This is the last in the series on migrating communications services to the cloud. This post covers devices, services adoption, and how to maximize the business positive impact of migrating to cloud communications.

Driving Migration Adoption and Positive Business Outcomes

The previous posts on IP access connectivity and LAN/WAN service assurance were quite substantial; however, this post could be the most important of this series. Consider that some industry reports report to cases of end-user adoption of new communications services in the range of 10% to 15%. Poor adoption leads to poor employee engagement.

Collaboration and communications are cited by Gallup as critical to elevating employee engagement where the top of the quartile of businesses “realize substantially better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents, and 21% higher profitability.

  • The partial shift in responsibility from IT to the business unit, HR, and change management to actually drive adoption
  • It is difficult to measure communications adoption and directly tie communications practices to business results
  • The open-ended nature and extended time periods often needed to observe communications enhancements and business impact

Despite the benefits, it is important to raise the profile of service adoption. This final blog post offers tangible strategies, both in migration planning and project execution. Thus, cloud migrations not only meet targets around timelines and budget but also achieve targets for business success – both for the firm-level metrics and user productivity measures.

Similar to many of the topics in this blog series, the challenge of adoption and customer success are not just the responsibility of a business’s IT department. These responsibilities are also important to the communications service provider (CSP) serving them, their product managers, and executive teams. Customers who do not achieve target results and see positive business impact are more likely to downgrade services, pass along negative referrals, or even churn.

To help IT managers and CSP product managers tackle these challenges, this discussion is organized into four key topic areas:

  • Adoption project planning around key stakeholders
  • End-user adoption dynamics and Diffusion of Innovation Theory
  • Reducing increments of change through a building block approach
  • Use of personas, equipment profiles, and device selection

At this point, you might think that the sophistication of this approach would mainly apply to a mid-to-large size organization. While some elements do more natural fit to those segments, this approach does work for smaller businesses and mass markets as well, especially where CSPs take an active role in scaling and driving end-user adoption initiatives.

1. Adoption Strategy: Key Stakeholders and Project Planning

The communications industry has a lot to learn from the software as a service (SaaS) industry about adoption strategies. SaaS businesses typically deliver services on a “success” basis – starting with a trial and advancing through to a commercial contract. These contracts may run month-to-month or with annual renewals, leaving businesses with ample opportunity to assess the ROI and ask the question, “Is this service worth our time and investment?”

With constant opportunities to unsubscribe or churn, “success” is top of mind for vendors and customers. This is a stark contrast to traditional PBX-based communications where systems are purchased as CapEx and have a lifespan of seven to 10+ years. IT managers pass adoption responsibility to business process owners and typically focus on service reliability and break-fix issues. Similarly, PBX vendors have little incentive to concern themselves with adoption once the initial transaction is complete and until the next procurement cycle.

As cloud communications is provided and delivered more like SaaS, IT managers can now look to CSPs and the broader set of stakeholders at the start of migration planning. IT managers should especially lean on their CSPs to work through the following steps:

  • Identify target business impact and communications applications
  • Identify responsible stakeholders – from the business unit, IT, and end-users
  • Agree on cursory metrics to track through onboarding and initial service turn-up

This type of adoption plan can be relatively straightforward, depending mainly on how the target applications are defined and stakeholders are held to account. Let’s take an example of user adoption for a mobile app to “UC-enable” your smartphone. Using the three step approach above, IT can build the following outline:

  • Target impact: Improve mobile availability through the use of a mobile app with IM&P
  • Stakeholders and metrics collections
    • Business Unit: Group Vice President – sets targets for participation and results
    • IT: Comms Manager – provides training instance and regular reporting metrics to Group VP
    • CSP: Customer Success Function – provides regular detailed reporting and metrics to IT Comms Manager to track the progress of adoption campaign
    • Users: “Super” User – serves as ad-hoc small group resource around the office and meets regularly with IT Comms Manager and CSP

Metrics to track – reported to Group VP, sent to responsible functional managers

Turn-up track

  • Mobile app download: target 95%
  • Training completion: target 90%
  • Configuration + first use execution: target 85% total

Business impact

  • User impact: collected via survey and usage metrics (provided by CSP)
  • Customer impact: collected via survey

The example of the “UC-enabled smartphone” above is a good starting point for adoption planning. Not only do most business staff suffer from multiple contact numbers, but most UC solutions offer a mobile app that can improve responsiveness and reduce communication cycles. In addition to “UC-enabled smartphones,” we recommend IT managers consider starting with a set of adoption success targets around the following applications and business benefits:

  • Meeting and teams applications → measure “collaboration effectiveness”
  • Virtual front office applications → measure “customer responsiveness”
  • Call screening and time-of-day call routing → measure “work satisfaction & staff retention”

If the business does not currently track metrics, it may consider running a lightweight series of surveys around employees’ views of communications effectiveness. The results may be helpful to target applications, identify end-user communications savvy, and receptivity to new applications.

