Posts Tagged ‘ROC’

It is the ROC, too, not just the ROI, stupid!

by Wayne Turmel on October 19, 2009

communication toolsNow, admittedly, the title might have confused you a bit as just about 3 weeks ago, Himanshu posted an article titled It is the ROI, not the ROC, stupid! The simplest explanation for this seemingly contradictory titled post is… the ‘C’ in Himanshu’s post was Cost whereas in my post, the ‘C’ in the ‘ROC’ stands for Communication.

While talking to my father on the phone the other day, I had a breakthrough. Not the kind my therapist would like to see, alas, but one that answered a major business question: “Why do so many managers treat communication tools like they’re made of gold and not use them every day?”  It all comes down to how we measure the ROI (Return on Investment). Maybe we sometimes need to measure the ROC (Return on the Communication) instead.

I was trying to ask some pretty serious questions about his health and Dad kept trying to avoid the conversation and wrap it up. Finally, he said “Look, this is costing you money, so we should talk about this another time…”. Now you, I and just about everyone you know has an unlimited calling plan. Talk for two minutes or twenty, it doesn’t really matter- it’s just not a concern for most of us any more. But because all he could hear was the meter running, my dad didn’t want to get into a long drawn out conversation. Remember this is a guy who taught us to call person-to-person collect for ourselves so he’d know we got to our destination safely and we wouldn’t have to pay for a long distance telephone call from a payphone- he’s a bit frugal to say the least.

That kind of thinking affects managers and organizations as well, and has a direct impact on how they use communication tools with their remote teams. Here are some common examples:

  • “We pay per minute and per connection, so we’ll save webmeetings for when it’s really important” I have numerous clients who have invested in webmeeting platforms, and then refused to let people practice with them, or need to get budget approval to hold a meeting in order to keep costs down. Then they are surprised that people don’t utilize the tool or use it poorly. No one will ever practice or get proficient with a tool that they can’t use at will without the accountants watching. By the way, if you’re still paying per minute per connection it’s time to have a serious talk with your provider…they’re treating you like you’re my dad.
  • “We don’t waste time on chit-chat. Keep it business” In this age of Agile, virtual, matrixed and under-resourced projects – time is money.  The myth is that the less time you spend talking the more time and money you’ll save and people can get on with the “real” work. This is a perfect example of measuring something that doesn’t indicate real results. You can’t easily measure the amount of risk-management, proactivity and trouble-shooting that good, frequent and rich communication gets you. Of course, if you really want hard metrics, measure the amount of rework, lost productivity and project overruns from not staying in constant contact with your team. Take the time to find out what’s really going on with them and who else is sucking up their time.
  • “We didn’t cut the travel budget just to spend it on IT”. Okay, we all agree that the reason we need these tools is our travel budgets were slashed and they are NOT coming back anytime soon (at least not in the foreseeable future). That doesn’t mean we don’t need to communicate effectively and that there is no cost of doing business. Just because people work from home doesn’t mean (magically) it doesn’t cost anything to have them on the payroll. By the way, if you look up from the “telecommunications” line item in the budget you’ll see that you can pay for a lot of bandwidth, webmeetings and telephone calls just with the money you used to spend on drinks for the team when they could get together or put more subtelly … Psssst… “It’s really not that expensive.”

Effective questioning, timely feedback and sharing information have value to an organization and a team. We need to focus less on the dollars spent and more on the value created by those interactions. Sometimes we need to focus on the Return on Communication