Showcasing Telecom Industry Resiliency
UC vendors have developed new products and are executing new strategies. For many, Enterprise Connect Orlando will be a coming out party.
History shows that companies often have difficulty evolving with changing technology and market trends. Horse-drawn carriage manufacturers never made the transition to horseless carriages -- i.e., automobiles. More recently we saw the demise of computer industry veterans like DEC, DG, and Wang as they failed to move to the latest technology trend of the time -- personal computers.
As technologies have evolved in the telecom industry, so have most of the vendors. The introduction of new technologies often spawns new competitors. For example, as PBX technology moved from analog to digital, Rolm became a major player. As the industry moved to IP, Cisco became a leading IP-PBX vendor. And, more recently, in the industry's move to unified communications, Microsoft has become a market leader.
In UC's early days, eight to nine years ago, most products didn't qualify as true UC solutions. To compete in the new market, some vendors simply renamed old products with the UC term and claimed to have a UC portfolio of products. In actuality, they had unified few, if any, components.
Vendors took several years to round out their UC offerings, but many had a difficult time competing with market leaders Cisco and Microsoft. I even wrote about this issue two years in the No Jitter post, Is It a Two-Horse Race? Vendors recognized the challenge and started reorganizing their businesses to compete. To add to the challenges, cloud is a major trend, with many vendors already in the game and others playing catch up.
At Enterprise Connect Orlando next month, vendors will be announcing new products and services -- like they do every year. But, we can learn about our industry when we look at the major UC vendors and their announcements. Most have been re-engineering their companies while re-engineering and developing new products. Vendors are taking different approaches to help position their companies for long-term success, and in some cases, survivability.
I'll be exploring these strategies at Enterprise Connect when a number of vendor executives join me for the session, "UC Summit: Reality Check on Progress Toward UC," on Monday, March 16. In the meantime, here's a quick look at some of the latest vendor initiatives.
• Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALU-E) completed the sale of 85% of its enterprise business to China Huaxin, a Chinese investor focused on the telecom space. Michel Emelianoff, ALU-E president, has made it clear that the company has an aggressive agenda. ALU-E is looking to double the size of its business in the next five years by evolving from being product centric to being focused on delivering business outcomes to customers and business partners, and by going after certain sectors and geographies.
• Avaya continues to innovate and has branded and aligned its products into two solution groups: team engagement and customer engagement. The big challenge for Avaya is balancing what it can invest in new initiatives while focusing on EBITDA in order to meet its objective of returning the company to the public stock market.
• While Cisco is not at risk of going out of business any time soon, Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of the company's Collaboration Technology Group (an Enterprise Connect Orlando keynoter), has been busy reorganizing the UC team and shifting its strategic direction. His team apparently will be embracing other vendors' products/user interfaces. For example, Cisco's collaboration solution Project Squared will integrate with a user's Outlook calendar and Active Directory, as well as with WebEx and Box. In addition, Project Squared has APIs to enable integration with business applications.
• Zig Serafin, Microsoft corporate vice president for Skype Business Services (and another Enterprise Connect Orlando keynoter), has spent the past year re-directing the Microsoft Lync development team to add voice capabilities to Office 365, as well as improved management and collaboration capabilities for the newly branded Skype for Business. Over time it will become apparent that Microsoft is making a major shift in its Universal Communications strategy.
• Mitel CEO Rich McBee has recently reorganized the company to help align many of its innovative products with other vendors' solutions. It may not be totally clear at this year's Enterprise Connect how strategic this shift will be for Mitel, but by this time next year investors and customers will understand and be very pleased.
• NEC's communications group has been quietly aligning with other NEC divisions. With its broad product portfolio, NEC is in a position to offer the most complete UC solution of any vendor -- from a wide variety of endpoints to networks and even facial recognition.
• ShoreTel CEO Don Joos has been at the company's helm for around 18 months. He has been working on a strategy to continue with what many view as ShoreTel's biggest strength -- providing "brilliantly simple" solutions. We will see his strategy unfold over the next few months as ShoreTel adds products and services that will take the company into adjacent markets.
At Enterprise Connect 2015, look for the story behind the announcements. Telecom vendors will demonstrate that they know what it takes to stay in the game as technologies and market trends change. It's exciting to be part of an industry that keeps changing and evolving.
Learn more during Jim's Enterprise Connect Orlando session, "UC Summit: Reality Check on Progress Toward UC," on Monday, March 16. Register now and get $300 off an event pass using the code: NJSPEAKER.