The Proof is in the Pudding
At this year’s Enterprise Connect conference a large emphasis was placed on customer experience and data analytics.
This new focus is representative of the entire unified communications industry maturing and realizing that results matter. Adjective overload, hyperboles, and outright deception may be fine for marketing slicks, but in the end, the only effective technology is one that people use to generate improved business results.
Internally, focusing on “customer-centric solutions”, or end user experience, is really code for “we need to get people using this technology”. Usage and adoption matter, even if they are sometimes misunderstood metrics. Usage represents quantity of use and is measured in number of calls, IMs sent, conferencing minutes, etc. Adoption looks at which people in the organization are using a solution; do you have broad-based adoption across departments or is it only the IT group? Regular, broad-based, increasing adoption along with increasing usage is what a successful UC deployment should achieve.
As I listened to more vendors espouse the need to be customer-centric, I started to feel a little bit sad for Microsoft, as they have been championing user-centric communications since 2007 (and likely before). It seems only now, when other vendors repeat the exact same message, is the industry as a whole waking up to this truth. Perhaps it is only because the growth of Lync as a both an IM and voice solution (aka PBX replacement) continues at a record pace, that other vendors have decided they must jump on this bandwagon.
Project Ansible from Unify goes further and suggests that with a truly customer-focused interface design, no training should be required to use their solution, and they are not the only vendor putting forth this idea. This “no training” fallacy does every enterprise a great disservice. Effective training for organizations will always yield measurable results that exceed the costs. Using a consumer device example, most often the iPhone, and suggesting as evidence that it needs no manual is not relevant to the business setting. I don’t care whether my friends know how to benefit from all the features on their personal devices; I do care when my employees are not realizing the benefits from the technology I have invested in.
Externally, focusing on customer experience is about improving customer satisfaction. This is most often discussed related to the contact center. Lots of talk about enabling video communications with agents, I contend, without a proper understanding of the costs, challenges or reluctance of customers to use video, especially two-way video. Two years later, video is not the new voice and is not going to be anytime soon. Granted specific interactions, such as telemedicine, and the ever popular “high net worth client interacting with their financial advisor” use case, may benefit from video; however, measurable benefits from a “video for all” strategy have not been sufficiently documented.
And speaking of lack of results, WebRTC at present is the antithesis of focusing on measurable results. Instead of analyzing actual usage, proponents of WebRTC simply declare it to be a disruptive technology, provide numerous analogies, and move on to another hype session. I think WebRTC may in fact open some great new advances in communication and collaboration; however, like an unbaked cake, for now I can only anticipate the results; I cannot taste it. And to keep the analogy going (WebRTC proponents love analogies!), WebRTC is really an ingredient, it may be an important ingredient, however, it will never be the entire dish. (See WebRTC is for Losers.)
Altocloud, which was well represented on the EC2014 stage by new CEO Barry O’Sullivan, was all about measuring and using metrics to improve the outcomes for customers and the business: “Did this Human Action or System Action achieve a positive outcome when routed to people or content during these scenarios.” The concept seems well-focused, it will be interesting to track as actual deployments move forward.
And so we get to a simple and yet wise statement: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”. Which is often shortened to “The proof is in the pudding.” Until you are able to taste (measure) the results, reading the recipe (the marketing literature) or smelling the aromas (the demos) does not provide you with enough information to evaluate the end product (the pudding).
I think pudding is a great food to combine with UC because I have often been told the best UC solution should be “sticky”. I myself am partial to chocolate pudding. I expect attendees at the upcoming UC Summit will have an opportunity to discuss proof points while tasting a variety of foods; although, I do not believe last year’s menu included pudding.
If you have menu suggestions or other comments, please connect with me via LinkedIn or Twitter @kkieller.