Transcript for Discussion About “Why Can't We All Just Get Along; Unifying Communications”
Jim Burton: Welcome to UCStrategies Executive Insights. This is Jim Burton. I am joined today by David Danto, Principal Consultant in the Americas covering collaboration for Dimension Data, and his colleague, Doron Youngerwood, who is the Global Marketing Manager for Collaboration. Gentlemen, welcome.
David Danto: Thank you, great to be here.
Doron Youngerwood: Thank you very much.
Jim Burton: We are talking today specifically because David wrote a very compelling article, which is going to be linked to this podcast called, “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along - Unifying Communications?” It’s a very, very interesting article that I think is a must read for people that are looking in this space. It really points out some of the issues. It starts off with the history, which is kind of the way I like to describe the story, but it gets very quickly into some of the most important aspects of what we need to be doing when we are looking at solutions and finding problems, and how do we go about developing a plan for acquiring unified communications technologies? I think that’s the secret to this message. David, rather than me just telling it, I want you to tell your story a little bit and get into the things that you discovered and the challenges that vendors are facing today in making UC strategy decisions.
David Danto: Sure – it’s my pleasure to talk about it because it’s something that I go through on a daily basis and I am involved in it frequently. The truth is – some of these are harsh truths. I say this to colleagues and I say this to clients. I really want to drive this with honesty. We are all technologists. We are all technology guys, so we approach a space looking at, what does Vendor A have? What does Manufacturer B have? What does Manufacturer C have? We are looking at the products and we are looking at the features. I tend to call this the “big honking spreadsheet strategy,” where everybody lines up the features, the costs, and the prices…
I speak with clients weekly. That approach – those strategies – in unified communications, don’t work. No matter which vendor you are talking to, no matter what your bias is or (what) your camps are within your organization, the concept of looking at it as technology first just doesn’t work. All of these technologies from the history that I gave all the way through up to where we are right now grew in silos. In many organizations, those silos still exist. You have the network team. You have the voice team. You have the video team. You have the facilities. Sometimes the A/V and facilities people are not even in the technology group. They are all working in their own direction. You approach them with this concept of unified communications, which is now by my count really about 17 years old.
You say, hey, if we bring all of this stuff together it will be great. It will be beautiful. Things will just work terrifically. They all look and they say yeah, and they go back to their kingdoms.
There is no real desire from an organizational standpoint in many organizations to really pull these technologies and these groups together. It has to be done at a high level. It has to be done with a lot of vision, with a lot of support, and with some funding. You have to break down the kingdoms and the politics and get rid of the silos. When that happens – when you are able to look at this not from a technology down standpoint, but from a business process up standpoint [i.e.] what does my organization do; what are the key roles and key needs for my organization – [that’s when you can achieve UC success.] If I am in the hotel business and another organization is also in the hotel business, maybe we have some very similar needs. We might have inside sales people; we might have IT people. [But] the blend is always different based on the culture and the organization when you go between one, another, and another.
The first thing you have to do is – without any assumptions – talk to your end users. Figure out that blend. Then when you know what that segmentation is and you have a plan for approaching it – we have this many people that do this; we have that many people that do that – then you are able to look at the market and select technologies that meet those actual use cases. That is always more successful than going shopping for the technology first. It can only be accomplished if you have broken down all of those silos. The decisions you need to make affect the network. They affect the tools. They affect collaboration and marketing. They affect how you roll this out. They affect how you handle an adoption plan. They affect day two. Is this something you are going to own on premise? Is it something that you want to use in the cloud? Do you want a hybrid? How do you want to manage it – internal staff, external staff, or again, a hybrid? All of those decisions need to be made around what we need to accomplish and how we handle this as a business. All of that can only be done if you have broken down the silos and looked at it holistically.
Jim Burton: I think it’s interesting because in part of your writing you talk about the fact that you put together a plan, and quite a number of the first plans are to change the organizational structure and governance.
