What is the ROI on Unified Communications?

The ROI on Unified Communications (UC) is an important component which needs to be addressed at some stage during the sales cycle but the majority of ROI’s presented are often on the surface superficial and lack tangible returns for the end user customer.

A couple of the most commonly talked about benefits of UC are increased employee workflow efficiency and user productivity. This is true but, you would be hard pressed getting a senior executive to sign off on a UC opportunity based on these benefits alone.Increased productivity and efficiency are often referred to as being ‘Soft’ benefits or ‘Micro-Productivity’ which refer to the actual time saved by an individual when completing a given task.

Take this study for example… Sage research in 2006 surveyed 200 small, medium and large businesses to map the trends in their device usage. The concluded that the number of communication devices and applications are proliferating at an alarming rate and determined that each person surveyed had access to an average of 6.4 different types of physical devices (Mobile, VoIP Handset, Smart Phone, Blackberry or Pam, Fax, Pager etc) and 4.8 different types of applications (Email, Public IM’s such as MSN and Yahoo Messenger, Enterprise IM, softphone etc) to communicate with various stakeholders in their organisation.

They also found mobility to be a market driver with employees becoming increasingly more mobile with 27% of those surveyed travelling at least once a month.

These two factors alone… ‘Proliferation of communication devices and applications’ + ‘increasing mobile workforce’ = delays in contacting the right person.

We have all experienced ‘message tag’ where we have tried numerous communication devices to contact the right person. The typical process is like this….

  1. Send an email (and wait for a reply)…
  2. I need a response urgently so I’ll ring the land line or mobile and leave a voice message.
  3. Still no response so I’ll send a follow-up email… and then leave another message on the land line or mobile again.
  4. …Repeat

You can see where this is going… I just spent a good part of the day using various communication devices and applications trying to contact a key discission maker… without much success. Not to mention that the person you have been trying to contact will have to manage and clear the influx of emails and voice messages left on any one of their 6.4 physical devices and/or 4.8 applications.

The net effect of the inability to contact the right person the first time is delay and missed deadlines which could seriously impact the top & bottom line of the business.

The study concluded by indicating that those companies who implemented various UC solution such as ‘Unified Communications Clients’, ‘SoftPhones’, Enterprise IM, and ‘Unified Messaging’ saved between 32 and 53min per employee per day by being able to reach co-workers on the first attempt or by escalating IM chats into phone calls.

We could argue that the time saved resulted in a direct hard $$ savings. Let’s assume that by implementing and using an enterprise IM solution to escalate chats into phone calls saves each employee 45min per day. Over the course of a year the time saved by each employee is approximately 180 hours or 7.5 days each year. Multiple this by the total number of employees and you have some considerable savings.But is this enough to get executive buy in… the answer in most likely NO! Increased productivity and efficiency are ‘Soft’ benefits or ‘Micro-Productivity’.

ROI of UC is faster revenue generation:

What gets executives excited is not the time saved by implementing and using better and easier methods of communications… it is the time saved by performing specific core functions of the business based around revenue generation… or otherwise referred to as ‘Hard’ benefits or ‘Macro-Productivity’Macro-Productivity is the ability to speed up the customer ordering process, or the ability to resolve a customer billing issue by being able to accurately and within a timely fashion, resulting in increased customer satisfaction and retention.

Another ‘Hard’ or ‘Macro-Productivity’ is the ability to add additional functionality by integrating UC into backend business processes. Companies who have invested heavily in CRM or ERP systems would look positively in complementary solutions which enable decision makers, internal experts and information workers to access customer information over any device to help resolve or perform specific core revenue generating functions of the business.    

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