Musings from Enterprise Connect 2012
Lync, BYOD, and video were among the major highlights from the show.
Well, another Enterprise Connect is in the books and its time time to reflect on what we learned, what surprised us and what we would like to see next year. Before I get into that though I want to give some overall thoughts on the event. The energy level this year was fantastic, attendance appeared to be up and every session I attended or was a part of had a great audience that interacted well and wasn't afraid to ask any questions. But without further ado, here are my thoughts:
Lync was front and center
Although Microsoft didn't announce anything, Lync was well represented. Considering the position of being THE show in enterprise communications, I thought Microsoft would announce something major here, but they didn't. However, that didn't stop Lync from grabbing some headlines. The good news for Microsoft is that in almost every session there were a number of users that were moving forward with Lync, with a few of them using it for voice. The bad news is that many of them were having some sort of challenge with it. Microsoft does appear to be well on their way with Lync though. I did think that we might see some sort of hinting or alluding to Wave 15 of Lync. Wave 15 is rumored to have better call handling, mobile support and video integration, but the company has been tight lipped about it.
What we did see though was a tremendous amount of support for Lync. For example, Acme Packet announced a session management solution for Lync to enable greater interoperability. Also, Polycom had two Lync related announcements with long-standing partner HP. The first one combines HP Network and Polycom RealPresence for video collaboration with the option of adding in Lync. The second announcement is more a custom solution that optimizes HP servers, storage and network infrastructure for Lync with the option of adding in Polycom RealPresence. In a market that is screaming for interoperability, these are both good examples of three vendors bringing their pieces of a puzzle together to deliver tested, certified solutions.
BlackBerry is Teetering on Irrelevance
This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone but in case you're a die-hard BlackBerry supporter, it's worth articulating the feedback. The show floor was filled with vendors that had mobile applications that worked for Android and iPhone. When I asked about BlackBerry almost every company told me they either will not support BlackBerry and Playbook or will only do so if there's enough user demand. So if BlackBerry is going to turn this around, they need to create their own user demand.
This is a non-trivial task though, as the IT managers' feedback has gone negative. One of the users I had talked to about the mobile strategy stated, "BlackBerries can't go away fast enough for my liking". So BlackBerry certainly faces a huge uphill battle and they need to act quickly if they're going to turn it around.
Bring Your Own Device is Mainstream but has User Resistance
As Fred Knight pointed out in the Locknote, last year the term "BYOD" wasn't mainstream. Sure we talked about consumerization but it still seemed to be more the exception than the norm. This year, BYOD was a huge theme and well recognized as a significant challenge for IT departments. Because of this, many IT leaders are pushing back and trying to understand all of the risks associated with it before moving forward. In my mind, this is a huge mistake. BYOD is coming and IT departments, CEOs and line of business managers are pushing it. Pretty much everyone but IT departments. The main thing to understand though is that BYOD is a wave that's coming. Those that resist will find themselves on the outside looking in, so be a leader here and get ready for it.
Video has plenty of momentum, it's time for the vendors to capitalize
Avaya bought Radvision, Vidyo announced its virtual infrastructure, Cisco released the TX9000, Polycom is integrating into Lync and the list goes on. It seems everyone now has a video play that has better quality and is easier to use than systems built even a few months ago. The quality is what really impressed me though. I went down to the show floor and saw the mobile video that Vidyo had on display for iPads and iPhones and the image clarity was breathtaking. Similar for the new Cisco TelePresence system that OJ Winge showed during his keynote.
So, will video be the new voice as our Tasman Drive friends would indicate? I don’t think we're quite ready for that yet. However, I do think we're on the verge of seeing it become a mainstream collaboration tool if a couple of things happen. First, all of the video vendors need to focus on helping customers understand what are the best processes to drop video into. I’ve toyed around with the term "Video Enabled Business Process, VEBP", which can be considered a subset of CEBP. It's not for all processes but many can benefit from video so Cisco, Polycom and the gang, tell us what these are.
The second issue is interoperability between vendors. I'd give the industry a D to date. The only reason I don't give it an F is that we have vendors like Glowpoint, VidTel and BlueJeans that have attempted to solve this problem. Hello Sprint? Verizon? AT&T? Where are you in all of this? This seems like a perfect cloud based service and I’m really surprised that one of the mainstream telcos hasn’t stepped up to try and do this.
So, I think the opportunity is there but the entire industry needs to focus on allowing more people to use these high quality systems to communicate with more people while solving an actual business problem.
Cloud was obviously another big theme but I blogged on that the other day so I won't rehash this. For future Enterprise Connects, I'd like to see more on management tools and UC middleware as a way of scaling UC past niche deployments. This will help keep the momentum built at this year's Enterprise Connect. See you in 2013!