David Danto: Absolutely. A number of the clients that I have worked for have actually been very surprised. We have done a comprehensive assessment of where they are in technology. We have spoken to their end users, which I will come back to as a very critical point. We have done all of that research. We have invested a lot of time. We have figured out what would be the right fit for them. We have come back to them in that analysis with a 10- or 20-point plan to achieve optimal collaboration and communication within the organization. Many times the first three, four, five, or six points are nothing you can buy. It has to do with, well, you need to move these products out of these silos and into this general organization. Or you need to revise your governance. You need to do things that require a slight culture shift or a slight management shift. I have had clients come back to me and say, “no, come on really? Where do we send the purchase order? Where do we write the check? How can we buy the unified communications we want?”
Until that mindset gets flushed out of general operations and organizations, we will not achieve unified communications. Unified communications is not something you can buy. I’m sorry to my manufacturer friends [both] the ones that Dimension Data represents and the ones that they do not represent. I’m sorry. You cannot buy unified communications. Unified communications is an outcome that you achieve when you align business requirements and business goals with technology.
Jim Burton: You’re singing to the right people here, because that is what UCStrategies has been talking about for years. You really need to look at what the business process you are going through. What business problem are you trying to solve? Then take a look at what components can solve that. Often it is not the vendor that you would think. I mean I look back at the days of telephony acquisitions, and people would just look at features. They would just look at a series of features. Everybody has very similar features, but some people deploy the features differently. I think your approach is absolutely right.
Another comment that you make is how a lot of companies are bringing people in that are independent. They are looking for what the solution to the problem is. It’s not just pick a vendor. What are the pieces that go together to really help our organization and streamline it? As we talk about it at UC Strategies, it is communications to integrate into business processes. That is the end result. That is unifying communication. I think you really nailed it in your document here.
David Danto: Thank you.
Jim Burton: Doron, we have not heard from you.
Doron Youngerwood: I actually want to touch upon a point that David mentioned. I think he is completely correct in that the number of companies and clients that have come to us over the past year or so with challenges around utilization rates and adoption rates of technologies like video conferencing, is just phenomenal. Companies have invested heavily five to ten years ago, and guess what? They are not getting people using it, because as David touched upon, they did not really consider the user when they first put together the plan. It was not really a business plan for unified communications. It was more so a technology plan.
I am still amazed at those organizations that never really considered the user when first considering the outcome. It is a very interesting point and a very valid point. I think it is not too late to bear in mind to survey the user to understand the different divisions and departments within the organization. Also it is not just internally, but also externally. That is, understanding the supply chain, the clients, partners, supplies, where they are based, and who you need to collaborate with. I think that is also essential not just internally but also externally who you need to meet with.
Jim Burton: You are absolutely right. In fact, when you look at return on investments, if you go in and you just fill up a whole bunch of rooms with video conferencing equipment and it’s not used, there is very little return. But if you figure out the use cases, and determine what really is needed, and if it were video conferencing, then there are great returns on your investment.
David Danto: I actually did want to come back to that point that Doron makes and I touched on briefly when I was talking. It is specifically around the user. The user has to be at the heart of the strategy – but not just keeping the user’s needs at the heart of the strategy. It has to be the actual user. I do this for a living. I am a consultant with Dimension Data. I go out [into the field quite a bit.] This is my 37th year in the industry and I have seen a lot. I enjoy going out and speaking with new organizations, and helping them get on this right track. When I propose work to organizations, I will come back and say what I am going to do in terms of my discovery – I will look at your documents, I will look at your technology, we will arrange some workshops and meetings, and I will speak with your users. Frequently, the clients that I am speaking to scratch that [last] line out. They do not want me talking to their users. They know what their users need. They are going to tell me what their users need.
[On the other hand] when we go into an organization that has said you are the expert, help us through this, guide us along the path, we will sit down in a meeting (we have a very specific thing that we do called the Unified Communication and Collaboration Development Model) but whatever approach you take with whatever partner you take, we sit down and talk with the technology people and [they] say what is going on. “We are having problems deploying this, or this is our capacity, or this is what we do not need,” and all the technology answers that you would expect.
Then we ask where you think you are along these 12 points. Where do you think you are in terms of synergy and things working together, in terms of productivity, in terms of management, in terms of tools available? We go through a detailed analysis to get their thoughts and their opinions. Then we ask the technology people to sit in the back of the room. Then we bring in a group representing end users. These are administrators. These are sales people. These are people who are power users and people who are willing to come to the meeting and give them their thoughts. We ask the same questions and we get completely different answers.
