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Change Management in UC Deployments — It’s About the People Thursday, 10 June 2010 11:42

Written by Scott Connolly

What if I told you that in three months, I was going to take away your desk phone? What would your reaction be? Since I’ve been using my PC to make and answer calls for the past year in an effort to have better insight into customer needs, it wouldn’t really bother me that much. My desk phone hasn’t seen much action lately, and I feel a little guilty about that. Frankly, right now my desk phone is an extremely expensive missed call log. Be honest — in the ever growing world of e-mail, instant messaging, webinars, etc. isn’t your own desk phone gathering a little more dust than it did in the past?

So in three months, your desk phone is going to disappear – how would that make you feel? I was able to witness some reactions to this news firsthand while onsite for a recent headset deployment at one of our large end-user customers. The company had made the decision to get rid of desk phones for 3,000+ employees at their corporate headquarters, and they planned to do this within three months. They kicked off this effort by passing out Plantronics USB headsets that the employees could begin using to make calls over Microsoft Office Communicator. Over a three-day period, employees came in to pick up their new headsets and get an introduction to the new way of making phone calls. Employee reactions I observed ranged from excitement, optimism, curiosity, ambivalence, stoic resignation, and outright hostility. One woman walked up to the table to pick up her headset and said with sadness and utter conviction “I don’t want this”.

This company definitely took a bold step into the future of communication and collaboration. Anecdotal information from our sales teams indicates that the idea of “rip and replace” of desk phones is not yet widespread either in consideration or in practice. So this kind of radical change required a true focus on change management that went way beyond the technical decisions of applications and audio endpoints – it was about the people.

The IT team had been building up to the deployment days with e-mail reminders, announcements, and posters spread throughout the buildings. In order to encourage employees to show up to collect their headsets, they required each employee to sign for their headset (or when picking up a headset for a colleague). They also put together a raffle drawing with some cool technology prizes including an iPod Touch, Webcams, etc. Each employee was encouraged to watch a short 4 minute video that was looping in a nearby conference room after picking up their headset. The video (produced by their IT department) covered an introduction by their CIO where he explained the reasoning behind the upcoming changes (all while wearing the headset they were being given, which was a nice touch). His intro was followed by a product introduction and brief set up instructions led by one of their IT reps.

The IT professionals at the deployment did a fantastic job of answering questions and reassuring employees who had concerns. Their IT Director was on hand personally each day to answer questions (one tough question: “if my computer crashes, how do I call IT?”) They were also clearly communicating that employees had several months to get comfortable with using the headsets and OCS for calls before the phones go away. The organization and careful planning as well as the deployment-day visibility of the IT department staff went a long way to reassuring the employees that this was not a decision that was entered into lightly.

The employees who were most outspoken against the changes were not as much upset by the idea of being forced to use a headset as they were by the impending loss of their desk phones. Not surprisingly, the range of feelings could also be drawn along generational lines, with younger employees tending to be more on the positive to neutral side and older employees being on the neutral to negative side. This is where the idea of the need for “Change Management” was most evident. Most interesting is this company’s current plan to remove the phones. In three months, their plan is to simply turn the phones off. The idea is that the employees will get fed up with dead equipment taking up desk space and will voluntarily take the phones to designated drop areas. Thus in practice, the employees actually remove their own phones. And as I write this, my neglected desk phone is staring at me with open hostility.

Jennifer has been with Plantronics for 3 1/2 years and focuses her efforts on launching and marketing products inside the Unified Communications PC Telephony space. Her product focus is on USB corded headsets and USB phone products.

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