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Several UCStrategies Experts attended and participated in Enterprise Connect 2012. In this Industry Buzz podcast moderated by Michael Finneran, the experts touch on the highlights. The podcast includes Marty Parker, Blair Pleasant, Orrin Broberg, Art Rosenberg, Don Van Doren, and Kevin Kieller.
Michael Finneran: Well, good day. This is Michael Finneran. I'm here with a number of our associates from UCStrategies, all of whom have just returned from last week’s Enterprise Connect event. And once again, it was a great event. Fred (Knight) and Eric (Krapf) did a marvelous job of putting together a great series of panels, a great series of events. And clearly, there was lots of excitement this year. There were some great keynotes. And also, as always, it’s great to see all the old friends that I know through the conference.
From my view three major themes seemed to be recurring: the cloud, video, and mobility. And needless to say, I was focused on the last of those.
We had six sessions dedicated specifically to mobility. And, of course, it popped up in most of the others, and the sessions were packed. There was tons of interest in BYOD, policies for BYOD, mobile device management systems, applications management. But one thing was fairly clear, that the, UC and PBX vendors, or IP PBX vendors, are still struggling with how to incorporate mobility in their product lines. In a couple of my sessions I did my classic “show of hands” poll as to how many in the audience were actually using any of these mobile UC clients like Jabber, or One X, or OpenScape Mobile. And in each case, well, we did get a splattering of hands go up, of course. Then when I asked for the vendor representatives to lower their hands, then the group was much, much smaller.
Also we’re seeing a splattering of capabilities. Fortunately, since everyone was there, I had the opportunity to go around and annoy all of the vendor reps in the booths, asking, which ones had presence, which had this capability, was it on this platform or on that platform? And really, it’s still a scattershot of what’s available where.
So certainly the user interest in mobility is there. But the big question, and the one I was asking was, "So, we're gonna do UC. Are we going to do it with Lync or, are we gonna do it with LinkedIn?" And probably the one company that really caught my attention was one that Dave Michels featured in his Innovation Showcase, Hookflash. One of the things that has always bothered me about LinkedIn, compared to the other social networking sites, is that while it is focused toward the Enterprise, and certainly has far greater enterprise adoption than Facebook, or Google Plus, or any of the others, the communication capabilities are really pretty rudimentary: you can send e-mails. Well, Hookflash has come out with a heck of a capability that allows you to have many of the same rich communication capabilities you find in things like Facebook, all piled on top of LinkedIn, so that was a real eye opener for me.
But, Marty – I ran into you plenty of times at the show. What were your ideas?
Marty Parker (2:42): Thanks, Michael, and thanks for taking the lead on mobility at Enterprise Connect, that's for sure. My focus at Enterprise Connect was on the evolution of unified communications in the enterprise as a communications solution, not as part of the PBX.
And, I would like to note that none of the keynoters used the word “PBX.” The word PBX has pretty much gone from Enterprise Connect. It’s a good thing they renamed the show a few years ago. Because all the keynotes were about alternate forms, not about voice as in VoiceCon, but about video – about non-real time instant messaging, presence, collaborative workspaces – just a ton of conversation around those ideas.
My particular focus was on the Enterprise Connect RFP series. There was a three-part series as we've said before. Dave Stein talking about UC bought with a PBX, with a new PBX on-premise; Brent Kelly doing UC bought with the PBX in the cloud; and I did one on UC without a new PBX. And it was amazing, if not shocking. The vendors who responded, the eight vendors, four of them were in common with Dave Stein’s UC on-premise with a new IP Telephony system.
And the vendors were responding to the UC without a new PBX showing savings of 37% to as much as 78% of the cost of doing UC with a new PBX. In other words; and each of them showed how they could bring their call control software as well as all of their UC stack: presence, IM, click-to-communicate voice, video and share; click-to-conference for voice, video, and sharing; mobile devices, even though they weren’t using them, Michael. Mobile device clients and communications enabled business process functionality. All of that could be added as a layer on the PBX for these dramatically lower price points.
So, my conclusion is that it’s time to be sweating the assets. (See additional article on this topic.) Save time, save money, get better results by focusing solely on the UC layer. And don’t mess with the PBX. It costs too much money. And it takes too much time. And it doesn’t add any value. So, my summary on that is that UC is ready for prime time. UC can be installed without – and by the way, I say ready for prime time because all the leading vendors, four leading voice, historically voice vendors; two leading desktop vendors – Microsoft, IBM; and two specialized vendors – RIM, and Esnatech. I mean, they all showed how to do this.
