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Quantifying Business Benefit of Collaboration Tools (or, What Is This Meeting Costing Me?)

A cast of thousands ...

This post started off as an excuse to experiment with Google Docs, and this really neat feature I discovered – embedding a spreadsheet in a web page as a sharing method. However, it struck me as a potential way to cost justify the time, effort, and expense of implementing collaboration systems with the Most Cynical Among Us.

We’ve all been in large meetings, with tens of people from the project team, along with the expensive consultants, sitting around a table listening to the project manager read their slides to us. The meetings always get scheduled for a full hour (it’s the default in our calendaring system!), and everyone feels the need to speak, if only to make sure their voice has joined the chorus of agreement.

However, many of the Most Cynical Among Us have observed the large number of people in the room, and asked the question “How much is this meeting costing me?” It’s a worthy exercise to go through … so I whipped up a little spreadsheet model to quantify the hard and soft costs …

It doesn’t take long to play with the model and see the dollars add up; even if you don’t believe in tracking “soft costs”, the amount of time spent in meetings can get really big, really fast.

Are status update meetings inherently a waste of time? Absolutely not – communication is critical, and most organizations typically don’t do enough of it. An exercise like this just puts the potential cost, in time and money, in real terms – and reminds us to focus on maximizing that investment.

Can this meeting be avoided? Collaboration platforms (blogs, intranets, etc.) let us update the team virtually; people can get the information when it’s most convenient for them.

Are we communicating effectively? Sometimes, face to face communication is required and preferred – especially when you need to monitor how the message is being received in real time. Hence the broad focus on effective presentations and impactful communications …

Look at the cost of your last meeting – did you get your money’s worth?

PS: I welcome any suggestions for improvements to the model – to request edit access or to get a copy, send email to


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