Productivity, not savings, big winner for FMC

Adding mobile VoIP services to fixed VoIP services delivers increased productivity in addition to cost savings, according to a recent survey. The survey also found that productivity increases stemming from fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) were a more attractive selling point for enterprises than lower costs.

With Philippe Winthrop, research director for Wireless and Mobility Research, The Aberdeen Group. The firm released a research report, "Mobile VoIP: Fixed/Mobile Convergence in the Enterprise."

Question: What did the study look at?

Winthrop: The impetus for this research was to get a better sense of the pressures driving mobile VoIP technology. Our initial hypothesis was based on the fact that organizations were looking to reduce cellular costs.

Question: What did you find?

Winthrop: The data showed something very different. At first, companies were planning on deploying mobile VoIP to cut cellular costs. That was the original intention. What they realized — particularly with best-in-class organizations — was that the actual benefit was not [totally] in cost reductions but in improved productivity. It is more about productivity gains. The cellular saving gains were there, but that wasn't number one. [Overall], the annual cost savings was over $150 per user.

Question: What role, specifically, did cellular costs play?

Winthrop: We did not ask discretely about cellular costs. You can infer a big component of [the savings] is the cellular costs. It's actually quite simple when you think about it. You can take a Wi-Fi phone that is connected to the PBX system and roam around the office and corporate campus and always be available. So that is a tremendous productivity gain. It's a minute here, a minute there. Those kinds of gains overall translate into tremendous value to the organization. If you step away for two minutes to get coffee, you could miss that all-important call. Now with a mobile VoIP phone, you won't miss it.

Question: So aren't you measuring two different things: Subjective productivity and cellular savings, which is more definitive? Can't you do a more precise measure of savings from switching from cellular to FMC?

Winthrop: It's hard to make a one-to-one correlation [on cellular minutes saved] unless dual-mode devices are used. It's not a black or white issue. Not all organizations surveyed had dual-mode Wi-Fi and cellular phones. True FMC comes from those phones. They hand calls between the corporate Wi-Fi and the cellular network. That's true FMC. Not all organizations have taken it to that level. Right now, there are a number of organizations that are using mobile voice over Wi-Fi. That's where it's hard to map the correlation between cellular and productivity gains.

Question: So you are saying that unless the switching is totally agile, you can't measure ROI any more precisely than when assessing productivity gains. The key, it seems, is true FMC.

Winthrop: There's no doubt that the future holds great promise for devices that can do seamless handoffs.

Question: After the fact that productivity turned out to be more of a driver than reduced costs, did anything else about the survey surprise you?

Winthrop: The second thing that was very surprising was the level of dissatisfaction with the voice over Wi-Fi networks that exist right now. Now, only 47% of organizations rated mobile VoIP solutions as high or very high. That is not the fault of manufacturers or the fault of end-user organizations. No one is to blame. It tells me more planning is needed before the networks are put in place to ensure the Wi-Fi network is robust enough to handle voice and data at the same time.

Question: The survey focused on best-in-class organizations. What counsel does this provide to other companies that, perhaps, aren't as advanced?

Winthrop: That they must do a lot more planning up front. The second recommendation in the report is to make sure the Wi-Fi network can handle the traffic and fulfill bandwidth needs.

This Executive Briefing originally appeared in a weekly report from IT Business Edge.

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