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How to save money with Unified Communications

Friday 24 March 2017

According to media partner CommsTrader, when we talk about cost savings of communications technology, we tend to think about capital expenditure. But what if we broadened the scope of what a ‘cost saving’ actually is?

Unified communications is a combination of different types of communication technology, provided as a single, hosted solution. Web conferencing, voice calls, video and instant messaging are delivered as one toolset, delivered alongside presence.

When we talk about cost savings of communications technology, we tend to think about capital expenditure. This is certainly a very valid way to quantify the potential savings. If you’re using a PBX, you’ll notice that unified communications saves on procurement, maintenance, repairs and infrastructure provision.

But what if we broadened the scope of what a ‘cost saving’ actually is?

In this guide, we look at all of the additional ‘soft savings’ that are found across an organisation when unified communications is rolled out.

It’s these extra savings that make unified communications so attractive, and give them such huge potential to increase profitability and drive growth.

Cost savings through reduced capital expenditure

Before we move on to the soft savings of unified communications, let’s start with the capital expenditure savings that are compelling for businesses of all sizes.

When you first implement a new telecommunications solution in your business, there are various costs to cover. You’ll need to purchase your infrastructure and communications hardware. That includes the phones that sit on everyone’s desks.

But this is just the beginning.

Measuring the Cost

Next, there’s the cost of keeping the system running reliably, which may include purchasing new hardware or upgrading the system to cope with demand. Every time you add new lines to a PBX, you are adding capacity that may or may not be utilised – but the business must purchase more than it initially needs.

There’s then the cost of maintenance fees, which may include a contract for servicing and repairs. Each problem with the PBX system will involve escalation to an engineer.

Measuring the Savings

Clearly, we can see that unified communications provides a more manageable cost structure, as well as a lower acquisition cost at the beginning. While hardware phones may be required, many businesses get started by using smartphone apps that can replicate the functions of a desktop telephone.

And because all of your calls are provisioned via the internet, there are no lines to install. The only thing the business needs to do is provide an internet connection with sufficient bandwidth.

When we look at the CAPEX and OPEX of unified communications vs. the PBX, we instantly see a more controlled cost based on a seat or user licensing model. The hardware, infrastructure and call-out costs almost totally disappear. 

Cost savings through productivity

In IT, productivity is the buzzword of the moment, and the cloud is the primary driver of change. You’ve probably already seen dozens of studies that confirm cloud technology elevates output – but how can you put this into figures?

Productivity has a very real effect on your bottom line, and unified communications has a direct influence. One contributor is the ability to adapt the working day to better suit employees’ lifestyles.

Measuring the Cost

An unproductive workforce can reduce your business’ profitability by stealth.

Employees become unproductive for various reasons. Not all of them are malicious, or within their control. Ill-health, injury and stress can have a considerable impact.

Others fail to contribute due to presenteeism: they attend, but the effort is lacking. Presenteeism is common when the employee becomes disillusioned with their jobs; irritated, distracted, overworked or pestered by unproductive colleagues. In some cases, employees may decrease the amount of effort the put in if they feel the business is not supporting the way they want to work.

Samsung and the University of Leeds produced The Ahead of the Curve Report, which found that unproductive workers cost UK businesses £250 million per year.

Measuring the Savings

One study, conducted by Harvard University, proves how these adjustments can elevate output. It studied the Chinese travel agency, C-Trip, as it rolled out a flexible working program. Half of its workforce were allowed to work from home, telecommuting from remote locations. At the same time, half of its employees remained in office-based roles.

The Harvard researchers found that employees who worked at home completed 13.5 per cent more calls than the office-based staff. This is essentially a gain of one extra working day, per week.

Ctrip estimated that it saved $1,900 (approx. £1320) per employee over a nine month period.

Cost savings through increased mobility

With a PBX system, you’ll have hardwired phones on the desks of your employees. That’s great, and in workplaces 20 years ago, it worked well. But in 2016, few of us expect to contain all of our work to one location.

Employees expect to move around the office and work in an agile way. New methodologies such as Lean, Kanban Scrum are changing project management forever, removing waste and encouraging employees to speak to each other more often.

It’s clear that we need people to move around. They need to be able to exchange ideas. Unified communications technology is an essential cog in the machine.

Measuring the Cost

Businesses are faced with a dichotomy. They want people to be mobile, yet they need them to communicate easily. If mobile employees are stuck with a rigid PBX system, there are going to be costs and risks.

If a member of staff is working with a client on a remote site, or posted in a distant company office, they will be instantly cut off from the face-to-face communication they depend on. Additionally, it is costly and time-consuming to reroute telephone calls to new locations when a PBX is in place.

Some businesses do already have on-premise video conferencing solutions, but these require near constant upkeep and maintenance. Interoperability can be a challenge, security is a concern, and the infrastructure can be expensive to maintain.

When you add in the challenges of sharing equipment among users, and the complexities of different platforms in different locations, you start to see the massive potential for waste when employees are mobile.

Measuring the Savings

BT rolled out a flexible working experiment that proved increased mobility cut costs, when supported by a unified communications strategy.

In its white paper – Cost Transformation Through Mobility – BT cited:

- A reduction in travel costs

- A reduction in absenteeism

- A reduction in property costs

- A reduction in fuel consumption

An increase in staff retention after maternity leave (thus lowering the costs associated with staff churn, knowledge transfer and recruitment)

Unified communications lets your employees take their phone line with them. Because the system is hosted, there are no problems with interoperability, security or obsolescence. And the business instantly frees up your employees to be mobile, so they can work wherever they feel would be most beneficial. They can use the same phone lines, and the same phone number, that they use when they’re at their normal workstation.

Increasingly, we’re seeing workers demanding more flexible hours, and a different work-life balance that may involve agile or remote working practices. Your communications system needs to support these workers in doing their job regardless of location.

We also need to consider the rise of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), an approach that has its own cost saving benefits for business. If employees are using personal devices to communicate, the business needs to support them by providing the right support, as well as good quality connectivity via mobile and WiFi. It also needs to work in cooperation with the employee to secure the device, which may mean asking for them to sign a policy governing the way their device is secured.

Read more: CommsTrader

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