Consumerization of IT Gone Amok!
Finally, the marketing departments are going off the rails. Almost everybody is saying their Unified Communications and Collaboration products are "people-centric" as a key to their branding.
Maybe Microsoft started this trend in 2006, with a Steve Ballmer speech to the Executive Business Forum, in which he says, “Software, we think, is an important part of enabling people in a people-ready business.” Actually, note that he does not go totally consumer with "people-centric" and we’ll come back to that point.
Since at least November 2009, Cisco has said that their Enterprise Collaboration Platform is, “…people-centric, facilitating real-time voice and video communication…”
Since at least September 2010, Avaya has been positioning via press release quotes from their CEO that, “…fully integrated video, voice and text capabilities" are “…the heart of Avaya's people-centric approach to collaboration...” Avaya also has a new marketing brochure that touts Avaya Aura® as, “The communications infrastructure for people-centric collaboration.”
At Lotusphere 2012 and on their social business web pages, IBM claims that, “With the IBM social business software and services, you can… cultivate trust using people-centric experiences.”
Today, an e-mail from Plantronics finally pushed this marketing hype over the edge. The headline on this e-mail highlighting their activities at Enterprise Connect and in a related PDF (page 4), is, “A company dedicated to technology serving the people, not the business.” Really???
If these marketing campaigns were aimed at consumer markets, they might make sense. Hey, here’s a great idea! Let’s appeal to the individual buyers, not to the corporate buyers and budgets that have funded these vendors’ revenue streams for many decades. But these are vendors marketing to private sector and public sector enterprise customers around the globe. What are they thinking? Maybe it’s the exponential growth of consumer social networks and mobile devices that’s driving all these "people-centric" brand messages?
Sure, almost every enterprise cares that their people are productive. But it is almost impossible to think of an enterprise, even one doing charitable work, that does not first and foremost focus on driving down the costs of their business processes and/or increasing their organization’s value proposition to their customers. Neither shareholders nor donors nor citizen constituents are measuring these entities based on how large a number of people they are employing; rather the measurements focus on goods and services delivered and on the economics or profitability of the delivery.
For my part, the UCStrategies definition of Unified Communication (including Collaboration and Social Networking for Business) is on the right track with, “Communications integrated to optimize business processes.” The focus is on the business processes and on the goods and services delivered by those processes; communications is there to serve the processes, not the other way ’round.
Of course, unified communications and collaboration and social networking tools are used by people! So, "people-centric" is a good attribute of any UC or Collaboration or Social Networking product. But, why not produce and market "business centric" or "process-centric" communications that optimizes the effectiveness, satisfaction and even enjoyment of the people who use those tools. Then, the people-centric attribute will differentiate a tool that is producing a better result or higher ROI, rather than positioning the value primarily around the individual user.
There is even an argument to be made that the best communication and collaboration systems would be "people-bypassing" systems. What if the software could get so good that much of the communications could be automated? We already have that with self-service web sites, IVR systems, contact centers, and e-mail auto-responders. We already have that with Presence indicators which bypass calling someone who is in a meeting or sending a message to someone who is unavailable. We already have that with data mining software that can determine who has the right knowledge for a task so that we can bypass calling five people into a meeting to reinvent the wheel. Yeah, of course, "people-bypassing" communication systems would be a terrible brand campaign, but you get the idea.
Of all of these branding programs, Microsoft’s People-Ready Business seems most on target (even though they now have moved on to new branding themes). In other words, invest in technology for exactly the purposes needed for your business and make sure the investments are suited to the people who will get the jobs done.
Well, that’s enough of a rant on how branding can careen off in directions that lose their linkage to the buyer’s basic requirements. At least there’s plenty of marketing going on in the UC and Collaboration and Social Networking market segments; marketing occurs where there is revenue and market share to be captured and these market segments are sure providing revenue growth for plenty of companies. Thanks for reading. What’s your opinion? Log in and share your thoughts below.