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When collaboration becomes mission critical by Andrew Pronobis

When does your collaboration solution become mission critical?

The quick answer is at the point where if you lost access to its resources business would suffer. This can happen to any sized business with any level of complexity, from a small five person company using a cloud based Microsoft Lync solution all the way up to a large enterprise with over a hundred video conferencing rooms blanketing the globe. If collaboration solutions are used every day, they are mission critical.

When do you know it has become mission critical?

If you’re on your own, I most often see this decided the first time something doesn’t work. There are companies that have the forethought to see their solution as becoming mission critical and addressing it before the inevitable scramble to fix it is required, but this is generally the exception, not the rule.

All it takes is for someone to ask the question: “What if this didn’t work?”. Step back and assess the fallout prior to it becoming a problem and you’re already ahead of the game.

What is the solution?

The first, and probably most important, step is to engage a credible, reliable, and proficient vendor. A recent blog called, “Before Your Company Purchases Technology, Make Sure You Are Working with a Trusted Advisor, not a Salesman.” by Veraview sales manager Joe Miller, addresses the need for a trusted adviser. This is extremely important as they will be your gateway to not only the sales aspect, but the technical resources you will need. This should be ‘in house’ for the vendor; they should not have to play the role of liaison with manufacturer tech support for anything but the most difficult of problems. If you have an existing system, ask the systems manufacturer for a vendor that they prefer. If the all-important relationship between the vendor and the manufacturer exists, this should be easy information to obtain. If you are looking to deploy or expand a system, be sure that you find a vendor that has the technical and solution experience to provide you the best fit systems.

The next step should be to have a person or team within the company that has a basic understanding of the systems functions. It’s much faster (and cheaper!) to have an in house resource that is capable of operating the systems, doing basic trouble shooting, and contacting your vendor if the problem is beyond their means. The vendor should be able to have given this person or team basic training to cover what they would need to address should a simple problem arise. This could mean the difference between a few minutes of down time and hours or days waiting for a vendor or manufacturer to be available to help. This person (or a designate if it’s a team) should also be the single point of contact with your trusted vendor if possible. It is much easier to have one person that we can interact with on a common and consistent basis and this can greatly speed up and simplify response and resolution times. Time is money, and downtime is expensive…

I haven’t mentioned anything about hardware or software until now because the importance of the first two points cannot be understated. It’s the practices that you develop that will lead to smooth flowing mission critical collaboration solutions. However, once you get past a few users, or a few collaboration enabled conference rooms, it becomes important to have a single point to centrally manage them. This could be a web portal like the Office 365 management interface, or an on premise appliance like a Polycom Real Presence Resource Manager. Having your tech team correctly trained in using the management system is also critical. It will speed up response to user requests, indicate problems before they’re reported by an end user, give an “at a glance” summary of the condition of your collaboration network, and provide more command and control over the solution as a whole.

The changeover from “just another business tool” to “mission critical application” can often go un-realized until it’s too late. With an ounce of prevention and well thought out organization, in advance of any problems, your chosen system and your business practices can grow and thrive without interruption.


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