Second is that UC can be installed without requiring a PBX content center upgrade or replacement; and third, UC is affordable. And you can avoid all those PBX replacement costs. So, I’ll be writing some more articles soon about how to approach this. It’s really about modularity – because these vendors showed how modular their software is. And by defining the use cases, you can then select the modules you need to solve your use case requirements. And by doing the use cases in a sequence, you don’t have to do them all at once anymore now that the vendors have shown how you don’t have to make a big replacement. So, you can do the use cases in a sequence, which we refer to as a roadmap.
So, what I’d say is we basically proved what we were saying would happen five years ago. It’s now done. And I think the industry has changed and there’s no going back. So, I thought it was pretty interesting—it’s a milestone, and I was happy to be part of it. Back to you, Michael.
Michael Finneran: Great, Marty. Blair, you had a couple of interesting sessions. One in particular that was getting a lot of buzz was the social networking case studies. Can you say a little about that?
Blair Pleasant (6:34): This is the first time we did something like this. Also, because social is so new, but I've been very focused on how companies are integrating social software with unified communications. And we were able to get three customers, all of whom were in different phases of their deployment. We had Leon Benjamin from Virgin Media; David Nettles of Rayonier; and Kevin Rice from AT Kearney. And it was interesting because they were all using different solutions from different vendors and in different phases. But there were some basic learnings that they all had in common. David talked about how Rayonier is integrating their Siemens Enterprise Communications UC solution with Google Apps. And those of you who are familiar with OpenScape know that there’s OpenScape Fusion , which is basically open APIs and an open way of integrating third party apps like GoogleApps. So, it really made it very simple for them to integrate Google Apps with their Siemens UC Solutions .
Some of the benefits that they were able to get and they're in the very early stages of this...they haven’t really explored very much yet. But they're really looking at how they can have a central place to do all of their UC capabilities like chat, phone, conferencing, and things like that. And have it integrated with Google Apps so that you can do click-to-call, have the integration with e-mail. So when you're in your UC client, you can see phone calls and communication history with people. If you go to your calendar, you can see scheduled conferences and have that type of integration. And being able to do the click-to-connect from within the Google Apps; and again, they're very early in what they're doing. So, they didn’t have too many learnings yet. But that's going to come.
Kevin talked about how AT Kearney is integrating Microsoft Lync with something that their company developed. It’s a Facebook-like app called Global Link. So, they integrated Microsoft Lync with Global Link so they can see who’s around. They can find the right people. And then, again, use click-to-connect, or click-to-call, or click-to-conference to be able to communicate to those people. So, they didn’t want to use Facebook, but Global Link is a Facebook-like tool that is specific for what AT Kearney is doing.
And then Leon Benjamin from Virgin Media, they've been at this for quite awhile. They've done a good job of integrating Cisco, Quad, and WebEx with Microsoft Lync. They had quite a few different learnings from this. He said the biggest thing that he learned is that one size does not fit all. And he said basically, one of the problems with unified communications alone is that you still have the same people talking to the same people. And it’s very vertically integrated. But what happens when you want to collaborate horizontally across the organization? So that's where social comes in. It helps you do that. And I think all of the panelists agreed that one of the most important things is to find an evangelist – someone within the organization that is going to help get the social and UC spread within the organization. So, they all agreed that that's really important.
And also, starting small and spreading throughout the organization. Not just giving this to everybody. Because it takes time. It takes a long time for people to get used to. So, you want to start with the right people. Have them get used to it, and then spread it throughout the organization.
We received some great questions, which I don’t have time to get into. But it was a very engaging session, and hopefully we’ll do this again and next year and we’ll have customers that are much further along in what they're doing as far as integrating UC and social.
Michael Finneran (10:00): Well, I'm sure we’ll be seeing this again in Enterprise Connect, certainly from what I heard from the feedback from the session. Now, Orrin, I understand you were talking to some of the vendors about the concerns they have with the channel, particularly the channel with the transition to the cloud. What did you hear?
Orrin Broberg: Well, I heard a lot, Michael. I think the game has changed. This is a real challenge for many of the reseller channel organizations. I've talked to a few of them already. And they view the challenges ahead of them as more of a business transformation, and then inside of that you have the new strategies, and how do they work in the revenue model, the sales process...the business model of evolving to a more subscriber/cloud-based-type of annuity versus the box selling...
