Tony Dolan of Connect Managed shares his advice for creating a business case for a Unified Communications (UC) platform.
There is no doubt that Unified Communications (UC) make a workplace more convenient for its employees. UC platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams make remote collaborative working much easier and faster.
But, as with most important decisions in business, whether or not to implement UC transformation often comes down to the return on investment (ROI).
Calculating the ROI for UC transformation isn’t straightforward because some of the benefits of UC can seem intangible.
This article is going to dive into the potential productivity benefits and cost savings that a good UC system can bring, demonstrating how you can build a persuasive business case.
Measuring Unified Communications Cost Savings
All business leaders are interested in one important factor – the bottom line. If UC can be shown to bring about significant cost savings, then it’s more likely to be adopted.
The problem with the benefits generated by UC is that they are difficult to measure and quantify. Traditional metrics tend to analyse ROI when implementing a new system, but that doesn’t necessarily work when it comes to communications, e.g. an increase in collaboration is difficult to quantify.
One of the best ways to prepare a business case for UC transformation is to analyse the resulting cost savings of moving away from your current environment. This can be done by estimating or measuring the cost of non-adoption and comparing it to the savings generated by UC implementation.
In other words, a before and after comparison of costs, which will give you an accurate ROI estimate.
The first thing to do is to list the business areas that will be affected by UC adoption, then work out the existing costs and the potential savings. The two figures can be compared to make a case for UC transformation.
The 4 Metrics
1. Acquisition and Running Costs
Transforming your communications into one integrated platform means you pay for fewer services and software, helping you get leaner and save money. Often the best option is to choose a managed services provider to manage this process for you by leveraging their relationship with vendors to improve your terms of service and reduce costs.
Flexible financing options are an advantage too. For example, paying for UC infrastructure and hardware as a service, or an Operating Expenditure (OpEX), may be perceived as an easier sell to the key decision-makers in your business.
An as-a-service option also provides a highly customised environment for your business by:
- Identifying the infrastructure and devices required for each user profile
- Building a suitable and practical Service Design to SLA’s
- Understanding the desired ownership model of the required assets
- Investigating the most appropriate pricing model to fit your needs
ACTION: Measure the acquisition and running costs by estimating the cost of the new UC environment over a year versus the cost of maintaining your existing environment over the same period.
2. Increased Productivity
Productivity is notoriously difficult to measure and compare within a company, as the output of an individual or group may be affected by several factors, not just a change in communication practices.
The problem with traditional business communications, i.e. over the phone or face-to-face meetings, is that they rely on people communicating either by voice only, or to be physically present in the same location. This means that collaborative working may be difficult, if not impossible to organise on a regular basis. UC solves this problem by bringing people together remotely to share ideas, information and to work jointly on the same projects.
Stanford and Harvard University studies have shown significant productivity boosts as a result of collaborative working made possible by UC. A Forrester report published in 2019 showed that information workers save four hours per week from improved collaboration and information sharing. The same report showed that workers save 15 minutes per day on average by not having to switch applications and re-engage cognitively.
ACTION: Use the figure of 15 minutes per worker saved per day as a benchmark to estimate the ROI of UC in terms of productivity.
- Work out how many working days your average employee has per year. For a UK company with 25 annual leave days and eight public holidays per year, plus excluding weekends, there are 228 working days in the year
- Multiply your figure by 0.25 (15 minutes benchmark) to give you the number of hours saved per year
- Multiply that by your number of employees
If you want to go one step further, you can use your staff costs to estimate a monetary value for your ‘hours saved’ figure.
As you can probably tell regardless of the size of your organisation this can add up to a substantial amount both in time and money saved.
3. Increased Flexibility and Mobility
UC allows for more flexible working, as teams are no longer required to work or collaborate in the same space.
Traditional communications are limited in their ability to allow a team to work together remotely. This means that companies must pick up the cost of transporting team members to meetings and conferences throughout the year.
UC can reduce this significantly. Most meetings and conferences can take place via a video link. Both MS Teams and Skype for Business allow people to give presentations remotely and manage conferences. Even in an office block or headquarters where a team work closely, UC helps to reduce the number of meetings required, freeing up time for more productive work. There may also be savings in office rental, fuel consumption and staff retention.
For instance, a company that hires talent from around the world or trades internationally will require frequent collaboration between people from different countries. Rather than flying people tens of thousands of miles each year, UC allows teams to work closely, yet remotely. This will create substantial cost savings in terms of travel and accommodation expenses.
ACTION: This is difficult to calculate but a starting point could be an estimated cost of travel expenses in the last year versus where a remote meeting could have happened instead.
4. Reduced Obsolescence
All technological devices become obsolescent over time. Businesses are keen to stay at the cutting-edge of technology to prevent falling behind. This is true of both information and communication technology. Mobile phones are quickly superseded by new models with innovative functions.
In a sense, traditional communications devices such as the desktop telephone are already virtually obsolete. More and more businesses now prefer VoIP and USB headsets due to the lower running costs. But due to inertia or lack of knowledge, many companies still hang on to their internal telephone networks and all the unnecessary expenses that go with it.
Most UC solutions are offered as “Unified Communications as a Service” (UCaaS). As the software is updated, it is automatically upgraded remotely through a cloud system, thus avoiding obsolescence. This means that there are no large spikes in expenditure to replace obsolete communication hardware and software.
ACTION: Again, this requires some information gathering to work out the current environment cost and ongoing maintenance versus an “as-a-service” pricing model.
It’s important to remember UC transformation is about changing your business at its core.
This is important because achieving change using digital technologies such as UC and collaboration technology requires more than just implementing new technology.
Instead, you need to determine why you want to improve with cost savings as one example. Then you need to figure out which technologies you need to make that happen.
But to do this, you need to truly grasp the power of UC transformation and what it means for your business.
Simply upgrading your technology will not always get you to where you want to be because these technologies need to be in support of your overall goals, and they also need to be designed to change not just what you can do but how you do it.
To do this, you need to work with a trusted third-party like Connect Managed Services who will analyse your current UC environment, identify improvements and understands the different options available to help you choose the right combination of solutions to achieve your goals.