Where the technology people think that they are advanced in terms of having collaborative technology available, the end users typically think they have not even begun. That disconnect is common. It is not something to be embarrassed about. It’s the people who live with the technology [that] believe it is at a better state than the people who work in the business operations within organizations. When you bridge that – when you bring those camps together – you accomplish two things.
People get confused. Organizations really think you are only accomplishing one. Everybody believes getting the right information – whether they let us do it or not – to understand what the blend is that is required for this organization – everybody thinks that is a good thing. Technologists think they already know the answers. Oftentimes they do not, but no one objects to that.
What you don’t realize and what a lot of organizations do not understand is right at that very moment – before we have even started buying anything or planning anything – by engaging the end users we are starting an adoption program. We are telling the users or the user representatives in an organization that they are important. What they feel about the space matters. We are going to listen to it and it is going to influence our actions. Maybe it will not do everything they ask for, but it doesn’t matter. We have heard them. Then at the end of that meeting we tell them, “you people are our champions. We are going to come back to you when we have this straightened out, when we know what we are buying, and when we are looking at how we are going to announce it to the firm. We are going to ask you what you think.”
Then we are going to come back to you once it is rolled out. We are going to ask you, “can you tell your colleagues to try it.” Oftentimes they do. They go back to their day-to-day workspace and they say, “come on, you have to try this new stuff we have at the desk, these new rooms, or these new systems. We helped create it.” That is the difference between a 22% adoption rate and a 75% adoption rate in large and small organizations. I don’t have to tell CIOs and smart technology people what that does to TCO when you get the adoption rate taking off like a hockey stick.
Jim Burton: You are so right. We have all seen those situations where someone does an implementation and they had an estimate of what kind of returns they were going to get, and they don’t happen. It was user adoption. You are absolutely right. Nobody looked at what the user model is to say this is what they need and this is how they work. Or there are even programs to get them trained properly. That I think is the important thing about bringing in experts like Dimension Data to come into a project to help walk things through. That’s what you do for a living. If you think about it, these other people deploy things, but they are not doing that analysis. Most of them just do not have the luxury of looking at every vendor and knowing the depth of what each vendor has to offer so you can pull together the right combinations of pieces.
One of the things that we haven’t talked about, which I think is just such a critical component today, is the social aspects of this. Do you care to comment on that?
David Danto: The interesting thing, and one of the things I go into in the article, is the concept of a tipping point. I have been using video conferencing since the 1990s. I have always enjoyed it, but again, I am a technology guy. I don’t have an issue with that. When you talk about the concept of working from home, remote working, or smarter working – Dimension Data calls it “Workspaces for Tomorrow.” The whole idea of being able to use tools is not just the concept of, “I know how to use a video conference, I know how to use an instant messenger,” or “I know how to share my desktop.” It is what happens when you bring all of these technologies together aimed toward business outcomes in a strategic approach. It is very important to point out how now we not only have these terrific technologies – and as you know, they are getting better and better every year for manufacturers – but we now have this whole aspect of social. There are specific corporate social platforms – things like Yammer, Jive, …or Redbooth that has some new interesting things going on. And there is the public social media. There is Facebook and all the other things that are going on. I work from home regularly. I have an office in my basement where I am. I have 19 monitors in front of me, and I am more equipped than I would be in any office I would go to – as it should be, because this is what I do. This is my area of expertise. [Despite this] I am closer to my supervisors, my colleagues, and my peers in the organization than I have been in any office I have ever worked in in my 37-year career.
This is because I communicate with them not just using instant messaging, not just using video – online video, high quality video, or telepresence. It’s not just those tools. But we have an internal Yammer operation so we can share ideas and share our thoughts that are important to the corporation globally, that the Americas CEO and our global CEO participate in on a regular basis. (It is a very flat organization when it comes to that.) But I am also friends with most of these people on Facebook. I see what they did over the weekend and they see what I did over the weekend. The things that you would get in that water cooler moment that everybody talks about, bouncing off ideas, looking at how my colleagues’ kids were smiling sitting next to the burly hockey player - next to a cute 3-year-old and 5-year-old girl and boy; those are the things that make us a team and [help us] share.
