Lifecycle Management is Key for Successful Unified Communications


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  • Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to join me today. My name is Kevin McGowan, and I’m a Principal Consultant for Riverbed Professional Services. Today, we’ll be discussing how a lifecycle management approach is key to ensuring successful unified communications.

    Unified Communications (UC) is a must-have initiative for workforces that are becoming increasingly mobile and geographically disperse. However, a successful UC practice requires more than great technology; it requires a lifecycle approach to ensure the solution works when first deployed, delivers the anticipated ROI, and continues to give a high-quality experience as environments change. This session will explore best practices for developing a centralized, lifecycle approach for managing UC applications to raise visibility, improve performance, and reduce management costs.
  • We’ll be reviewing several topics today. First, we’ll take a look at the current state of unified communications.

    Secondly, we’ll take a look at some lessons learned that I’ve encountered during my 10 years of working in the area of unified communications. And these lessons are related to all project types – from deployments to upgrades to migrations.

    Next, we’ll discuss what unified communications lifecycle management really is. You’ve heard the term thrown around quite a bit, and you may have read some articles on the subject, but what is it? We’ll put some definition to it today.

    Then we’ll get into some best practices for implementing a UC lifecycle management program. And we’ll do that by taking a deep look into the various phases of lifecycle management.

    And to wrap up the session today, we’ll tie our discussion back to some key benefits of adopting this lifecycle management approach.

  • So what’s the current state of unified communications?

    First, it’s experienced a significant transformation in just the last 12 to 15 years. It started out as voice over IP, and has since evolved to unified communications and all of its components to an even newer model – what is known as unified communications and collaboration.

    Next, there are a ton of vendor-specific approaches from leaders like Cisco and Avaya to other major players like ShoreTel and Microsoft. These companies all approach the UC opportunity in different ways, which can make it difficult for companies to navigate the market and adopt an end-to-end UC strategy that meets unique business and technical requirements. On a related note, there is very little interoperability among these solutions as the UC market continues to evolve.

    Another challenge is related to a key business and technical decision for enterprise customers. And that is, when you look to deploy unified communications, do you do so on-premise or in the cloud?

    From both a workforce and deployment perspective, we know that unified communications is very distributed and driven by any number of new applications that are being enabled for the workforce.

    In terms of location-independent access, more and more users are mobile and their needs for accessing business applications extends to almost any location. So how can you manage this from a performance standpoint as well as overcome the inherent security concerns?

    And lastly, ad hoc business process integration is going to be the holy grail for unified communications. And what we mean by that is a tighter integration between a UC system and more of the business applications users depend on to drive business activities.
  • So now that you have a high-level view into the current state of unified communications, what are some lessons learned? As I mentioned, I’ve spent the last 10 years delivering unified communications systems for service providers and enterprises. In doing so, I’ve come across a number of pitfalls that you’ll want to avoid in order to be successful.

    The first one is what I refer to as moves, adds, and changes running amok. This is the classic hoarders situation. You deploy a unified communications network, it evolves weekly, and you accumulate so much clutter that effectively managing it goes out the window. I just finished a UC assessment for a very large network. And this is a classic tale of a unified communications network not having a proper lifecycle management approach. Over the last eight years, the network has become increasingly disheveled and cluttered. So much so that the team there has no idea how many devices are deployed, let alone any kind of visibility into how its overall system is performing, how its users are doing, etc. And this makes it very difficult to manage from a day-to-day perspective, as well as to successfully implement any necessary change.

    The second area is frustration from an end-user experience. Most deployments are unfortunately still technology focused and not focused on the needs and experiences of the end user. As a result of this, very little is done to document how end users are currently doing, not to mention determining what can be done to augment their current capabilities and address any shortcomings from a training perspective. So there is a ton of end-user frustration. And when you are dependent on your users to report issues, that’s not a model that’s going to sustain a high level of UC performance success.

    Underutilized resources: so again, a system gets deployed, and over the course of years, it evolves. And what happens then is that you have a number of capabilities, features, and resources that are significantly underutilized. These elements should be updated or perhaps decommissioned altogether to increase system utilization and reduce costs.

    Lastly, traditional approaches to managing a unified communications network causes a lack of management and support visibility. Consider this the black hole of your UC network. Basically, you put in a new system, but the overall support processes, tools, or applications have not been properly implemented. This creates a significant gap in management capabilities.

