Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Collaborative Video Generates a High ROI

Unified Communications projects generate a better return on investment when a video component is included in the scope of the analysis.  Mainstay recently mined our database from hundreds of UC business cases.  We looked at various technology elements and determined that those with a significant video component had the highest ROI.  Specifically, the average ROI for all UC business cases was about 140%, but for those with video elements, the average ROI was 512%!  The payback period was about two months shorter with video.
What is it about video collaboration that drives a high ROI?  Any answer is a bit speculative, but here are two possible reasons:

1. Video collaboration affects costs outside of traditional IT to a greater extent than other technologies.

A business case study that looks at video collaboration will often include costs such as corporate travel that are not usually included in IT infrastructure costs.  These costs are large in bigger companies, and video collaboration can greatly reduce them.
Video collaboration can also affect business unit processes.  For example, perhaps video collaboration can be used in the interviewing process and therefore lower the cost-per-hire to the HR department.  This savings accrues to the technology that drives it – video collaboration – even if the actual monies are in a different budget.
2. Video collaboration is interesting to progressive organizations, and less so to technology laggards.
Another possible explanation has more to do with the nature of the client than the actual technology.  A company that is generally a technology laggard is going to have higher costs for a UC implementation.  For example, they are less likely to have a QoS-capable WAN, or consistent Cat-5 cabling, or PoE LAN switches.  Since their costs are higher, their ROI is lower.  These same organizations are less likely to use video collaboration, or consider using it, since they avoid technology investments in general.
On the flip side, a company that uses technology aggressively is more likely to be interested in video, and also more likely to have the infrastructure in place to support it.  Hence, lower implementation costs and therefore higher ROI.

It is quite possible that both factors are at work here.  Regardless of the reason, it is clear that including video collaboration in business cases increases the average ROI substantially.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Scale and Support a "Go-to-Customer" Selling Strategy

A market never bought anything from anyone. It's your individual customers (including potential ones) that sign contracts, and it's their needs that should be shaping the way you message value. But how do you keep your entire selling system that includes message creators (marketing, product development) and messengers (sales teams of all varieties) aligned with individual customer needs?

Know your Customer

Value is defined by the buyer, a value proposition by the seller. Your selling system needs to be flexible enough to accommodate the perspectives of your individual customers. Different types of buyers will want different things from your sales teams and different messages will resonate with each buyer. Your selling system should always include a qualification process that matches the type of message you are going to deliver (and the way you will deliver it) to the specific audience you will face.

Assess your customer's business needs and focus your efforts on defining a value proposition that is relevant to those needs and nothing more. Avoid the spaghetti/wall trap as this only confuses your buyer and dilutes your value proposition.

Money Talks

Technology is marvelous, but IT decision makers are ultimately judged on how the capabilities they deliver impact the bottom line. The single biggest hurdle for today's CIO is proving the value of IT to the business. So, if you want the CIO's attention, make it easy for her: quantify your value proposition by delivering a financial business case that explicitly describes how the investment you are asking your customer to make will pay dividends in the future.

Unless you are a commodity supplier, don't focus solely on infrastructure savings. Technology is about innovation, so try to describe the financial benefits of innovations a particular technology solution enables within your customer's business. This will likely include operational savings as well as increased revenues or margins.

Standardize and Scale

You don't need an army of consultants to carry out these strategies. Most likely, your top sales teams already do these things today - albeit in an ad hoc and decentralized way. If you want to enable the rest of your sales force to do the same, you need to create processes that empower them to do so.

Start with standardizing processes that qualify your customer buyer type and their organization's readiness to deploy your technology solution. How can they get short-term value from your solution while waiting for longer term, more strategic benefits to accrue?

Create a standardized process for quantifying your value proposition. Want to model metrics like TCO, ROI, etc? Great, just make sure that you do it consistently and according to financial best practices. And -- most importantly -- invest in your sales people by training them how to speak about these metrics - your credibility depends on it. Use standardized tools and training and institutionalize the practice of creating a business case as part of your selling motion.

Finally, make sure to also create an objective feedback loop. How will you know if the tools and training are effective and where you need to make adjustments? Look at this type of sales enablement strategy as an ongoing process. You will need to fine tune it as your peoples’ skills, your offerings and your customers’ needs evolve over time.