Navigating the New Terrain
I see big changes coming in our industry. Here's some advice on how vendors and enterprises can cope with the new landscape.
I consult with vendors, helping them with strategic planning and partnering. To help my clients, I pay close attention to industry and market trends and vendor positioning. I see big changes coming in our industry, and I thought I'd share my views and offer some advice for all stakeholders--vendors, enterprise customers, channel partners and consultants.
Industry and market trends: Some trends like mobility and the consumerization of IT continue, and will play a critical role in our industry going forward. I view cloud as more of an evolving trend, with more vendors working on multi-tenant and hybrid solutions. Most are still in development, which means the vendors haven't figured everything out yet and will likely miss on any announced target release dates.
Another evolving trend, and one of the most important, is the ability to collect and "serve up" more information to applications. That information can come from many sources and include being discovered by search engines, analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, etc. These new ways of retrieving and delivering information will be an important element in the next phase (or "shift") in our industry.
This is no longer just about unifying communications (UC); it is now all about integrating communications and information technologies, especially applications.
A new trend to follow is software-defined networks (SDN). It will drive the cost of networking down while simplifying maintenance and improving service.
Vendor positioning: Many vendors will deliver cloud solutions, but you need to look at who owns a "cloud". Three such vendors--Amazon, Google and Microsoft--have a significant advantage in delivering next-generation integrated communications and information technologies.
In addition, IBM and Microsoft are well positioned to deliver solutions that require analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Think of Bing in this way and you can see an advantage Microsoft has over many of its UC competitors. Of course, IBM has Watson, and that will help their partners compete in many ways yet to be discovered.
• Vendors: The big question is where does Microsoft fit in your plans--as a competitor or a partner. Microsoft has announced it will add voice to Office 365. That alone will be a big challenge for current and future cloud voice competitors. But add analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to that, and Microsoft will be hard to beat.
Figure out how to compete where Microsoft is weak or doesn't play. Vertical markets are a possibility since Microsoft focuses on the big horizontal market. At the same time, look for ways to leverage IBM products and services.
• Enterprise Customers: The obvious--look for vendors that are going to be around. Remember what happened to the midrange computer market--Wang, DEC and Data General? Remember what happened to Nortel and the shakeup in the PBX industry?
Get help--find a well-qualified reseller (SI, VAR, etc.). Hire a consultant who has helped others with projects similar to yours. Take time to plan, plan, plan.
• Channel Partners: Many vendors are trying to make their products self-service. This will reduce some of the opportunities that channel partners enjoy today, but new technology is always complicated and customers will always need help. Focus on services, customizations and integrations. Make sure to offer a customers a choice. The days of offering a single option for a voice requirement are over.
• Consultants: Do your research. Collaborate with other consultants who have more expertise in areas where you need help. Work with vendors that support consultants. If they don't support you as a consultant who recommends multiple solutions per year, how can you expect them to support your client?
The landscape is changing. I hope this advice will help you navigate the new terrain.