When you put the unified communication technologies together with the strategy – [and then] together with social, all of a sudden I am sitting here at home with as rich of a collaborative experience with my colleague – or richer than I would get in any office. The point to make there, is because that now is something that is even richer and better than in person; my colleague can be in the UK. My colleague can be in the Middle East. My colleague can be across the other side of the country from me. We are able to assign the right person to the job regardless of geography or real estate. That is when you start to really bring home the nirvana – the end state that you can get to with all the change the collaboration technology permits.
Doron Youngerwood: Just going back to your point about the lines being blurred between corporate and social collaboration. I think that is sort of an interesting point around the formality of meetings. We no longer have the suit and tie approach to meetings where once in the board room the meetings do not necessarily take two hours like they used to. You can have a very quick 10- to 15-minute meeting, get your point made, get a decision made, and then move onto the next task. I think that is a positive thing. That is a good thing in the way that we are bringing everything together – whether it is our personal or work lives, whether we are schmoozing with people on Facebook, or we are chatting on Yammer on a work-related activity or work-related item. I think that is a good thing. I think that is a positive thing. I think ideas are created not necessarily in the board room, but they are created when you are just having a bit of fun talking to a friend or colleague, and not necessarily talking about a work-related item, I think that is when people are creative or innovative, it is not necessarily in the meeting or board room
Jim Burton: I agree 100%. It is just amazing that the barriers have come down. In this conference call we have today we are in three different parts of the world having a very interesting conversation. We had a chance to catch up before the call, and it was a very social interaction. Of course I took a look to check both of you out on Facebook and LinkedIn before the call, so I felt like I knew you before we even got on the call.
Doron Youngerwood: You both raise some really valid points. I think ultimately it comes down to integrating those collaboration tools into your day-to-day work environment. You can be in the same office as a colleague and not have anything to do with them. Don’t say a single word to them. If you are working on documentation or if you are creating ideas and concepts for a new campaign or whatever it may be, if you are able to bring two together with a touch of a button or picking up the phone, these days the technology is so good that it is so seamless. Although technology is one part of a broader UC strategy, it just makes things so easy to bring people together. Whether it is one-to-one interaction with small groups of people, get decisions made instantly, and then finish the call, finish the meeting and move onto the next meeting, next project, or whatever it may be. It’s that seamless integration of collaboration with the work environment in your day-to-day operations that is essential.
Jim Burton: I agree.
David Danto: I attend a lot of conferences. Obviously I was at Enterprise Connect. I was at CES this year. I am going to be at InfoCom in a couple of weeks as we are recording this. One of the things that business leaders that everyone respects [says] – whether it is John Chambers at Cisco or anyone else – we are talking about the pace of change is faster than it has ever been. This is no longer a case where if organizations adopt these tools, technologies, and strategies maybe they will make a little more money or be a little more efficient than their competition. What we are talking about is a majority of the companies in the Fortune 500 today probably won’t be in the Fortune 500 10 years from now. This is a point that John Chambers makes and a number of other people have made it in different ways. The changes we are talking about redefine the space and leave anybody who has not worked with it and adopted it behind.
Jim Burton: You are so right. I think that it makes the point that you need to understand your business. You need to understand what the tools and technologies are to get them there. And as you point out so well in your article, you need to have an organization that can deal with this which is different than your organization today. These companies are all at risk. You can go down a whole list of companies that you could say if they don’t change, there is no way they will survive. In fact, our industry is filled with it. You just wonder how a lot of these technology companies are going to evolve. A lot of them are working on it and they have a lot of good ideas. But if they don’t change, then there is no chance of survival for them. Some young company will come along that figured it out, and they will do quite well. I think it goes right back to your article. The companies really have to be looking at change in everything, including their organization.
David Danto: If organizations do not look at what they are doing, even if it works, and figure out what they need to do next, they will not innovate, they will stagnate and they will not be around. The key is the organizations need to be willing to make the changes that are not writing checks. They are changing governance and structure in order to grow and in order to innovate. The ones that do not honestly just will not be around.
