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UC, ROI and the Economy

As my colleagues Marty Parker and Don Van Doren noted during sessions at VoiceCon San Francisco, during these difficult periods, companies' investment patterns tend to fall into one of the following three categories:

* Survival mode: A relatively small number of companies have one objective during economic downturns: Staying alive. So, they'll only invest where it's critical for survival. Some won't make it. Discretionary spending, including on UC, will be eliminated. These companies will not be able to invest in any new technologies, and will do their best to stay afloat. Vendors: Don't bother knocking on their doors trying to sell them UC solutions.

* Focus mode: This is where most companies are found. They have cut back sharply on investments, and will be extremely cautious about technology purchases. They have limited budgets and have to re-allocate and refocus their UC investments on smaller, more specific projects. They may continue with existing projects, but will stretch them out. These companies will concentrate on where they'll get the most value for the buck, focusing on identifiable cost savings or revenue growth.

UC investments for this group may include enhancing mobile UC capabilities with single-number reach or find-me/follow-me capabilities for sales reps and executives, or enhanced collaboration solutions that will reduce travel costs and enable people to work at home (thus reducing some real estate costs). Other investments may include improving and enhancing customer intimacy by implementing UC capabilities such as "Expert Agent" to help provide optimal service to customers while reducing the length of time it takes to resolve a customer's problem. These are focused applications of UC targeted at specific groups where there are identifiable benefits.

* Expansion mode: These lucky organizations have enough cash to take advantage of the downturn and become more competitive. In some cases, they can invest aggressively to extend their lead, to gain market share, or to open up new business opportunities.

These companies will focus on UC implementations that have measurable impact, notably decreasing costs and increasing sales. They can leverage the situation and optimize and transform their businesses while reducing communication and other costs by implementing UC solutions that focus on streamlining their business processes.

Expect to see these companies implement business-specific applications. One example is an automated inventory solution that notifies and alerts the appropriate people of an inventory shortage based on their presence status and possibly even their location, and automatically sets up a conference call/web conference in a matter of minutes. This reduces the time spent trying to rectify the problem, while ensuring that the company has the proper inventory to meet sales demand.

While it undoubtedly will be challenging, UC can thrive in today's troubled economy in certain circumstances. Most companies will reevaluate their upcoming expenditures, and in some cases, UC purchases will be put on hold. However, companies in the Expansion Mode can take advantage of the situation and use UC technologies to help them surpass their competitors who are digging in their heals by not spending or investing in technology solutions. But, they will have to make the business case for these technology investments, which is even more challenging when budgets are being tightened.

The worldwide economic conditions will cause most companies to carefully examine their technology expenditures, but they won't curtail them. In many cases, selective use of UC will deliver very quick payback. But getting approval for these investments will be more difficult than ever.