2. End-User Adoption Dynamics and Diffusion of Innovation Theory

The second area of building an adoption strategy is a consideration of end-user adoption dynamics. Even if a new cloud communications solution offers tremendous personal and firm-level benefits, many end-users bring a different receptivity to change. An accepted and long-standing theory on how a population responds to change opportunities is called Diffusion of Innovation.

You may not be familiar with the Diffusion of Innovation Theory, but you are probably familiar with its terminology, especially the concept of “Early Adopters” vs. “Adoption Laggards.” In fact, Diffusion of Innovation Theory breaks a population into five categories, with the following percentages of the population: Innovators (2.5%), Early Adopters (13.5%), Early Majority (34%), Late Majority (34%), and Laggards (16%). This is better represented as a distribution curve as shown below in Figure 1.


Figure 1: Distribution Curve of Receptivity to Adoption from the Diffusion of Innovation Theory

This distribution may skew in different directions depending on your specific population of end-users or depending on your vertical. Certain demographics such as older public sector workers or professional staff (lawyers and doctors) tend to bring larger populations of technology laggards who lack patience and frustrate easily in the face of new technology. IT managers need to build their plans to consider the needs across the spectrum of adoption profiles, not only their most enthusiastic and ambitious users.

Diffusion of Innovation Theory also identifies five factors that influence adoption across this population – serving to further accelerate or slow down adoption. These factors are: 1) Relative Advantage; 2) Compatibility; 3) Complexity; 4) Trialability; and 5) Observability.The typical telecom cloud communications migration plan violates all five of these factors at once. Here’s how:

1)     Relative Advantage: IT and business leaders do a poor job of describing, or even marketing, the net advantages of the new service, both to the business and individual users.

2)     Compatibility: Rarely are communications services presented within the context of the overall business strategy and corporate culture.

3)     Complexity: Migrations typically struggle to closely coordinate device readiness with first use experience, portal access, training resources, and target use cases. Telecom migration is inherently complex; it takes a lot of work to make this anything close to simple.

4)     Trialability: Many next-generation telecom applications lack a trial, test experience, or way to visualize and prepare for service go-live and readiness.

5)     Observability: As we discussed in the introduction, it is difficult to easily observe how communications services drive both business and user-level objectives.

Many of the above five factors seem to converge around user interfaces (UI) and user experiences (UX). These factors explain why UI and UX play such a significant role in facilitating or hindering a user’s receptivity to change and adoption success. In the case of unified communications, there is such a wide array of devices and interfaces, including traditional handsets, headsets, and conference room panels and equipment. Interfaces include calling applications and how they convert smartphones and laptops into communications endpoints. Ideally, the user experience can be coordinated and orchestrated across all of these devices and interfaces.

Consider device selection carefully together with your plan to manage the amount of change planned for and experienced by your users. You should plan extra efforts if you expect to require greater change for users. For example, consider the change required when swapping out phones for laptop soft clients or mobile apps. Users are often comfortable with the “always-on” availability of a handset with purpose-built feature buttons and well-understood service invocations (for services like transfer, park, pick-up, etc.). These same users frequently express frustration with the loss of familiar user experience and then sour on downloading the replacement mobile app or needing to bring up a soft client to initiate a phone call. They may even reject logging into their personal portal to get all the needed training to see how the new user experience is ultimately superior. This might seem shocking considering the positive impact of new features and better ways of working. And yet, this is the reality of driving adoption and is consistent with some of the data we see in the field, especially for Late Majority Adopters and Adoption Laggards.

3. Reducing Increments of Change through a Building Block Planning Approach

With the number of features, devices, and interfaces, we recommend breaking up the introduction of cloud communications into smaller increments and in an easier to digest sequential fashion. This approach breaks up the typical suite of cloud PBX and unified communications services into three key categories. The first is “service foundation,” which includes IP connectivity, PSTN services, and service quality. The second category is “supporting how you work today,” which includes all the PBX-based communications services that support how staff and admins perform existing jobs and business processes. The third category is the new “advanced/UC services” and the ways of supporting new ways of working and improved business processes.

example-phased-ucaas-migration-project-planFigure 2: Example Phased UCaaS Migration Project Plan

In Figure 2 above, notice how the basic connectivity and PSTN services are turned-up in Phase 1 and 2 before moving to a Phase 3 turn-up of the “new” services. This approach ensures as much continuity as possible and minimizes the stress on users to understand changes to their existing services at the same time as digesting new services and capabilities. In this particular plan, IT management and CSPs believe that improved net adoption of advanced/UC services will outweigh the benefits of a more immediate turn-up of UC functionality.

This approach is notably different than many business process re-engineering strategies, in say ERP or CRM implementations, where there are the strict and formal mapping of exactly how specific legacy processes are re-engineered. The time of the service cutover signals the point to 1) stop following legacy processes, and 2) begin using new business processes.

