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Non-unified communications can cost millions

Andrew R. Hickey

Fragmented, or non-unified, communications are creating significant work disruptions and causing enterprises to waste millions of dollars on avoidable expenses and lost productivity, according to a startling new survey commissioned by Siemens Communications.

The survey, conducted by Insignia Research, found that the average 1,000-employee enterprise can lose nearly AU$14.5 million a year solely as a result of being unable to communicate and collaborate with others in real time. The poll questioned 517 end users across the globe.

"Measuring the Pain: What Is Fragmented Communication Costing Your Enterprise?" uncovered the true costs of maintaining the status quo, which involves workflow disruptions, added costs and associated frustrations that enterprises encounter when they lack the appropriate unified communications solutions. The study delves into the pain points at individual, team and enterprise levels, detailing the frustration and anxiety users and their teams must endure.

The study found that 94% of respondents wait an average of 5.3 hours per week for information they need from others in order to complete tasks. In a 1,000-person enterprise, that translates to more than AU$10 million annually in lost productivity, based on a AU$41 hourly wage, the average pay of respondents.

"We've all become accustomed to working this way," said Grace Tiscareno-Sato, senior global unified communications marketing manager at Siemens.

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She added that disjointed communications have many respondents "lulled into a sense of complacency. The cost is real. The frustrations are real."

The frustrations are further compounded for off-site, remote or branch workers, who reported an average productivity loss of 7.8 hours a month because they don't have access to the communication tools they would have in their main offices. Broken down, that is nearly a full workday each month lost because of fragmented communications, and the problem could snowball as mobility increases within many organisations.

The survey also revealed that enterprises are wasting roughly AU$3,800 per person each year in business travel expenses that could be wiped out with a unified communications system.

"It's pretty clear that the status quo isn't the way they want to do business," Tiscareno-Sato said.

Enterprise decision makers can take three steps to alleviate the unnecessary costs of disjointed communications: Determine who the users are, find out what communications solutions are available, and deploy a pilot and test the solutions.

Tiscareno-Sato said companies need to take a step back to determine exactly what gaps and holes they want to fill with unified communications solutions.

For many companies, lack of a unified communications system, coupled with the added costs involved with not having one in place, can have an impact on competitiveness and hinder "business processes."

"This is not about inconvenience; these are business processes," Tiscareno-Sato said. "When there's latency in the ways people collaborate, processes are halted. We know that people can fill gaps of time; what we cannot do is get in the way of the processes."

Eve Aretakis, Siemens CEO, said the study is ultimately designed to open enterprises' eyes and help them understand the massive costs of continuing to do business with fragmented communications solutions. The costs were so high, in fact, that Siemens said the actual dollar amounts were reduced.

"To get the most conservative view, we asked the researchers to discount their soft-cost findings by 75%," Aretakis said. "Even then, the soft costs work out to more than AU$9,400 per employee each year. Factoring in the hard dollars of travel and communication expenses, the data shows an annual impact approaching AU$14,500 per employee, no matter what size the enterprise. With these findings, the potential return on an investment in unified communications becomes most compelling."

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