Kevin Kieller
Kevin Kieller is a partner with enableUC, a company that helps measure, monitor and improve UC and collaboration usage and...
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Kevin Kieller | August 11, 2013 |


Commentary on Gartner's Magic Quadrant for UC

Commentary on Gartner's Magic Quadrant for UC Ultimately, each enterprise has to decide based on its own needs. But for those looking for insights on the Microsoft-Cisco dilemma, here are some suggestions.

Ultimately, each enterprise has to decide based on its own needs. But for those looking for insights on the Microsoft-Cisco dilemma, here are some suggestions.

Gartner recently released an updated "Magic Quadrant" for Unified Communications" (UC) that attempts to rate key vendors of UC solutions on two axes: ability to execute, and completeness of vision. Those vendors that score high on both are placed in the coveted "leaders" quadrant. This year the leaders quadrant contains Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya and Siemens Enterprise Communications.

Gartner analysts Bern Elliot and Steve Blood have done an admirable job of distilling a complex market, with diverse vendors, into a relatively simple visual. The initial section of the Gartner report is especially worthwhile reading, as it does a good job of grouping UC products into six areas and suggesting five attributes that may impact user satisfaction.

However, like many simplifying visuals, I would suggest you should keep in mind three items as you apply the comments from the Gartner report to your specific organization's requirements and objectives.

1. The UC solution you should put into your own "leaders quadrant" should be the solution best aligned with your specific business objectives.

I've written before that "ratings without defined requirements is marketing." What I mean by this is that you cannot declare a "better" solution without understanding and defining the evaluation criteria. Similarly, case studies are great if your organization is exactly the same as the organization being profiled. Gartner does a fair job of helping readers understand how the various UC solutions are evaluated; however, the Gartner criteria may not reflect your specific organization's criteria, and comments Gartner includes from other customers may not be applicable to your situation. In any case, a quarter of an inch to the left or right, up or down, becomes a "moot" point. Regardless of Gartner's methodology, minor variations are purely subjective.

Use the Gartner report as input; however it should not be considered a "short cut" from...

a. Defining and prioritizing your key measurable objectives; and,
b. Evaluating multiple viable solutions against your objectives.

Whether you like it or not, an effective evaluation of UC solutions takes time. If you want to "cheat", you can simply select any solution in the leaders quadrant and you might succeed. But you can double or triple your chances of success if you undertake a business requirements gathering and prioritization process--see The Goldilocks Approach: 7 Steps to Get to "Just Right".

2. What's good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander.

The idiom "What's good for the goose is good for the gander" is meant to imply that something that is beneficial for one individual should be beneficial to another. However in the complex world of UC, this is often not the case.

A solution good for one organization might be terrible for your organization.

Some organizations prioritize cost savings over all other criteria. Other organizations emphasize usage and adoption, and focus on improving "speed to decision". Still others seek to validate their previous investments, sometimes integrating with legacy platforms even at the expense of user experience. Quite frankly, many organizations make decisions based on politics (is it networks, apps, or telecom that leads?) or philosophical ideas. (To be clear, I don't suggest or condone either of these approaches, although I do recognize the reality of these influences.)

3. The devil is in the details.

UC, like most complex technology undertakings, often succeeds or fails based on very specific details. "Slideware architectures" that can connect any two systems simply by drawing a double-headed arrow, don't "cut the mustard" (I'm on idiom overload). If you select a solution for your organization based solely on a quadrant diagram or a few slides then you could, and should, be held accountable if the solution does not deliver measurable improvement.

What I enjoy most about the expression, "The devil is in the details" is that it evolved from an expression with precisely the opposite meaning: "God is in the details". To me this is a perfect illustration that while "(blank) is in the details" may be true, the validity of the statement depends entirely upon what is inserted in the "blank". Different considerations can radically alter the meaning and the interpretation.

In focusing on details, I wanted to examine a few points from the Gartner report as examples of how you should evaluate comments before acting upon them ...

a. " is the high-quality end-user experience that will drive adoption and productivity."

This is a "chicken and egg" dilemma (yet another idiom). If a high-quality end-user experience is only proven through adoption and productivity, how do you select a solution ahead of measuring adoption? In my experience, both Cisco Jabber and Microsoft Lync offer solid user experiences. Arguably, any of the leading solutions provides an acceptable experience provided you invest in user training. Please do not delude yourself into believing that a "simple" user interface should require no training. If you do not train your end users then you will not maximize the return from your UC investment.

Next Page: Cisco vs. Microsoft


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