The Fuzzy Math of Unified Communications ROI

The battle cry (or marketing pitch) of the Unified Communications charge typically goes something like this: “UC increases productivity (trust me), just let SIP Trunking savings fund the business case (productivity is an upside)”.

Platform providers, systems integrators and carriers with low cannibalization exposure are all making similar claims. It seems everyone has an online ROI tool to help you estimate the savings (here’s ours) but quantifying productivity gains has proven a bit more elusive.  Not satisfied with these famous last words –i.e. “trust me”, I figured I’d do some quick back-of-envelope math for myself.

Now, your job description (what you do) determines how UC impacts your specific productivity gains (how you benefit), so some sort of disclaimer is probably in order (How about: actual results may vary, consult your technician before trying UC, if you experience pain or discomfort when using UC, discontinue use immediately?)

In modeling these benefits, I assume a not-so-hypothetical UC user who looks roughly like yours truly. In an average day he receives a shade over 100 e-mails and manages to send 20 or so; is on a half-dozen conference calls, makes five phone calls (and receives twice as many) while instant messaging 50 or so times. It does not include any benefits from reduced travel (the way I see it, a meeting that does not require face-to-face interaction can just as easily take place using audio or video conferencing outside the confines of UC). These interactions are all underpinned by activities, some of which can take less time when UC is involved. I’m sure you can think of many other activities I’ve missed (call them upsides) but the math looks something like this:

If my estimates are correct, and assuming an 8 hour work day, I should now be 15% more productive than I was before adopting UC. Now, do I feel 15% more productive? The truth is, it’s hard to mentally roll-it up like that. I like the experience and I feel like I’m more effective, but at the end of the day I don’t go home thinking “I did 15% more today” or, conversely “I’m 15% less tired” (and I’m certainly not going home 1.2 hours sooner)… I guess that’s why this question remains somewhat elusive. I’d be happy to hear your ideas.

Have you seen a relatively straightforward way to quantify projected Unified Communications ROI? Or even better, a “productivity gains calculator”?

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JP Gonzalez

Formally, I’m responsible for our global wholesale voice product portfolio here at Level 3. Informally, I’m that guy that started the Friday donut club.

5 thoughts on “The Fuzzy Math of Unified Communications ROI

  1. Hi there. Interesting post. I believe you have nailed all the items possible from a ‘user’ perspective, however I think the productivity gains that actually can generate a business case comes in to play with Group or Location level hosted features. Most UC companies provide hosted Auto Attendatns, IVRs, Hunting, ACD…and that is where you can build a case around productivity. Specifically when you are talking to multi-site enterprises that have been operating in silos and not taken a wholistic approach to communcations and the power of a mobile workforce… or even call routing in the cloud.

    In other words…creating internal synergies that can only be found by hosted voice applications.

    Just my two cents.


    • Katie – you make a great point. The scenario I address is what I will call “corporate calling”. As you astutely point-out there is a whole other set of benefits to be reaped for contact centers. These include automation of call handling (customer self-service), normalization (single queue and interface for multiple modes of communication) and centralization such as storefront integration (to gain the efficiencies of division of labor on applications which traditionally have not benefited from them). Perhaps we can convince Art Goldberg (our Contact Center guru) to write a follow-up post

      • Great points
        Also depending on how broadly you define UC – and we have seen some fairly broad definitions – you could include the “side” application benefits for conferencing (travel reduction, green benefits, etc.), collaboration benefits (information, time to complete tasks, etc.), other presence application benefits, etc.
        Other interesting “inclusions” are benefits associated with consistent VoIP implementation and extension of UC productivity applications to flexible work.
        Ends up being a fairly broad justification model. I have been building one.

        • Al – It sounds like you’ve put a fair amount of thought into this topic and I’d love to see your model when it’s ready. While different folks define UC in different ways, I believe audio conferencing and online collaboration should definitely be part of any mainstream definition. I was trying to be conservative with my math (assuming the travel benefits could be reaped outside of UC), however, I believe I can see a strong argument for including them if we put the right set of constraints (i.e. how does the UC experience further reduce travel beyond stand-alone conferencing?). You also bring-up a great point on flexible work made easier. In my case, if I were to work from home one extra day a week, given my half-hour commute, my work day could be 1 hour longer (not to mention motivational and green benefits) –without any trade-offs on productivity brought about by fumbling through an inconsistent implementation.

  2. I like how you look at this from the end-user perspective. There will always be productivity items we can add to the model on the IT end, but one pillar of my axiom of technology adoption is that if the end user doesn’t see the immediate benefit of the technology, they will never adopt. I think 2012 is the year we will finally start seeing a critical mass of adoption.

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