A unified communications initiative, when executed well, can add significant bottom-line value while shaving costs for most organizations. Companies that implement UC poorly, however, tend to wind up with very expensive dial tone--and confusion about why they can't get the expected return on their investments. For most, poor ROI is the result of one hard truth: UC vendors don't like to admit how complicated it is to successfully deploy today's unified communications systems and then get employees to actually use the bells and whistles. Converging data and real-time communications networks requires a significant amount of planning, and IT and business users must have a full picture of the challenges that come with UC.
Too often, they don't.
The good news is that CIOs can ensure that their organizations get the most out of UC by following our six-step plan to maximize ROI.
1. Define Your Expectations
The goal of UC is to unify the multitude of ways in which employees communicate. This raises the question, How do they communicate?
Write down the major applications and services in use, including version numbers, and note the applicable users, purpose, and average volume of communications per day or week. Most of this information can be gathered from the applications themselves, and it will give you a high-level picture of which apps and services are most important to your organization.
2. Define Your ROI Model
In our experience, the challenge is not in getting ROI, but in quantifying it. To prove that the expected return is being realized, define metrics before the implementation begins. Specifically, determine what costs and revenues were associated with the old way your company communicated, and then calculate how much IT lowered those costs and increased revenues through UC. Sound simple? Well, it isn't. But it can be done.
The first step is to identify the communications methods used, as we mentioned above. Next, work through savings and revenue numbers to determine the ROI on a per-application basis. One UC application may replace the soft and hard costs of several different communications functions. In addition, UC applications may enhance the value of, for example, videoconferencing by making the service easier to use and adding features, such as whiteboarding, thus extracting more ROI.
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