Unified Communications Featured Article

Justifying the UC Business Case: A Lot Harder Than It Looks

February 01, 2012

Many of today’s businesses are looking to transition to a UC-heavy environment, where communication, conferencing and collaboration applications are converged to reduce costs, boost productivity and combine with existing business processes.  But just as quickly as UC is gaining momentum, so are the techniques for gauging implementation success.

The real-world tangible benefits of UC adoption and best practices for measuring success were the focus of a session on the kick-off day of ITEXPO East 2012 in Miami. Entitled “Building the Unified Communications Business Case,” several of today’s heavyweight UC experts chimed in on some of the obstacles companies are facing in their development of a thriving UC business environment.

As moderator Jon Arnold aptly put it, “UC is a little harder than it looks,” since it’s more of a service than a product, but rather it’s often marketed as a product. Panelist Nancy Maluso of Sonus Networks concurred, adding that the two primary aspects of UC that tend to appeal to businesses and enterprises are the labor, and cost-savings.

In broaching the subject of the labor side, Maluso stated that while productivity in a business environment is hard to quantify, taking a look at “downstream impacts” can paint a clear picture for how a UC business case is driving output and efficiency. Referring to a scenario in which a company is required to do a safety inspection, the process of doing so will mitigate any risks, while the “downstream” advantage of a UC business case is limiting the headache associated with the actual action of the inspection.

Irwin Lazar, Nemertes Research then chimed in, agreeing and mentioning that it’s a difficult struggle between saving money and making money. Even so, referring to a recent study, Lazar later told the audience that 40 percent of companies don’t have a solid UC business case, with less than 20 percent citing cost-savings as a primary measure.

For Chris Hasenauer of Windstream Communications, a company providing VoIP and data center services, the UC business case has to do with “unifying vendors.”

“As we unify on one platform, we will be able to deliver more services over that platform as a single vendor. That makes it easier for organizations to troubleshoot and drive good pricing.”

As the session continued, Arnold posted the question of who actually “owns” the UC business case. In response, Irwin used the role of a business technology liaison as an example, in which it was found that people in this “middle-ground” were able to lower costs by blending IT into the role of business. Meanwhile, Hasenauer’s experience in presenting a UC case to SMBs – Windstream’s target market – has been a struggle, only because closing the deal with a CFO or financial professionals often doesn’t go as planned. 

“If you’re going to break open that subject, you have to be prepared,” he told the audience.

Maluso, on the other hand, noted that it’s all about having a few concrete goals in mind that you’d like to improve with the components of a UC solution. Otherwise, the “business case becomes too fluffy,” she said. “You have to look at it specifically as to a particular capability that’s going to help a team.”

The remainder of the session centered around video conferencing and what exactly is going to drive the UC decision in the workplace. Maluso mentioned the premise of communications, which is, of course, to get things done.

“UC is about taking those sources of information, whether they’re people or informational sources. You’re bringing them together and you want to do that in the most cost-effective way,” she said.

As for examining the business case of implementing a video conferencing solution, Maluso suggested “time-motion studies,” in which a subset of a team are granted full collaboration capabilities and checked for whether projects are completed on time, and help to reduce costs.

ITEXPO offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.

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Tammy Wolf is a unified communications web editor. She covers a wide range of topics, including IP communications and information technology. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves