CIOs Share Numbers on VoIP, Google Apps Rollouts

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I've got a boss who always has the same comment after reading a blog post, article or other piece of content I've written: "It's fine, but where are the numbers?" Hey, it's not like I haven't tried. While you can sometimes get cost estimates from analysts, vendors and their clients usually prefer to keep them close to the vest. If they give you any numbers, they tend to be a range so large that it's practically meaningless. "Let's just say we spent more than two figures but less than five." Thanks, that narrows it down.


So I was thrilled when a couple of CIOs attending the IT Business Edge-sponsored Midmarket CIO Forum in Orlando were a little more forthcoming with the savings they achieved with their technology rollouts.


When I talked to Vito Navatta, CIO of Mental Health Care, Inc., about his VoIP deployment, he told me he's saved $40,000 in less than two years, just in fees that formerly went to the local phone company to move, add or change lines. That's impressive on its own, but Navatta said his organization's 705 employees are also enjoying a harder-to-quantify benefit in time saved. It now takes no more than 15 minutes to move a line, versus the several days of waiting it sometimes took for the phone company to do it. As they used to say in the MasterCard ads: "Priceless."


Navatta also shared what I thought was an excellent tip on how to bring users on board with VoIP. He posted short video tutorials on the organization's intranet, demonstrating how to use all three models of VoIP phones offered. Users select the photo of the phone they use and click on it to view the appropriate tutorial. In addition to easing user anxieties, the move has reduced training and support costs.


When I plopped down at a table with Conrad Cross, CIO for the City of Orlando, he was sharing details of his organization's migration to Google Apps, which was completed in November. When I asked him if cost was the driver for Apps, he said it definitely played into the decision. The organization's budget had been sliced by 12 percent and Cross lost 15 IT staffers, including two e-mail administrators. The city had used Lotus Notes for e-mail for the past decade and its licenses for that product were coming up for renewal. Cross was looking at increases for support and maintenance. The city was running aging IBM AS/400 gear.


Cross used a formula from Forrester Research to determine the cost of hosting the city's own Lotus Notes system was $133 a year per user. The enterprise version of Google Apps sells for $50 a year and in addition to e-mail includes Google Docs, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Sites, Talk and other features. With 3,000 users, that adds up to a significant savings.


In addition, Cross said he's noticed quite a few city employees are using Google Docs, Spreadsheets and some of the other products. This means he may be more selective when licensing Microsoft Office products, Cross said. Mark Koenig, a vice president of Saugatuck Technology, discussed this idea of selective Office use when I interviewed him for a story about Google Apps last January. He said:

Why pay for all those features if 80 or 90 percent of them aren't used? That's a real value proposition: Why are you paying for the other stuff, or why are you paying for stuff for everybody in the organization when there are only a few power users that need it?