EC13: Focus on the Use Cases and Business Benefits
With very few exceptions, the focus of the conversations I had was about use cases and helping customers understand the business value of UC.
The unified communications industry has come a long way in the past few years. As I mentioned during my Enterprise Connect UC Market Overview session, one of the changes I've seen in the past year is the move from focusing on the technology (feeds and speeds) to the users and use cases. The keynote presentations (with the exception of Avaya's Kevin Kennedy), the bulk of the sessions, and many of my vendor meetings all had a similar theme--users, use cases, and business benefits of UC.
I was thrilled to see that we're no longer focused on the technical issues of UC, but rather, what does UC mean to the end users and the business. The UCStrategies team has been banging this drum for a while, and it looks like the industry has taken note.
There were more sessions than in the past where enterprise customers discussed their use of UC, including the session I moderated on Creating the Social Enterprise, as well as Kevin Kieller's Living with Lync session, the panel led by Ira Weinstein of Wainhouse on Video Managed Services, and JR Simmons of COMgroup's session on SIP Trunking. And of course there were end users on the main stage, including Fred Killeen of General Motors, Joe Arnett of Fujifilm, and Nickina Roberts of Robert Half International. It's always challenging to get end users to present at conferences, so many thanks to all of those who did so.
Just as important as the end user sessions were the discussions I had with vendors during my 15+ vendor meetings at the conference. With very few exceptions, the focus of the conversations was about use cases and helping customers understand the business value of UC.
One company that clearly understands the value of the end user experience is Siemens Enterprise Communications. During a meeting with Chris Hummel and Rick Puskar, they discussed the new AmplifyTeams concept, noting that the industry has to move from the "concept of ports to productivity of people and how to make people more successful." Music to my ears! Siemens introduced AmplifyTeams Now, which currently features six bundles of UC capabilities that focus on the value to the organization, aimed at bringing tangible solutions with SKUs to customers.
Cisco is another example. As one of the few companies that has a group dedicated to customers' business value and the importance of business transformation, Cisco clearly "gets it." Whenever I meet with Vishakha Radia, Managing Director of the Customer Business Transformation team, she's always excited to tell me about innovative new use cases Cisco and its customers are engaged in.
When I asked Vishakha about how to involve the end users and line of business people in a UC decision in addition to engaging with the IT staff, she commented, "You have to make the IT people look good. Don't go around them, but work with them and make them successful. You do this by starting with the UC use case and what value they're delivering to the business. Cisco is trying to work with IT people and helping to make them look good in terms of driving innovation and value."
At another Cisco meeting, Roberto De La Mora and Lynn Lucas discussed the Cisco Business Experiences Tool for Cisco sales teams and partners, which "starts with the enterprise's business objectives and trigger questions to help companies think about the business goals they're trying to achieve." Again, the focus is on business value to the users, rather than technology.
In addition to a focus on use cases, there were lots of other examples of companies focusing on users and the user experience at Enterprise Connect:
* Dolby and BT Conferencing joined forces to introduce BT MeetMe with Dolby Voice, which provides unbelievably clear audio conferencing for a more natural and effective user experience. (Note: If you didn't have a chance to try out the service while at Enterprise Connect, I urge you to find out how you can get a demo--the audio quality will blow you away). You can listen to the UCStrategies podcast that used this technology to get a feel for the quality. As Andrew Border of Dolby noted, the goal is to transform the user experience around conferencing and enable better business meetings and better communications.
* Of course several of the video players discussed how their solutions enhance the user experience, making it easier for customers to join meetings and get the full value of their solutions. While I didn't have a chance to meet with all of them, I did speak with Vidyo, Vidtel, and Smart Technologies, all of which emphasized how their solutions enhance the user experience and make meetings more effective. Rather than focus on codecs and MCUs, they emphasized the user experience, which is ultimately what it's all about.
The vendors at Enterprise Connect have done a good job of moving the conversation from technology to solutions. The next step is to ensure that their channel partners do the same. The UC industry has clearly made the leap from initial focus on what the technology can do to why organizations need these solutions to improve their business operations and to enhance the user experience. This is good news for the industry, and I hope to see more of it.