The Proof is in the Pudding

The Proof is in the Pudding

By Kevin Kieller April 1, 2014 16 Comments
Kevin Kieller PNG
The Proof is in the Pudding by Kevin Kieller

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.

 

 

16 Responses to "The Proof is in the Pudding" - Add Yours

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Lawrence Byrd 4/2/2014 8:05:12 PM

I, of course, completely agree with you that "results matter" – in fact I thought that was my core argument against you on stage at EC14 :)! Thanks for mentioning Altocloud, which I think is exactly an example where WebRTC is just one ingredient and the business value is really all about the surrounding application - which for us is the analysis and shaping of customer journeys. So I do agree that WebRTC is an ingredient, but I think we disagree that ingredients (technology) can create market disruption if they end up in new hands doing new things. For example, the stirrup is a very small "ingredient" in the larger scheme of saddles, horses, people and weapons, yet it can be argued that it changed the world: http://bit.ly/1eLnVbs WebRTC is the stirrup for the SoCoMoRT hordes! (And yes, they must deliver "results".)

It does seem to me, though, that you have never properly experienced cake batter if you have the very strange misconception that you cannot taste unbaked WebRTC cake! Eddie Izzard once explained this very well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lu3D9LyGycE

And I must use this opportunity to put in print my English grandfather's favorite joke - he was born pre-1900 and was a WW1 veteran so you need a Downton Abbey sense of class and period to appreciate this: Kevin serving at the head of the table "Does any Gentleman say pudding?" Lawrence at the foot of the table "No sir. No Gentleman says pudding!"

:)
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Michael Monroe 4/3/2014 11:59:05 AM

Well said Lawrence; I concur 100% - "So I do agree that WebRTC is an ingredient, but I think we disagree that ingredients (technology) can create market disruption if they end up in new hands doing new things."

The "...new hands doing new things" is what this all about!
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Kevin Kieller 4/3/2014 2:07:20 PM

Thanks for the comment Michael. My point is that the "new hands" need to DO things -- it is the results that matter for all technology including WebRTC. Stop telling me WebRTC is going to be disruptive and start disrupting!
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Kevin Kieller 4/3/2014 2:12:35 PM

Oh Lawrence ... "WebRTC is the stirrup" ... you WebRTC proponents do so love your analogies :-)

Like I wrote in response to Michael's comment ... I am waiting for the WebRTC "talk" of disruption to actually become some measurable, demonstrated disruption.

And by the way, the FDA cautions people to avoid tasting uncooked cake batter: http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/HealthEducators/ucm082362.htm :-) Although I did like your youtube video.
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Lawrence Byrd 4/3/2014 2:41:49 PM

Kevin, you know I know about your analogy phobia and consciously piled them on - I thought I got four in: ingredients, stirrups, cake batter and Victorian England :)!

I apologize for not yet getting my head around how to respond to your amazing reductio ad absurdum argument that Microsoft is the long unsung hero of user experiences and it is their band-wagon the whole industry is now getting on! However, I do certainly agree that Lync brought a MUCH more user-centric software/application/desktop approach to UC interfaces that traditional telecom vendors are not nearly as proficient at (hence the market shift). But the broader SoCoMo markets will bring all kinds of new UI/mobile/app experiences that don't rely on any Microsoft leadership. Just one example - http://uberconference.com is a modern web-style cloud app that brings a whole new level of ease and cross-device experience to the art of everyday conference calls compared with any traditional vendor (oh, and they use WebRTC as a "stirrup" in a few places where it's helpful).

As you know, I do broadly agree with you but I am enjoying the nuances :). Best regards.
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Kevin Kieller 4/3/2014 3:37:09 PM

"reductio ad absurdum" ... there is definitely too little Latin in the world. And with that thought, I suggest caveat emptor with respect to WebRTC.