  • Keeping these lessons learned top of mind, you will see how a unified communications lifecycle management approach can help you avoid similar situations. But before we get there, let’s take a moment to define what lifecycle management truly is.

    First, it introduces a proactive approach to managing your UC systems. What I mean by this is that you’re not waiting for something to happen. You’re constantly in an investigative mode where you evaluate the current state of your network.

    Secondly, lifecycle management is driven by change. Think back to the current state of unified communications: it continues to evolve every week, every month, and every year. And so you have to understand new market trends and capabilities, and be able to leverage those changes where they make sense in your network.

    Next, the standardization of processes. This is a critical component of the lifecycle management approach, and one that enterprises continue to wrestle with. When it comes to introducing changes to your network, you must have standard processes for managing that change, particularly as it relates to maintaining the integrity of your business workflows and processes. You don’t want to disrupt everyday business with these UC changes, so standardizing the way they’re carried out will help mitigate disruption.

    That idea of disruption ties in well with our next supporting point. And that is the impact your UC network will have on the business and technical aspects of your company. A related area we’ll discuss today is adoption rates. So, again, from a technical and business perspective, how are your current system capabilities impacting how users consume unified communications?

    Moving on to our next point, operational readiness is often defined by how many support tickets are submitted after a post-implementation change is finalized. But, in keeping with our theme of being proactive, you’ll find that is not the best way of determining operational readiness. We’ll discuss some other ways to better determine and verify operational readiness.

    Lifecycle management emphasizes the end-user experience. This is an area that is key to having a successful UC system – from day one to ongoing operations and management. Requirements continue to change, not only from an end-user perspective, but also from a business perspective and in terms of the adoption rates for key features and functionality. So putting the requirements of end users front and center is paramount to having a successful UC practice.

    Lastly, a lifecycle management approach for unified communications supports richer performance and utilization measurements. In other words, more data-driven and quantifiable ways for measuring how your UC system is performing – both from an end-user perspective, as well as from an overall business standpoint – which allows you to more clearly articulate the ROI of your system.

  • So the following slide provided a clearer definition as to what lifecycle management is. But what makes up the overall lifecycle management program? From my perspective, a unified communications lifecycle management program consists of three key components.

    The first component is what we refer to as the change management committee. This is a group that is responsible for driving and managing change throughout your UC system’s lifecycle. The committee consists of both technical and business decision makers or contributors. From the technical side, seek representation from engineering, operations, and customer service. This half of the committee should focus on implementation design, creating and adopting supporting systems, and identifying performance measurements by which to evaluate changes. The business side of the house should focus on ROI, implementation costs, and ongoing management or support costs.

    The second component is change definition – in other words, what types of changes are you implementing within your unified communications network? We recommend defining UC change levels based on three criteria:

    No. 1: What is the expected impact on user workflows and training needs? What barriers to adopting the change might exist?
    No. 2: Is the change a completely new system component or service, or is it an update to an existing one?
    And No. 3: What tools, systems, and processes will you require to effectively manage the change?

    The third and final component is the change implementation model. This is a two-step process where you define the change model for each change level. Is it a pilot? Will it be rolled out in a single phase? Or is the change significant enough that it warrants multiple rollout phases? Once that’s determined, it’s imperative that an appropriate implementation schedule for each change is agreed upon by all members involved to keep the project on track and on budget.
  • A unified communications lifecycle management strategy consists of five phases. The first phase is the planning phase. Here, the management committee is focused on:

    Identifying the change impact and corresponding schedule
    Identifying the technical impact of the change
    Determining what resources or skillsets will be required to manage the change
    Determining whether any additional training will be needed from an end-user perspective. And this is an area where very few organizations go back and evaluate training needs once they’re in operational mode. But remember, it’s not just about the upfront training when the UC network is initially deployed; it’s equally important to assess on-going training needs as changes are introduced.
    The management committee should also focus on:
    Operational system and process requirements.
    Pre-change performance and implementation baseline. Here’s another key area. What is your system doing today? How is it performing, how is it being implemented, how are people using it? It is critical that you establish these baselines.
    Estimating business and revenue impact.
    And estimating a high-level budget for adopting the change.

    In terms of requirements for this planning stage, you need to focus on the following outputs:
    Review expected impact scope
    Propose a revenue and business impact plan. This includes costs for operations, training users, and the costs associated with purchasing any new management and support system tools.
    Lastly, recommend a change implementation model.

