“This is Craziness” - My Takeaways from Jeff Pulver’s MoNage Event

“This is Craziness” - My Takeaways from Jeff Pulver’s MoNage Event

By Jon Arnold September 28, 2016 Leave a Comment
Jon Arnold 2014
“This is Craziness” - My Takeaways from Jeff Pulver’s MoNage Event by Jon Arnold

Messaging is the trend du jour in our space, and the digital divide was on full display at last week’s event in Boston. There’s a reason why Jeff Pulver decided it was time to move on from VoIP several years back, just as there’s a reason why messaging is his focus now. For more on that, I’ll be publishing an interview I did with Jeff at the event soon – stay tuned. Let’s get back to last week.

There’s a lot to talk about from MoNage – Messaging on the Net – and for the UCStrategies audience, this will be new. As far as I can tell, Boston-local Evan Kirstel was the only other UCStrategies UC Expert there, and while we both tweeted off and on, there’s more to share, especially since the sessions were not recorded and there weren’t many prepared presentations. On that note, here are three takeaways that anyone focused on UC&C should pay attention to.

1. There is no center anchoring messaging

I was on a panel specifically about enterprise messaging, moderated by Chris Fine, along with Ross Daniels from Cisco and Lawrence Miller from Symphony. For context, Chris prepared some data points sourced from recent studies about messaging, and here are a few that caught my attention:

  • The majority of organizations (57%) use two or more real-time messaging applications.
  • Nearly a quarter of respondents (22%) admit they either don’t know or don’t care whether IT has approved their real-time messaging application.
  • When asked if communication has improved because of real-time messaging, 86% of IT and 77% of end users both said YES.
  • 27% of end users, 23% of IT, and 25% of Slack users say organizational productivity has DECREASED with real-time messaging.
  • 56% of respondents believe that real-time messaging will displace email as their organization’s primary workplace communication and collaboration tool.
  • If Millennials could only choose one mode for their mobile phone, 75% would take text over voice.
  • Reasons why: 76% say it’s less invasive, 53% say it’s their general preference, and 19% feel text is more personal.

You can choose to take these at face value – or not – and am happy to provide the source data. I could write a separate article for each of these, but for now, will just add some quick comments. I’m sure you can draw your own conclusions, and it’s fair to say that separating fact from fiction here is like the Clinton/Trump debate we just saw. There are lots of data points showing how messaging is a great productivity driver and is the future of communications, while other data points point to a Wild West with IT caught in a downward death spiral, unable to control anything anymore.

For me, there’s a lot of truth to both, and clearly the impact of messaging is far from understood. My main view espoused on the panel was that messaging will gain adoption where it has utility, and presuming that privacy and security can be properly managed – easier said than done – there’s great opportunity ahead.

On a horizontal basis, messaging is enroute to becoming a ubiquitous everyday application, just like voice or email. That’s the commodity side of things, but I think the money will be made for vertical applications that address specific needs. I cited two examples – healthcare and the contact center. For the former, as EMR/EHRs become the norm, the entire patient care value chain will have all kinds of new communication needs that messaging is ideally suited for. Contact centers are prime for this too, as Millennials increasingly prefer messaging when communicating with companies, and currently contact centers are ill-equipped to support this fundamental shift.

2. “If you’re over 40, I probably have to call you.”

Speaking of Millennials, how’s that for a reality check? That’s all you have to know – we will NEVER be cool to them, even if I sport a man bun, wax my whiskers, say “awesome” a lot, pretend they invented the word “cool,” and earnestly wear checks with plaids - bro, it’s just not happening for me. I’m not offended, and will happily retreat to my man cave to enjoy vintage vinyl and single malt scotch. Party on, Garth.

Every conference seems to have a de rigueur Millennials panel now, and I always try to catch them. My kids give me a narrow window on their world, but nothing beats seeing a group up on stage talking, unplugged to the audience.

By now we know they don’t talk much on the phone and email is so not for them. Sort of. What I found really interesting is how they delineate different modes for different purposes. Not surprisingly, for them, email is a formal communication mode – “it’s for work – chat is for friends.” Email has a place, and they’ll use it, especially when communicating upward, since the ranks above them still tend to be email-centric. However, the mode and the message will always be aligned – they’ll never send a “wassup?” email, just as they’ll never message their boss asking for a raise.

While Millennials can’t seem to get enough of messaging, we also heard about the downside. They’re human too, and shared their concerns about the stress of being always-on. Their concerns about work/life balance are the same as everyone else’s, so it’s not a good idea to assume they have an infinite ability to multi-task and be productive 24/7.

So, while their expectations and preferences may differ radically from the older generations, there are universal concerns in play, and their performance standards for collaboration shouldn’t be judged differently.

They’ll just take a different path and use different tools, and when you take these nuances into account, your odds of success with UC will be much greater.

3. The merits of recipient-controlled messaging

I’ll close my post out by ending at the beginning. The opening speaker for MoNage was media iconoclast Jeff Jarvis, and he set the tone early by talking about how all these communication modes – including messaging – are overwhelming for most people. It’s creating inertia and pushback, as our all-digital world is leaving a large door wide open for an endless stream of media we can’t control or manage.
I agree with his old-school take that this is creating new models and behavioral norms for how humans interact, and as much as communicating and being social are primal needs, we’re becoming more impersonal and less civil. Are the machines winning? I think so, but so far, the chat bots haven’t taken over my online world. Ask me again next week – I concede it may just be a matter of time.

This is very much in line with my first theme about how there’s no center any more with communication, especially messaging. Market forces will create new business opportunities – and that’s what Jeff Pulver is exploring with MoNage – but this disruption comes with a cost. Only a fraction of our daily inflow of information leads to knowledge creation, and we sure spend an awful lot of time sifting through everything for the nuggets.

There’s gold to be had, no doubt, and once predictive analytics connects all the dots, some of us will get very rich. I won’t be one of them, and my parting message about messaging is that it’s all about control.

I’ve long maintained if we had to pay for every email, IM, message we send, the river would dry up pretty fast. This is the downside of the economics of abundance, and to survive, we have to somehow find a way to manage this.

Jeff – the other Jeff – Jarvis cited a great historical example that backs up my thinking. Prior to 1840, he explained that the postal service was recipient controlled; sending a letter was free, and recipients only got the letters they were willing to pay the postage for. This kept the volume mail really low, and only when the payment model was reversed did things change, revolutionizing the postal service.
That’s a form of disruption we can all understand, and in the messaging world, it’s created a monster – even more so, since neither sender nor recipient has to pay. Welcome to Google’s world where the ad-driven model seems to be winning, and if you think it’s bad now, wait til the chat and messaging bots worm their way into your personal data.

That’s the “craziness” my article title refers to, and it comes via Matt Bilotti of Drift, who gave a great presentation about how broken existing models are for companies when communicating with customers. Drift might be one of the companies that strikes gold, and is a prime example of the emerging ecosystem Jeff is trying to support and stop the craziness. Since this is Jeff’s first MoNage, I’m giving you a front row view for what’s coming, and hopefully you can see the implications for UC&C. I don’t see messaging moving to a recipient controlled model any time soon, and instead, I think companies like this represent the next best thing for getting messaging under control.


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