A recent global survey of business and IT managers found that their companies got back benefits perceived as equal to four times their investment, on average, in unified communication and collaboration technologies.
The online survey, done in May, looked at deployments of networking tools including voice over IP phones, videoconferencing and instant messaging to support distributed work forces and teleworkers in 10 countries. Sponsored by Cisco Systems and Verizon Communications, the study was conducted by Frost & Sullivan, a technology analysis firm, and involved 3,662 business and IT managers.
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Only 44 percent of the managers surveyed had deployed tools for better collaboration, but 80 percent of those who have not deployed them said they planned to deploy them in two to three years.
The range of unified communications and collaboration tools included in the survey was broad, but generally audio- and Web- conferencing tools provided the greatest benefits to companies, followed by videoconferencing (sometimes at the desktop instead of in a room-sized location), and then instant messaging, wikis and blogs, said Bill Versen, director of global unified communications and collaboration at Verizon, in an interview.
The survey took into account other collaboration tools as well, such as user presence on a device, document sharing, integration of voice, e-mail and instant messaging and desktop telephone management features from mobile phones (sometimes called fixed-mobile convergence).
For the study, the typical return on investment concept used in assessing a business investment was replaced with what Frost & Sullivan called a return on collaboration. The ROC was quantified in terms of how much "improvement" an organization made (as judged by the person filling out the survey) in a functional area, such as marketing or research and development.
While the ROC average was rated 4.2 times the collaboration investment across six business functions in all the companies surveyed, the benefits were highest for sales, research and development and marketing, with human resources the lowest, the study found. Investor relations and public relations fell in the middle.
In R&D, more than 40 percent of managers said deploying advanced collaboration tools enabled products to be developed faster, with an improved chance of success in the market, higher quality and lower overall cost of development. In sales, more than 40 percent of those surveyed said the tools improved the quality of communications with customers, improved the success of sales efforts and reduced the cost of sales and the sales cycle time.
The returns were much higher for larger companies as compared to companies with fewer than 1,000 employees.
The survey also found that collaboration technologies were more prevalent in financial services, high technology businesses and professional services.
The survey also found several other insights: