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An Industry Exploding or Imploding?
It’s not an easy time to be in enterprise communications, but it’s also an exhilarating time, filled with exciting--and achievable--possibilities.
Two venerable companies in the UC&C market announced the appointment of new CEOs in recent days. Dean Douglas is now at the helm of Unify (formerly Siemens Enterprise Communications) and Peter Leav has taken the reins at Polycom (see coverage on No Jitter on Unify here and Polycom here).
Trying to keep up with CEO comings and goings can give a person whiplash, and it's easy to get caught up in overanalyzing what the changes mean for the involved companies and the industry segment of which they're a part. But since a chunk of my income derives from public acts of market navel-gazing, I'll offer a few observations.
Unify and Polycom are hardly unique in shuffling executives. About 60 days ago, ShoreTel named Don Joos to be its new CEO, while at Microsoft, Gurdeep Singh Pall recently returned from another assignment to run the Skype operation of which Lync is a part. It's been just a year since Cisco picked Rowan Trollope as head of its UC&C organization, and although Kevin Kennedy remains Avaya's CEO, there's been considerable change among the executives a tier or two down from him.
Each of those companies has been on its own trajectory, and so these appointments reflect company-specific situations. But it's also true that only Microsoft and Cisco are ascending; the others have been either flat or declining in the North American market
The slow but ongoing erosion of traditional telephony is the core issue in the UC&C market. It's what creates the opportunity for newbies to enter this space, and it's what keeps the folks who run established telecom firms up at night. It's also why nobody wants to be known as a phone or communications company, and so we've been witness to a mad scramble as vendors try to reposition themselves as "collaboration solutions providers," or "Cloud services providers" or "software" companies.
And it's not just the seller side of the table that is being impacted by this erosion; it's also causing dislocation on the buyers' side. As telecom becomes absorbed into IT, datacenters and, to a much more limited extent, business units, career paths are being rerouted as new players join the decision-making process for equipment and services.
So, with all this tumult, it's not unreasonable to wonder whether the enterprise communications market is exploding or imploding. The answer is both.
On the exploding side of the ledger is the fact that new players, software and services are reworking the enterprise communications landscape. Mobility is the trigger for much of the change, but it doesn't operate in isolation. Mobility's impact is augmented by UC, the spread of low-cost video and the arrival of modern infrastructure services like SIP Trunking and SDN. For a glimpse of the future of enterprise communications and collaboration, look at how contact centers are harnessing many of these emerging capabilities to change how business can get done.
To see what's happening on the implosion side, well, you don't have to look very hard. It's no longer taken for granted that there'll be a phone on every desktop. Voice mail systems are shipping with fewer ports as users rely on text and email for messaging. SIP Trunks are slowly but steadily replacing PRIs and T1s. When you think about it, aside from hard-to-decipher invoices from carriers, there's no part of the traditional enterprise communications landscape that isn't being retouched, redesigned or replaced.
The new execs that I listed in the opening paragraphs face an environment quite unlike their predecessors'. The products and services they sell are, on the one hand, very much a part of an often-invisible, utility-like function. But those same capabilities are also increasingly on the corporate main stage, as it's hard to imagine any enterprise initiative--internal productivity, business process or customer-facing--that doesn't include significant contributions from new IT, communications and collaboration systems and apps.
The men and women who run enterprise IT, communications and collaboration also face new realities. The ground is shifting both internally, in terms of the end-user requirements and expectations they have to meet, and externally, as volatility becomes the dominant feature of the vendor-partner landscape. There's increasing pressure to not only produce results but to "innovate" in terms of how those results are achieved. Rather than being a condition to avoid, "disruption" has become an attribute to be embraced.
It's not an easy time to be in enterprise communications and collaboration, but it's also an exhilarating time, one filled with exciting--and achievable--possibilities. There's going to be new players, new partnerships, new mergers and acquisitions and new ways to communicate and connect with your colleagues, customers, partners and the folks you hold dear. Whether you're in need of commiseration about the old days or are looking for how to succeed in the days ahead, I hope you'll join me at Enterprise Connect 2014, where all these issues will be debated, discussed and analyzed.