Companies that have implemented unified communications solutions likely inherently believe they are getting benefits from it, including improved employee communications, productivity and perhaps customer satisfaction. But they are struggling to prove it.
That’s the upshot of the recent Nemertes Research “2015-16 Unified Communications and Collaboration Benchmark,” based on a survey of about 50 senior-level IT leaders representing 45 companies, mostly with 2,500 employees or more. For its surveys, Nemertes conducts interviews with a stable of IT executives, so is able to gather more in-depth information than the typical Web-based survey. So while 50 may not seem a large number of respondents, Nemertes extracts quality information from them.
Users Report Declining Success With UC Deployments
In the 2015 survey, 43% of respondents rate their UC deployment as successful or very successful, down from 60.5% in the 2014 survey. Nearly a quarter (24%) said their rollout was downright unsuccessful.
“People are struggling to quantify the value of their investments,” Lazar told me. “They spend a lot to roll out all these applications but they’re not able to measure any kind of tangible benefit.”
Part of the problem has to do with the way IT professionals measure success. Asked how they measure, 46.3% said they check for usage – whether employees are using the tools. Nearly 10% said they look at application performance and 22% said they rely on user feedback, such as from surveys. Seventeen percent use multiple measures while others don’t measure at all.
Those are not really the attributes you want to measure if you’re trying to find out how beneficial a UC solution is to those who use it, Lazar says. As a result, companies are struggling to justify new or expanded UC deployments.
Keys to Measuring Success of a Unified Communications Rollout
What companies should be measuring is things that speak to business value. For example, compare a group that uses UC tools heavily vs. another that doesn’t. Are the heavy users outperforming their peers who use it less?
Project completion times is one measure of such performance, Lazar says. Are projects getting done faster when users employ UC tools?
Customer satisfaction levels is another valuable measurement. UC tools should make employees more responsive to customers, thus increasing customer satisfaction rates.
Lazar acknowledges that such attributes may be difficult to measure accurately and says UC vendors are working to provide tools to help customers in that regard.
One way to help would be tools to measure utilization rates among individual users. “If I can identify people in the company who never use the tools and figure out why, whether they don’t’ need them or they’re too complex, that gives me insight into the sort of things you need to provide,” he says.
Also, with such individualized measurements in hand, companies could begin comparing the performance of those who use UC tools routinely vs. those who don’t, whether it’s by sales performance, 360-degree reviews or whatever means is normally used to measure employee performance.
Match UC Tools to Individual Employee Requirements
Such tools would also help companies better match the UC capabilities to individual employees. “Say you roll out desktop videoconferencing. In most companies, there’s a fairly small audience who can benefit from that,” Lazar says, so there’s no point in rolling it out to the others. “Not everyone needs everything.”
The idea is to map UC into the applications that people use to do their job, including those who aren’t working at a desk all day. For example, if a healthcare worker can click to call a doctor from within a patient management system, that would likely improve productivity – as well as patient care. “You need to give people the ability to collaborate in the context of whatever they’re doing,” he says.
Aligning UC requirements to individual employees and their job function requires continual interaction with end users. Lazar’s advice for companies looking to expand UC rollouts is to start mapping functions to various employee roles – and you’ll likely see satisfaction and use rates go up.
Click here to view a webinar where Lazar reports on the survey findings.