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Forrester Consulting - Unified Communications Offers Value To Small And Medium-Size Businesses - Manufacturing Companies

Executive Summary

Cisco commissioned Forrester Research to survey 374 companies to quantify how unified communications (UC) affect the small and medium-size business sector. The survey asked participants how certain UC capabilities affect their operations but survey participants were not given any information on any specific product or company. Organizations surveyed were limited to companies with 125 employees or less with no more than seven locations to determine the significance of UC in this market segment. Survey participants included decision-makers from LOB (73%) and IT (27%). Decision-makers in six countries participated in this survey from countries including, the US (34%), France (16%), the UK (19%), Italy (13%), and Australia (18%). The survey included organizations from manufacturing, financial services, and professional service firms. This document focuses only on the manufacturing segment. See parts one and three for detailed findings on the financial services and professional services firms.

Responses were generally consistent among the companies, but there were some variances by industry. In general SMBs have several requirements for UC within their operations, although some drivers for larger sized organizations, such as the ability to locate others with a single address, were less pronounced. The study indicates that UC helps SMB improve responsiveness to its customers, decrease problem resolution time, reach decision-makers more quickly to speed approval processes, and build organizations that make it easier to attract and retain employees.

Manufacturing Survey Findings

Forrester interviewed 121 manufacturing companies in six countries (the United States, the UK, France, Italy, and Australia) to evaluate the benefits of UC for their organization. Questions provided to the participants asked how UC capabilities would apply to issues and were provided a choice of responses for each situation including a negative response. Sixty-one percent of participants had operations supported more than one country. Key issues for manufacturing firms include: improving time to market, accelerating product development cycle, decreasing time to resolve problems, and responding to customer service issues.

The survey provided senior managers a description of UC capabilities across several business areas. Key findings from this global survey include:

  • 75% experience delays due to the inability of project teams to reach decision-makers to sign-off on projects.
  • 69% would improve efficiency and 65% would improve competitiveness with ability to reduce business delays.
  • 63% save time by seeing other’s availability on their PC and reaching them across any device by pointing and clicking on their name.
  • 77% would improve customer satisfaction if they could transfer complex customer product questions to product support personnel in real time.
  • 70% improve pending sales efforts by delivering projects faster and improving project completion times with improved internal communications.
  • 77% stated that if their company became known for rapid problem resolution and reduced delays in internal communications customer satisfaction would improve.
  • 69% indicated that with ability to communicate more effectively with one another and with customers it would improve their ability to attract and retain key personnel.
  • 80% would improve organizational efficiency and reduce process time with information portals.

Overall Study Summary

Small and medium-size businesses face challenges unique to their size and environment. They need to respond quickly to their customers and build long-term satisfaction. Additionally, the employees require effective communications to improve project completion and reduce business delays. UC addresses the needs of these smaller businesses by improving business agility, accelerating project completion, and increasing overall worker productivity. Across all industries interviewed, UC benefits include:

  • Effective team collaboration. UC facilitates work group collaboration and discussions by making it easier for workers to set up meetings, discuss issues, and make decisions more quickly.
  • Rapid problem resolution. Problems are common to all businesses, and firms that address customer problems immediately — with improved collaboration to solve problems quicker — provide competitive differentiation and improve customer loyalty.
  • Access to experts. When experts are available for conferencing with customers and solving business problems, they generate higher approval ratings from their customers.
  • Attract and retain employees. Organizations compete for top employees, and providing a work environment that improves internal and customer communications enables them to attract and retain top performers.
  • Improve sales performance. New sales proposals often get delayed by internal activities that require decision from various managers who may not be accessible. UC supports a more collaborative environment and helps create a virtual sales team to respond more quickly to customers.
  • Increase employee productivity. With the ability to reduce delays in reaching co-workers, including remote workers, employees save time in setting up meetings and completing projects.

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