UC Is About People

Generally speaking, when communicating with others, most people focus on the content of their message, as well as ensuring it's successfully delivered — they're not focused on what type of technology device they're using.

Generally speaking, when communicating with others, most people focus on the content of their message, as well as ensuring it's successfully delivered — they're not focused on what type of technology device they're using.

Unified communications technologies facilitate this, regardless of device, by seamlessly integrating the collaboration capabilities available from IT tools and end-user devices that most federal agencies use today.

"I have never had a conversation with anyone about what the Social Security Administration's UC plan is," said Tom Grzymski, the agency's associate commissioner for telecommunications and systems operations, during a GITEC Summit 2011 panel in early spring. "Instead, we talk about needs and services and how can we meet delivery in a way that's economical and that fits into our mission and culture."

If agencies want to support mobile users, deliver world-class customer service, expand telework and assure continuity of operations, then they need a robust UC strategy. In other words, unified communications is not a nicety; it's a necessity.

Recent research points out that most agencies hold this view. Of the federal respondents to the CDW•G 2011 Unified Communications Tracking Poll, 65 percent reported that they were either planning, implementing or had fully implemented UC. In all, more than 900 IT professionals across the education, state and local, and federal sectors took part in the survey.

Essential Elements

Two major elements are necessary for a successful UC implementation: one technical and one human.

From a technical perspective, a sound network foundation is essential, said SSA's Grzymski. The beauty of UC is that it's not an all-or-nothing proposition. Agencies can implement components at their own pace. "We are focused on telephones now," he said. "We will be able to add video to it later fairly easily because we have a strong architectural foundation."

Many agencies have or are now deploying the foundational technology: Voice over IP. With VoIP and an optimized network, an agency can then roll out additional UC components — soft phones, instant messaging, unified messaging, and audio and video conferencing, to name a few — as budget, resources and strategy allow.

UC adoption rates doubled from 2010 to 2011. Curious about other UC stats? Check out the CDW•G 2011 Unified Communications Tracking Poll at www.cdwg.com/
uctrackingpoll
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The technology is the simple part, added the Federal Aviation Administration's Steve Dash, who also spoke at the GITEC conference. "I rarely believe that this is about technology. It's about the organization and whether they can adapt themselves." In the end, it is about people.

Users have to compromise, revise how they work and, as Dash puts it, get people to "pivot" to face the customer (either others in the government or citizens) and move toward a highly collaborative work model.

The benefits of delivering highly available services via the FAA's backbone network are so compelling, Dash said, that his agency is avidly pursuing UC. "Our intent is to employ and unleash a productivity enabler." As Dash noted and the trends in UC adoption indicate: Once users experience better and more consistent service, it's fairly easy to win over converts.

May 04 2011