  • During the design phase of the lifecycle management program, the management committee should focus on the following items:

    A detailed change implementation design (What are the design requirements? What are the features/functions? How is the system going to change?)
    Next, as an extension of that implementation design, how will the associated change impact your end users?
    End-user and implementation team training requirements. Here, it’s imperative that you put a little more definition around training needs, not only for the end users, but also for the teams in charge of managing the changes to your UC system.
    Operational system/process requirements – again, putting more detail around these requirements based on the implementation design that has been reviewed and approved.
    Review pre-change performance and implementation baseline analysis. So with the baseline you conducted during the planning stage at your disposal, make sure your teams are aligned based on how the system is performing today. And validate that it is performing as needs dictate.
    And lastly, focus on change, implementation, and support costs.

    From a requirements standpoint, during the design phase the following items must be completed and/or accounted for:
    The detailed implementation design must be reviewed, approved, and agreed upon.
    The end-user and implementation team training must be completed.
    You must settle on post-change performance and implementation expectations. So again, based on the baseline conducted in the previous stage, how should the system perform after the change is deployed? And what should the implementation rate look like?
    Develop a comprehensive implementation plan, as well as a corresponding change verification and operational transition plan. That way, once the change is applied, there will be a smooth transition to ongoing management by another department or third-party service provider.
    Lastly, agree upon the change implementation schedule – not only on the change type, but also how aggressive that schedule needs to be.
  • The third phase of unified communications lifecycle management is the implementation phase. So now, based on the planning and design phases, you are actually in a position to incorporate the change.

    The management committee should focus on gathering feedback during this phase.

    One of the critical areas, and one that doesn’t happen as often as it should, is that the implementation or delivery team provides feedback to the design team. How is the design being applied? Gather some lessons learned based on the implementation experience and apply it to future designs and future changes.
    The implementation process, rate, and schedule feedback – same thing as the above. Is the overall project cadence appropriate? Or does the schedule need to be modified to make the project smoother?
    In terms of end-user impact and training feedback – are users being impacted as expected? And are they receiving the proper level of training to not only utilize the system correctly, but also mitigate or otherwise avoid any negative impacts?
    End users aside, are the supporting systems or tools that have been put in place doing their job? What other tools or processes may need to be adopted or decommissioned?
    Lastly, in terms of costs – is the change project coming in on budget?

    From a requirements standpoint, during the implementation phase, the implementation team should focus on:
    Verifying implementation standards
    Achieving the desired implementation rate
    Evaluating issues, use of new features, and training requirements to get a snapshot of performance and user adoption. This is a key area. Typically, if you have a change model where you implement a pilot, the pilot phase is more about the technology than the end-user experience. So you need to understand the performance of the pilot, as well as the adoption rates of those corresponding features. We’ve seen it happen time and time again where new features are rolled out in newer versions of UC systems, and the adoption rates for those features are low (or perhaps not leveraged at all).
    Evaluate resources and supporting systems against key areas like performance, bandwidth utilization, gateway/SIP trunk utilization, etc.
    And finally, monitor actual project costs versus the estimated or budgeted amount. Clearly, you want to keep your costs down while adoption and implementation rates go up. And, as you introduce new changes, you want to prove that you can more reliably and accurately predict those costs.

  • Once we move out of the implementation phase, we are in post-change, operational mode. Here, the management committee focuses on:

    Post-change end-user performance, usage, and adoption feedback from their users.
    As well as feedback from a management infrastructure perspective. Again, are the supporting systems and tools adequate to enable our ongoing operations?

    Requirements for the operate phase include:
    Integrating standard management and support systems/processes
    Verifying use of new features and training requirements align with end-user performance and adoption objectives. And this is key. As I mentioned before, a lot of times, you’ll find that end users will be impacted on a periodic basis, but won’t report that via a help desk ticket. But a proactive approach enabled via lifecycle management removes that reliance on the end user by allowing you to look into system or end-user performance and determining if performance or adoption rates are being met.
    Enable end-user troubleshooting and remote endpoint control. One of the critical aspects of managing a complex UC network is making sure you have the right management applications and tools in place. One component of that is having better control and visibility into the end-user experience. Remote control for troubleshooting purposes is one component you should evaluate adopting as part of your lifecycle management strategy.
    After the change has been implemented, validate that your system is running as expected. So look at things like support call performance, bandwidth utilization, gateway/SIP trunk utilization, and other impacts.
    And, perhaps just as important, verify that any configuration changes adhere to the implementation design standard. And this all goes back to the lesson learned about changes running amok within your system. Without any ongoing assessments of your UC network, you won’t know whether things are getting off track. When changes don’t adhere to design standards, they become much more difficult to manage and introduce moving forward.
  • The last phase of the UC lifecycle management is the optimize phase. Here, the committee is focused on conducting an assessment after the change has been live for a period of time, where the input is used for future change considerations when the lifecycle starts over.

