Published on January 7th, 2020 | by Ben Ferguson


6 Must Have Skills for Hiring the Right Unified Communications (UC) Architect at HealthTech Organizations

When healthcare industry professionals think about eHealth technology, the first things that come to mind are typically front-end devices, apps and systems – after all, these are the tools they will be using most.

One thing that might not be immediately apparent, however, is that all of the tools listed above are supported by an IT architecture which, in turn, relies upon skilled personnel to manage correctly.

One overlooked but highly important aspect of eHealth is telephony, and many health providers are in the process of upgrading aging telecom systems into modern unified communications (UC) platforms. Setting up and running this infrastructure requires a diverse skill set, so if you are in the process of hiring a UC architect for health and technology companies, here are some of the important skills you should be looking for:

General Skills and Experience

As a hiring manager, there are few things more frustrating than an inbox overloaded with unsuitable applicants. To help ensure that this doesn’t happen to you, it is worth noting in your job post that a UC architect is a highly-skilled position and requires a very high level of training. The most suitable training backgrounds for applicants are often related to Information Technology, telecommunications, computer science or a similar field.

On-the-job experience is another vital component of a good UC architect, although ideally it should be a supplement to high-level training instead of a replacement for it. In a perfect world, the best UC architects will have at least 10 years or more of hands-on experience with contact centers and/or UC environments.

Relevant certifications are also a bonus. For example, the Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) is one of the highest levels of accreditation possible and is proof of business acumen and advanced technical network architecture capabilities. Another Cisco certification to look out for is the Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Routing and Switching accreditation. Other UC platform providers will also have certification programs which may be relevant, especially if you are using their products.

Cloud Computing Knowledge

Even if you’re not currently considering a migration to a cloud-native or hybrid IT network, it is a virtual certainty that this option will be put on the table more than once over the coming years. Many healthcare providers are opting for UCaaS (i.e. Unified Communication as a Service) whereby all telephony infrastructure is outsourced.

If your organization eventually makes the decision to transition to the cloud, it will help if your UC architect has some knowledge and experience of cloud computing so that they can help with choosing the right vendor, provisioning cloud direct connect and other technical aspects of cloud migration.

Another benefit is that you can still employ a small in-house team to manage the service rather than opt for a fully-managed UCaaS platform. This can be preferable when sensitive patient communications and data are involved.

Speaking of sensitive data, let’s move on to security and compliance.

Technical Skills and Product Specific Experience

Even if a prospective UC architect doesn’t have an official accreditation, they may have a lot of useful experience in using powerful UC platforms.

Again, Cisco products are among the most popular so Iet’s use these as an example. Unified Communications Manager is Cisco’s call control and system management platform which enables the global coordination of multiple telephony devices. It is the platform that forms the basis of the Unified Contact Center Enterprise (UCCE) platform, sometimes described as a ‘contact center in a box.’

Experience with these products will be useful to most healthcare UC teams. Cisco’s Customer Voice Portal (CVP) Studio, a speech-activated self-service platform, may also be a valuable asset.

Another desirable technical skill is having an advanced understanding of Cisco’s Intelligent Communication Manager (ICM) scripting language. This enables calls to be automatically routed based on various parameters.

Of course, there are other UC systems out there as well, so be sure to look out for candidates with similar experience with 3CX, Asterisk, Avaya, Digium, Mitel and MPS systems.

Security and Compliance Awareness

Healthcare providers are responsible for an incredible amount of sensitive data – from personal contact details and payment information, to confidential scan results and prescription details. As the WannaCry attack on the UK’s NHS shows, healthcare institutions are a prime target for cybercriminals.

It should go without saying that that any UC architect you consider hiring should have a responsible attitude towards security, compliance and confidentiality. A few key things to look out for here are candidates with experience and understanding of H323, ISDN PRI, SCCP and SIP.

High-Level Business Skills

The above four sections pretty much cover the ‘essential requirements’ for potential UC architect hires. The final two sections we’ll address here fall under the ‘highly desirable qualities’ category.

It takes a special person who can lift their head above the technical complexities of UC installation and management to spot business opportunities which could give you an advantage over the competition or improve the service you provide. A candidate who can demonstrate appreciation of how UC ties in with overall business strategy is one to keep an eye on, as they could be future CIO/CTO material.

Even a basic understanding of the fact that UC solutions can be subject to budget constraints is a bonus, as these employees won’t be pushing for the newest tech without having done much research on how that tech will affect your business. That said, a keen awareness of and interest in emerging tech is of course an advantage if used correctly, so look for evidence of a thirst for cutting edge developments in the UC industry.

Soft Skills

Finally, although UC architecture is a very technical area and having a good ‘bedside manner’ is not a high priority, the ability to show a high level of emotional intelligence is desirable.

Your UC architect will be expected to work with numerous internal and external departments from sales, marketing and business development teams to ISPs and hospital telecom consulting services. The better the architects are at collaborating, the more successful your systems will be.

Communication skills, both verbal and written, are also important, as are the ability to be flexible and to solve complex problems both alone and with the help of others.

Hiring the right UC architect will go a long way towards building an infrastructure that can support the vital communications arm of your healthcare facility. It’s not an exact science by any means – hiring in general never is – but having a good UC architect on staff can help set you apart from the competition.

Good Luck : )

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About the Author

Ben Ferguson is the Vice President and Senior Network Architect for Shamrock Consulting Group, an industry leader in digital transformation solutions. Since his departure from Biochemical research in 2004, Ben has built core competencies around cloud direct connects and cloud cost reduction, enterprise wide area network architecture, high density data center deployments, cybersecurity and Voice over IP telephony. Ben has designed hundreds of complex networks for some of the largest companies in the world and he’s helped Shamrock become a top partner of the 3 largest public cloud platforms for Azure, GCP and AWS consulting. When he takes the occasional break from designing networks, he enjoys surfing, golf, working out, trying new restaurants and spending time with his wife, Linsey, his son, Weston and his dog, Hamilton. Get connected on LinkedIn.

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