7 Best Practices for Unified Messaging Implementations

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unified communication

Optimizing Technical and Business Value

Unified messaging is causing a major shift in how organizations are able to support the productivity of their mobile workers. It removes the voicemail silo and integrates voice services in data applications.

Although Unified Messaging delivers powerful benefits to the companies that deploy it, UM is still a relatively new area and best practices are only starting to emerge. Adomo has implemented UM for many customers and in the process we have  accumulated a lot of experience about what works and what does not. Here are seven practices that will help you deploy Unified Messaging successfully.

1. Set a goal to improve business processes

Organizations are able to improve their mobile workers productivity in a variety of ways when they deploy Unified Messaging. But before you launch into the project, think carefully about which business processes you want to improve and how you will measure the results. The primary benefits that drive our customers to deploy Unified Messaging are:

  • Enhanced responsiveness to customers
  • Mobile user accessibility improvements
  • Customer service effectiveness gains
  • Personal productivity enhancements

2. Plan for future applications

Unified Messaging provides a platform to deploy applications that improve productivity. But only an open architecture will enable you to choose the best applications for your organization. Some of the applications that organizations are deploying include

  • Presence (the ability to provide through Unified Messaging the status of your whereabouts and whether you can accept calls)
  • Internal Instant messaging
  • Conferencing
  • Click-to-dial

An open architecture not only gives you the flexibility to choose the best Unified Messaging applications, it also makes it possible to integrate other applications in your business like Customer Relationship Management and Service Administration.

3. Leverage your existing infrastructure

The majority of organizations today already have a system for managing message access and storage with Microsoft Active Directory and Exchange. They also have a desktop application for individuals to manage their messages with Outlook. So it makes sense to leverage these assets when deploying Unified Messaging.

Instead of creating new directories to manage users, re-use the user information you already have in Active Directory. Instead of creating a new database for message store, use Exchange to store both email and voice messages. And instead of asking users to learn and IT to support a new desktop application, let them use Outlook to manage both email and voice messages.

Avoid deployments that require replication or synchronization of databases and user directories. Leveraging your infrastructure will not only make it easier and lower the cost for IT to manage users and message store, it will also make it easier for you to add new UC features in the future.

4. Deploy a UM solution that provides stability through your consolidation and simplification efforts

Organizations rarely start with a clean slate when they deploy Unified Messaging solutions. Through mergers and acquisitions and geographical expansion, companies accumulate a mix of messaging networks and systems. In addition to planning for Unified Messaging, organizations today are migrating from a distributed to a consolidated architecture and from legacy PBX models to IP telephony. When you are evaluating a UM solution it’s important to consider your other consolidation and migration efforts and to select a UM solution that is compatible with these efforts.

5. Prepare for disaster recovery

Your Unified Messaging solution should continue to operate even if there is a major loss of function, but you should not be asked to pay a significant premium to achieve this redundancy in the network. Some of the ways to prepare for disaster recovery are:

  • Use N+1 for server redundancy, not N*2.
  • Centralize your implementation around one data store on Exchange and one schema on Active Directory.
  • Use a stateless server so that your data is always safely stored.
  • In the event of network or Microsoft Exchange downtime, keep a rolling cache of voice messages on your voice messaging server.

6. Do a pilot implementation

Before migrating your organization or facility to a Unified Messaging solution, conduct a pilot implementation with a group of users that is more experienced with technology. This could be one department or a branch office. In the pilot implementation you can not only test all the planned features, you can train pilot users as well.

7. Measure success

Finally, just as you start out by planning measurable improvements to business processes, measure these improvements as you deploy Unified Messaging. One important way to measure success is to survey users to verify that your Unified Messaging solution has improved business processes. In this survey you can also get input on possible new features.

An important aspect of measuring success is managing expectations. Let your organization know when they can expect features to be available and when they will be available to each group. Measure against these milestones to show your progress.

And finally, the best measure of success once you have rolled out your Unified Messaging solution is to ask your users – If we took away the Unified Messaging capabilities, would you care?

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