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Community Member

Is Collaboration worth it? Research says, yes.To measure the full return on Collaboration, business leaders should consider results across three key areas:

  • Operational ROI: Reducing or avoiding hard costs
  • Productivity ROI: Capturing efficiencies in the business that lead to reduced cycles times and process improvement
  • Strategic ROI: Tranforming an entire industry and creating competitive advantage in the process

Check out this new white paper by Carl Wiese, VP of Global Collaboration Sales, discussing these three areas of Collaboration ROI.

Community Member

I think the operational ROI part is a good start.  Aberdeen's research would take the next step of looking at collaboration at a departmental level. Talking about the types of travel that are most greatly reduced, such as product and service ideation, project based, or sales based travel might have been an interesting angle.

I've got to admit that the productivity ROI part confuses me.  Is the point simply that more collaboration is better? It seems that the quality of the collaboration and purpose of collaboration would provide specific levels of value. And how does the return go up from 100% to 400%? I know we all have different methodologies as analysts, but this is unclear. Normally, I'd provide this kind of feedback privately, but I don't see any way to provide private feedback here.

The last strategic picture is more in line with what I've heard from Cisco in the past and I think it's a great vision.  It's a shame there wasn't any research you used to show how companies are planning to do this over the next couple of years.

Level 1
Level 1

I think you're poking at a critical issue... is simply more, any better?  Certainly in the KM world, you'd say no.  Having more documents doesn't imply having quality documents.  Relevant knowledge is a product of the quality of authoratative sources, not the number of objects in a table somewhere.

While this holds true for KM, where knowledge and authority typically follow a known taxonomy, it may be less true for collaboration.  If you presume that the "hit rate" of productive collaboration is somewhat constant (albiet unknown), then having more collaboration channels and opportunities, should produce more "hits," many of which, you can't anticipate.  Of course, it may not be linear, but it is concievable that some good comes out of providing more opportunities to collaborate.

In the past, you tried to seed collaboration in order to generate hits by having a big HQ office with a lot of people, or putting phones on desks so people could call one another.  As we continue to try to stretch past the bounds of space and time, can we do more?

You're poking at a great question... how do we know when opening up new forms of collaboration has discreet ROI?  I'd love to see continued discussion of this in the community.

Community Member


Thanks for the reply. I think there's a key component of collaboration in establishing the quality of relationships created. Cisco's Telepresence is a great example of improving quality of remote collaboration in a couple of aspects, but there are really several aspects of "quality." (there are probably more than I'm writing here; this is just off the top of my head.)

1) Quality of channel

2) Quality of interaction

3) Quality of insight

Premium technologies are important for all of these, but become less important as the technology network is superseded by the human network with the idea being that the technology should ideally enhance the interaction and be fairly transparent. Then again, the best technology isn't helpful if, say, you're having a strategic Cisco meeting and can't get in touch with Padmasree or John Chambers.  So, ubiquity, technical quality, trusted networks (physical and personal), human interaction, and familiarity all have to come in play in context of defining some sort of return. I think that simply saying "it's GREAT" and "people just WANT it" is a copout in describing the value of collaboration, but also think we're closer to describing value now that we've been in the past when even the technologies used were in great flux.

Level 1
Level 1

Thank you for your comments. Perhaps I can provide a bit more context….

The Salire research referenced in the Operational ROI section of the white paper measures hard dollar savings across areas like moves/adds/changes, long distance and local phone service, and audio conference. (And by the way, we would be very interested in hearing more about Aberdeen’s perspective here).

The research by Frost & Sullivan referenced in the Productivity ROI had a very different focus.  It was a global survey of 3,500+ business and IT people providing their own qualitative view on how collaboration has impacted their organization-especially as it relates to improvements in business critical activities across six business functions: R&D, HR, Sales, Marketing, PR and IR. We felt this type of information fell more logically into productivity benefits. If you are interested, I can send you the report. Lastly, I couldn’t agree more about your desire for research to back up Strategic ROI. We are unable to locate anything that looks specifically at this issue and determined that it would be very challenging to quantify this sort of thing—but we are all ears if you have ideas for how we could measure this area.

Thanks again for your feedback! Carl

Cisco Employee
Cisco Employee

Hyoun, you're spot on re: different aspects or levels of collaboration. The ROI for some collaboration scenarios (videoconferencing, online customer service, project management) are straightforward to measure while for others (time to market, organizational mergers) are more of an art than a science. That’s why it is critical to establish intuitive models and tangible metrics (preferably, in conjunction with research firms and other vendors) for measuring the ROI (or perhaps alternatively, the return on assets) of the scenarios that currently seem to be challenging to quantify. To that end, I was quite happy to see that the whitepaper split ROI into operational (easy to measure), productivity (somewhat difficult to measure), and strategic (more challenging to measure) vectors. The whitepaper included pertinent excerpts and proper attribution for operational and productivity ROI metrics based on reports that had been published by a couple of research firms during the past year. As Carl Wiese (the author of the whitepaper) mentioned in his reply above, we can share those reports directly with you if you like.

I also agree that technology should ultimately be an enabler or at most a facilitator for collaboration. I'm excited about Cisco's vision for collaboration because it recognizes and respects the different ways and means by which people collaborate. I believe that collaboration (in terms of tools, techniques, and business value) will rapidly evolve over the next several years to usher the convergence of communication, content management, business processes, and social computing. I look forward to having further dialog with you and the rest of the analyst community as Cisco's vision and strategy for collaboration plays out in the form of products and services.

Level 1
Level 1

I believe the forgotten point through all these conversations to capture ROI on these tools is the capture the behavior change.

Webex meetings and Webex Teams are tools like a hammer would be for a carpenter. We provide a new super hammer to our clients but if the behavior are not aligned to take the benefits it provides, the client will not capture the gains and ROI they expect.


The ROI is only obtained through behavior change, and behavior change is sustainable when its outcome are measured, monitored and provided as feedback. For example : It is useless to expect ROI from better teamwork when you provide Webex Teams to group who do not operate as a team; where information is not shared, goals and people are in perpetual conflicts, there is no common goals, etc. By itself, the technology will not provide alignment, leadership, and results. 

When the behavior are aligned to take the maximum benefits from the technology, it becomes easy to measure results and evaluate ROI.  ROI will usually be very high.

As a Adoption and Change Management specialist for many years, I have documented a methodology to drive the behavior changes and deliver significant ROI to customers.  

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