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Eric Krapf
Eric Krapf
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UC: All About Predictability

I had a chance to chat recently with Henry Dewing of Forrester Research about Forrester's latest UC report, and the conversation quickly turned to ROI.

I had a chance to chat recently with Henry Dewing of Forrester Research about Forrester's latest UC report, and the conversation quickly turned to ROI.There's a ton of great information in the report, "Market Overview: Sizing Unified Communications," but just the fact that we're onto sizing UC, instead of just defining it, is a start. And of course, these days the size of the UC market will depend much less on how you define UC than on whether you can show a return on investment.

Forrester surveyed almost 200 enterprise IT decision-makers, and their results perfectly captured the dilemma that users find themselves in when it comes to UC. On the one hand, 86% agreed, either strongly or somewhat, with the statement, "We can make a good business case for implementing UC." So they think they can make that case -- but then again, maybe they question their ability to really make that case to the business leaders. You see, Forrester also found that 55% of those surveyed agreed with the statement, "There is confusion about the value of UC for my company."

Dewing's take on that apparent paradox is that when it comes to Communications-Enabled Business Processes, we've got to pay equal attention to the two halves of that buzz phrase. In the communications end of the business, we naturally focus on the challenge of communications-enablement, pretty much assuming that once we hook the communications into the business processes and throw the switch, it's smooth sailing. But business managers, of course, are looking at the whole picture, and they have a lot of reasons to tread very carefully around the whole issue of business processes.

"What people are having a hard time with is predicting ahead of time" how to design and optimize any business process re-engineering, let alone one that tries to incorporate communications into its value proposition, Dewing noted. Companies have learned by now, through hard experience, that you don't buy a technology and assume that the business processes to use that technology effectively will just follow.

As a typical example, Dewing noted that it would, indeed, be of measurable value to a pharmaceutical firm to re-engineer processes such that drugs can get to FDA approval 6 months faster; or for an insurance company to be able to settle claims in 24 hours instead of several days. The problem is building the process that will really get you to that result. "That's hard work and, frankly, takes a bit of a leap of faith," he said.

Another big unknown if you're trying to come up with a CEBP plan is that, according to Dewing, when it comes to communications systems, "The solutions are still awfully complicated; the bills of materials are complicated." Even something as fundamental as what you need to do to upgrade your data infrastructure may still be a difficult and time-consuming question for many enterprises, he said.

Thus, there's this other level of uncertainty, of not being completely sure about what it will really cost to finally deploy everything you need to make the system a real-world success, which is to say, not simply to get your project from the drawing board to the real world, but to make that real-world deployment do what you said it could and must do.

There's one last piece of uncertainty in the picture these days, and it's a very personal thing: Not everybody's looking to be a hero. As Dewing put it: "The IT manager is thinking: If I make a mistake and I get laid off, I'll never get a job again in this market."I had a chance to chat recently with Henry Dewing of Forrester Research about Forrester's latest UC report, and the conversation quickly turned to ROI.

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