No company wants to invest in a technology only to struggle to find its value or prove its ROI. Unfortunately, though, a recent study by Nemertes Research found that over half—57 percent of respondents to its 45-company inquiry—reported feeling that way about their unified communications (UC) efforts.
For such a high functioning technology with countless potential operational benefits, this information is a bit disheartening. It begs one question: Why? Where are these companies falling short in their quests to leverage the power of their UC investments? The answer might just be found in the way IT leaders approach UC efforts and measure their success in the first place. Let’s take a look.
More Highlights from the Study
For their survey of UC effectiveness, Nemertes Research queried 50 senior IT leaders, most from companies with 2,500 or more employees. Below are some notable statistics from the research:
- Thirty-two percent of respondents felt their UC success was neutral.
- Twenty-four percent of respondents felt their UC efforts were altogether unsuccessful.
- Forty-six percent of respondents said tracking UC usage by employees was their main metric for measuring success.
- Ten percent of respondents said they examine network-related issues, trouble tickets, throughput value or other application performance metrics.
Consider that the last time Nemertes Research conducted their Unified Communications and Collaboration Benchmark study, 61 percent of respondents rated their UC efforts as successful. This year’s sharp drop to 43 percent means we need to take a closer look at the UC marketplace and how IT leaders are measuring success.
Why IT Leaders Need to Shift Their Focus
The statistics above are telling for several reasons, especially those that speak to metrics. It’s interesting to note, for example, that survey respondents who described negative UC experiences also reported both low employee usage and a struggle to measure the business benefits of their technology.
Why the disconnect? It appears that IT leaders are approaching UC and collaborative initiatives as commodities (like bandwidth, for example), rather than examining their overall business impact (like cost reduction). In addition, while 46 percent track employee use as the most important metric, reports have shown that employee training is (ironically) one of the most lacking areas of UC initiatives. If employees don’t know how to use UC tools, they can’t be reasonably expected to spend significant amounts of time with them.
IT leaders should also consider approaching the success of their UC efforts from a business perspective rather than one that’s application-specific. Uptime, average repair time and audio/visual quality are appropriate factors to measure, of course. However, they don’t determine the success or failure of the overall UC system on a big picture basis. Instead, IT leaders should focus on the following pre-UC and post-UC to determine the success of their initiatives:
- Project completion rates and times.
- Customer satisfaction.
- Sales generation.
- Inventory turnover.
- Internal collaboration rates.
Those with IT purchasing power should not shy away from products and services that boost the success of UC initiatives from the high-level business sense described above. For example, video conferencing—while it can be bandwidth-intensive and come with setup costs—can add versatility and flexibility to relationships both internally and with clients. On the whole, that improves the market position of the business and can be extraordinarily cost effective in the long term. (Plus, if the videoconferencing setup is bandwidth-intensive, that means there is a high employee use rate. That fact alone satisfies the archaic metric of UC success.)
Successful UC has several worthwhile benefits, including the potential of reduced costs, increased revenue, improved efficiency and better customer service. In short, UC done right adds value from both operational and customer-facing perspectives. To get there, companies need to change their approach to UC, making goals more rooted in overall business metrics and less rooted in the performance of specific applications.
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