ROI Measurements Finally Coming into Focus for Unified Communications

Ambitious promises — even those that seem likely to come true — make a new platform more likely to be adopted by an enterprise, but the real deal-maker (or breaker) is its return on investment. It's always been hard to define unified communications and, thus, difficult to get a read on its ROI. Now, however, this important measure finally is coming into focus.

By Carl Weinschenk | Posted May 17, 2011
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I am among the many people who argue that one of the inherent problems facing unified communications is that it is difficult to define. The other side of that coin is that the diffuse nature of the beast makes it difficult to measure its return on investment (ROI). 

There is good news on that front. On a couple of fronts, actually. The first is that the ROI is moving front and center for unified communications. The second piece is that the story that is told is a good one from the perspective of vendors and other proponents.

I just finished a story for IT Business Edge that looked at the progress being made in the all-inclusive telepresence/videoconferencing sector. Bill Coe, CDW's business development manager for CDW, got straight to the point: If he can tell a CFO that adding video to the mix will reduce a product's time to market by something like six weeks, the gains — combined with the advantages that the video platform would provide elsewhere going forward — often are enough to convince the exec to pull the trigger. Conferencing platforms, he and others say, increasingly are incorporated in unified communications packages. 

So, ROI is becoming a more measurable commodity, and the results that are being generated are good.

Last week, ABI Research issued a study that predicts that the premises-based integrated unified communications market will reach $2.3 billion by 2016. The category enjoyed 22 percent year-on-year growth in 2010 to finish the year with a value of $674.4 million. That's good. For this post, this is the key sentence, however:

Though interoperability, network performance and UC security continue to cause concerns, the demonstrable ROI and newer UC implementation options that can radically reduce IT sprawl are spurring adoption.

Unified communications — and its constituent elements, such as VoIP and videoconferencing — always seemed like a good idea. The big difference is that the industry is reaching a point at which it can actually prove it.

Here, by the way, is an excellent take on a common-sense definition of unified communications, all the way from South Africa.

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