Roughly speaking, return on investment (ROI) is a metric for gauging the profitability of an investment. For instance, if you earn $20 on a $100 investment, you have an ROI of 20 percent. Establishing the ROI of technology purchases has always been a bit tricky, however, because it isn’t always easy to establish a direct cause-effect link between technology and profits.
That is particularly true with unified communications (UC). It’s difficult to place a direct dollar value on a solution that links essential communications tools such as voice, email, instant messaging, and video through a single interface. While the benefits of UC seem obvious, they are not clearly measurable.
Nevertheless, organizations must get a reasonable idea of the ROI to justify the capital and operating costs of UC. Typically, that’s going to involve identifying cost reductions and improvements in business processes.
Reductions in long-distance calling charges, trunking costs, cellular network costs, travel costs, and meeting expenses are obvious considerations when calculating UC ROI. In some situations, companies also save money on real estate by enabling more employees to telework. Bringing conferencing capabilities in house rather than using a service also reduces costs. There are significant savings involved in combining voice and data on a single network. Eliminating redundant network hardware obviously reduces IT’s management, maintenance and staffing burden.
Using SIP trunks to deliver UC over the traditional public-switched telephone network (PSTN) is a big savings. SIP trunks eliminate the need to purchase physical, wired connections to the PSTN, connecting instead with the public Internet. SIP-based solutions allow organizations to leverage their existing equipment and applications, as well as eliminate local application servers and software licenses. SIP can further reduce telco costs through centrally managed, enterprise-wide dial plans and on-net calling, global least-cost routing and PSTN access from the most cost-effective location.
Organizations often overlook ways they can reduce operating costs after the actual deployment of a UC system. User feedback along with monitoring and reporting tools provide important insight into how the system is being used. That insight can help organizations assess whether there are unused functions that can be eliminated to save money, and whether they have the proper levels of licensing.
Improving efficiency through conferencing and collaboration capabilities creates positive ROI beyond reduced travels costs. Enabling geographically separate teams to work together across physical boundaries often results in more creative problem solving, faster product development, increased innovation and improved job satisfaction.
One of the biggest ways UC delivers positive ROI is through business process integration and optimization. UC makes it possible to embed “click-to-talk” and other communications capabilities into back-office applications such as such as CRM, ERP, sales force automation and supply-chain management. This streamlines workflows and contact center operations by dramatically improving order fulfillment and problem resolution.
Unified communications solutions can deliver a variety of productivity and operational benefits by allowing your workforce to communicate and collaborate across wired and wireless networks through a variety of devices and applications that best suit their needs. It can be difficult to calculate how these benefits will influence ROI. Still, there are plenty of identifiable cost and process improvements that build a strong case for UC implementation in most organizations.