    For that assessment, conduct a comprehensive analysis of system, resource, and end-user performance; utilization levels for endpoints, features, and applications, and impacts on end-user services.
    These components are then compared against all expected design standards. It’s recommended that these assessments are conducted every 6 months. Though, some companies may choose to do them on a quarterly basis.

    Equally important is conducting an assessment of the supporting tools, processes, and systems. Again, what’s working, how are they integrated within your UC environment, and where are there gaps in your management capabilities? Taking the time to conduct this portion of the assessment will enable more effective change management moving forward.

    The outcome of this assessment is that you should be able to identify any user and business-impacting issues and remediate them so they don’t become recurring problems. Again, relying on user-reported issues is not practical from a management standpoint because the users don’t always report the issues, or they find a workaround for them altogether. The net-net of all of this is that you can make further recommendations for cost saving initiatives, as well as ways to optimize the management and use of your UC system.
  • What are the benefits of a unified communications lifecycle management approach?

    Right off the bat, there’s a compelling case for improved return on investment for your unified communications system. By standardizing the processes across the implementation phases, you not only shorten the project timelines, but you can also more reliably enable those changes. So when you consider the adoption of a new feature, that means accelerating its time to value. And from a cost standpoint, shortening those timelines means reducing costs tied to implementing and managing your system.

    Secondly, lifecycle management drives higher adoption rates for key capabilities and features. You will have better visibility into usage patterns, which gives you the data you need to make changes to your training and implementation models.

    Third – not only will ROI and adoption rates go up, but costs will go down. When you can more reliably incorporate changes into your network, you can avoid or altogether eliminate end-user or service-impacting issues. And gaining better visibility into the performance of your applications means that you no longer have to leverage users to assist with troubleshooting processes, nor rely on them to report those issues in the first place. So mean time to repair also decreases, meaning your users stay productive.

    A lifecycle management approach also means all required systems, processes, and training will be available to support planned changes. Again, this means more reliability and accountability, making changes easier to manage while smoothing the transition to ongoing operation.

    Not only will change be easier to manage, but projects timelines will also accelerate. Not only from an implementation rate perspective, meaning you can be more aggressive with project timelines, but also based on the number of changes you can support within your network.

    And lastly, your organization will be better equipped to deliver the positive end-user experiences that increase employee productivity.
  • Lifecycle Management is Key for Successful Unified Communications

