Goodbye UC Summit, Hello BC Summit
Themes such as user adoption, mobility, cloud communications, and the business communications mandate surfaced at UCStrategies' annual summit.
For several years, the UCStrategies team has put together the UC Summit, aimed at UC solution integrators (VARs, resellers, system integrators) and end-user consultants with the goal of providing a forum for education and networking (not to mention lots of good food and wine in a lovely location!).
This year's event, which took place Nov. 15 to 18, was notable for a variety of reasons, including it being the last annual UCStrategies conference to be known by the UC Summit name. As Jim Burton, co-founder of UCStrategies and the driving force behind the event, told attendees, going forward the conference will be called the BC Summit. Business communications (BC) is a more general term that covers not just unified communications, but important adjacent technologies and solutions such as contact center, workstream communications and collaboration, social media, and more.
Over the past couple of years, it has become clear to UCStrategies consultants and analysts that the term "unified communications" no longer resonates with most end users and even many IT professionals. In addition, many vendors have been distancing themselves from the term UC (for example, Cisco has been using the collaboration moniker), and many of the SaaS providers don't view themselves as being in the UC space. The UCStrategies team believes the time has come for a change, and that a more general name that end users, vendors, resellers, and others can better relate to makes more sense. As team member Jon Arnold pointed out in a recent article, "At UCStrategies, we recognize that the ultimate value lies in driving business outcomes." Thus the UC Summit was reborn as the BC Summit.
This year's event consisted of presentations, focus sessions, and networking events aimed at providing information about the growing market, trends, and challenges. Attendees got to hear from vendor sponsors including AudioCodes, AVST, Cisco, IntelePeer, Interactive Intelligence, Microsoft, Mitel, NEC, Nectar, Plantronics, Scansource, ShoreTel, and Sonus. Some interesting new names included Bulpros, Edgewater Networks, Google, Phybridge, Redbooth, Revolabs, Sennheiser, Singlewire Software, Tata Communications, Tely, Upstream Works, and Vonage Business. Some of these names are quite familiar, while others are new to the industry or trying to get more name recognition.
With three-plus days of content, the summit featured too many keynotes and sessions to cover fully, but here are some of the key themes that emerged.
User Adoption Matters
In addition to sessions on best UC implementation practices and user adoption and training, the user adoption mandate featured heavily in a industry roundtable discussion moderated by UCStrategies' Burton along with Eric Krapf, program co-chair of Enterprise Connect 2016 and No Jitter publisher. As Jason Alley, cloud solutions marketing manager at Interactive Intelligence noted during that roundtable, "The velocity of change is very hard for companies to manage," and vendors need to be able to deploy and deliver new value quickly so that end users and organizations can see the value of these solutions. Adoption grows from there.
Knowing who's using the technology and solutions and how they're using them is important, too, added Joe Salisbury, VP of marketing and communications with NEC. Vendors have to educate users about how things map to their businesses, he said.
UC solutions have to be intuitive, said Wes Durow, Mitel CMO. "We've got to start by making it intuitive, mobile-first, and seamless. We have to solve things. We've made it too difficult."
The Way We Work Has Changed
During that roundtable, participants also acknowledged that work is now mobile and collaborative, and requires new tools. As Adam Swidler, a Google for Work tech evangelist at Google, explained,"Work used to be a very serialized process, with processes that we did on our own, but now we're more collaborative and can do things more effectively when we bring people in earlier to the process. The key question to ask is how do we get people on the same page from different devices to collaborate on products and work products?"
In addition to Swidler, several other vendor executives described how their companies' products and solutions help users collaborate and work more effectively in the increasingly mobile world. For example, Microsoft's Niilo Fredrikson, director, Partner Strategy & Marketing, Skype for Business, said the company is working at making the task of launching or getting into meetings and conferences "a more natural experience, whether in a huddle space or coffee shop" (for the latest on Skype for Business services, see yesterday's post, "Success With Skype: Building a Cloud PBX Using new E5 CAL").
And Mitel's Durow described how the company approaches the challenge by starting from the notion that the first thing a user looks at in the morning and the last thing he or she looks at before going to sleep is a mobile device. "We're putting our energy into solving the mobile problem. It's not just about knowledge workers and the desktop; we have to make it easy for service workers and information workers to tap to connect," he said.
The Cloud Wave
While Cisco helped bring in the IP wave of many years ago, and Microsoft helped usher in the more recent UC wave, today's cloud wave is pushed by hundreds of vendors and no single leader, said UCStrategies expert Phil Edholm. "Cloud is the industrial revolution of communications, as it's all about commoditization and repetition," he said.
We heard from many, if not all, of the vendors about their cloud offerings. For example:
- NEC introduced its Univerge Blue business cloud services, offering private, hybrid, and public cloud options.
- Clark Peterson, president of the Business Solutions Group at Vonage, introduced the audience to Vonage Business, a cloud service that leverages the company's recent acquisitions of several hosted UC vendors. Most people in the audience weren't familiar with Vonage's foray into business communications, and were surprised to hear how far along Vonage has come.
- Anthony Bartolo, president of Mobility and Collaboration Services for Tata Communications, discussed the company's Skype for Business cloud offering. This offering leverages Tata's significant worldwide network, providing global capabilities that are important for multinational organizations.
And speaking of Skype for Business, the audience heard not only from Microsoft executives, but from business partners such as AVST CEO Hardy Myers, who presented a Skype for Business case study, as well as speakers from partners such as Sonus and AudioCodes.
We had a lot to digest at this year's UC Summit, and I don't just mean the wonderful food and wine! It's a great time to be in the business communications space!