Unified Communications (UC) technology has been around for years. Analyst reports project the UC market will grow from $35 billion last year to $95 billion by 2023. However, much of this technology is underutilized, never giving the organization its full benefit because the implementation team is overlooking one very important metric.

WorkSpace Today recently caught up with Jeffrey Babe, Senior Director for Professional and Field Services at Polycom to get the his perspective on how industries are embracing the imperative for a better user experience for more successful deployments. He also provides perspective for understanding Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for UC deployments, and the elusive calculation of the ROI of UC.

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Why user experience is the most important piece for adoption of unified communications – #UC #ROI @WorkSpaceToday

  • What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in Unified Communications in recent years?

Certainly, the growth of cloud based UC services has been the big driver for industry change the past few years. But the jump to cloud UC solutions hasn’t happened as quickly as predicted – many businesses have been in transition, with a multi-vendor hybrid of cloud based, private hosted, and on premise UC software systems.

This leads to new challenges in systems integration and user workflow integration.  It also creates opportunities for solutions like RealConnect for Office 365 and One Touch Dial that solve those challenges and improve the user experience with a simplified, integrated work flow.

  • In your recent CIO Review article, you mention that typical best practice guides miss a huge factor that drives UC project ROI – user experience. Why do you think that is?

While that is largely true for many of the UC guides and whitepapers, there is certainly a lot of momentum behind user experience in UC design the past few years. Gartner Magic Quadrant for UC called that out in 2013, listing User Experience as the top UC characteristic that “will have an important effect on the success of a UC product and the satisfaction of users”.

Specifically, users want better integration of communication tools embedded in the business applications they are using.  And users want simplified workflow to use those tools.

To have a ‘data driven’ approach to user experience in a UC Project, it’s not enough to include User Workflow in the discovery and design.  During Operations phase you need to measure and optimize, and that requires analytics.

Using the Polycom RealAccess analytics portal, we can consult with customers on a data driven adoption strategy, based on usage by user group, room type, region or office, etc.  That requires time investment and buy in from the customer, and many customers are starting to make that a priority.  The customers that have are showing the benefits.

  • If an organization is tempted (or even pressured) to speed through the design of their UC solution, how can they make a case for slowing down and investing the time and money in looking at the user experience?

Many companies certainly do feel that pressure.  We see UC projects regularly that come in with a fast track deadline based solely on one or two business drivers, and no slack in the timeline or budget.  That puts a lot of risk into the project, and does not focus the project metrics on a value based outcome.

When we combine a user experience based solution design, with simplified and integrated workflows, along with a data driven adoption plan, we’ve seen accounts double the call utilization of UC video collaboration across all segments: room systems, mobile users, content and streaming, etc.

When you look at TCO for a UC platform or Service, and calculate TCO as a cost factor of ‘cost per use’, including the time and budget for solution design and adoption analytics becomes a smart investment to maximize ROI.

  • Your article references return on investment, but it’s often difficult to associate a monetary value to the use of UC technology. What are the best metrics that organizations can use to determine the success of a UC deployment?

ROI on a UC investment is complex to quantify.  For video and collaboration tools, a company can measure net savings in travel expenses, and that is certainly an important ROI component.

Years ago, Wainhouse Research did a study on the Business Case for Videoconferencing. It modeled a $250K investment over 3 years, with only 10 frequent travelers converting 40% of their travel to video meetings. That travel savings alone resulted in ROI initial return in 9 months and total ROI of 226% over 3 years.

But productivity gains and reduced time to market can be equally important. What is the productivity contribution of a video call with web collaboration vs. a traditional voice call?  That’s bound to be a subjective measurement.  If that video collaboration call is with an external customer, it can be a huge productivity gain, reducing the time to close and cost of sales.

  • Any final thoughts or comments?

Beyond the travel savings and productivity gains, business that embrace a ‘work from anywhere’ culture, giving employees the UC tools to collaborate and be fully productive beyond the walls of the office, can see a huge savings in reduced facility costs for cubicle space, reduced costs of commuting time, and reduced costs of employee turnover by improved talent acquisition and retention. That becomes bigger than ROI, it is transformative culture change for a business.