Charting the Future of Enterprise Communications
Look for enterprise communications to be multifaceted, and to enable measurable efficiency improvements.
We're at the UC Summit this week in La Jolla, Calif., where thought leaders from the vendor, system integrator, enterprise, analyst, and consultant communities have gathered to discuss the state of the industry and the future of communications across business and public sector organizations.
My contribution to this dialog includes a short "Ted Talk" style presentation about industry directions. Here's the summary.
1. Enterprises only spend money on things they really need. This need can either be to preserve the organization's capabilities or to create new solutions or competitiveness. Replacing legacy communications systems with IP telephony systems epitomizes the practice of preserving capabilities; the organization gains little new functionality, but keeps the ability to communicate from a desk phone. However, creating new solutions or competitiveness is harder to do, since that requires inventing or adopting new operational methods -- new processes -- and requires cooperation outside of the telecom department.
2. Preservation of communications capabilities is a shrinking market segment. Both hardware and software technologies are getting cheaper more quickly than the demand is growing for new phones on existing or additional desktops. Some revenue growth may come from moves to the cloud, but that results from the outsourcing of costs of labor, space, power, air conditioning, and network connections needed for on-premises solutions, not from growth in the underlying demand for communications technologies.
3. Organizations will find new solutions and processes by examining and redesigning their value chains and the worker types and workflows within those value chains. Last fall we posted a comprehensive description of the discovery of this new value on InformationWeek (a No Jitter sister site). We also presented a comprehensive methodology for this discovery, with case study examples, at Lync Conference 2014. It is possible to summarize the types of users of new communications solutions into as few as eight user types.
4. Three competitive groups of vendors are addressing these new solution opportunities. They are:
- IP Telephony Vendors: Traditional leaders of communications solutions, IP PBX makers -- Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, NEC, Unify, Interactive Intelligence, ShoreTel, and others -- and the cloud-based alternatives such as 8x8, RingCentral, Vonage and hundreds of others (see related post, UCaaS: the Gold Rush Is On!).
- Transaction-Centric Application Software Vendors: Companies that are delivering communications software as part of their applications suites. These companies consider communications simply to be a middleware component in a cloud-centric, service-oriented architecture. They select just the right set of communications tools, whether non-real time or real time, to support the success of those using their transaction-processing application software. Mostly, these users are involved in the transactions, not the collaborations, of any organization's workflows. Examples include: Cerner, Epicor, Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce.com, SAP, Software AG, Sugar CRM, and many others.
- Info-Centric Collaboration Software Vendors: These vendors seek to streamline the workflows and workstreams of users who spend their days in creative tasks such as marketing, development, and some management roles (see related post, 'WCC' Makes Communications Strategic Again). These suppliers seek to create workspaces in which users can spend their workdays (and beyond) to associate a wide and varying set of information with the users' creative projects and to enable the necessary communications for those collaborations. Much of the communications is text-based and document-based, though some of these vendors also provide click-to-talk, share, view or even ring (on the PSTN) from the application interface on a smartphone, a tablet or (OMG, for legacy users) a computer. Many of the IP telephony vendors want to be leaders in this space, but rebranding alone doesn't seem to be working and those that are creating new solutions in this category (Unify with Circuit, Cisco with Spark) face tough and established competitors (see the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Social Software in the Workplace). Leaders in this space include Box, Cisco, Google, IBM, Jive Communications, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, Slack, Tibco, Unify, and many, many others.
The future of enterprise communications is going to be multifaceted, and it is going to enable major, measurable breakthroughs in the efficiency of organizations' workflows within their value chains. Attention to all three of these sources of communications solutions can prepare your organization for the future; avoiding them or limiting to just one category will likely result in wasted investments and lagging performance. We wish you great success.