Consumerization of IT Gone Amok!

Consumerization of IT Gone Amok!

By Marty Parker March 20, 2012 4 Comments
Marty_Parker
Consumerization of IT Gone Amok! by Marty Parker

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.

 

4 Responses to "Consumerization of IT Gone Amok!" - Add Yours

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Art Rosenberg 3/20/2012 7:03:52 PM

Marty,

I think if you added "people" to your definition of UC, it would help clarify things better to explain the"why" of UC. That is, “Communications with people integrated to optimize business processes.” It doesn't have to be person-to-person contacts.

Even the self-service applications, which bypass people for information access, perform transactions, or provide notifications and alerts, benefit from UC in making efficient contacts with people. The last consideration will start becoming even more powerfulwith "mobile apps" as consumers exploit multi-modal smart phones and tablets.
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Kevin Kieller 3/21/2012 3:39:58 AM

Marty,

UC = “Communications integrated to optimize business processes.” is a terrific definition.

It clearly focuses on the "What" we are trying to accomplish with UC (and social and collaboration) and that is improving business processes.

Art, in his comment, wants you to add some additional words to your definition but these additions then dillute the definition. People might be important to optimize the business process or they may not.
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Marty 3/21/2012 8:36:58 AM

Hi, Art,

I don't agree with your proposition. Unified Communications is not a human resources department topic, it is a technology-based topic. The question in the 2000's was, and still is, "If we we have about a dozen new communication technologies in the category of UC & C & S, then how do we apply those to gain the most advantage, return or savings?"

Selected sets of the technologies can be 'integrated' minimally, i.e. just provided to the users for adoption as the user deems most effective; or can be 'integrated' technologically, i.e. built into customer portals, configured into business process applications, etc.

So, it seems to me that UC is not about 'people integrated to optimize business processes,' that already exists and is the function of management; it is about (new) communicatios tools integrated (either minimally or technologically) to optimize the work that the people already do in the business processes.

If the result is in the bypass of a human protocol coverter (think IVR to get a bank balance or airline arrival time) or of a human clerical task (think about ordering goods on Amazon.com) then the business process is optimized and labor content is reduced. In any of those examples, the applications are not intended to make efficient contacts with people.

So, my inclination is not to try to squeeze the 'people' idea into the definition, any more than it seems like a good idea for vendors' marketing departments to be squeezing people-centric into their marketing of business solutions.

Thanks for your comments. Always thought provoking.
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Art Rosenberg 3/21/2012 11:29:55 AM

Don't disagree about the technology integration view and UC enabled tools and services to optimize business process performance which involve people.

I would suggest that time sensitive outbound alerts and notifications by an automated application will need the benefits of UC to make efficient delivery to a human recipient, particularly when the recipient is mobile. Such outbound notifications can obviously include options for a contextual response to a person, either real time ("click-to-call/chat") or asynchronous messaging.

But, you are right about keeping the focus on the business processes, tools,, and services that UC enabled applications can optimize. We really can't force people to do the "best" thing when it comes to business communications, but offering UC flexibility gives them the convenience and time-savings of choice.

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