ROI Calculations in the UC&C Space: Let’s Get Personal

As part of their decision process for a larger investment, it is common practice for companies to calculate the Return on Investment (ROI). We all know the formula from the university textbook, which brings a customer from an initial investment and monthly profits to a break-even point and pay-off period. This model works well for many types of investments.

Don’t forget the user
When it comes to collaborative meeting technology, however, this calculation scheme is incomplete. This is due to a simple fact: enabling tools must be used to create value, cost-savings or productivity gains. Put a different way, if they are not being used, they will never bring positive ROI. Does this mean that the user should be a critical factor in meeting tool ROI assessments? Yes, obviously. But you’d be surprised at how often the user becomes an omission in the investment strategy.

Personal value
Why would an employee use a certain technology? First of all, because it brings personal value to the user in the accomplishment of his or her individual work. Technology that makes work more productive, faster and connects you better with your work team becomes personally valuable. As work/life balance remains high on the priority list for knowledge workers, any new technology that enables people to get things done in regular working hours will become more widely adopted. It’s as simple as that.

Personal investment
As a user, I don’t have to pay for the technology (my company has to), but I have to invest my own time to learn how to use it effectively. Personal time is spent during training session and to get the system running when I want to use it. I’ll also risk my reputation (or at least the results of my meetings) if I fail to get the system to work, or if it breaks while I am using it. This risk can be considered as a personal investment as well. Simple-to-use, reliable tools are always the most attractive choice.

Personal ROI
Personal value and personal investment can be combined into a metric I’d like to label “Personal ROI.” This concept reflects the real world of business better because it puts the user first. Let’s apply this Personal ROI idea to a typical scenario: let’s say that new collaboration technology is available in just one fancy boardroom while a worker has access to a total of 10 meeting rooms in the department. This would mean that the personal value gained from training to use this technology can only reach 10% because there’s only a 10% chance that individual will ever use that meeting room. Personal ROI will be higher if each room is standardized on the same technology.

Personal ROI determines adoption
If Personal ROI for the user is low for a certain technology, we shouldn’t assume that it simply takes longer to see the cost benefits. We should assume that the user will consider this ROI as a too low and decide not use the technology. There are a fixed number of work hours in a day and different tools with different Personal ROIs are competing for that user’s time. A knowledge worker has to carefully consider how to use his or her time to get things done and meet goals.

Good old Video Conferencing
An example of a typical gap between an (initially calculated) ROI and achieved Personal ROI is traditional video conferencing. A common assumption of ROI calculation is full adoption of the technology investment. As we all know, in reality things looks different. Traditional video conferencing systems are complex to use and are often available in just a few rooms. If the user only has the ability to connect with a few other remote locations, Personal ROI is relatively low. If there is a better alternative from the perspective of a user, the system the company’s choice collects dust in the meeting room (sound familiar?).

Corporate ROI follows from Personal ROI
If the tools purchased are not used, they will never create a positive ROI for the organization. Therefore, getting to a high degree of adoption should be the core focus of every investment decision and deployment plan. The concept of “Personal ROI” helps to assess how employees decide whether to use a certain tool. The availability of the tools and number of  room deployments has an impact on Personal ROI as well. The best way to ensure adoption is to broadly deploy simple-to-use and reliable tools that provide personal benefits for the average employee. Financial ROI can be seen as the cumulative value of the Personal ROI achieved by all employees: Corporate ROI follows Personal ROI.

Are you ready to get personal? Come have a personal chat with us at Enterprise Connect in Orlando. We’d love to talk about the Personal ROI of our solutions.

Tobias Windbrake
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About Tobias Windbrake

Tobias works as Collaboration Consultant in the EMEA & APAC region. He joined SMART seven years ago, initially managing SMART’s training business. Based on this experience, he strongly believes in ease-of-use and simplicity as an essential factor for technology adoption – the core requirement for ROI. Tobias holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science, and was running his own software company before joining SMART.