Enterprise Connect 2012: What Was Missing
Applications, channel partners, and a few key vendor perspectives.
There've been lots of articles about Enterprise Connect and what a great conference it was (I wrote two such articles, praising the event). What I haven't seen, though, is anything written about what was missing from the conference. Not to be a naysayer or contrarian (there are lots of others who do that better than I could), there were a few things that I was hoping to see or hear, which I didn't.
Although Alistair Rennie gave a keynote on Wednesday, IBM was missing from the exhibit hall. While IBM hasn't gotten the mindshare in unified communications and collaboration that it should have, the company has a great story for combining UC&C with its social capabilities, notably IBM Connections. I had a briefing with IBM's John Del Pizzo and David Marshak while at Enterprise Connect, and was very excited about some of the things they're working on.
Unfortunately, much of what they told me was under NDA and can't be announced yet. John discussed how IBM sees UC&C and social as providing a closed loop--social lets you find people, but you need UC to connect with people and close the loop. This is exactly what I stated during my panel session, "Creating the Social Enterprise," so I was excited to hear that IBM is developing solutions in this area. I think IBM has a chance to change the game when it comes to social and UC&C, but they lost a chance to get a head start by not being able to discuss this with potential customers at Enterprise Connect.
2. Application Vendors
When discussing the different approaches to UC, several of the UCStrategies folks, primarily Marty Parker and myself, describe three scenarios, which Marty presented at his "Implementation Options for Unified Communications" session: start with your voice system (PBX or IP-PBX), start with your desktop platform (Microsoft and IBM), or start with your business software applications (CRM, ERP, or vertical apps).
UCStrategies always focuses on the role of communication-enabling business applications to get the most out of your UC deployment. However, the business application vendors such as Oracle, SAP, salesforce.com, etc. were nowhere to be seen at Enterprise Connect. These companies are all working with the UC vendors or on their own to integrate or embed UC capabilities into their applications, enabling customers to do click-to-call or click-to-conference from within their applications. It would have been nice to hear from them about how enterprises can use UC directly from these applications, and approach their UC deployments from a different perspective.
3. Google and Skype
Yes, there was a session about using cloud services like Google and Skype and integrating them with Enterprise UC, but the speakers didn't really talk about what I had hoped to hear. I didn't hear anything about Google's plans for providing enterprise-grade UC, and the Microsoft presenter didn't offer any insights into what Microsoft has in store for integrating Skype with its UC offerings. The Microsoft representative focused on Lync Online, rather than Skype, while the Google speaker talked mainly about WebRTC. I still don't know what Microsoft's plans are for integrating Skype, and I have even less of an idea of what Google will be doing regarding the enterprise.
4. The Channel
I always like hearing from the channel--VARs, resellers, and system integrators--about what they're seeing in the market. While we did see several VARs in the exhibit hall, such as Dimension Data, Carousel, Shared Products & Services, etc., it would have been nice to have a panel session with channel representatives to find out what their customers are asking for, how their customers are overcoming implementation challenges, and deployment best practices that the audience can learn from.
And now for a shameless plug: channel partners will get together with UC&C vendors and consultants at the UCStrategies UC Summit May 6-9 in La Jolla, CA. If you're a VAR, reseller, or SI, there's still time to sign up to join us.