Bring Your Own UC App
As they continue bypassing Enterprise IT, more users are not only bringing their own devices, but are also bringing their own UC applications. As the cost of consumer-based UC solutions such as audio/video/web conferencing comes down, network bandwidth becomes more ubiquitous, and the features and quality of external UC solutions outpace the Enterprise--why not?
Drivers of this trend include:
1) Tablets--Unlike cell phones, tablets do not come with voice connectivity built in, thus a solution must be loaded and work over IP. For users 45 and older, a tablet is definitely preferred over a small-screen cell phone because our eyes are not what they used to be. The camera and screen resolution offer HD video.
2) 4G Wireless Data--1 Mbps plus of lower latency bandwidth plus coverage that goes inside a building thanks to the use of 700-MHz spectrum. When 4G is available, most users see very little performance difference between 4G, WiFi, and desktop Ethernet for the majority of their applications.
3) Quality--External softphones like Skype and Vonage offer a better voice quality solution than most internal Enterprise softphones. These external solutions use a wideband, adaptive codec, while most internal Enterprise solutions still utilize G.729 compressed voice.
4) Microsoft Federation with Skype--This enables users to use a free external solution while maintaining presence connectivity within the Enterprise.
5) Desktop Video--Most Enterprises are not supporting desktop. Yet desktop video is very empowering, especially when ad hoc meetings occur where visual information needs to be shared, like a drawing on a whiteboard to a team member who is home with a sick child that day.
6) Free Conferencing Solutions--Audio, Video, and Web conferencing solutions that are free or that are close to free (low monthly fixed cost or a sub-one-cent-a-minute rate for audio).
7) VoLTE & HD Audio--The biggest drawback of cellular voice has been the poor quality. Most areas have coverage, and with the adoption of VoLTE and the recent announcements by BT, T-Mobile, AT&T, and others to support HD voice, the possibility of "business quality" voice will become an option.
8) Web Proxy Bypass--A lot of organizations block Facebook, YouTube, and other social media and collaboration sites along with their efforts to monitor web usage. To get around this, users are bringing their own devices and networks.
Recently, I experienced a visit from a salesperson who came in with a laptop, 4G modem, a portable projector, and a pair of speakers/microphones. The salesperson set up a video conference with a very qualified sales engineer. After hearing about the product for 30 minutes, we then spent the next hour asking detailed questions and whiteboarding a potential solution. Twice, we had to pull in other experts to answer specific questions. What impressed me about this Unified Communications experience was:
1) Easy & Independent--The salesperson had it up and working in under a minute. She did not need to ask for guest wireless, projectors, a special room, conference phone, or any IT service.
2) High Quality & Low Cost--The quality of the audio and video were very good, especially considering that a free video conferencing solution was being used.
One Fortune 100 Telecom manager I recently spoke with said that over the past 10 years, they have seen their peak busy hour voice utilization drop in half. The first dip came after the organization offered a corporate cell phone plan. The next major dip came after the organization started supporting BYOD with a data plan. Most recently, they added support for Skype, which has further reduced Telecom usage.
As BYOD evolves into bring your own application too, the UC market will further change. The UC market leaders that do not have a good consumer strategy and do not adapt their business model will run the risk of becoming obsolete.