Web conferencing ROI study sheds light its business benefits

Web conferencing ROI is very much at the centre of most discussions at the moment. I believe that Cisco’s much-touted launch of its new telepresence system a couple of years ago has been very instrumental in putting conferencing – and video conferencing in particular – on top of the business agenda. Now is time to talk about its ROI and Frost & Sullivan have issued a very interesting study in that respect. 

Web conferencing ROI study sheds light its business benefits

Web conferencing ROI study sheds light its business benefits
Web conferencing ROI study sheds light its business benefits

When Frost mentions (see report per below) that “there is no question that collaborative technologies drive efficiency” (re page 6 of the whitepaper) I think that on the contrary all ROI computations are subjective and deserve to be debated.  Whereas overall benefits seem obvious, mainly to those who are quite familiar with the tool and its usage, there is really a need to demonstrate to others that these numbers are right because we are far from having convinced the entirety of business players in that area.

Despite all the (sound) talking about Green IT, I think we are still a far cry from using this tool properly and pervasively.  However, I do believe that the return on investment is quite quick and that normal then a few months are necessary to counterbalance the cost of the “investment” (as a matter of fact, there is no investment because this is a SaaS model).

This is actually the paradox which serves as a title for this White Paper but is not really explained in the body of the document.  On the one hand, all ROI calculations for Information Systems whatever they are are essential and at the same time, they do trigger criticism or even doubts or incredulity.

There is also another even greater paradox about the return on investment for Information Systems in general.  Let’s take as an example one of the most popular of them, and one of the most pervasive, I mean electronic mail messaging. There is no doubt that we need Email to do business.

We need it to communicate with our clients, partners and amongst ourselves.  However, if we were to calculate the return on investment for e-mail, there’d be a good chance that the results be a lot less impressive than one may think.

(For hints about that, I recommend my earlier work on e-mail usage/misuse in the enterprise). Similarly to web conferencing, questions like these were raised when email was first established at the end of the 1980s.

Managers would ask why we would need this tool at all, and why they would have to respond to their e-mail themselves.  Yet, the decision to implement e-mail was not related to the answer to that question, but to the sheer need of having it installed and moving to the next phase.

I think that similarly, that the development of telepresence is not only related to its ROI, but to the sheer need of changing gears, of moving to the next iteration of conferencing.

Web conferencing usage will continue to grow over the next few years, in order to establish itself on every desk in every enterprise.

The requirement for remote collaboration to take place is imperative, and although one would need to improve the calculations on ROI and productivity, I believe that the widespread adoption of this tool goes way beyond the numbers and the need to measure how financially productive that is.

Eventually, one could also wonder whether these numbers in terms of productivity and percentages for Web conferencing ROI are indeed instrumental in making the story more plausible or on the contrary is instrumental in raising doubts in the minds of those who oppose the further development of web conferencing (what does a 465% increase in productivity mean? Can anyone believe in such an impressive number? Does it mean each of us can work 4.65 times more than we ordinarily do?)

What prompts these musings about how related the ROI for web conferencing is is in fact the hindsight which I have derived from the time spent on such subjects since the first implementation of Web conferencing at Orange at the beginning of the year 2001.

More than seven years later, I’m still impressed by the margin for improvement with regard to the pervasiveness of web conferencing, throughout Europe at least. Most business people know what it is, but there are still quite a few managers who are discovering the tool for the first time.

As I am an intensive user and promoter of this kind of technology I do believe that the ROI numbers showed, at least in principle, are true and apply more or less to all sales & services related activities as well as internal and external communications. However, I doubt that most people would believe that these numbers are right. Only intensive and highly productive users who have become so Internet-savvy and au fait with web conferencing services would actually relate to these numbers.

Click to access webexdemystifying04012009.pdf

Click to access maw-white-paper.pdf

Yann Gourvennec
Follow me