Eric Krapf
Eric Krapf is General Manager and Program Co-Chair for Enterprise Connect, the leading conference/exhibition and online events brand in the...
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Eric Krapf | March 19, 2013 |


Enterprise End Users Say: Focus on What's Core to the Business

Enterprise End Users Say: Focus on What's Core to the Business Execs from General Motors, Fuji Film and Robert Half discussed trends in outsourcing, BYOD, and IT management as Enterprise Connect 2013 kicked off Tuesday.

Execs from General Motors, Fuji Film and Robert Half discussed trends in outsourcing, BYOD, and IT management as Enterprise Connect 2013 kicked off Tuesday.

It was a simple question with a simple answer: Is the last PBX you bought the last one you intend to buy?

Short answer: Yes.

The (only slightly) longer version, from Fred Killeen, CTO of General Motors: "Our plan is to not buy more." And from Nicki Roberts of Robert Half, "Our desire is not to buy any more PBXs."

Now, this was near the end of the session that Enterprise Connect GM Fred Knight ran with a trio of enterprise end users, so there wasn't much time for followup. On one level, it makes perfect sense--who does want to buy a "PBX" any more? The ultimate question is whether, for an enterprise that needs to continue serving its end users in a way that maintains the business--whether it'll really turn out to be feasible to hold off on major PBX platform investments even as they migrate to new architectures and systems.

The third member of this customer-keynote panel, which kicked off the first keynote morning of Enterprise Connect, has already made a decision to move to the cloud. Joe Arnett, VP of IT for Fuji Film Holdings, has committed to move 7,000 end stations to a hosted telephony provider--two years after moving the company's email to the cloud with Google. That decision reflected a desire to focus on core competencies and outsource what for Fuji was a "utility" function.

Ironically, Fred Killeen is taking GM in pretty much the opposite direction, with a well-publicized move to in-source some 8,000 IT positions that have previously been outsourced in GM's IT. That decision was made, Killeen said, because GM's CEO "gets that IT is a differentiator in our business; he gets that it's a difference-maker."

"What we learned being 90% outsourced is you spend more time negotiating contracts than doing [technology] work," he added.

Joe Arnett noted that Fuji has retained functions in house that aren't considered commodities, as telephony and email are for them--but he did point out that technology trends tend to be cyclical, and that if the cost/benefit of hosted/CPE changes, he's open to bringing anything back in house. "That's the nice thing about technology," he said. "It always changes."

On the subject of consumerization and BYOD, the panel members pretty much agreed that BYOD was neither saving their companies money nor adding net costs--it was just rearranging where the costs turn up. And when Fred Knight asked whether users' adoption of consumer technology was affecting their IT budgets negatively, the panelists said that, while it affects the operation, it hasn't necessarily affected budgets.

Regarding the impact on IT, Nicki Roberts said, "I dread coming into the office in January, because of what someone might have been given as a [Christmas] gift."

Fred Killeen added: "I don't think it competes for budget. It competes for mind-share." In other words, what he called the "iPhone effect" forced everyone who serves end users to raise their game: "It showed us how [communications] could be easy" for the end user.

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