Making UC&C Collaboration Opportunities Visible

By Marty Parker
9 Jul 2014

Hypothesis is cheap. It's easy to imagine that every enterprise will need "the next new thing" just because it's so cool and the engineers did something really clever.

It usually takes some work to make that purported customer demand visible and to prove that there are real benefits to be had from adoption.

My fellow UCStrategies Expert, Michael Finneran, wrote about this recently with, "If You Can't Count It..." That's worth the read. Michael references the annual Information Week UC Survey in which 67% of those who actually measured their results actually met or exceeded their ROI predictions and another 29% came close. It's the old management adage which Michael highlights, "If you can't count it, you can't manage it."

My own emphasis on this is long-standing, too. You may recall my fascination with the book "Money Ball," as noted in my 2011 post here. It turned out that professional baseball was not counting the right things, namely the runs by which the winner of each game is determined. When Billy Beane hired some really analytic staff, they changed the game. For examples, it didn't matter if you got on base with a hit or a walk! And, it was wasteful to bunt, since the odds of scoring with a man on second and one out are lower than the odds of scoring with a man on first and no outs.

We use this logic with our consulting clients, asking them from the outset for as much usage data as they have at hand. Pretty consistently, the data show that assumptions about usage are incorrect. Often, the voice and voice mail systems are over-configured since users have migrated to presence, IM, email, soft clients for conference calls, and mobile devices.

Now, there's a lot of emphasis in our industry on "collaboration" - the ability to interact with others while working towards intended outcomes via unstructured information analysis or knowledge development activities. (If the work is structured, it's usually a transaction, not a collaboration.) Even here, there is a value in measuring the outcomes - does the investment in technology to support collaboration have an impact on the outcome?

SMART Technologies got my attention on this point last year with a briefing on their Inspired Collaboration Assessment (ICA) tool. Over the past few years, SMART has collected self-assessments from over 1,500 companies who have reported on the status of their collaboration investments and the results they are achieving from those investments. My enthusiasm must have been obvious, since SMART Technologies then retained me (my full disclosure) to prepare a white paper, "Effective Collaboration Multiplies Results" about ICA and the reported results.

This ICA tool is available to any business on-demand here. In return for the time spent to take the ICA, the participants get a "self-assessment" within the total population of ICA responses. Thus, immediate feedback on a collaboration effectiveness scale.

The data are very compelling. While the customers do not report the actual dollar amounts of the returns on their investments, they do report on whether their investments in collaboration technologies met, exceeded or fell short of their expectations. They also report on how the returns compare to other investment options in their firms - better, about the same, or lower.

The results from these assessments show two very important things about the ROI (see graphic):

Collaborative Opportunities

  1. The collaboration investments overwhelmingly match or exceed the returns from other investments.
  2. The levels of return rise dramatically when the collaboration technologies are well integrated with the users' business requirements.

As the graphic shows, the level of integration varies from unsupported (basic meeting tools with minimal cultural and technical adoption support) up through four levels of "maturity" to collaborative & integrated in which the technology selection and the investments, deployments and support are matched well, almost precisely, to the work requirements.

Bottom line is pretty compelling. There is a solid ROI correlation between the attention paid to improving collaboration with optimal tools, culture and support. It is also very impressive that this correlation is based on other enterprise's results, not just on a vendor's marketing or engineering hypotheses.

Would welcome your feedback on this topic, on the white paper, and/or the ICA tool. It is encouraging to see a leading collaboration solution provider investing in this type of long-term feedback tool, so we know how the industry is progressing and can learn how others are doing. Since collaboration returns can be measured, we can expect they can be managed!