Study: SMBs Not Addressing Communication Challenges

A global study sponsored by Siemens Enterprise Communications and conducted by SIS International Research finds midmarket companies with 100 employees could be losing more than $5,000 per employee per year by not addressing inefficient communication issues.

A report by SIS International Research sponsored by Siemens Enterprise Communications found communications barriers and latencies can cost small and medium businesses up to 40 percent of their productive time.

On average, 70 percent of employee respondents with up to 400 employees said they spend 17.5 hours each week addressing the pain points caused by communications barriers and latencies. The study found the top five pain points for SMBs to be inefficient coordination, waiting for information, unwanted communications, customer complaints and barriers to communication.

"The idea behind the study was to better understand the SMB pain points around communications," said Siemens' vice president of SMB product management Rudolf Hamann. "We found the impact on SMBs is huge."

The study surveyed a total of 513 knowledge workers in Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Russia, United States, and United Kingdom. The knowledge workers also represented eight key vertical industries: communications, finance, health care, insurance, manufacturing, professional business services, real estate, and wholesale or retail trade.

The study discovered the top five pain points, though ranked differently, were the same among SMBs and enterprise-level companies. Another finding of the study is that SMB employees are highly mobile, with more than 50 percent identifying themselves as mobile workers, either traveling outside the office, roaming inside the office or working from home some or all of the time. Overall, SMBs placed a high or very high priority on improving communications for mobile workers.

The hidden costs of the pain points could translate into $26,041 per knowledge worker per year, and up to $5,246 per employee per year, which means that in theory, a 100-employee SMB could have up to nearly $525,000 in annual hidden costs. "It's a huge number," said Hamann. "Honestly it did surprise us."

The researchers also confirmed that SMBs are increasingly using various communications technologies, including phone, instant messaging and video conferencing, in an effort to increase productivity. However, they found that the proliferation of these technologies has created multiple points of presence for individual employees with which other employees must contend. The resulting fragmentation of the SMB communication fabric can create a barrier to effective communications and collaboration.

"Unified communications means a lot to you and a lot to us, but sometimes we have difficulty trying to transform this into something everybody understands," Hamann said. "It is important for SMBs to understand they don't need to completely replace their system, but they can move from their PBX system to a unified communications solution tomorrow."

Sixty-eight percent of respondents have trouble coordinating communications among team members, affecting their ability to respond quickly to time-sensitive customer requests. They also average 3.7 hours per week attempting to coordinate communications across team members, slowing the realization of goals and deadlines.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents also said they experience work delays while waiting for information from others that they have attempted to reach live multiple times using multiple methods. The average delay is 3.5 hours per week per knowledge worker. Unwanted communications, including low-priority calls and voicemail, were experienced by the survey group by 77 percent of respondents, who said they spend two or more hours per week dealing with unwanted communications.