Change Happens – The Evolving Role of BCOM
Sometimes change happens so slowly that you don’t realize it’s taking place, while other times it happens so quickly that you don’t have time to adjust. The world of business communications has been experiencing many gradual changes, but these changes will quickly pick up momentum in the next few years, and enterprises need to be prepared. With new players entering the market and introducing innovative solutions, and new customers purchasing and utilizing these new solutions, CIOs will have their work cut out for them as they try to stay on top of everything. Managing, operating, and provisioning these new applications, which are often outside of the control of IT, will be the next biggest challenge for IT professionals, requiring new operation and management tools. These tools are being provided by Business Communications Operations Management (BCOM) companies like Kurmi Software to help enterprises better manage their existing business communication environments, while preparing for the changes the industry will be experiencing.
Some of the key changes we’re seeing in the industry include:
- The move from legacy technology to collaborative applications, and the accompanying rise of team collaboration applications
- Communication-enabled or embedded applications
- BYOD and “Shadow IT”
- Emerging vendors and vendor consolidation
We’ve moved from the era of hardware to software, and from communications to collaboration. The next phase of evolution is the move to embedded next-gen applications, or communication-enabled applications. Applications are the new black. All types of vendors are now offering APIs and SDKs to make it easier to integrate and embed communication capabilities with applications to communication-enable these applications. For example, Avaya is moving headlong into this new area with the introduction of Zang, a new platform allowing anyone to create and deploy custom, communications-enabled apps as standalone or embedded features.
While there’s some debate about whether or not unified communications has met its expectations, it’s clear that collaboration is winning the day. Team collaboration applications are all the rage, with the rise of companies like Slack and HipChat, whose team messaging and collaboration applications are being used by companies of all sizes. More traditional vendors like Cisco and Unify have introduced their versions of team collaboration solutions, respectively Spark and Circuit. RingCentral acquired Glip to add team collaboration capabilities to its portfolio, while Mitel introduced MiTeam, and other business communication vendors are quickly moving to add team collaboration capabilities to their stacks. As standalone messaging and sharing applications, these tools provide useful capabilities. But – when combined with real-time voice and/or video – they add a whole new level of power.
In many organizations, end users are independently bringing applications like Slack and HipChat, as well as consumer-grade applications that may or may not be sanctioned by IT. In many cases, IT doesn't even know that people are using these applications and tools. The BYOD phenomena has become BYOA – bring your own application. Similar to BYOD, this creates challenges for IT, as “shadow IT” emerges.
Emerging Vendors and Vendor Consolidation
In addition to the move from legacy systems to new applications, we’re also experiencing the move from legacy vendors to new players. Legacy vendors are making way for over-the-top (OTT) providers or “born in the cloud” vendors such as 8x8, RingCentral, Vonage, ThinkingPhones, Fonality, and Nextiva. In some cases, these OTT cloud services will be standalone, while in other situations they will need to be integrated with the existing legacy solutions, which can create management challenges.
As with any maturing industry, we’re seeing a great deal of vendor consolidation, as companies move to acquire other companies to provide capabilities they don’t currently offer (e.g.; ThinkingPhones + Fuze; RingCentral + Glip), to move into new markets (Mitel + Mavenir), or to gain customers and market share.
Change is hard, and for large enterprises with a myriad of products from a variety of vendors, moving to the new world of communication-enabled applications can be challenging, especially when it comes to managing all of this complexity.
Legacy products aren’t going anywhere, and most enterprises will operate in a hybrid environment, where legacy communication and new collaboration solutions will have to work in unison. This requires a whole new level of management tools and capabilities.
In many cases, it’s very challenging for the CIO to have a holistic view of what’s going on. In fact, according to the new Dimension Data Connected Enterprise Report, 24% of enterprises say that lines of business (LOB) can purchase and implement collaboration technology without IT’s approval or involvement. They also found that more than half of LOBs have staff within the department to both implement and support collaboration technology. While this is great for getting the right tools into the hands of the users, it’s a challenge for IT departments that want to exercise control over the collaboration technologies used within their company.
The horse has left the barn, and these tools are out there and will continue to be used within enterprises. In this new world, how do CIOs and IT professionals understand and monitor usage? Is there a way for IT to know who is using what, and how they are using it? If the marketing team, for example, starts using Slack, how does IT manage and operate this – assuming they even know that it’s being used? It’s clear that new management tools will be needed.
I expect to see an evolution of what UCStrategies calls BCOM, or Business Communications Operations Management, in order to help organizations deal with this new sophistication and complexity. BCOM systems are designed to fully automate the lifecycle of events to make the management of a complex operational change easy, and to deliver a set of integrated management elements that focus on user and business needs.
According to Edouard de Fonclare, CEO of BCOM provider Kurmi Software, as BCOM systems evolve, they will provide predictive analytics to make it easier to understand which applications are being used, who is using them, and how to optimize utilization. For example, the BCOM system can identify when usage is low and that it’s time to provide training for a specific application or capability. Going beyond simply reporting, these systems can be predictive to provide maximum ROI of the enterprises’ collaboration solutions and applications.
Kurmi has developed connectors that get information from all the different systems and applications being used, including both legacy and next-gen applications. Using these connectors, CIOs and IT managers will be able to view everything through a single portal, enabling them to provision users, manage, operate, and configure the various systems and applications, and optimize the usage of these collaboration tools.
De Fonclare noted that, “We need to bring new services to the evolving world of collaboration in the enterprise. It will be a hybrid world, bringing together legacy and emerging capabilities. Connectors will be key, gathering the information from various systems and providing a holistic, single view through a portal. At the end of the day, a BCOM portal will be key.”
Change is hard, but with the right tools, it can be easier for everyone.