Ran across an interesting term the other day. “Return on Collaboration.” It’s something that Frost & Sullivan has coined, taking the usual ROI in a little different direction when it comes to assessing the value of Unified Communications.
Will this term be one that sticks in the market? Hard to say … but it does pose an excellent question in terms of the struggle faced both by the suppliers of UC and enterprise IT managers trying to sell the concept to their top executives. That is, how do you determine ROI for a strategy whose primary benefits are increased productivity and collaboration?
But by framing the question as ROC (Return on Collaboration) it directs attention to one of the main selling points of UC as opposed to the investment involved. In other words, the value of UC is not how much money to put into the solution (and the dollar-for-dollar return), but the collaboration benefits (e.g. instant messaging, video, etc.) that those dollars generate.
And in touting its 2009 ROC research, Frost & Sullivan did offer some interesting points. For example, many more UC-using enterprises (68 percent) developed new products than non-UC-using organizations (39 percent). Three-fourths of UC-using companies saw sales growth, compared with half of companies not using UC. And among UC-using companies, 71 percent were profitable, compared with 45 percent of profitable non-UC-users.
You could, of course, argue that UC may not fully account for these differences so much as the difference in attitude and business approach among the companies using it. In other words, if they’re forceful companies willing to be innovative in their business approach, maybe that has a lot to do with it. But I suspect it’s a combination of the two.
My point about UC and ROI … or ROC if you prefer … is that if you are only doing UC for the dollars and cents, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Sure, you can save money through SIP trunking and Mobile Integration, but if you look only at the savings, you are definitely missing the bigger ROI/ROC picture.
Five years ago, as so many of us were enamored of our BlackBerries, it was impossible to explain to the typical CFO why people in the company should have one. But once you gave one to the CFO and he/she experienced it, they understood and wanted them for their people. Now people don’t even ask whether you have a mobile device; they expect that you do. UC and collaboration are like that … once the decision makers experience it, they’ll understand it, want it, and see ROI in a different light.