Jim Burton: Exactly.
David Danto: One other point that I do want to make is the concept of how the stigma of remote working is starting to fall away. Companies are starting to embrace it and seeing the results of that. Even with all of the change and with all of the more modern workplaces and workspaces for tomorrow, there are still organizations that are lagging behind and making decisions that remote working is not helping them despite all of the data. It’s a difficult stigma to deal with and we see very interesting things going on in the market.
Doron Youngerwood: That is a very interesting point, David. There are still organizations out there that are very anti-home working. They still define how productive you are by the number of hours you are in the office for. I am not one to disagree with them. I am not one to say actually their approach is wrong, for those organizations that are keen for their employees to remain in the office. That being said, I think it is quite short-sighted. I think that in this day and age we have very powerful devices at our fingertips. We have fantastic technology to bring us together wherever we are in the world. Ultimately, we should be measured by outcomes, by projects being delivered on time, by successful campaigns, and whatever it may be. It is whatever department or division we work in rather than the number of hours we work in the office for. I think that is really key.
David Danto: It is interesting in that the CFO of one of the largest technology companies has been on record as quoted that working from the office is important. “Something magical happens when you are in the office. We want as few people teleworking as possible.” But he recently announced that he is taking early retirement because he needs to spend more time with his family. I find this to be a very ironic situation because [for] those of us that have embraced smarter working, I am always at work and I am never at work. My office is wherever I am and I spend whatever time I need to with my family. It is a new way of looking at things that requires a new approach.
Jim Burton: I could not agree with you more. David, we have covered a lot here. You have a lot of important points people should be following. Can you just kind of summarize for us and give us a little bit of an action plan maybe?
David Danto: Absolutely it would be my pleasure. The first thing you have to do of course is call me. I’m sorry, that is a little bit of a softball there… The key point is that you need to begin with people. If you think of nothing else other than that, it is people first. Begin with people. People are at the heart of the strategy. You want to engage end users, formally – meaning get a few of them in a room, create some type of workshop – engage and get them going, because it starts you down a path of understanding what their real needs are, creating a user segmentation plan so that you can really document what needs you are trying to fill with your collaboration strategy. It also starts that adoption plan right off because it begins to make them think they are heard, and they are important, and they are going to have a role in this.
After you do that, that is actually step one of a six-step plan that we use at Dimension Data around driving adoption. Without going into too many of the details here, the next thing you need to do is build the framework around that. What policies need to change? What on-boarding would need to happen? What are you locked into at your organization in terms of contracts, buildings, or anything else that you cannot change? Once you know that strategy, you have created that segmentation plan, and you have built the on boarding plan, the third step is to then go shopping. Figure out what technologies are out on the market. What blend of them? What is the right thing for us? I have approached many firms when I do this analysis in the back of my mind saying, oh my God, these guys are the poster child for Vendor A. Then when I go through those steps and go through that analysis, I find that I was wrong. I find that based on what they are asking for, based on what they need, and based on what they have, Vendor B and C in a combination are really the right people to put in here, these are the tools and these are the products. If you follow that step with people first, user segmentation plan, create the foundation, do the on boarding, and then start shopping, that puts people on a roadmap for success. Calling me cannot hurt, either.
Jim Burton: That is great advice. So many people do it the other way. They look at the vendors and then they go the vendors have it all. Of course the vendors are all telling them they have it all. That is very, very good advice.
Gentlemen, this has been delightful. I look forward to actually doing a follow up to this sometimes after people have had a chance to listen to this podcast, read David’s article, and hopefully make comments on what they think, and get some feedback from customers who listen to this and maybe followed through with it. Maybe sometime in the next six to nine months we should do a follow up discussion, and just kind of re-track and see how things have evolved as we had projected they might evolve, get feedback hopefully from customers who listened to this podcast and said, yes, I do need to look at it a different way and it really worked out for me, I am glad I had a chance to hear what Dimension Data had to say because it made sense, we followed their direction and we had some great success.
Gentlemen, thank you again. I look forward to catching up with you in the future.
David Danto: My pleasure.
Doron Youngerwood: Thank you very much.