And yes nuances are important. "The devil is in the details" is another one of my favorite sayings :-)
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Paul McMillan 4/8/2014 12:34:19 PM

Can we have some perspective on this please. Enough with the WebRTC bashing already. Seriously there was equal if not far greater buzz around UC beginning in 2004 and look how long it took for UC to enjoy some success. Another thing why the eagerness to bash a new technology. I really dont get it. Did we all think UC was the end game. Finally lets dispense with this MS created everything mentality. MS has created some good things with LYNC but they hardly have a license on user centric communications and your comment about Unify is way off base and out of context Kevin. You need to spend more than 15 minutes at a booth before you post what you believe are salient points about a vendors technology. Other than that it was an ok post about pudding and related analogies:)

Regards
Paul McMillan
Director Technical Solutions Engineering
Unify
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Kevin Kieller 4/8/2014 1:17:52 PM

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the comments. Dave not I wrote the "WebRTC is for losers" article. I do think it is important to look for measurable results from all technologies Lync, Ansible, UC in general AND WebRTC. I especially take issue with people claiming WebRTC is disruptive, this seems like to much of a stretch based on any reasonable trajectory. I am not trying to bash WebRTC, as I have said many times, as a developer I really like the fun examples it lets me cobble together easily.

I spent about 2 hours in total at the Project Ansible both. Sometimes observing as others were taken through the demo and sometimes directly involved in the demo. I was impressed by the concepts and I appreciate the focus on a clear and concise user interface. Bringing all communication channels into a single conversation is a very strong idea, provided the execution scales for larger enterprise. I want Project Ansible to succeed especially because Unify has made such a gutsy bet on it. I admire this. Dare I say, the proof will be in the pudding.

The comment about Project Ansible and not requiring any training actually came from Unify during a session on the main EC stage. I stick by my comment that training is a good investment and that even the best and easiest to use UC solutions still require training in order to be used most effectively. I do not think it is realistic to build an enterprise communication tool that requires no training; and to suggest this is a goal I think is a bad idea.

Kevin
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Torsten Raak 4/8/2014 1:57:20 PM

Hi Kevin -

since I have been the guy on stage making the training comment, I thought I'd chime in.
I am absolutely convinced that the aspiration to get away without training is valid. I am also convinced it is possible. Just because we are all used to be sent on a training course doesn't mean we should do so going forward.

And webRTC is not more than a means to an end for Unify. A cool one at that though - as it brings all the advantages of true zero touch deployement and all. webRTC is not a differentiator. The value certainly lies in the application and more importantly the integration the app brings.

Cheers,
Torsten

--
Ex-Unify SVP of Corporate Marketing
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Kevin Kieller 4/8/2014 4:29:37 PM

Torsten, thanks for joining the conversation. Paul and I have had many back and forth debates (I think constructive ones) but it is nice to have a new voice.

On one point we agree. I like Unify's use of WebRTC and how you position it. You are saying you have a great solution in Project Ansible, which just happens to use WebRTC.

The issue I have is with others that claim because they use WebRTC their application must be great ... while most often they have done none of the hard work of user interface design that Unify has.

With respect to training, I will choose to disagree. I am not clear why I would even aspire to have no training, is this about saving money or saving time or simply because I don't like training. In almost every UC implementation, when users are surveyed they are not familiar with existing features or so their productivity could be improved if they only had a feature they already have.

I think even a brilliantly designed UC solution (Ansible?) handles a sufficient number of use cases in a large enough number of scenarios that training will improve the return on investment.

I'm not talking about mind-numbing or boring training, this of course will have no value. However, when I have seen real trainers share tips and tricks with even expert application users, most often the participants are left with things that improve their business efficiency each and every day going forward.

Kevin
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Paul McMillan 4/8/2014 7:12:02 PM

Kevin please I know what Dave wrote and i know why he wrote it. i am responding to many comments you have made relative to WebRTC which echo Dave's sentiments. You are deflecting my question. Did UC have the same or greater level of buzz when it first rolled to market oh so many years ago? Was it an overnight success? Does todays current crop of UC capabilities reflect what was brought to market 10 plus years ago? The answer to all of the above is NO. So why are folks like yourself and David placing such a high demand on WebRTC to be immediately disruptive when the previous offering in the market took years to achieve any disruption.

