What's The ROI Of Your Phone System?

from the silly-questions dept

No, this article doesn't ask what the ROI of a phone system is for a company, but does say that companies aren't letting their employees you instant messaging because they don't see the ROI. This seems like the type of question that will sound just like "what's the ROI of your phone" in the future. A communications tool like your phone system or email or instant messaging isn't judged by its individual ROI. It's a tool that lets people communicate much more effectively both inside and outside the organization, and giving them that option to have in their toolbox expands opportunities. The study in question did find that people who had IM at the office did tend to be more productive, but it's not clear why you would even want to bother separating it out. The fear that companies have is that users will use IM to waste time, but that doesn't seem like a reason to ban the technology entirely. Sure, some people will waste time with it, but a company should be able to figure out who's not doing their job properly and weed them out. Just because some people might abuse a technology to slack off, doesn't mean it should be banned from letting all of your good workers use it. If that was the case, all companies wouldn't allow computers (oooh, solitaire!), the web, email, phones, books, notepads, lunch break rooms or even let employees talk to each other. You give employees the tools and you let them know what their job is. If they're not performing, that's the issue you deal with, not whether they've been goofing off over IM. If they are getting their job done, what's the problem?


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  1.  
    identicon
    Nonesuch, Sep 23rd, 2004 @ 10:55pm

    Slacking that looks like working

    One problem with IM is that it's a form of slacking that, to a cursory observer, looks a heck of a lot like productive work, except it almost always lacks the "productive" part.
    Doing "Corporate Instant Messaging" right costs money. With licensing fees starting at ten bucks a seat, plus server infrastructure, an integrated corporate IM deployment is not exactly cheap.
    When the execs get together around a big oak table and decide whether it makes sense to give IM the stamp of approval, the decision usually comes down to what do we stand to gain, and what do we stand to lose... and it's damn tough to pin down any real pluses.
    Maybe you get a tiny bit more productivity from a small subset of already productive employees. Maybe.
    But the downside is lost productivity, greater exposure to worms and hackers, more opportunity for mischief and game playing, and another potential avenue for hostile workplace lawsuits, for discovery to reveal records of discussions that should never have been saved, for employees to shift the work-life balance further to their favor.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Doug Murray, Sep 24th, 2004 @ 4:58am

    Phone ROI

    ROI on phones and instant messaging are not that far-fetched. Companies have been figuring it on phone systems for years, so why not IM?
    When phones were new, companies had to determine whether installing one was worth the cost.
    Since deregulation came nearly a century after phones became indespensible, you've had to run the numbers again to decide which contract to sell the company's soul to.
    Now, email is indespensible, but ten years ago I had to provide numbers to answer questions like, "Wouldn't it be more cost effective to have one account and let someone print and distribute the email?" Really.
    IM is paying its dues now, but could become just as necessary phones and email over time. Ignoring ROI is an echo of the dotcom days - profitablility doesn't matter as long as its really good. That worked well, didn't it?

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    frumiousb, Sep 24th, 2004 @ 6:31am

    No Subject Given

    I agree with you about the silliness of the ROI thing. It always irritates me when companies try to talk about ROI for communications infrastructure. It is a good thing that they get the ROI concept, but it doesn't work very well as an analysis tool for something that's not discrete enough to actually measure direct results (the way a marketing campaign, for instance, would be). What a company wants is a cogent business case for using the tooling, not an "ROI analysis". I blame consultants and software salespeople for this trend. (Disclosure: I am a consultant.)

    I'm often told that I'm being an annoying purist when I say this, but I actually think that the mindset it reflects is all wrong. The business case for new infrastructure (particularly communications infrastructure) is going to be something like a cost of doing business analysis (providing the true costs of the new infrastructure) versus projected productivity gains. It's also helpful to look at how the new communication method would fit into future plans to see if it is going to support or hinder future strategic directions.

    This said, I do think that you need to develop a business case for the use of instant messaging in the workplace. I don't think that it is a no brainer that everyone should have access. There is a real cost associated with introducing it into the enterprise-- and this needs to be considered. Remember how tightly controlled most desktops are in big companies, and particularly as many companies start moving towards thin clients it won't be a question of banning it, but of actively needing to introduce and enable it.

    Even when an employee could download and install it, there is a cost associated with that, as well. If a company permits it, they need to think about network usage, security risks, and all of that thinking introduces costs.

    Remember that there are still many companies where not every employee has access to a phone-- nor will they ever have, nor will they ever need one.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Alex Moskalyuk, Sep 24th, 2004 @ 10:36am

    Infinite?

    Wouldn't the ROI on instant messaging be approaching infinity since (unless the company buys some expensive *corporate solution*), the cost of downloading and installing MSN Messenger (the cleanest of them all, without the whistles and pretty flowers) is free, hence 0?

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Nonesuch, Sep 24th, 2004 @ 9:58pm

    Re: Infinite?

    While MSN Messenger for communicating out across the Internet to Microsoft is "free", it requires opening up the MSN ports, and brings with it all sorts of security risks. Worms are just the tip of the iceberg.

    The alternative, installing Microsoft's special "MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises", requires annual licensing fees of $2,500 per year. That covers the server...

    The added cost for each MSN Connect user account is $12/year, this is in line with other corporate IM solutions. And yes, any real corporation is going to need to install some expensive "corporate solution" to have a controlled IM deployment with security, identity, presence, and other corporate-friendly features.

     

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