It isn’t exactly news to describe how quickly things are changing in enterprise communications. This we know, it’s exciting and frustrating at the same time. But I think it’s also important to realize how much things are changing outside of enterprise communications.
For example, most of the big telecom innovations in the later part of the 20th century were justified to reduce costs. Most comms-related purchases were based on hard-cost savings. Today, cost saving objectives tend to be secondary considerations. The primary drivers are more around productivity, flexibility, speed, and/or innovation.
Telecom is expensive. I don’t mean to suggest otherwise. However, it’s not as expensive as it was. Saving 20% today doesn’t carry the gravitas that saving 20% a decade ago did.
"We went to the Moon, and we discovered Earth." This was a line from Neil Degrasse Tyson discussing the impact of the first real photos of Earth from the Apollo missions. Prior to the first photo, most maps and globes had borders. Seeing the planet without borders literally changed our world view. He suggested that it was no coincidence that the EPA and Doctors Without Borders were formed soon after.
That got me thinking. The power of context can be transformational.
We are living in a time of dynamic change – everything around us – attitudes, assumptions, practices, and facts are changing rapidly. Huge, once in a lifetime events, are happening frequently. Back yourself up 15 years and imagine your reaction to these radical near term predictions:
A new car company, with just a few models, will be worth half as much as GM
A black US President
High speed bandwidth would just be available for free in places like coffee shops
Same sex marriage legal in 37 states, and the Pope advocating tolerance
The list goes on… These are just a few. The point is there is far more change going on here than we can possibly blame on the millennials.
I believe this insane rate of change is more likely to increase than decrease. We are likely just getting started. It used to be write permanent things in pen, and temporary things in pencil. Now it’s all digital. Microsoft CEO Nadella thinks pens will be gone in a decade.
Smartphones are getting more powerful, broadband - wired and wireless – are both getting faster or more prevalent. Most kids find HD video conversations easier, cheaper, and more intuitive than telephony. With so much in flux, it would asinine to think our future work styles, even our communications, will be similar to today.
The solutions to many of our problems are incomprehensible just a few years earlier. Remember the first time we saw real time navigation with a GPS? It was hard to believe. The best solution to combat video and audio piracy took years to discover. It wasn’t tougher penalties or stricter laws, it was Netflix and Spotify. The solution was cheap content, unfathomable 10 years ago.
We don’t know the problems or the solutions, but they are arriving and changing quickly. Get a good seat because the drama is going to get better: WebRTC, fall-out from the Sony hack (and Snowden), 5G, the Uber-ification of many more industries.
So what are we to do as decision makers? Stop viewing enterprise communications as a product (aaP). Products depreciate and eventually die. The accountants know this; they treat the greatest UC tech the same as they do furniture and cars. Depreciate it, then take it to the farm and dump it.
I’m not talking about premises vs. cloud. I am talking about depreciation vs. appreciation. Communications solutions today actually appreciate – both prem and cloud. They grow and get better. Whatever you evaluated pre-purchase was likely lesser than what you implemented, and that solution continues to get better. Sure, some technologies dead-end, but the vast majority just grow.
Regardless if you are using Office or Google Apps, these technologies are very different today than they were three years ago. Same for most aspects of UC. Products depreciate – furniture, cars, smartphones, computers, etc. Enterprise software grows – new core features, partners, and APIs. Enterprise communications solutions are a canvas. Don’t evaluate features, evaluate APIs, ecosystems, release schedules, and R&D.
Back to looking at Earth from afar, we need to remember that the goal isn’t making communications cheaper, faster or clearer, but getting things done, solving problems, and innovating. Forget the self-imposed borders, just plan to work differently and don’t settle for long term commitments – they are anchors. Our way of approaching work, collaborating, and interacting continues to radically change.