each audience will experience is key.
For instance, if users already have a UC solution but will now have an instant messaging component, then you should concentrate on how to relay the benefits of instant messaging to their individual roles and the organization overall. If the difference is that UC now will be in the Cloud, focus on how that affects their day-to-day activities. The more specific you are in conveying change as it relates to the user, the better technology adoption you’ll see.
You also should consider the communication plan an opportunity to plot out how you will keep users in the loop as new technology, features, and functionality are selected and tested. Getting out ahead of change and psyching users up for what’s coming helps when it’s time for them to adopt the new technology. The more they know about why you chose certain UC components and how they will make their jobs easier or more effective, the more likely they are to not only use the new technology themselves, but also be a champion to others around them.
Outline your Training Plan
The communication plan should be specific in that it outlines which users will get certain types of training. You might choose to designate a group of super users, or UC champions, to receive the most intense level of training, and then have them either train their peers or be available to answer questions as others self-train. You might want to create a knowledge base that is self-service so users can search it as they encounter new features and functionality. Or you might train by location, giving users at headquarters hands-on training with the UC provider’s trainers, and then use Web-based tools to train remote offices. There is no one-size-fits-all for training. Organizations should match how their users best absorb information to their training budgets and develop a customized and targeted strategy.
Budget for User Adoption Costs
Training is one of those areas organizations often fail to give enough attention – in terms of human resources and budget. The communication plan, by being a living document subject to adjustments, affords business leaders the opportunity to add money to the budget or bring in more team members to learn and train as the purchase and deployment evolves.
How much time and budget you allot to training is somewhat dependent on how adept your users already are at UC and technology overall. For instance, if users are familiar with WebEx or video conferencing, then a less costly training approach such as on-site videos and handouts can be used. But if your users need to be walked through every facet of video conferencing, then expect to allocate more funding.
If your deployment strategy is particularly aggressive, you might require the provider to be on-site at remote locations. You’ll want to lay out in your communication plan how to introduce these support teams to users and the scope of their assistance. You want to make the best use of their time and your money to get users up to speed on the new services.
Remember, if you don’t communicate effectively, you will harm your chance of deployment success and burn through hard-to-come-by technology dollars. If your users walk away unhappy, unsure of the benefits, and unsatisfied in their training, they will ultimately wind up at IT’s door asking for help, and that is money and time you do not have to waste.
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