What Murphy and black swans can teach us

    I was enjoying dinner with a few good friends several days ago, and we started reminiscing about our college years. We remembered the old university computer lab and laughed at the “pager era” when we thought of those little devices as status symbols. Even though the single-line display was meant to show only a phone number, we appended “911” to signal if the page was urgent. Of course, urgent meant to find a payphone quickly.

    How times have changed. Siloed communications have given way to active, unified communications. Applications such as Skype and FaceTime allow us to remain reachable regardless of our current device or our current location. More people use their mobile phones now for messaging than calling.

    Unified communications is what consumers and employees expect these days. But communications technology continues to evolve. Selecting a UC system based on current needs actually feels a bit shortsighted, but what’s the alternative?

    My suggestion is to consider flexibility of equal or greater importance than current, existing features. Business leaders must realize the value and importance of flexibility in UC systems.

    Core UC Today

    What advantages can UC bring to the enterprise? In other words, what’s wrong with using what we have now, in terms of corporate email systems, instant messaging, etc.? UC offers a handful of crucial benefits.

    • Multi-Modal: IM and presence, voice, and video work together to create multiple components and channels that ensure appropriate communications will never be shut off.
    • Mobility: Support for multiple channels and devices allows for anywhere, anytime communications.
    • Centralization: Centralizing reduces the complexities of branch equipment with multiple vendors and feature-sets.

    These are usually the top selling points from an UC vendor, but meeting current needs is only half the battle. Technologies change, and when they do, so do expectations and user requirements. None of the above were likely requirements on a PBX purchase prior to 2005.

    Will it blend?

    One facet to consider is whether the UC solution will blend into your organization’s technical infrastructure. Traditional PBX systems were appliances, and many are still sold that way, but premises systems also are available for industry-standard hardware and virtualized instances. Regardless of which is right for your organization today, things change. It is nice to have the option of being able to move freely between deployment types. And don’t let a new UC system prematurely force something like virtualization. Cloud when you are ready, on your terms.

    Sometimes the people and the culture are overlooked in the planning, and those can be the hardest issues to resolve during implementation. With technology you can always back up, reset, or upgrade; but not so with egos, emotions, and experiences. The best UC team members should be user-focused and creative, because with UC, it’s no longer just about the box or what’s inside – it is about the user experience.

    Be cognizant of Murphy and black swans

    As Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” If you’ve worked in IT, I’m certain you’ve encountered numerous instances that proved Murphy right. It’s important to establish clear workflows and processes to deal with exceptional conditions: defective devices, inadequate wiring, natural disasters, etc. If there are bumps on the road to Plan A, ensuring there’s a route to Plan B (or even Plan C) will go a long way. The problem is, many systems are so rigid that they only support Plan A.

    Then there are “black swans,” extraordinary and improbable events that shape our history, culture, and even humanity. Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, even the 9/11 terrorist attack have completely reset the best-planned technologies. A feature like remote working might transition from curiosity to business imperative overnight. The question is, will your technology be ready to adapt?

    Flexibility is a must

    It’s important to prioritize flexibility when it comes to IT projects and UC vendor evaluation. Ask vendors not only about the breadth of features, capabilities, and options they support, but when they added that support. Mobile clients are a great example. Most UC vendors support them now, but inquire about when the clients were released. 

    To discover more about how the world of work is changing and what this means for your communications then download our free whitepaper about flexible working models today

    Flexibility doesn’t wait. Only a very few technical features are never implemented in today’s competitive market. The details like when and how clients can access those features are what separate the rigid from the flexible.

    Eugene Liu 
    UC Strategies