That’s one level, but the other level really the sales people right now. While they were able to make the transition a few years ago from dealing with telecom managers and telecom decisionmakers to, and being part of an IT decision making process. They've been still selling boxes. They're still looking at as a vendor kind of relationship to make this transformation – this sales transformation. They're really going to need some new skills, competencies, and a process that really gets inside the business processes; other client organizations.
If they don’t do that, they're going to lose their position within their clients. You can call this crossing the chasm version 2.0. What’s related to that; and I have – I heard this time and time again from the vendors is that while we keep hearing about these great new capabilities, the, PBX vendors may be adding the cloud based services and mobility, video, and all these other things that clients supposedly want,the channel themselves are reluctant to sell them. They’re reluctant to promote them. And many times, you'll have an advanced system being sold and installed without the client really fully utilizing or understanding or utilizing all of the capabilities that that particular system, has to offer. So it’s really a double-edged sword and this is a real challenge for the vendors moving forward. It’s going to be something where we're going to have to address this. It’s training but it’s communications. And we’ll just have to see.
Art Rosenberg (12:32): This is Art. I have a quick question you might answer. Were they pointing a finger at the fact that the market is not educated enough about what they need or want?
Orrin Broberg (12:42): Well, the problem is – again, the clients that I talked to there and the people who are going and attending events like this tend to be more progressive. The clients that are there know what they want, they're driving the sale and they're more knowledgeable than most of the resellers. So, the complaint among the vendors about the reseller channels that the reseller channel is not educated enough to recommend and take control of the dialogue with the client. I would go so far as to say that many of the reseller partners are sticking to their knitting and selling what they know. And going to ride this box-selling model out as long as they can.
Art Rosenberg: The resellers are not educating their clients well?
Orrin Broberg: No.But, they don’t understand it themselves. Well, if you're going in, you know, you have to get in and understand your clients’ business process. And strategic processes whether it be distribution, warehousing, accounting. Anything that can take advantage of the collaborative, communications, capabilities we have now.
In order for them to do that, they have to leapfrog the traditional relationship with an IT/telecom buyer. And get into an organization; and meet with the people. And do your – diagnostic business planning, which involves, you know, going in with a value hypothesis and idea; and the discovery; and the design; and all these kinds of things. And to be fair, they've never had to do that before. I think there are some. A good handful of you might say Microsoft gold dealers that are – are doing that quite well right now with Linc and some of their solutions.
Michael Finneran (14:28): Interesting, and very much in line with one of the topics we talk about here at UCStrategies all the time. Now Don Van Doren, you were at the show as well. What were your observations?
Don Van Doren: Well, I've got a couple of comments. First, just commenting on Orrin’s point. Of course, this is an end user show primarily. And so the channels didn’t get a lot of mention. But on the other hand, it’s interesting that there was sort of a subtext and – and a – a conversation going on around the halls about that subject. And, of course, the place where that's really going to play out is going to be at the UC Summit , which is coming up May 6th through 9th. So, that’ll be a front and center topic for people to be looking at as what’s the role of those channels and how that can work.
I have some other comments. Blair mentioned, of course, the emphasis on social. Interesting, Alistair Rennie’s comment from the stage. His mantra was quote, “Social communications to improve business outcomes;” which frankly has the same number of words and sounds suspiciously like “communications integrated to optimize business processes;” which, of course, is what we've been talking about for about seven years now. And I think – but it’s just emblematic of how far that has gone, and the fact that, IBM in particular, I think was really emphasizing, of course, their whole social communication outlook. They are moving ahead very rapidly in that. Connections are the key thing that they're emphasizing. They were talking about Same Time-like capabilities that are really embedded within the Connections product. And so – I think that was really a more general theme. Marty mentioned that this was sort of farewell to the PBX in some sense, because it just wasn’t mentioned. And not only Cisco and Avaya were both talking about, really moving up a level and not focusing so much on how the tools were used. Sorry, focusing on how the tools were used, but not so much on the tools themselves. So, the whole theme I think across the keynotes was really moving to applications. And that was really good. Some other things, I think; another comment just in building on what Marty said about this, the rather startling, results from the – the RFPs.