    1. 1. Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.1 Kevin McGowan Principal Consultant June 30, 2014 Bring it full circle: Lifecycle Management is the key to successful Unified Communications
    2. 2. Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.2 Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.2 Agenda • State of Unified Communications • Lessons Learned • UC Lifecycle Management Defined • UC Lifecycle Management Program • Phase-by-Phase Lifecycle Overview • UC Lifecycle Management Benefits
    3. 3. Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.3 State of Unified Communications • Rapid evolution from VoIP to UCC • Vendor-specific approaches • Little interoperability • On-premise vs. cloud • Distributed systems and applications • Location-independent users • Ad hoc business process integration
    4. 4. Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.4 Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.4 Lessons Learned Moves, adds, and changes run amok Frustrating end- user experiences Underutilized resources Lack of management and support visibility
    5. 5. Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.5 Plan Design ImplementOperate Optimize UC Lifecycle Management Defined • Introduces proactive management approach • Driven by change • Standardizes processes • Focuses on business and technical impacts • Enables verification and operational readiness • Emphasizes the end-user experience • Supports richer performance and utilization measurements
    6. 6. Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.6 3 Determineproper implementationmodel for UC changes: • Definerequired changemodel for each change level(e.g., pilot, single/multi-phase) • Determinethe appropriate implementationscheduleand cadence for each changelevel Change Implementation Model 2 DefineUC changelevelsbased on the followingcriteria: • End-user impact: What is the expected impact on workflows, trainingneeds, and barriers to adoption? • Change type: Is the changea new component/service or an update to an existing one? • Managementimpact:What tools, systems and processes willbe required to support the change? Change Definition UC Lifecycle Management Program 1 Identifytechnicaland business decisionmakers and contributors: • Technicalrepresentation from engineering, ops, and customerserviceto focus on implementationdesign, processes, supporting systems, and performance measurements • Business representation to focus on ROI, implementation costs,and management/support costs Change Management Committee
    7. 7. Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.7 Plan Design ImplementOperate Optimize UC Lifecycle Management: Plan 1. Management committee focus: • Change impact and schedule • Technical impact of change • Resources/skillset requirements • End-user training needs • Operational system/process requirements • Pre-change performance and implementation baseline • Estimate business and revenue impact • Estimate high-level budget for change 2. Plan stage requirements: • Review expected impact scope • Propose revenue and business impact plan that includes costs for operations, end-user training, management and support system tools • Recommend change implementation model
    8. 8. Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.8 UC Lifecycle Management: Design 1. Management committee focus: • Detailed change implementation design • Expected end-user impact • End-user and implementation team training requirements • Operational system/process requirements • Review pre-change performance and implementation baseline analysis • Change, implementation, and support costs 2. Design stage requirements: • Complete detailed implementation design • Complete end-user and implementation team training • Settle on post-change performance and implementation expectations • Develop comprehensive implementation plan • Develop comprehensive change verification and operational transition plan • Agree on change implementation schedule Plan Design ImplementOperate Optimize
    9. 9. Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.9 UC Lifecycle Management: Implement 1. Management committee focus: • Implementation design feedback • Implementation process, rate, and schedule feedback • End-user impact and training feedback • Management/support systems, processes, and tools feedback • Change implementation costs 2. Implement stage requirements: • Verify implementation standards • Achieve implementation rate • Evaluate issues, use of new features, and training requirements to get a snapshot of end-user performance and adoption • Evaluate resources and supporting systems against implementation design for call performance, bandwidth utilization, gateway/SIP trunk utilization, etc. • Monitor actual versus budgeted implementation costs Plan Design ImplementOperate Optimize
    10. 10. Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.10 UC Lifecycle Management: Operate 1. Management committee focus: • Post-change end-user performance, usage, and adoption feedback • Management/support systems, processes, and tools feedback 2. Operate stage requirements: • Integrate standard management and support systems and processes • Verify use of new features and training requirements align with end-user performance and adoption objectives • Enable end-user troubleshooting/remote endpoint control • Ensure resources/supporting systems support call performance, bandwidth utilization, gateway/SIP trunk utilization, etc. • Verify configuration changes adhere to implementation design standard Plan Design ImplementOperate Optimize
    11. 11. Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.11 UC Lifecycle Management: Optimize 1. Management committee focus: • UC assessment input for future change implementation consideration 2. Optimize stage requirements: • Conduct a comprehensive analysis of system, resource, and end-user performance; endpoint, feature, and application usage; end-user service impacts; and device/resource utilization • Compare all measurements against expected design standards • Conduct an assessment of management/support processes, systems, and tools • Identify and remediate any issues • Make further recommendations to reduce costs and optimize management and utilization Plan Design ImplementOperate Optimize
    12. 12. Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.12 Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.12 UC Lifecycle Management Benefits Improved ROI • Standardized processes shorten implementation timeframes, accelerating time to value and cost reduction benefits. Enhanced Adoption • Increased visibility into end-user usage and performance supports changes to training or implementation models while ensuring the expected level of end-user adoption is achieved. Accelerated Change • Confidence to not only accelerate the implementation rate, but also the number of major changes within your network. Superior user experiences • Enables organizations to deliver positive end-user experiences while increasing user productivity. Consistent Management • Ensures all required management systems, processes, and training are available to support planned changes. Reduced Costs • Eliminates unexpected end-user or service impacting issues. • End-user visibility and control reduces mean time to repair and reliance on users to assist with troubleshooting processes.
    13. 13. Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.13 Bring it full circle: Lifecycle Management is the key to successful Unified Communications Kevin McGowan (415) 577-0533
    14. 14. Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.14 Thank You Copyright 2014 Riverbed Inc. Confidential.14