I'll start from the basic premise that video has a lot of value on its own, and even more so when part of a UC platform. Video is collaborative by nature, but is even more so when integrated with the other modes found in most UC offerings. Of course, with webcams built into PCs now, plus the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, video is very much becoming an any time, any place tool.
This foundation may not be universal yet, but it's fast becoming the norm, and with that comes heightened expectations. End users expect more, simply because it works. IT expects more because video is becoming easier to deploy and support on the LAN. Most of all, though, management expects more because they see video's potential to make not just employees, but the organization as a whole more productive. When productivity goes up, growth should follow, so for management, video is more than just another mode for employees to communicate with each other.
Collaboration plays a key role here, and works on two levels. First is the idea that employees need to work together, among themselves to get things done. You don't need UC to collaborate for simple tasks, but it definitely brings value for more complex or longer-term projects. Within a UC solution, video is the real secret sauce when teams are decentralized and need to meet on a regular basis. This is amplified even further when the project has a strong visual element such as product design or an interactive process.
The second level of collaboration comes not from working among, but working between. First and foremost, there's an implicit degree of collaboration required between employees as end users and IT as enablers. When both work together, management is happy - IT is earning its keep and fulfilling the UC vision, and employees are working more effectively. Extending this further, employees also need to collaborate between themselves and external stakeholder groups - customers, suppliers and technology partners. Each requires a distinct collaborative effort, and all can benefit from video.
As such, IT has a lot at stake to make collaboration work, and I've already cited why video is now at the heart of this imperative. Let's tie this now to the main storyline of my post - driving growth. IT can certainly stay with the familiar and focus on metrics that show how video-based collaboration drives traditional growth - namely increased revenues and profits (via decreased costs). Nobody gets fired for meeting those objectives, and they're certainly achievable with today's UC deployments.
Fair enough, but we can think a little bigger too. Reducing costs is a great way for IT to shine, but it's really just table stakes. Increasingly, management views IT and communications as strategic differentiators, and true market leaders expect more. They need IT to be innovators; not just in getting more for less, but in leveraging their technology investment into competitive advantage.
One way to do that is to introduce new growth metrics that add value to the business and reflect the outcomes enabled by collaboration. For example, I believe that IT can build a strong case for a growth metric built around the concept of human capital. In today's post-industrial, knowledge-based economy, human capital is becoming the real asset of a business. Outside of traditional manufacturing operations, bricks and mortar assets have limited value now, and forward-thinking management teams know this.
Building on that premise, communications is the primary enabler for building human capital; employees can get mundane tasks done on their own, but the real work that drives the business forward can only come from teamwork, aka collaboration. People must communicate to work together, and UC provides the richest palette of tools for enterprises to support their employees.
When those dots are connected together, IT can bring some innovative thinking to the boardroom and show management how UC - and video in particular - can drive growth from the company's greatest asset, its employees. With the right metrics, IT should be able to define a baseline value of human capital for each employee, and as employees adopt collaborative tools like video, show how that value is growing. This isn't the place to define those metrics - I'm just trying to seed the idea that IT can raise their standing by showing how video-based collaboration can do more than just drive traditional growth drivers. Are you with me?
This post sponsored by the CIO Collaboration Network and Avaya.