Investment in end-user training will maximise Unified Communications success

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John Brett, Technical Operations Manager at Nexus Open Systems discusses the importance of end user training in UC integration.

We live and work in a digital era making technology an essential ingredient in any business strategy. Investment in IT systems and software is an expected requirement for business progression, offering a means to support growth and workforce productivity. Whatever the sector, there appears to be a technology available that promises to enhance your business performance and drive results however all too often organisations that commit to an investment in state of the art technology, fail to see the dramatic returns they expected. 

With tight budget constraints a common feature in many of today’s decision-making processes, return on investment (ROI) is not only an expectation but is increasingly viewed as a prerequisite of the project. When little or no return is seen, it can be frustrating and embarrassing for those in the business who pioneered investment in the new technology. Business leaders can be left scratching their heads wondering why the promised results haven’t come to fruition. 

Investment in training

The answer to the problem can often be found in the decision to forgo additional investment in end user training. For projects involving the integration of Unified Communications (UC) into a business, end user training is often under-valued being seen as a ‘nice to have’ rather than a necessity. Often the reason for choosing to omit end user training is down to an overall misunderstanding of the UC product. A simple telephone replacement project where the system will easily integrate into the business is a common misconception of UC. This view does not account for the extensive features and applications available to users including video and conferencing, telephony, presence information and collaboration apps. UC is a user friendly, intuitive experience meaning it can be delivered in part without the need for training however this approach can leave users confused and unaware of the many new supportive features available to them. Incorporating any new IT system into an organisation can be very disruptive and challenging for staff. The task of replacing well established legacy systems that have been in place for many years, can be particularly challenging as the workforce struggle with the shift to a new system they simply don’t know how to operate. 

The overall commitment to UC integration should always incorporate some element of staff training. President & Principal Analyst of COMMfusion LLC and a co-founder of UCStrategies, Blair Pleasant, recently shared her results from the 2018 Enterprise Connect identifying a need for end user training as one of the five key takeaways from the event.

End user training is available in many forms from computer based training (CBT), user guides and handbooks, to hands-on instructor led classes and one-to-one support. Businesses can also choose to avail of Train-the-trainer courses which offer the opportunity to arm the workforce with inhouse system experts who can learn from the providers expert team and then develop and deliver in-house training to staff. Developing staff to provide this level of inhouse expertise reduces reliance on the provider helpdesk which can be an expensive way to handle simple trouble shooting issues. In-house experts can offer ongoing support to colleagues with extended user knowledge and problem-solving skills. 

When evaluating the best training plan for staff, the technical skill of the workforce should always be considered. The technical knowledge of some staff may be limited and the choice of training should be tailored to the audience with various levels of support for the more and less ‘tech savvy’ of the group.

When users receive little or no training for UC systems, they can become disillusioned, confused and frustrated even feeling nostalgia for the old system. In this case, users tend to lean on the features they can access easily while ignoring the rest; failing to make use of the enhanced tools UC offers. 

When creating a business case for a new IT system, end user training can sadly be viewed as an unjustifiable cost however the reality is that without training, user time and system usability can be limited which can have a direct impact on ROI. When employees don’t understand how to use the product, they can waste time trying to resolve issues with little or no user knowledge. This also drives further frustration with a system they feel does not operate efficiently or support them in their role.  A recent study conducted by 3Gem, on behalf of Teleware, revealed that 36% of workers admitted to wasting office time trying to resolve an issue with limited knowledge of the IT system. When applied to UC, the need to contact the provider helpdesk for technical support can be a costly means for solving what should be straightforward trouble shooting problems which a well-trained user could handle effectively internally if armed with the knowledge to do so.

Harness the power of unified communications

The introduction of UC has the power to transform how a business and its workforce operate. It provides an opportunity to unify email, telephony, web conferencing, instant messaging and communication systems. It provides flexible and agile workers with the ability to gain full access to company data and communication systems from remote locations anywhere and on any device. The role of UC is to enhance communication and collaboration with customers, partners and across a business enabling better usability and providing easy access to company data bases and remote staff. These features allow organisations to enhance the performance of staff while reducing overall costs but like any technology, it is only as powerful as the people who use it. When users are unable to access the UC platform, they fail to see these benefits and can feel frustration with company leaders for investing in the new system in the first place. The result can be an investment in technology that users do not understand and therefore choose not to use. 

Underestimating the value of employee training can be the downfall of a business project. This applies to the introduction of any new system, IT based or otherwise. When choosing to integrate UC into an organisation it is important that businesses consider not simply what technology to invest in, but how best to build the system into the company culture. When adopting any new technology, the people behind the IT, the users, ultimately hold the key to driving results. Effective end-user training will result in increased adoption rates, more confident users and enhanced operational efficiency.  Empowering staff with user knowledge and a thorough understanding of the product through structured initial and ongoing training support is the key to ensuring UC success.  

John Brett, Technical Operations Manager at Nexus Open Systems

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