How to Approach Modernizing Your Collaboration Infrastructure


“Digital transformation” is top of mind for many business leaders today, especially as it relates to collaboration technology. But transformation projects involve a variety of moving parts, and new trends and concepts are constantly emerging to drive decision making every step of the way. Amid this revolving door of technical considerations and solution options, one of the greatest challenges you may face is gathering the right insight to effectively modernize your collaboration infrastructure.

The New Digital Status Quo

Before you can modernize your collaboration infrastructure, you need to first understand what you’re up against, i.e., what external factors are influencing the way your workforce collaborates. Each business is different, but there are some universal concepts influencing workplace collaboration that you should keep in mind as you approach modernization.

IT Consumerization

The workforce has changed. Gone are the days of employees being in-house, desk-strapped office workers, and no longer are computers and phones simply passive pieces of office equipment. Today, your employees aren’t just employees — they’re users, leveraging devices, apps and platforms to drive their work days the same way they use them to connect with friends, go shopping and order food. This paradigm is what Cisco refers to as “IT Consumerization” in their recent ebook, The Essential Guide to Workplace Modernization Through Next-Generation Unified Communications. And effectively leveraging this new paradigm into creating a meaningful, constructive collaboration environment requires the right tools, processes and — most importantly — mindsets across your organization.

Digital Nomads

Just as your employees are using technology differently, they’re also approaching “work” differently. The term “digital nomad” refers to a new breed of employee that is less fixed to the traditional structure of an office environment, preferring to work where they want and when they want with the support of collaboration technology and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.

Solution Integration

For many business leaders, modernizing collaboration technology means cutting overhead costs and killing legacy hardware in favor of a more integrated, cloud-driven approach. This has led to a rise of unified solutions offered by specialized service providers. The unified-communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) market’s explosion of growth in 2017 illustrates this trend.

Cutting a Path to Modernization

Migrating your collaboration infrastructure and processes to this new digital status quo isn’t an overnight endeavor. Research from Synergy Research Group suggests legacy solutions like on-premise private branch exchange (PBX) technologies are still ever present throughout the business landscape, underscoring that many organizations have yet to modernize their collaboration suites and may be doing so in the not-so-distant future.

Whether undergoing a digital transformation now or putting the pieces in place to launch one over the next few years, you can benefit from understanding how to prepare for a modernization project.

Where to Start:

Assess Your Status Quo

Before you can upgrade your processes and install new collaboration technology, you need to first understand the limitations and opportunities of your current infrastructure. In Info-Tech Research Group’s executive brief, Modernize Communications and Collaboration Infrastructure, they call this process establishing “tech debt” — quantifying existing technology challenges like lack of scale and amount of end-of-life systems. As part of this process, you also need to inventory your current collaboration infrastructure and available technical resources. This will give you a level idea of where your modernization project is starting, enabling you to take a smart approach to defining your project’s needs and goals.

Define End Goals

With tech debt established and existing infrastructure and resources inventoried, you should be able to define the needs and end goals of your collaboration infrastructure’s modernization. What collaboration problems are you trying to solve, and which solutions are needed to solve them? Answering these questions arms you to create and launch a modernization approach that will achieve those end goals. According to McKinsey & Company, many organizations follow one of two modernization approaches: The two-speed model or the greenfield approach.

The two-speed model is a more agile approach focused on phased iterations of select systems, keeping foundational or mission-critical systems in place. The greenfield approach is a ground-up replacement of legacy infrastructure, a process that usually works best if your collaboration technology can no longer support your company’s requirements.

Greenlight the Project

The final preparation for a modernization project is getting the approval to move forward. Before you can draft an RFP for a service provider, you need to achieve buy in for modernization across your entire organization. Employees at every level of your company should be involved at this stage so all stakeholders can voice their needs and concerns before the modernization is underway.

Modernizing Collaboration Infrastructure Takes Support

The most important thing to remember about modernizing collaboration infrastructure is that it isn’t all or nothing. It can be done incrementally and over a period of time. But the modernization process takes time, resources and the right insight, and it can be tricky for smaller organizations with limited IT staff. No matter where you are in modernizing your collaboration infrastructure, it never hurts to have objective insight from a trusted third party.

If you’re interested in starting a conversation about modernizing your collaboration infrastructure, connect with the team at Select Communications.