Telecom May Be Old, But It's Not Boring.
If an enterprise show--no disrespect intended--can get me out of bed, things are rolling.
We all go through phases of a career where a little boredom or a sense of routine kicks in, especially those who stay in the same industry for decades at a time. So when I say that lately I was feeling a little of this myself, I do so with no shame. This year marks plural decades (well, just two) for me in the communications space, and between the recession and what not I've had my share of days this year where routine took over. But with a smile on my face, and a few invigorating days at Enterprise Connect '11 behind me, I pronounce myself cured of any blues.
Shows have a way of telling you the pulse of the industry and of the broader economy. The energy level, the conversation in which you engage and of course the sheer size of them all leave you with indicators in one direction or another. Enterprise Connect serves as a bellwether, perhaps even more so than others because of its intimate ties to big business. And this year's message was a clear one: people are forward instead of backward thinking, people are buying or at a minimum preparing to do so, and, as an important qualifier to this--the buying motivation is once again to leverage innovation to create competitive advantage rather than to simply shave costs. The last point of course is my favorite.
Here is what I liked, and what I took away from Orlando:
'Now' Talk: Conferences have a tendency to talk more about what's coming and less so about the now. You can't really blame the show; ultimately the vendors pay their bills and use it to show off what's coming. But this time around we talked about what's actually (or finally) here, and about addressing problems companies actually have, rather than will have. Subtle difference for some; huge meaning for others.
Social/Video/Mobile Mash-up: I don't hear the term 'mash-up' so much any more, but this is what I saw. Social media and communications, video and mobility have each long been touted as the future. In MickeyLand this year, these three critical pylons of our industry's future not only arrived as purchase-orders-to-be, but they also intersected big time. And maybe it's the sum of the parts that will really push each forward. Think about it: mobile and social, so dependent on one another, are going faster than we can process. And video, well, one needed only to walk the floor to see its place. Put the three together (say, in tablet) and as Cisco demonstrated, you have mash-ups like we never dreamed of for enterprise.
Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration: Once relegated as a buzz word for project management applications, the communications industry seems to have literally acquired all rights to the term. Case in point: After the Cisco keynote, I tweeted my approval (as if they needed it) for using collaboration as a driver to their market positioning and differentiation. Yet, five minutes later, Avaya's CEO was on stage beating the very same drum. Either way, it fits. After all, voice--the forgotten one--has been a collaboration technology forever. We just never bothered to call it that.
So yes, no more feelings of routine. And if an enterprise show--no disrespect intended--can get me out of bed, things are rolling.