What i hear from the naysayers is that much of what WebRTC purports to do is already doable? My response is so what. One of the core functions of innovation is to do things better, cheaper, faster, and with less cost. Are we to say that we have reached our apex of innovation in this market and that we should no longer strive for something better? I think not. If there is a groundswell of enthusiasm for WebRTC I say thats a good thing for the industry and for customers because it means they should benefit from it. I say if you are constantly trying to minimize or devalue it what possible purpose does that solve.

Regarding No manual required, what could possibly be objectionable about striving to make the user experience so intuitive and enjoyable that people proactively become proficient on their own. That in my mind is a noble goal. People today download mobile apps that are quite sophisticated and become proficient in short order. Seeking to make the adoption of a new technology offering so simple that digging through a manual to learn its inner workings becomes unnecessary is something every vendor should strive for and its certainly not a disservice to an enterprise. If we can achieve 80% of that goal we will have taken a huge leap forward in meeting the expectations of many end users today. We should also consider the re
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Kevin Kieller 4/9/2014 3:53:50 AM

I have always argued with UC that one should focus on the real business results it provides and not the hype. The move from TDM to VoIP was fueled by hype of "unifying" and this was bad. Hype around WebRTC without focus on the need for real measurable business results is also bad.

In contrast, your "better, cheaper, faster and at less cost" are fine business objectives. I am simply waiting for WebRTC to deliver on one or more of the above.

When proponents of WebRTC claim it to be "disruptive" then they carry the burden of proving it to be so.

I will grant you that no training might serve as a noble goal, provided it does not prevent people from doing training where training benefits the organization in a measurable way. Many technology deployments could be improved with an increased investment in training with this return greatly exceeding the investment (i.e. a great ROI).

Thanks again for the engaging discussion. I hope that readers can take away the need to analyze these complex issues within the context of their specific organization so that they can be successful.
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Dave Michels 4/10/2014 8:45:52 PM

Wow, how did I get involved? Actually, as I wrote - I am a big fan of WebRTC. I don't think it is what people say it is. I think the idea of using WebRTC as an enterprise client makes a lot of sense - Kudos to Genband (first to deploy WebRTC as default client) and Unify (betting heavily on it with vision and plan). Within the enterprise, we can control/assume the browser and WebRTC support. Why build and distribute a client if you don't have to? I'm just frustrated with the all the knuckleheads insisting WebRTC is a ubiquitous, free, standard.
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Kevin Kieller 4/11/2014 8:01:14 AM

I dragged you in Dave :-) Thanks for joining the conversation.
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Brad Bush 4/16/2014 8:45:29 AM

Dave, I appreciate you bringing up the GENBAND WebRTC UC solution. I am a big proponent of the technology and I want to jump in here and say that I still think the hype is justified. WebRTC does something that has not been done in communications software yet. It lowers the barriers of entry. You see tons of little guys creating innovative solutions (as you can see on my WebRTC landscape at cio2cmo.com). These are not old-school telecom companies, but new vibrant startups - what is more disruptive to an industry than that?

In the end though I agree with Kevin on one point. We have to find the business models and monetization methods. The fact we are searching for them is a sign of disruptive technology. Most disruptive changes (like the web) come with a muddy business model.

I do think that if we look at the technology ramp curves that we are still early in the cycle for WebRTC and it is hard to judge how far and how fast we move up that curve, but I believe still that it will be faster than most predict and as fast as many recent disruptions.

Brad Bush, CMO GENBAND
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Kevin Kieller 4/21/2014 11:43:19 AM

Brad,

I appreciate your balanced perspective. I agree that the "little guys" are potentially disruptive but I come back to the main premise, and title, of the article "the proof is in the pudding". Potentially disruptive is only truly disruptive when it actually changes things.

UC overall and WebRTC more specifically are only great new solutions when they change the business model. Potential is an awesome thing; however, the "burden of potential" is this ... borrowing from what Thomas Edison said ... disruption is 1% potential and 99% results (see http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Thomas_Edison)

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