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Cost Reduction? Cost Avoidance? Get a UC Roadmap!

Unified Communications and Collaboration and Social Media (all of which are still included in "UC" when defined as: "Communications integrated to optimize business processes") may seem like additional work and additional cost for your enterprise communications department. But what if UC is actually an alternative, not an addition, to your enterprise communication platforms? When seen in that light, new routes open up which can be far more economical.

This is where a UC roadmap becomes so valuable. To use the roadmap or route analogy, a round-trip flight from California to New York is about $400 in November 2011 and is cheaper than just the gas for driving there and back, even after including local transportation at each end of the flight. Or, if you were flying to NY for a 2-hour meeting, perhaps HD video (aka telepresence) would do the job for $72 in bandwidth costs (math on request).

So, as we have said before, start your UC roadmap with use cases. Find the places in your business processes where UC can help you get things done with less cost, less delay, and less rework. These use cases will then clearly illustrate exactly which UC technologies should be deployed for each use case. That technology information can be used to create a budgetary plan which can be compared to current operations to see if costs can be reduced or avoided by UC adoption.

Here are just a few examples where case studies are documenting those actual cost savings:

* Use Conferencing tools to avoid travel and to cut telephony costs. Travel savings show up both in saving of out of pocket expense and avoiding time spent to gather in meeting rooms. In addition, most advanced UC&C solutions connect remote parties to the meeting via secure Internet connections, saving the cost of dial-in connections, especially for remote cellular users. So, find the use cases with lots of meetings and see if UC offers a better route.

* Use Presence and Instant Messaging to avoid voice minutes and to cut telephony costs. Experience is showing that presence avoids wasted calls and the time delays implicit in voice messages or e-mail; better to find a qualified resource immediately via presence and skills-search tools that are part of UC. This is especially valuable if presence is visible on mobile devices, to avoid costly cellular calls. And, if an appropriate skill is found, the users can communicate via IM (or SMS, or collaborative chat, or social direct messaging) to avoid most of the telephony minutes and associated quantity of TDM or SIP trunks that are now being used in that particular use case.

* Use UC Mobility and Remote Worker tools so users can be productive from almost any location. In such eligible use cases, it is possible to save office space expenses, to avoid the cost of telephone sets and LAN switching ports, and possibly to save in total cost of ownership for PBX user licenses, ports, trunks, transmission costs, and maintenance. Office space savings in the US ranges from $6,000 (metro areas) to $3,000 (suburban areas) per office per year, so it’s worth the effort to consider this option.

There are plenty more examples where these came from. The key point is that there are big cost savings and cost avoidances available through UC. The key to finding these savings is to do the use case analysis that will highlight the optimal selection of UC tools to provide the best results for the business processes while also cutting or avoiding operational costs. This optimal selection of UC tools will define a very attractive roadmap for your enterprise.

Or, you can work without a roadmap, in which case you may want to remember that Lewis Carroll said, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there," and that Yogi Berra said, "If you don't know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else." Here’s to knowing where we are going and to having use cases to inform our roadmaps.