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When it Comes to UC, ROI Isn't a One-Time Deal

This week, Siemens Enterprise Communications has announced several advances in its flagship UC server and product suite. The offering delivers new communications benefits and collaboration capabilities, including new phone apps, integrated and multi-party videoconferencing and mobile support for Apple iPhone and iPad. But while UCC can enable advanced communications among employees, customers and business partners, as is true with any technology deployment, IT and telecom executives must be able to justify the necessary investment--and demonstrating a clear ROI is especially critical in these uncertain economic times.

For many companies, the value of UCC can be found in a hierarchy of return, similar to Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Just as people must meet certain basic needs (hunger, thirst, shelter) before they can enjoy more advanced rights (freedom, education, self-actualization), companies must ensure first and foremost that the technology they deploy is cost-effective and utilitarian. Once that basic requirement is met, they can start looking for ways to leverage technology for more advanced benefits, including improved productivity and revenue acceleration.

When it comes to UCC, companies should start with the basics: Simply by deploying IP communications, companies can immediately lower their telephony and other communications costs, meeting the most basic of organizational needs.

Savings can come from a number of areas, including:

* Reduced PSTN costs, including local and long-distance.
* Reduced international calling.
* Reduced cellular charges.
* Lower 3rd-party conferencing bridge or services costs.
* Reduced integration costs.
* Lower travel expenses.

Once they've met the most basic need--cutting capital expenses and other purchasing or usage-based costs--companies can look to the second hierarchy of return: improving operational efficiency on a day-to-day and long-term basis.

Operational savings can come from a variety of places, including:

* Cost-effective support for teleworkers.
* The ability to use existing productivity and communications applications from Microsoft, IBM, SAP, etc.
* Less time traveling, more time working.
* Automatic synchronization among, and hand-offs between networks.
* The ability to leverage desktop devices as multi-purpose clients.
* Low-cost moves, adds and changes (MAC).
* Consolidated enterprise license and maintenance fees.

When companies have met their basic requirements around cost and management savings, they can start looking at more advanced benefits from communications. When employees have access to communications and collaboration the moment they need it, regardless of where they are or what applications or devices they're using, they can make better decisions more quickly, and take action as soon as possible. That reduction in human latency and cycle times ensure businesses can take advantage of new opportunities as soon as they arise.

Productivity boosts can come from a number of areas, including:

* Making it easy for employees to find the people and information they need, when they need it.
* Reducing human latency, and the time it takes for employees to get things done.
* Supporting a range of communication and collaboration capabilities on a single, familiar client.
* Easy-to-use web conferencing, to enable real-time collaboration.
* The ability to read facial expressions and body language, to make communication more effective.
* Reduced travel and commuting time, letting employees spend more time on actual work.

Once they've met all their capital, operational and productivity needs, companies can look at using communications to boost the bottom line. Frost & Sullivan research shows that organizations that embed advanced communications and collaboration applications into their business processes (commonly referred to as "CEBP") can see a demonstrable improvement in business overall, especially in the areas of sales and marketing, project management and development, and customer service.

There are many ways in which integrating communications and business processes can deliver value, including:

* Faster decision making.
* Shorter product development time.
* Better customer service and support.
* The ability to quickly resolve issues and exceptions.
* The ability to jump on new business opportunities and close sales.

To sum up, as companies look to deploy unified communications and collaboration, they must find ways to justify their investment. The best way to do that is to that is to understand that UC applications can deliver a hierarchy of return. Use the hard dollar, tactical savings that come from initial deployment and operational efficiencies to get the technology in the door; then leverage it to improve productivity and generate revenue, not just cost savings.

For more on understanding the hierarchy of return, you can access a webinar on the topic, done in partnership with Siemens, here: