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Unified Communications May 14, 2020

Helping businesses adapt to new ways of working

By Ailbhe McDarby Head of Unified Communications & Contact Centre propositions, BT Ireland

Organisations have now established that Unified Communication (UC) tools are integral for business continuity during lockdown, enabling seamless communications that can range from real time messaging to face-to-face video conferences. But like any technology that’s new to a business, successful implementation and a return on the investment will depend on how quickly it’s adopted. And that’s about changing the way people work.  

Encourage behavioural change

At BT, we have always supported technology projects with a change management piece because we know that new tools and services only have value if employees adopt them. When organisations talk about IT project failure, it’s often a failure to bring people along on the journey rather than a flaw in the technology. Behavioural change and user adoption are essential for technology success and faster business results.

There is no doubt that UC tools create new working practices and take a bit of getting used to. Our 2018 digital workplace research revealed that 48 percent of employees have collaboration tools but don’t know how to use them properly, and that 80 percent of collaboration projects fail to deliver their expected business outcomes. The risk is that lockdown and enforced adoption will exacerbate the adoption challenges because it’s harder to train people working remotely.

On the plus side, the pandemic has given people no option but to embrace new ways of working. They are literally learning on the job, but it’s important to help them in whatever way you can. Many large companies will have an intranet with training portals and professional development programmes overseen by HR.  Such channels will be vital to support the rollout of a UC platform, providing content to take the pain out of learning. I would also recommend taking a top down approach to adoption, employees are more likely to adopt tools that are being visibly utilised by the senior level management team.

Make learning materials available

Another reason why enterprises-class solutions are a better fit for the pandemic than free apps is that vendors provide training materials and FAQ-type support. When customers buy a UC solution from BT, for example, there is purpose-built video collateral to train people up and help them get to grips with the technology. We will tailor user adoption plans to each client’s needs, covering communications, training and coaching.

Another route is webinars that can take large groups of employees through a product walk-through. It’s important too, that organisations supplement more formal training materials with informal face-to-face engagement. Right now, that means regularly connecting with employees over the very same conference tools you are training them to use.

The good news is that Covid-19 has helped overcome one obstacle around new technology –persuading employees that there’s something in it for them, that they can work from anywhere as effectively as if they were in the office. It has also answered questions about the business case for remote working. For a lot of companies, it has been the difference between survival and going under.

Tech visionaries have been telling us for years that work is no longer a place where you go. Events have conspired to finally prove them right. Lockdown has given some businesses little choice but to have their employees work differently, from their own homes and with a suite of tools they were unfamiliar with. According to recent research released by NUI Galway, 83% of employees do not want a full return to their workplaces because home offers freedom from the daily commute, money saving on travel costs and greater flexibility. It will be interesting to see the long-term impact as things get back to normal – my guess is that UC and collaboration tools will be a fixture of most people’s working day from here on in.