Technology adoption + era of convergence = drama

May 11, 2010   //   Unified Communications, , , ,

The Era of Convergence. Wow…that sounds scary. But as even the most casual technology enthusiast will admit that this is the environment we live in.  DVD players with wireless Ethernet that allows streaming of content; telephones are no longer “telephones” but mobile devices, digital music players, cameras, PDAs, etc. and the list goes on.  It’s hard to identify an area of technology that has not been affected by the ever increasing synergy that a wired (and wireless) society affords.

It’s exciting, but in a corporate environment, there can be unexpected side effects and even contentious situations when making technology paradigm shifts. A perfect example is moving away from traditional telephony (PBX) to voice-over-IP (VoIP) systems. Historically, an organization likely had one group managing their telephony and one group managing IT. With the introduction of VoIP, we now have a shift away from dedicated copper for phone lines to, potentially, running the desk phones over the existing corporate LAN.  (Can you say, “convergence”?)  Politically speaking who owns it?  Does the legacy telephone group understand the new technology?  Do you invest in training dollars to get their skills on par?  Or is it done the other way around: will the IT department now take responsibility for the phone system? (Because, you know, IT people have so much free time on their hands.) Which leads us to an interesting conclusion:

Technology adoption + convergence = drama
Why, you may ask, does this all add up to drama? Most commonly, people fear change or feel threatened (“Will I have a job?”) or sometimes both. In the case of our transition to a VoIP system, if the IT department takes responsibility for this, the telephony group may feel as if their responsibilities are being diminished; they may worry about what the next wave of changes may mean for their jobs. If you manage groups of people and are moving ahead with or just considering new technology adoption, it’s important to consider the political boundaries that might be crossed.

Here are 3 pointers to help ensure a successful adoption across the board:

Recognize key players in your organization.  Every organization stands to benefit from the unique perspective and wealth of knowledge senior members possess.  Leverage their insight as a means of implementing change. Getting to know your people will also let you know when “toe stepping” is going to occur. Most people understand that technology can and does change, and that the only way to survive is to adapt; they deserve the opportunity to understand the trajectory and hop on board.

When considering technology strategy, don’t “over hire.”  Just because you have adopted a new technology, don’t assume you need a full-time subject matter expert (SME) to manage this domain. You may be able to leverage an outside consultant to oversee deployment and execution; in most cases, this is the only way to get the needed expertise within budget. For long-term support, supplement your current staff with additional training and maintain a relationship (and budget) with your specialist consultant for issues that are beyond the expertise of your staff.

Be thorough and take your time.  Just because something “new and improved” comes along, don’t minimize the impact it will have on your people.  If they are not able to leverage the technology, it will frustrate them and your business will not benefit. Creating a technology road map will help prioritize and negotiate reasonable time frames for adoption. To the extent feasible, ensure that everyone in the organization knows the road map.

While there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution, you can alleviate any unnecessary “drama” by understanding your company’s culture and political boundaries, then managing your employees’ expectations accordingly. So your equation will look more like technology adoption + era of convergence = success.