Comparing the Election and UCC
What commonalities do and don't exist between the U.S. election process and the unified communications and collaboration space.
Eight years ago I wrote my first blog for No Jitter, and since it was right around the election season, I decided to draw some parallels between unified communications and the election. Here we are again today – smack dab in the middle of election season, so it seems apropos to look at what UC and the election do and don't have in common. Of course, much of this is a stretch, but humor me.Two-Party System
While candidates from the Green Party and the Libertarian Party are fighting a good fight this election season, most people will agree that the U.S. is basically a two-party system: the Democratic and Republican parties. In the world of UCC, this is not the case. While Cisco and Microsoft can be viewed as the two key UCC parties, there are many viable third-party options: Mitel, ShoreTel, Avaya, Unify, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, NEC, and, of course, the multitude of cloud providers. These vendors provide great options for businesses and should be on the "ballot" for most companies.
In Common: NoFour-Year Term
Regardless of who wins the presidential election, he or she will most likely be in office for four years, and we are essentially "locked in" to that individual. While this has historically also been the case in the UCC world (you've heard of "vendor lock-in," I'm sure), and businesses were locked in to their vendors for several years, things have changed -- much in thanks to the cloud.
When deploying a premises-based solution, enterprises are still pretty much locked in for several years, due to the expense of the system and the financial model. But when deploying a cloud solution, organizations can more easily and quickly switch providers if necessary. Most cloud providers have a one-year contract, but after that point, companies can switch to a different provider if their current provider doesn't meet their needs for whatever reason. While most businesses aren't likely to change providers, the option is out there.
In Common: Yes, and NoPlaying to Your Base
During the election cycle, we constantly hear the term "playing to the base," which is when candidates attempt to appeal to voters within their party. According to The Phrase Finder, "In the U.S. we have two major political parties, and each has its own 'base' of support. Part of the Democrats' traditional base is the labor unions, for example, while Republicans' base includes members of the Rotary Club (small town businessmen)." Playing to the base is often a smart tactic, as it focuses the candidates' efforts on voters who are already inclined to vote for them, rather than trying to convince someone in the other party to switch allegiances.
A similar strategy is often used in UCC. When vendors come out with new offerings, their initial target is usually their installed base. Vendors will generally focus their attention on retaining and upgrading existing customers, as it's easier than getting a competitor's customer to switch sides. For example, if you're a Cisco shop, you're not going to suddenly "vote" for Microsoft Skype for Business or Office 365. Cisco customers are most likely going to use Cisco UCC solutions, while Microsoft customers may be more inclined to use Microsoft UCC solutions.
In Common: YesMultiple Races
While the presidential election has been the key focus of attention this election cycle, there are other races taking place that are also critical to the future of our nation and local communities. In addition to voting for members of congress, 11 states are having gubernatorial elections, and many communities have county and city government elections. In my home state of California, we also have multiple propositions ranging from the legalization of marijuana to the prohibition of plastic single-use carryout bags. While these races don't get the attention of the presidential race, they are still important and can have a huge impact on our lives. The impact that the president has on our nation is strongly impacted by Congress, and voters need to look at how these two branches will work (or not work) together.
The same is true for ancillary UCC products and services, such as headsets and endpoint devices, video, security, monitoring and assurance solutions, SBCs, gateways, and more. All of these are important parts of UCC solutions and should be considered and evaluated as part of the overall UCC purchase and deployment. Team messaging solutions (Slack, Cisco Spark, RingCentral Glip, etc.) are playing an increasingly important role in business communications and should also be evaluated and "voted on."
In Common: YesIt's About the Platform
Lastly, both the election and a UCC strategy should be closely related to your goals. In politics your goals are generally aligned with your party's and candidate's platform -- whether it's about national security, immigration reform, trade, or the environment. In the UCC world, your goals may be to enhance workgroup productivity, improve customer service, or shorten development cycles. When we vote for a candidate or select a UCC provider, it should be based on the platform and who will help you best reach your goals now and in the future.
In Common: Yes
Clearly voting in an election and selecting a UCC provider have some commonalities and some differences. What's important for both is to get out there and do something -- vote in the upcoming election, and continue developing your UCC strategy. There's no "debate" about the importance of both!