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UC and End User Productivity


On the road to UC, many companies start with the User Productivity elements, focusing on how UC impacts individual users and teams or workgroups. There are significant benefits to be gained from the personal or user productivity aspect of UC - but is it enough?

While working on a UC End User Productivity study I conducted with my colleague Nancy Jamison, we interviewed various types of UC users. Rather than talking primarily with the IT managers who are responsible for implementing and running the UC systems, we spoke with the people who use UC on a daily basis to find out how UC is helping them be more productive and effective in their jobs. We found that almost all of the UC users who we spoke with are really happy campers – they LOVE their UC systems. In fact, when asked, “What would you do or how would you react if your UC system was taken away from you?” we got similar responses from all the respondents, ranging from “I’d scream” to “it would be painful” to “I can’t imagine working without it.”

Several respondents liken UC to email –while it’s hard to identify the time savings, it’s a tool that helps you better communicate with people and better do your job. Whether UC saves you 30 minutes a day or 3 hours isn’t the point – it helps workers be more productive and effective. When asked, “Do you feel UC helps you be more effective at your job?” the answer is usually “absolutely.”

However, it’s still challenging to quantify the benefits of UC on worker productivity. One respondent noted “It helps productivity in a subtle way from a numbers standpoint, but in the end it’s obvious that you’re getting things done more quickly.” Another noted, “I’m much more effective in being able to deal with business issues in a real time manner.”

So does it matter whether or not you can prove a hard ROI for UC in order to justify purchasing and implementing a UC solution? Yes and no. Often times when I give presentations on UC I ask the audience members the question “Do you need to demonstrate the ROI of UC before getting approval for a UC solution.” Sometimes the audience overwhelmingly says yes, but at other times they overwhelmingly say no. When I speak to IT managers who have implemented UC solutions, I have found that more and more, companies are willing to take the plunge into UC without necessarily having the hard ROI data to back it up. While this is certainly not the case for everyone, I believe we’ve reached a point where enough people and companies understand the value of UC and how it helps improve worker productivity and effectiveness, and thus the bottom line, to be able to move forward with what is actually a pretty economical deployment.

I’d love to hear from you about how you would respond – is a demonstrable ROI necessary in order for your company to deploy unified communications? Let me know.

Cisco Employee

I saw an interview with Tony Hsieh (CEO Zappos) the other day and the interviewer asked him what was the ROI for his use of twitter, he responded with a the rhetorical question "do people ask about the ROI for phones?" (he went on to say that it fit their culture of transparency and trying to be as close as possible to their customers.  It wasn't a spreadsheet but rather a culture/fit decision that drove their twitter usage.)

I think UC is probably similar type of ROI discussion.  What's the ROI for better collaboration between employees and customers?  Anyone could try to come up with some dollars to put in a spreadsheet but it's probably a goal seeking exercise.  Leaders (like Zappos in customer service) adopt first, gain advantage, and others will follow.


Todd:  As much as I like your analogy, the big difference is that twitter is free, while UC and collaboration technologies are pretty costly. Yes, companies like Zappos have the foresight to recognize the value they get from technologies that help them become closer to their customers, and will invest in them with or without a solid ROI, but most companies don't have that type of vision. Hopefully enough companies will adopt first and gain advantage, setting the bar for their competitors who will follow suit.

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