The ROI of collaboration

In business, decisions are made by running the numbers and choosing the optimum outcome, but what happens when the benefits don’t appear to reach the bottom line?

Knowing a business system is going to revolutionize the way the company works is one thing - proving it is something else. Systems that foster collaboration, like SharePoint, can have a huge impact when they are implemented, but sometimes they’re a bit like cell phones - they don’t seem essential until you have one and then you can’t live without it! So how can a business case be put together for products and services like these with seemingly intangible benefits?

Measuring ROI

The traditional answer here is to measure the potential return on the investment, perhaps consider the alternative options for how that money could be spent and come to a mathematical conclusion. The accidental salesman is an excellent resource for understanding the math required to calculate returns. Start with the amount of cash leaving the business and work out how much more cashflow the project is going to generate. Consider the net present value of future returns and discount the cash flow accordingly, right? Unfortunately, even an Excel whizz is going to have trouble working this one out. How do you measure the benefit of the team working well together? That’s a tough one.

Collaboration for Collaboration’s Sake

In order to make sense of it all we have to stop considering ‘collaboration’ as the end result. The teams working well together is a bonus, what matters is what their output is. Carl Weise of Cisco agrees with me. He puts the outcomes into three categories:

  • Operational - Reductions in the cost of running the business, like travel or office space savings.
  • Productivity - What happens better, quicker or for the first time when the system’s up and running?
  • Strategic - These are the 'giant leap' events that happen when a team come together with a big idea that changes the course of the business.

These all look a little easier to quantify, but we’re still dealing with an equation that’s got too many made up numbers to stick. Let’s consider the other options:

The ‘no brainer’

Find a solution so awesome it becomes stupid not to do it, and you’re in no-brainer territory. No math required. These are the decisions that are easy to make, nothing else lives up to the product on offer and it’s clearly a good fit. Being on either side of the negotiations table is pleasant in this transaction!

There is Another Way

Imagine this - your company wants an intranet with all the modern gadgets to enable employees across the globe to communicate, socialize and work together. The IT department specs out a SharePoint solution that fits the bill, but the cost is hard to justify because the benefits won’t directly affect cash flow. Plus, all payback periods are limited to 3-5 years because everyone knows you’ll need a new, updated version by then. The same pain is happening across America and I’m pleased to say there is another way. Consider getting the same up to the minute SharePoint package, but instead of a hefty up front fee, the it’s charged per month, per user. No upfront cost to cover, no investment to re-coup, just a monthly payment that’s manageable, justifiable and reasonable. Unily does that, and while you’re getting on with improving productivity, here at BrightStarr, behind the scenes, we’re working on making it even better. The whole time, while you work, we work on the next version. Better still, upgrading to the latest release won’t cost anymore. Work smarter, not harder, with Unily Intranet for your company.

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