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Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Copyright © 2007 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

April 10, 2007

“ROI, ROI, ROI” -On Aligning UC Migration With Business Process Priorities and Applications

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Fred Knight, Publisher of Business Communications Review magazine, in the first UC Strategies webinar on the highlights of the recent VoiceCon Spring 2007 show, pointed out that UC, just like “basic” IP telephony, is facing the “ROI challenge.” He claims that productivity benefits are the “the last refuge of scoundrels,” and that averaging individual user productivity of a few hours a year is “not convincing” to enterprise management.

“Macro-productivity” for Business Process Performance

We can’t disagree with that argument, having addressed that issue a few years ago by differentiating such individual “micro-productivity,” the time saved by a user because of easier and faster communication technologies, from “macro-productivity,” which reflects the time saved in the performance of a business process task because of more efficient communications between all the people involved. Clearly, improved micro-productivity contributes to greater macro-productivity, but the major ROI value to the enterprise really comes from the timeliness of completing a specific business process, not the time spent by an individual user.

Customer-facing communications are usually where revenue generating or customer satisfaction ROI can be realized. So, for example, when an order process or a customer billing issue can be resolved more quickly through faster communications with the right people, greater customer retention and faster bill payment become the bottom line payoffs to the enterprise.

Another differentiator between micro and macro productivity is that what might be an easier and faster way for a message originator to do, e.g. , speaking voice message content, may be more difficult and time-consuming than text for the message recipients in a workflow process. That will be particularly important for reviewing and managing message information content quickly and easily.

Unified messaging and visual voicemail capabilities that enable a recipient to convert voice messages to text provides a convenient way to satisfy the needs of both message originators and recipients, providing time-saving micro-productivity to both parties and macro-productivity to the business process interchange. Conversely, the response to a text or voice message can be a text or voice message, an IM interchange, or a call return that can be quickly initiated within the context of the message.

So, Where’s the ROI of Macro-productivity?

We have already indicated that individual communication time-savings may or may not pay off directly to the enterprise and that enterprise management will not be impressed by that kind of ROI, even though end users will benefit. What will get management attention, however, is any significant efficiency improvement in a key business process, especially those involving revenue generating customer contacts. It is here that contact efficiencies between people, both inside and outside the organization, that resolve problems or speed up transactions, can affect the enterprise bottom line from a business process performance perspective.

By making all participants in a key business process, including internal experts, decision-makers, problem report initiators, action takers, etc., more efficient as both contact initiators and recipients/responders through more flexible UC capabilities, the business process itself will become more efficient. The payoff to the enterprise will be faster revenue generation, avoidance of costs, or a combination of both. The more nebulous but still critical benefit of increased customer satisfaction and greater customer retention and revenue is also a key ROI benefit of more flexible customer contact efficiencies that UC technologies can provide to a business process.

Although “hard dollar” cost savings are always important to enterprise management, they don’t necessarily improve business processes. The investment in UC must pay off to end users in doing their jobs easier, faster, and better, and to enterprise business management, which must realize value from more efficient work flow that involves people. What binds these two ROI perspectives together are the business processes that users are involved in (job performance) and the overall efficiency of those business processes. However, there are many business processes that make up enterprise business activities and they will have different payoffs to the enterprise bottom line.

UC Migration and Mobilization

From an end user perspective, it is very apparent that the value of UC to business communications will correlate very strongly with user mobility. This will be true simply because mobile users will need the dynamic flexibility of UC to insure timely and efficient communications in environments where either hands-free/eyes-free user interfaces (speech) or silent communications (text) are necessary.

Accordingly, we were very impressed with a best-selling technology book published by Nokia, “Work Goes Mobile,” which describes how Nokia approached the task of making their workforce mobile. What was most interesting, was that the rationale and justification for selectively migrating Nokia employees to mobile communications is basically similar to that required for migrating an enterprise to UC. That is, the productivity ROI of communications associated with high value business processes and applications was a key consideration for user mobility implementation.

Nokia surveyed various types of users in their organization regarding the way they communicated, and correlated the value of the associated business processes with the need for faster access through mobile communication access. This gave them the priorities for mobilizing different end users, as well as projections of benefits to the business processes from faster and more efficient contacts.

In discussing their approach, with one of the books authors, Michael Lattanzi, I pointed out that enterprise migration to UC will need the same kind of migration planning. This will include identifying high value business processes that will justify end user UC capabilities, as well as greater mobile accessibility. UC capabilities can be considered as “horizontal” applications that are the easiest to implement, will have minimal impact on end user procedures, and will generate broader benefits to the enterprise, while specific business processes may be “vertical” applications that will require greater technology integration for information access, will change end user procedures and need for training for a small group of users, but can be very strategic to business competition.

“The Chicken and the Egg” - IT, Communications, and Business Applications

IT responsibilities for business communications are two-fold. The first is to identify and implement new technology to make business processes more efficient; the second is to do so most cost-effectively. However, it is business management that has to first identify and define operational business problems and solution strategies, including the needs for:

· Information access (vertical applications)

· Communication contacts with people (horizontal applications)

· Relative value to the enterprise

Step one, in my book, is to identify the significant communication problems with existing business processes. These can include one or more of the following general concerns:

· Difficulty of direct, immediate information access by end users

· Lack of automated business applications that cause unnecessary dependencies on people availability and their performance. This can include vertical business applications that could automate time-sensitive information delivery or notifications to specific people

· Any communication technology deficiency that contributes to the “human contact latency” which slows down business process performance:

- A communications process that is location dependent, i.e., requiring a person to be at a specific location just to gain access to information or to people.

- A communications process that is restrictive as to the medium that must be used (text, speech), or the flexibility to be used by in real-time or asynchronously by either a contact initiator or contact recipient/respondent.

· A communication device that is restricted to one particular medium of contact or information content that will limit its use for different forms of business communications activities or information exchange with people.

The second step would be to evaluate the benefits of UC capabilities for these existing problems, as well as to the specific end user groups who will be affected. The evaluation may be to simply estimate the soft ROI of such benefits, including individual time productivity (“micro-productivity”) or the task productivity of all the people involved in a business process (“macro-productivity”). It will be useful to elicit input from individual end users to correlate their involvement with different business processes. (Stay tuned for a new and convenient way to do that!)

A practical third planning step for any new technology which may be an unknown quantity for an enterprise, is to “try before buy” by trialing selected business processes with UC applications. This will enable IT to gain experience with supporting the new technologies, confirm user benefits, and identify migration issues.

What Do You Think?

Send your comments to me at

News From UC Strategies

To get an idea of the different perspectives and issues involved with implementing UC technologies, go to the UC Strategies web site for better insights on migrating the enterprise to UC.

UC Industry Update including Highlights from VoiceCon Spring

You can also review the presentations given by the UC Strategies experts at TMC’s IT Expo.