Investment in end user training can provide the key to unlocking Unified Communications full potential

John Brett, Technical Operations Manager at Nexus Open Systems discusses the importance of end user training in Unified Communications success

The digital world we live in demands investment in IT support and technology as part of any progressive business strategy. Modern technology plays a pivotal role in an organisations success whilst offering the expectation of enhancing the performance of staff and operational efficiency.

Unfortunately, despite commitment to technology investment, many organisations still see little or no return. It would appear that state of the art technology alone isn’t enough to drive results.

The reason for poor performance of IT systems can often be attributed to a company’s decision not to extend the investment into end-user training. When faced with an expensive and often disruptive project involving replacement of legacy systems, gaining additional approval for training after the initial investment can prove impossible. The decision to dismiss training as part of the project is often down to budget constraints but ironically a lack of end-user training can actually increase costs and reduce Return on Investment (ROI) in the long run. Employee time is often wasted as users attempt and fail to resolve technical issues with limited working knowledge. A recent study conducted by 3Gem, on behalf of Teleware, revealed that 36% of workers admitted to wasting office time trying to resolve an issue with limited knowledge of the IT system. The need to contact the provider helpdesk for technical support can be a costly means for solving what should be straightforward trouble shooting problems which a well-trained user could handle effectively internally when armed with the knowledge to do so.

When applied to Unified Communications (UC) implementation, the decision to forgo training is that many decision makers don’t understand the UC product and view the project as a straightforward telephone system replacement which will easily integrate into the business.  Clearly this view undermines the wide ranging overall features of UC. UC offers businesses extensive communication and collaboration features providing a joined-up user experience available anytime and anywhere. Video conferencing, desk and mobile telephony, real time presence information, instant messaging and collaboration apps offer users a much wider communication tool than simple telephone systems. Unfortunately, when faced with tight budget constraints training can be viewed as a luxury rather than a necessity.

UC platforms are not overly complex or difficult to understand but as with any new IT system, untrained staff will simply ‘muddle through’ often unaware of the features available to them: features that can make their communications easier and more productive.

When a business has invested in UC and sees a low adoption rate, it causes confusion and frustration with staff for not availing of the enhanced support tools. Of course, users can only use features they are aware of. If they have not received training, they simply do not understand the product or know what applications are available to them and therefore user adoption can be low. Effective end-user training should always form an essential part of the overall UC project and will dramatically increase adoption rates and user confidence.

Uninformed users can easily feel overwhelmed with what appears to be an overly complex system.  In this situation, users often choose to simply use the features they understand while disregarding the rest. Employees can become confused and disillusioned while losing faith in not only the technology, but in the company decision makers for investing in the new system in the first place. The result is investment in technology that users do not understand and therefore choose not to use.

There are various training options available from online self-learning programmes to scheduled instructor led classes and one-to-one support. Evaluating the technical skill of the end users should form the first part of the training programme so that training can be tailored to the audience incorporating various levels of support based on user technical understanding. Many businesses opt for Train-the-Trainer courses which offer the opportunity to train inhouse trainers as system experts who can then cascade training to staff and offer ongoing support to colleagues with extended user knowledge and problem-solving skills. This level of inhouse support can dramatically reduce the need to contact the provider helpdesk with trouble-shooting issues.

Effective initial and ongoing training that supports the needs of employees can transform work practices increasing productivity and ultimately driving results. The only way to really see the benefits of UC and a return on the investment is to empower the workforce with the knowledge and skills to fully utilise the features and applications available to them. With the adoption of any new IT system, organisations must consider the people behind the technology. Technological advances are merely tools to support the people that use the systems. Only by investing in the users as well as the technology, can businesses truly reap the benefits of UC.

About the Author

John Brett is Technical Operations Manager at Nexus Open Systems. Nexus Open Systems delivers IT solutions, services, support, training and exams to organisations of all sizes. The company has offices and training rooms in Exeter, UK supporting numerous national and international clients including the Met Office, Age UK, Garmin, Flybe, Brittany Ferries, Devon & Cornwall Police. For more information please visit: