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Resistance to Change Isn't the Issue

All of us are resistant to change, right? Of course we are. We like what we’re used to and what works--at least what works for us--and when a new circumstance arises that upsets our apple cart, we aren't happy about it. OK, fine, we're all human, and there's no denying that all of us have the instinct.

Still, the "resistance to change" argument, as it relates to adopting new technology in general and UC in particular, is overblown. You often hear it trotted out when the market response to a new product or service doesn’t match the promoters’ rosy predictions. When, despite hype in the media and from sales and marketing folks, buyers either respond with a yawn or otherwise refuse to take the plunge.

When that happens, it's common to hear promoters of the new concept respond that it's IT’s fault, that the tech folks aren’t "in tune with the business" or that they’re either afraid or incapable of stepping up to a "change agent" role. And you hear that the slow uptake is due to the revolutionary nature of the product--it's too threatening, IT managers will lose their clout and staff, and have to adjust to more limited job responsibilities and roles.

Well, there certainly are IT execs and staff who stand guilty as charged, but their numbers can't--and don’t--account for why UC hasn’t rocketed to the top of the charts. In recent years, the crappy economy has had much more to do with flat sales curves than character flaws among IT staff. Moreover, only about 35% of U.S. enterprises have completed their migration to IP Telephony; the majority is preoccupied with getting the new infrastructure in place and making sure it works. And oh yeah, UC still hasn't developed effective answers to messy questions like interoperability and manageability.

We've seen this story unfold before. Dot-com domains became available around 1995, but it took 2.5 years before 100 domains were registered. IP Telephony first came on the scene around 2000 and it’s taken a decade for IP to reach 50% of the installed base of lines in U.S. enterprises. Other examples abound. Yes, the iPhone took the world by storm and so has Android. But those were sold to individuals who were buying based on their own preferences; there was no capital budget process to contend with and no existing network that needed to be replaced.

So, as my colleagues and I prepare the program for Enterprise Connect 2011 (formerly VoiceCon), we're working on the theory that IT professionals are pragmatists, that "resistance" isn't the primary consideration in buying decisions but, instead, that they are all about making sure that a new alternative is actually ready and right for their enterprise. Accordingly, we're focusing on some fundamental issues:

* Is there a new model for enterprise communications and collaboration? There’s no question that end-to-end IP, UC, mobility, social networking and the Cloud create a whole new set of possibilities for enterprises. But the existing "stuff" isn’t going to just disappear. What's the new model, what does it need to become "ready for prime time" and which partners are you likely to retain or jettison moving forward?

* Architecture choices: The days of having a single choice in platforms are over. You can build a communications architecture that is desktop-centric, network-centric, application-centric, off-site (the Cloud and its variations) and, obviously, a mix of those. How do you decide what best fits your enterprise and, once you decide, what do you do about it?

* Applications and devices: This is where UC, mobility, social networking and "the consumerization of IT" all come together. What are you going to attach to your network, how do you decide who gets what, and what will you run over the network?

Resistance is futile, and Enterprise Connect is about responding to the need for in-depth and objective technical information that IT execs and their staff can use to move to the next plateau. Registration is now open, and I hope to see you there.