Sometimes Pictures Do Lie
Compare any UC vendor's mobile-laden latest-and-greatest presentation against the reality of the mobile UC client market and you'll see what I mean.
Prior to the introduction of Adobe Photoshop, we could believe the adage, "A picture never lies" -- though sometimes even pictures that haven't been retouched can be wildly misleading. I was thinking of that a few weeks back when I attended yet another unified communications conference and heard yet more UC vendors tout themselves as being into enterprise mobility (often accompanied by incantations of "mobile-first").
Every UC vendor wants to appear to be part of the mobile action, and to that end, every UC presentation now includes multiple shots of busy people working on smartphones and tablets. To appear even more relevant, the vendors have made sure many of those busy users are Millennials. Clearly they want their audiences to infer that these busy mobile users are actually using their mobile applications. Truth be known, that is typically not the case.
Without a doubt, marvelous mobile devices and the mobility they've enabled have transformed IT on the consumer and enterprise fronts. But the UC vendors have had virtually nothing to do with that transformation -- except in providing the simultaneous ring feature that forwards calls to the phones those people really want to use... their mobiles.
In short, saying the words and showing the pictures do not equate to delivering the goods. However, I am sure that Apple and its developer community appreciate the glowing endorsement of their accomplishments.
The UC and collaboration vendors have been cranking out mobile UC applications for close on a decade, and I've yet to run into a real user who has made use of them -- and this has included the vendor reps. I've always had a fun time going down to a vendor's booth on a show floor after listening to a top executive brag about the company's mobile capabilities. I'd ask to see a demo of the mobile client, and send the booth staff scrambling around to find the one guy who happened to have the mobile client on his phone.
The vendors have now addressed this issue, and at least every customer-facing employee will now have the company's mobile client on his or her phone -- level of use is yet to be ascertained. The vendors may have had to do some arm-twisting, but many of those forced to use the mobile clients do genuinely seem to like them.
Unfortunately, users in their customers' organizations have more freedom to choose the tools they feel are best to do their jobs, and that results in a vastly different outcome. Every year in my Deep Dive mobility session at Enterprise Connect, I ask the same survey question of enterprise attendees, "Whose organizations are making use of the UC vendors' mobile clients?" (I usually name a few product examples to ensure everyone knows exactly what I mean.) In a room that generally has 100+ attendees, I've yet to have more than two hands go up. I'll generally question them further to determine the level of use and the typical answers are, "Ah, we've got a couple of guys in IT that like to play with it."
It is notable that the people who are "forced" to use mobile UC clients aren't kicking and screaming about the experience, but rather appear to like the way they work. "Not hating it," unfortunately, is just not good enough to clear the hurdle of adoption among the general population.
Mantra or Menance?
The other great irony in this is that the UC vendors are actually promoting their most potent competitor, the mobile industry. As I've noted many times, smartphones actually deliver most of the key UC user features (e.g. click to call, video chat, universal texting, email, join a meeting, etc.), which is why users can simply ignore the UC vendors' mobile offerings.
What we are seeing with regard to UC's impact on mobility is a total failure to execute. Based on their mobile-laden presentations (even with the inclusion of the Millennials card), the UC vendors clearly know what constitutes a good product and a good user experience -- it's the smartphone, particularly an iPhone. However, showing pictures of users with smartphones doesn't change the reality that they have consistently failed to deliver anything in the mobile space that users are interested in having.
So, unless the UC vendors should just give up and start selling iPhones, maybe they should just lose the iPhone pictures. Of course, if they have any interest in gaining relevance in the mobile space they might try abandoning the strategy of doing the same things the smartphone already does (and does in a fashion that's decidedly better than what they've got) and make their mobile clients useful to the point where the value they provide outweighs the inherent inconvenience of moving out of the device's native interface.
Maybe they can work that into the picture.