How Bob Newhart Would Respond to UC

How Bob Newhart Would Respond to UC

By Jon Arnold February 21, 2014 7 Comments
Jon Arnold Image for Unified Communications Strategies
How Bob Newhart Would Respond to UC by Jon Arnold

If you’re not familiar with Bob Newhart, you’re in for a treat, plus a twist on UC that takes things down to street level where the real adoption happens. As one of the greats of comedy, Bob Newhart is a master of the deadpan telephone routine, and in this post, I’m going to present my take on how a conversation might have gone between Bob as a hapless department manager and his IT director trying to explain UC and why he should use it.

Before continuing, you might want to first listen to this classic sketch for proper context. This is Bob Newhart’s famous routine where Sir Walter Raleigh is trying to explain the concept of a cigarette to the head of the West Indies Company in England, to whom he has shipped a boatload of tobacco leaves from the Colonies. Basically, he’s trying to sell something to someone who has no idea of what he’s talking about.

Whether you’re a channel, a vendor, or a buyer, I’m sure you can see the parallels with UC. There’s a lot more than technology needed to make UC successful, and that’s a key reason why adoption isn’t where we’d all like it to be. Sometimes you need humor to get the point across, so I’d like you to click on the above link, close your eyes and listen for six minutes, and let your imagination do the rest. Then come back here and finish reading my post.

“Hi Bob; Walter here in IT. Just calling to see how you’re doing with the new UC deployment.”

“UC, Walt? I don’t see anything. Where should I be looking?”

“Ah, no. I mean UC, as in Unified Communications. The user guide went out to everyone last week.”

“Must have missed that one, Walt, sorry. We seem to get a lot of things like this from your department, with complicated jargon and not a lot of explanation. Look, I’m pretty busy here – can you quickly fill me in?”

“Ok, well, Unified Communications is an IP-based platform that seamlessly integrates all communications modes in a single interface to deliver a consistent end user experience over any network, any screen and any device.”

“Uh huh, I see. UC. I don’t see it, Walt. What does this have to do with me?”

“Everything, Bob. UC is all about empowering end users to drive productivity by taking full advantage of the multimedia tools at their fingertips.”

“Is this something new? While we’ve been talking, I’ve been handling email and IM, and – oh, just hold on, there’s another call coming in.”

“Alice, yes, I’ve been waiting for your call. The order went this morning, so you can bill the client now.”

“I’m back Walt, sorry about that. You were saying?”

“Well, Bob, what’s new is the ability to do all these things at once, in real time.”

“And, how is that different from what I’m doing now? Oh, um, Walt, sorry for the background noise. My team just came into my office for our weekly meeting. And hey, Sandra, who’s home sick today just popped up on Google Hangouts, so we’re all here. Would you like to join our meeting, Walt? I can put you on speakerphone and you’re good to go. Better yet, I can send you a Hangouts invite and you’ll be right there with Sandra for us to see.”

“No, no, no. That’s not the idea, Bob. That’s not UC – that’s not what we have in mind.”

“We? Nobody asked me. Sandra – did IT ask you about UC? Anybody else here from the team get asked? Just blanks on this one, Walt, sorry.”

“But UC makes everything work seamlessly in real time, for everyone. It’s simple to use and very intuitive.”

“And, how is it different or better than what I’m doing right now?”

“Well, it brings everyone together so it’s easier to collaborate.”

“Kind of like what I’m doing right now – with my team in the room with me. Aside from Sandra here on HD video, there’s nothing virtual about this meeting. So, how is UC going to be better?”

“It has more tools, more applications, and more ways to be productive.”

“Look, Walt, I don’t always need more of these things to do my job. My people have a hard enough time answering emails and talking on the phone. Now you want them to multi-task even more? They didn’t ask for this. Last I checked, our team has been the #1 producer in our region for six quarters running. How is UC going to make a difference?”

“Maybe you just need more training. I can set up a session for your team, say, in about six weeks.”

“Six weeks? We have work to do today, and nobody is complaining they don’t have the tools. Listen, if nobody here saw the memo – if UC is this hard to find, how intuitive can it possibly be?”

“It is intuitive – even the vendor says so. Bob, you just have to give it a chance.”

“Sure sounds like you’re trying to sell me something I don’t understand or need. Maybe I’m just missing the boat, or maybe you’re smoking something I don’t have around here. Maybe, Walt, you guys need to come up with a better name that we can relate to, because we’re doing everything here just fine with the same tools you seem to be talking about. Why don’t you collaborate with your vendor on that and get back to us? I’ve got a team meeting to run right here, right now and we’re using all the tools. And hey, you can join our meeting any time. How’s that for Unified Communications?”


7 Responses to "How Bob Newhart Would Respond to UC" - Add Yours

Dave Michels 2/22/2014 4:22:38 PM

I thought I had dreamed reading this post, but no Emily.
Art Rosenberg 2/23/2014 2:47:48 PM

Cute, Jon!

What's missing is UC flexibility for different types of mobile users which accelerates messaging accessibility and responsiveness, as well as contextual "click-to-connect" options. The emphasis on collaborative meetings is fine, but that's just not what people do all day long.
Roberta J. Fox 2/24/2014 10:42:44 AM

Jon: This is excellent example of our challenges we have as technology evangelists! We have to be able to provide information in business language geared to whom we are speaking to and their industry sector, and challenges.

This is the fun part of working with our clients. We know that the industry mainly focuses on feeds, speeds, features and functions. It is our responsibility as trusted technology advisor to help educate our clients, and identify the real benefits and values of UC technology for THEIR organization.

It is also important to help them successfully develop the right UC strategy, migration, vendor and approach for their business, and help management vendors as well as teach them how measure results over the long term to monitor success.
Neal Shact 2/24/2014 11:57:25 AM

Brilliant. I can see a variety of follow-up pieces: Abbott & Costello with "Who's on First" or perhaps Bill Cosby's conversation with God about building an Ark.
Jon Arnold 2/25/2014 8:35:59 AM

Thanks all. If anyone is game to write up a Part 2, or maybe a Lync-flavored Universal Communications take, be my guest!
Garrett Myers 2/26/2014 8:55:22 AM

Great skit Jon. I'm a long-time Bob Newhart fan and I can hear him speaking your words.

And yes, you've captured the essence of why UC hasn't gotten traction in the market.

I think I've actually had this conversation with a lot of clients.

A few of these skits would be fun at the next SCTC conference.
Kevin Kieller 3/1/2014 2:21:14 PM

Great post Jon. Made me laugh and made some good points at the same time! Well done.

I have seen best success and highest usage and adoption when a UC rollout never mentions "unified communications". I have always contended that UC is a technology and successful projects lead with business benefits.

You have me actively thinking about a part 2 related to Lync. (Seems in line with my "How Mr. Telco Stole UC: and my "Twas the Afternoon Before Year-End": posts).

Thank you.

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