Michael Segal is director of solutions marketing at NetScout and a seasoned product management professional with expertise in technical areas such as cloud, virtualization, security, IP networking, mobility, Wi-Fi / wireless, and VoIP / UC.
Large Information Technology (IT) organizations are afflicted with ‘specialty’ silos that hinder productivity and fail to approach Communications and Collaboration Infrastructure (CCI) with a unified vision. However, uniting enterprise IT teams with a common goal for collaboration and process promotes innovation, streamlines workflow, and significantly impacts the bottom line.
Battle Modern Workforce Obstacles
Due to the proliferation of the IT service catalog and feature set, a CCI road map and integrated strategy has never been more needed. Communications services like Internet Protocol (IP) telephony, email, and faxing; collaboration tools and services like voice and video conferencing, instant messaging and application sharing require data networking professionals not only to re-engineer the enterprise infrastructure and the Wide Area Network (WAN), but also to constantly monitor the performance of connections with carrier networks.
There is also a growing cost associated with the overlap and over supply of these services due to poor coordination across the IT silos. In order to successfully battle modern workforce obstacles and drive strong Return on Investment (ROI), infrastructure and operations executives must invest time into developing a CCI road map that fosters employee adoption of available technologies and standardizes best practices.
Key Elements for a Strong Road Map
What are the key elements for building strong road maps that not only drive IT department success, but also limit risk? At a high level, the internal enterprise IT strategy should coordinate procedures, policies and collaboration standards that touch all elements of the infrastructure and operations group. The plan should integrate detailed guidelines for:
- Product development
- Ongoing maintenance/performance monitoring
- User support requests
- Management tools
- Usability case studies and examples
- User experience standards
Although this level of planning initially seems extensive, providing standardized training for your IT department will save time during execution and minimize the ravages of unintended operational consequences. In essence, a CCI road map or plan must combine enterprise strategy, business requirements and end users’ needs into one, well-orchestrated effort. IT teams armed with a solid plan will not only deliver streamlined performance, but also produce significant cost savings. Successfully structuring communication and collaboration channels will allow transparent workgroup communication in an efficient and elegant manner.
In order to facilitate the adoption of CCI integration within enterprise organizations, the utilization of sound policies, procedures and principles should be a pro forma process in establishing a solid framework of best practices. Below are four key best practices IT organizations should exercise before embarking on the CCI transition:
1: Choose a Leader
The process should include:
- Designate an enterprise architect to spearhead plan formulation and adoption.
- Develop and oversee a cohesive application integration strategy that comprises all CCI functionality. Standardization should be the watchman on the tower.
- All elements of the entire IT infrastructure must be considered. The IT infrastructure elements include telecom, PBX, data network, video conferencing, collaboration portals, application development, any CCI integration requirements, and end-user inputs.
- The right performance management platform should be selected. This platform should offer a holistic view across the entire infrastructure and enable IT to customize the monitored metrics for each department to foster collaboration. Since a typical CCI is comprised of multi-vendor products, the performance management platform should be vendor agnostic and scale to accommodate future CCI growth needs.
2: Follow Security Protocol
Establish and adopt industry-standard security protocols. The IT security ramifications alone justify proper governing standards as security breaches reverberate throughout every department of an enterprise operation and eventually impact profit.
3: Do Your Due Diligence
Identify core service needs to avoid duplication and over-supply of hardware products and software licensing. Then, compile a preferred list of vendors who provide integrated CCI services and products.
4: Don’t Be a Gatekeeper
Invite all relevant stakeholders during planning phase (e.g., IT security, networking and operations). If key stakeholders are not participating in the planning and implementation process, efficiency will degrade. The following management principle applies: if there is no involvement, there is no commitment.
Share Your Early Wins
Once your road map is implemented and IT team members have successfully engaged in collaboration communities, promote these wins internally. Internal communications achievements not only serve as a proof-of-concept, but also drum up support, share knowledge and reinforce the importance of your organizational efforts.
Following these best practices and building a strong road map to direct daily activities and objectives will ensure successful delivery of communication and collaboration services and provide a quality user experience for enterprise employees. Rather than seek alternative short cuts or make costly, knee-jerk decisions, IT team members can work toward the same common end-goal and avoid endless pitfalls or headaches. The benefits of collaboration can only be reaped when employees adapt and intelligently employ the technology available to them. Developing a solid CCI strategy will rally the troops and have immediate, positive results on an enterprise’s bottom line.
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