And the fact that you can really put in a UC Solution without touching your PBX . Get all the functionality and – and spend a fraction of what you might otherwise. I think the other thing that's important in that is that it allows companies to really build and implement roadmaps that don’t look at a single event to replace your entire infrastructure. But rather can build on a framework to enable business process, integration and applications for better communications, better collaboration across the company and steps. And that kind of approach, I think is gonna be really important, going forward.
One of the questions that was asked was just about contact centers. There were three sessions about it: a regular market update. In addition, there were sessions on social networking and on cloud. Both were quite well attended. So people are still understanding that those kinds of specialized PBX-like functions are going to be important for a while, that they need to be integrated with some of these new capabilities. And obviously moving into the cloud was something that was well discussed throughout those two sessions.
Michael Finneran: Excellent, thank you, Don. Now are there any other members of the UCStrategies team that would like to weigh in on – on Enterprise Connect?
Kevin Kieller (18:10): This year in fact was my first Enterprise Connect. It was a great collection of people and ideas and products and so kudos go to Eric and Fred. I had the opportunity to present two sessions. The first was Living With Lync, and I had an excellent panel – Ellen Levine, the CIO of the Kennedy Center, Chris Stegh, the CTO of Enabling Technologies, Tom Kisner, who is both the Unified Communications architect at BNFF Railway and who also runs the Fort Worth Texas Lync user group, and Oyvind Kaldestad, the VP of IT for Lionbridge, who brought a really global prospective to some cases studies on Lync.
That was a fantastic session the afternoon of Monday. I met a lot of great people, heard a lot of great case studies, and certainly learned that many, many organizations are moving ahead with their implementations of Lync not only for instant messaging and presence, which certainly had been previous years been the lion share with OCS, but many, many organizations leveraging Lync as the voice platform of choice.
On the second day, I had the opportunity to present Skype in the Enterprise. Quite frankly, that was a much tougher session simple because neither Microsoft nor Skype have come out and made public their plans, but you know, I think we can all anticipate that Lync from a corporate platform prospective is likely to be integrated and federated with Skype similar to how Lync currently supports federation with Windows Messenger. And as well, then through the Skype/Facebook integration, we’re likely to see, through that whole Microsoft community – in my calculations – over a billion people who are able to connect, share instant messaging, presence, voice, video, and desktop sharing, all without touching the PSTN. So, certainly a huge rise of what I call the Public Collaboration Network.
In terms of common themes that I saw, there really were four things that I wanted to briefly touch on. It seemed to me that “anywhere, any device, any modality” was a slogan that pretty much was used by all the vendors. It almost was a case where their differentiation was lost. In all the keynotes and most of the booths; that whole anywhere, any device, any modality seemed to be what people were saying. It seemed to be a prerequisite that you showed your UC clients running on an iPad. I think a lot of venders felt that the coolness of Apple somehow rubs off on them if they show their client running on an iPad because pretty much everybody did that.
I saw Cloud really moving beyond the talk of… it used to be all about OpEx vs. CapEx, really a financial discussion. But in a number of sessions I sat in, Cloud was really being promoted as a path to simplicity. I think a lot of customers are recognizing that some of this UC stuff, especially the multivendor integrations, are pretty darn complicated and you need really specific skill sets to make it work and keep it working as upgrades happen to software across the different venders you’ve chosen. So really, moving it to the Cloud is a path to let somebody else worry about those challenges.
The last of the four things I saw was really out of my Living with Lync, but really just listening around the show floor and some of the keynotes, it really seems that this year Lync is at a tipping point. Meaning, you know the momentum piece is really just starting to grow exponentially. I think a lot of other venders are trying to sort out their story in terms of how are they going to integrate into the Lync and Microsoft ecosystem.
All-in-all, a fantastic event. I am definitely looking forward to next year’s Enterprise Connect. In the meantime of course, looking forward to the UC Summit in May as was pointed out by my colleagues, which is going to focus more on the Channel, but I think extending a lot of the great conversations that were started at Enterprise Connect. So thanks, and back to you, Michael.
Michael Finneran (22:56): Well, this has been a great session. Certainly as I mentioned at the outset, the show was exciting. The economy is getting stronger. The vendors seem to be very positive about the experience. And the users seem to be catching on to where UC is going. I hope that you all get to join this in Orlando for next year’s Enterprise Connect. In the meantime, I would like to thank my cohorts here at UCStrategies for their observations. We’ll talk to you all next week. Take care now.
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