How Do You Know Your UC Investment Is Paying Off?

The global unified communications and collaboration market is projected to reach $96 billion by 2023, per the latest research report by Global Market Insights. Some of the key drivers in this trend are the:

  1. Plethora of incumbent and new providers of collaboration tools
  2. Explosion of UC as a service via the cloud
  3. The rising adoption of smartphones and other mobile devices
  4. The availability, reliability, and increased bandwidth and performance of LAN, WAN, and wireless connectivity
  5. Increased compute power

Despite the growth of UC&C, the results enterprises experience from its use varies widely. UC&C technologies can miss the mark for myriad reasons, but oftentimes the cause relates to how enterprises assess UC&C success.

Activity-Based Measurements vs. Outcome-Based Measurements

In the earlier days of UC&C, enterprises primarily used reduction in travel expenses as the primary metric for gauging the value of the technology. Company A invested X in video conferencing systems, and reduced employee travel by Y. If the value of Y was greater than X, it deemed the investment a success.

While the goal of UC&C will always be about maximizing productivity and increasing efficiencies, the question of how a company can determine those improvements isn't always clear cut. And, sometimes what an organization thinks are good metrics for success can be a detriment.

As a good case in point, consider a healthcare practice implementing a telehealth platform to enable physicians to meet with more patients. After the implementation, the practice could feasibly see a 15% increase in the number of daily appointments (i.e., an activity-based measurement). However, a closer look may reveal a growing frustration with the videoconferencing system among patients and physicians (i.e., an outcome-based measurement). Perhaps the system relies on a proprietary platform that is difficult to use, or maybe physicians didn't receive proper training before they started using it. Clearly, achieving a better activity-based measurement at the expense of an important outcome-based measurement (i.e., the patient or physician experience) isn't effective in the long run.

Another example can be seen in financial services, where videoconferencing technologies enable brokers to have more engaging meetings with their clients instead of relying only on phone calls or face-to-face meetings. However, one large Northeast-based financial institution discovered a big difference between having several videoconferencing systems throughout its facility and improving productivity and the client experience (outcome-based measurements). One problem was conference room hijacking, which occurred when scheduled conferences extended beyond their allotted times. This meant the next person or group had to either start their conference late or scramble to find another room. Another challenge was the inflexibility of the legacy system, which could only be used from a dedicated conference room and with other parties on the same system. Only after the financial services firm upgraded its legacy videoconferencing system to enable brokers to conduct conferences at their desks using PCs or mobile devices was it able to resolve these issues.

VC firm OpenView Venture Partners addressed this topic in the article, "Engineering Metrics: Grow Your Business with Outcomes, not Activity," (and not only for measuring engineers' performance). In the article, Melanie Ziegler, founder of engineering peer group VPE Forum, discussed the differences between activity-based and outcome-based measurements. Even as she acknowledged the benefit of using activity-based metrics to manage workflow and assess team performance, Ziegler warned against letting those metrics find their way into other parts of the company. "What we don't want to see as an engineer," she said, "is the executive leadership looking to measure the engineering organization based on the activity-based goals that the VPE (vice president of engineering) uses to plan the team's work and drive continual improvement."

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