Telecom 2015 – The State of the Canadian Market
This week I was a speaker at Telecom 2015, held in Toronto, so for a change it was a short commute. Industry events in Canada are few, far between, and on a pretty small scale, so I was happy get the invite. This is the third year for Telecom 2015, which is put on by CTC, the Community of Telecommunications Consultants. The driving force is Michel Bruyere, Chairman of Montreal-based Neotelis, and kudos to Michel for making this happen and keeping it going.
For those in the UC, my repeated and deliberate use of the word “telecom” above should stand out, and will tell you something about the state of the market here. For a while, I’ve been wondering why any event in our space would have the “T word” in the title, and that came up again during my presentation. Thankfully, a few in the audience were wondering about that, too, and it’s a sign that the broader audience is seeing a bit of a disconnect between what the industry is talking about and what’s actually happening. To be fair, it’s not all bad, but I’ll share a few takeaways that should resonate with our readers.
Telephony still rules
Day 1 of this event featured vendors and Day 2 was consultants and customers, so there was good cross-section to talk to. That’s my overall take, and it’s not all that surprising. Believe it or not, there’s still a large installed base of Nortel here, and it’s not uncommon for 20+ year old systems to be going strong. For a lot of companies, there’s just no reason to change when the phones work so well and the PSTN is so reliable.
SIP Trunking is slowly getting there
Helga Egan of the FOX GROUP gave a solid presentation on the virtues of SIP Trunking, and based on that, you’d think everyone would be using it. Traction is building, and it’s great to see a growing cohort of SIP Trunking providers beyond the incumbents, but old habits die hard. I don’t have any stats on adoption, but incumbent telcos still dominate. Based on 2013 data compiled by the CRTC, they hold an 88% share of revenues and 86% of lines. That’s pretty, pretty dominant, and it’s no wonder that SIP Trunking has been held back here. TDM is still too lucrative for telcos to give up on, and while they can sell you SIP Trunking, you pretty well have to ask for it.
Fellow UC Expert Roberta Fox was with us, and she added another wrinkle pertaining to broadband capacity. Roberta used her own business as an example citing a close to 30% reduction in trunking costs when using SIP Trunking, and tangible productivity gains in the range of 7-9% based on increased billable hours. While that makes for a great business case, SIP Trunking will only deliver that if you have sufficient bandwidth, and that’s simply not available across the board. This is a real factor in Canada where population density is low and many businesses are in remote locations that are underserved in terms of connectivity.
UC isn’t there at all
My presentation was about trends shaping UC for 2016, and served as a good primer for audience engagement. Most have an idea of what UC is, but nobody is really using it yet. Based on the dialog, they concur with the issues I discussed, namely around the difficulty of gauging ROI and the complexity of deployment. The trends I discussed reflect the rise of cloud-based UC, how collaboration is redefining the UC value proposition, the impact of Millennials, and how the decision-making process for IT is different with UC. The audience took all this in stride, and my hope is this will better prepare them when it comes time to make their own decisions about UC. If you can hang on til next year, I’ll be sure to find out how far the needle has moved for them at Telecom 2016 – and who knows, maybe the conference will have a new name by then.
Getting ready for Millennials
That’s really what everything about this event was pointing to. Almost everyone there is squarely in the digital immigrant camp, and next time around, it would be great to have a few more digital natives in our midst. We also heard some great perspectives about omnichannel and what today’s customers expect from contact centers from Cheryl Odee Helm. The big takeaway for me is that when she asked about customer journey mapping, nobody there was really doing that. This is a key part of the rationale for omnichannel, and very much speaks to how today’s tech-savvy consumers – i.e. Millennials - engage not just with the products they buy, but the companies they buy from.
Building on that was a wide-ranging presentation from Raphael Ly of KPMG, sharing top level findings from a global study they recently did about how mobility is shaping online behaviors. He did a great job explaining how Millennials are different, especially their preference for texting, the role of mobility in how they shop, and their attitudes about privacy and trust in the online world.
I’m looking forward to seeing the full report, and to sum all this up, Raphael noted that the technology we use in our personal lives is way better than what we get at work. No surprise there, but it explains a lot about the challenges business have attracting and keeping top talent. That’s actually a segue to the wrap up panel session that talked about workplace of the future trends. To sum this article up, that in turn brings me full circle to the above takeaways. If telecom still rules, and there’s not a lot of SIP Trunking and UC happening, it’s clear that Canadian businesses have some catching up to do, especially if they want to get the best and brightest working for them. Maybe we need to do a Canadian version of the UC Summit!