In the case of communications, it may not be as simple to execute a single point of cutover, especially as there are often multiple ways to handle calling and collaboration interactions. Old processes and new processes can co-exist at the same time. Consider how many ways basic features such as call pickup, hold, or forward can be managed – whether via star codes/flash hooks, dedicated feature buttons, soft-featured keys, or web GUIs, and mobile apps. There’s also the case of how telephone numbers and DIDs are ported. This also creates a period where overlapping operations make sense. The better that IT and CSPs can offer users a choice to their preferred way of working and minimize disruption, the greater that they can focus on driving the adoption of the high impact on new features and capabilities.

4. Use of Personas, Equipment Profiles, and Device Selection

Supporting communications and collaboration starts with supporting how people prefer to work. Different roles within a business work differently and will enjoy different “relative advantages” from cloud communications service. One of the most powerful resources for IT managers and CSPs is the use of a common set of end-user personas to capture the best practice relative advantages and adoption characteristics. Instead of a one-size-fits-all solution that really fits nobody, key personas within a business will see how their specific use cases and equipment needs are supported.

Some popular personas are the “Office Worker,” “Mobile Worker, “Executive,” “Receptionist,” and “Remote or Teleworker.” Sometimes personas can include conference and huddle room configurations or even hoteling stations.

These personas can be very helpful to organize device selection and configuration along with turn-up preferences and adoption hot buttons. See figure 3 below snippet of Cisco’s UCaaS persona – the Executive.

snippet-executive-persona-buying-and-consuming-needsFigure 3: Snippet of the “Executive” Persona with Information on Buying and Consuming Needs

Through the use of personas, IT managers and CSPs can carry out turn-up and adoption plans that are far more targeted to the specific needs, challenges, and opportunities across the broader user base. An analysis by Marty Parker of BC Strategies suggests that the use of seven personas or “usage profiles” were able to account for 90% of communications end-users.

The degree of personalization to consider with personas are as follows:

  • Equipment Kits: specify the particular handset profile (if needed), application type (PC, mobile, tablet), headsets (if needed)
  • Calling and Collaboration Packages: apply basic, enhanced calling features along with any meetings packages
  • Training plans: specific training courses, reference videos, and end “Super” user points of contact for help around the office
  • Objectives: target use cases, business processes, metrics, and features/applications
  • Reporting: benchmark data relative to adoption and customer success

These personas should enable IT managers and CSPs to better execute the delivery of end-user service packages. Targeted equipment kits and training plans enable a more orchestrated first-use experience. Considerable research shows the importance of delivering a positive first-use experience of the new service.

The key term for cloud communications first use experience is “orchestration” – implying the coming together of many parts in the correct sequence. Devices need to be pre-configured, accounts already setup, telephone numbers assigned, credentials available (if needed), and the correct training or instructional resources in reach. This does not necessarily require face-to-face training; these can be accomplished through instructional videos. The key is that the piece parts are in place and validated to achieve a near 100% record of service-ready end users.

Finally, using personas helps take away some of the mystery of device assignments. Who prefers a mobile device? Who prefers a soft client for the PC vs. a handset? Personas offer best-practice examples of end-user configurations. These templates reduce the temptation to guess or apply wishful thinking about who will use what devices, clients, or will need which training. We have seen many IT managers optimistically deploy enterprises with 50% or more stations without a handset. This is probably the most common and frustrating migration for end users. The handset offers a whole host of features and capabilities that most users take for granted: always-on, immune to Wi-Fi networking issues, and not subject to PC or tablet processing constraints. When in doubt and considering the importance of achieving turn-up success, consider assigning a handset to a station.


This entire approach may seem like a lot to go through to drive adoption. That said, just on the personal productivity side, studies report that unified communications applications can offer significant improvements in productivity through enhanced mobility and better collaboration.

Consider research completed by Fluker & Murray who concludes through a review of several studies and broader literature, “UC improves workflow, reduces costs, and facilitates multi-tasking; in other words, work is getting done faster and issues are being resolved more quickly. UC is location neutral – employees can work from any location with broadband access. UC also fosters stronger working relationships that help to create positive work environments.”

These benefits are especially pronounced for businesses where UC features can compress communications cycles from days to hours and even minutes. For a knowledge worker with a total cost of $100K/year. Helping that worker achieve 10% to 20% more output is equivalent to $10K to $20K/year/user, which nets out as a substantial benefit to any business.

Also, consider where cloud communications services adoption is a critical part of a firm’s digital transformation efforts. McKinsey reports that 70% of digital transformation projects end in failure, largely due to poor employee engagement. And with IDC estimating that $2.3 trillion will be spent on these projects by 2023 (almost 1/2 of all IT spending), there is ample reason for business leaders to focus on adoption and get it right.

Achieving successful user adoption is realized through a combination of careful planning and diligent execution. It takes an end-to-end approach. IT and CSPs need to partner and work together. The key to addressing the spectrum of adopters, from Innovators to Laggards, is to minimize complexity and project disruptions as much as possible. At the same time, use persona templates to better target “relative advantages” and focus on delivering a seamless and positive first-use experience.

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David Walters

Product Manager

Strategic Accounts and Initiatives