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Perspective from the UC Summit 2014: Change

If you are a vendor, a solutions integrator, or a UC&C consultant, you'll want to be part of the transformation.

The annual UC Summit was another great success this past week in La Jolla, CA. This invitation-only event brings together thought-leading vendors, solution integrators (aka system integrators and value-added resellers), and consultants for a dialogue about the industry's status and directions.

What we saw and heard, in a single word, was: "Change."

The presentations at this year's UC Summit were candid and insightful. The speakers were leaders in product line management, product marketing and CTO positions, and their presentations reflected their planned solutions to the issues they see in the marketplace. The presentations were from a very complete cross-section of Diamond and Platinum sponsors: HP, ShoreTel, SMART Technologies, Mitel, NEC, Unify, Sonus, and Microsoft.

The "Change" messages were clear in all of their presentations with several key themes.

* User Experience (UX): Every vendor (except, logically, Sonus) was emphasizing their work on User Experiences. All were clear that the user experience (UX) has to be easy, but that is not enough. In addition, the UX has to be useful to the user, adding value in ways that make the vendor's UX preferred over the many other options available on the users' mobile devices and PCs.

Importantly, not one vendor presentation highlighted their innovations for desk telephones--desktop PCs/Macs and portable PCs/Macs, tablets and smartphones are the assumed devices of choice. SMART Technologies made their impressive presentation using a SMART Technologies whiteboard integrated with Microsoft Lync. It was "hardware-based" but not a phone.

Many of the vendors emphasized the addition of information-based tools to their UX. All of the UX vendors highlighted the ability of their UX to work with the users' other applications, ranging from email (most common) to many varieties of business and social applications ( and Facebook as primary examples). HP, Microsoft, and Unify were especially emphatic about the value of analytics and predictive capabilities in their current and planned UX designs.

The bottom line is that the communications experience is and will be changing--a lot!

* Cloud and Hybrid: It is clear that cloud-based communications solutions will be a major part of our industry's future. Every vendor is pressing forward aggressively with their cloud-based offerings, either as 'hosted instances' (i.e. a separate virtual machine set up for each customer) or a "multi-tenant" version, or both. Essentially every sponsor will manage their solutions in the cloud right now, at least as a "hosted instance" version. The Microsoft cloud message was particularly notable, with Office 365 cloud UC surpassing $1 billion in annual revenue and with 400 million Skype users consuming 300 billion minutes of live video calls per year.

Two messages about cloud directions came through in these presentations.

--First, cloud innovation can move more quickly and broadly to deliver benefits. It's clear that future new UC&C capabilities will arrive first via the cloud. Cloud will also lower the barrier for new entrants to the UC&C market, with Google as one prime example.

--Second, hybrid configurations will be common in the future. There will continue to be the need to have some solutions on-premises based on legacy equipment integrations; on bandwidth considerations when most users are on-premises; or on specific issues of security, compliance, or business application integration.

* Vertical Markets: Almost every presenter introduced and emphasized the need to configure communications solutions to meet specific usage profile types and/or to respond to the needs of specific vertical markets. The vertical market emphasis points were presented as reasons that the specific vendor's products should be included by the Solution Integrators' portfolios and in the Consultants' customer recommendations.

The usage profiles (or use cases or personas, depending on the vendor) were presented as areas where the vendor's products would deliver the best user performance and business outcomes, even if that vendor's solution was mixed with the legacy communications platforms in any given enterprise (see cloud and hybrid point, above).

This evolution to vertical markets seems pretty important, since core telephony, UC and Collaboration are becoming increasingly commoditized. My own view is that this emphasis on verticals and usage profiles is crucial but will need to be expanded. Vertical markets and usage profiles are important, but future winners in the enterprise market and, to some extent, in the SMB markets, will have to get down to the level of integrating communications into workflows and with business application software, both running on mobile devices. (see UC-Business Process or UC-B as well as CEBP from prior NoJitter posts.)

Overall, it was a great event, as said. If you are a vendor, a solutions integrator, or a UC&C consultant, you will want to stay tuned to the UC Strategies website and let us know if you'd like to participate in 2015, another event not to be missed. Change is afoot--you'll want to be part of the transformation.