Though IT leaders consistently list unified communications as a priority, it remains on the back burner at many organizations. One reason: ROI for UC tends to be measured in productivity improvements and other strategic advantages, rather than hard numbers that come from cost savings.
And for some companies, that can be a problem. "Everyone understands that [unified communications] would be valuable, but showing that it's valuable enough to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get all of this to work together? That's difficult," says Frost & Sullivan analyst Melanie Turek.
IT leaders often find it easier to demonstrate the value of pieces of the UC puzzle, says Turek. They can, for example, justify investments in instant messaging by showing the importance of knowing the availability of people in different locations. But they have a harder time showing the potential ROI of investments necessary to pull all of the pieces together.
Yet companies that actually tie the pieces together are the ones that can maximize the value of unified communications -- provided they're able to change the processes that the technologies support, says Tim Herbert, vice president of research at CompTIA.
"It's about rethinking the norms for communications and having the policies that support [those changes]," he says. "A lot of companies deploy unified communications, but if they don't take advantage of things like presence technology or sharing documents other than email attachments, then they aren't going to see the full benefits of UC."
— Mary K. Pratt