Eric Krapf
Eric Krapf is General Manager and Program Co-Chair for Enterprise Connect, the leading conference/exhibition and online events brand in the...
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Eric Krapf | March 27, 2012 |


End Users Take Center Stage at Enterprise Connect

End Users Take Center Stage at Enterprise Connect We opened Tuesday's program with a panel of high-level enterprise decision-makers, who shared ideas on the cloud, strategic vendors, and more.

We opened Tuesday's program with a panel of high-level enterprise decision-makers, who shared ideas on the cloud, strategic vendors, and more.

This was the second consecutive year in which we decided to open the Tuesday programming at Enterprise Connect with an end user panel. End user panels rarely disappoint, and certainly this year, the only disappointment was that the time for the session was so short. Our five panelists were (left to right in the picture below, starting from second from left):

* Alan Levine, CIO, The Kennedy Center
* Barry Libenson, Senior Vice President and CIO, Land O'Lakes, Inc.
* Stuart Shirai, Manager, Network and Telecom, Hawai‘i Medical Service Association, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Hawai‘i
* James Druzbik, Vice President of Information Systems, Group 1 Automotive, Inc.
* Donna Zett, CIO, AOT Bedding Super Holdings, LLC

We covered a lot of ground in less than 45 minutes, and since I was one of the co-moderators, the opportunity for note-taking was fairly spotty. So here, bulleted, as some of the points that our panelists made:

* On strategic vendor relationships Several panelists agreed that their enterprises may be at an inflection point where strategic vendor relationships could be in flux, but all agreed that having a vendor partner will be as important as ever in the next generation of enterprise communications. As Alan Levine said, "We don't just buy products, we buy a relationship."

Donna Zett said vendors have invested a lot of time in building their strategic relationships with customers like her company, and that relationship management has become a key part of her job. She said, "I see a settling" happening in terms of strategic vendor relationships being determined over the next few years.

* On interoperability: Stuart Shirai said he was given a demo of Microsoft and Cisco UC clients and servers interworking, but he's much more interested in the systems themselves interoperating on the back end. "Whre I'd like to see interoperability occur is on my raised floor," Stuart said.

* On BYOD: The panelists agreed that you have to be responsive to the new reality that end users want to bring their own devices, but you also have to set some ground rules. "If we responded to every demand every user had, we'd drive the company into the ground," Donna Zett said.

Alan Levine added that the Kennedy Center is moving away from a device-centric vision to one that aims to deliver a service to any device: "We're not looking at the device any more," he said. "We just want these capabilities to be available anywhere."

On the cloud: All the panelists said the cloud has some role to play, even if they haven't yet defined exactly what that role is. Barry Libenson was the most bullish: "I'm completely convinced there are many numbers of companies out there that can run my infrastructure better than I can," he said. "I'm all about the cloud."

This session was short on time, but even at twice as long, we couldn't have scratched the surface. High-profile sessions featuring high-profile end users have been a mainstay of Enterprise Connect, and VoiceCon before it, for years. Those sessions used to be kind of predictable, at least in terms of what you knew you were going to cover: How's your VOIP migration going? What problems have you had to troubleshoot? Are you really saving any money at it? How are your voice and data people getting along? What about these applications we keep hearing about? The answers always varied and abounded in detail that audiences loved to hear. But the problem statements were pretty well known.

With this year's session, it was almost hard to know where to begin. Our panelists talked in terms of using communications to maintain competitive advantage; they discussed specific problems like BYOD that are common to most if not all enterprises; yet issues have just become so complex and nuanced that the conversations need to be longer, or more numerous. Or both.


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