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So, What's Not Changing?
I just returned from a west coast swing, and it included a visit with UCStrategies' co-founder Jim Burton. Jim and I have worked together on conferences and articles for more years than either of us likes to admit, so it wasn't all that surprising when, over a beautiful lunch with great wine, we realized we had reached the same conclusion about the current state of enterprise communications and collaboration: The breadth and depth of the changes impacting the business today exceed anything we've seen in our careers.
Even for an industry that prides itself on change, there's virtually no element of the business that's not in play. Of course, it all stems from the changes in technology--ever-more powerful chips enabling more sophisticated algorithms and processes, which in turn means that each form factor can accommodate higher and higher levels of functionality. Whether you're talking about more bandwidth or Smartphones that can do everything but sing you a good-night lullaby, it's all about the chips!
The irony is that chip technology has advanced to the point where the focus of the industry can now shift, from hardware to software. The evolution of communications/collaboration into a software-intensive business sparked a radical change in the cost models for both buyers and sellers, and that has led to a shake-up among the familiar vendors while offering previously unavailable paths to market to new players.
And as communications and collaboration become more tightly integrated within IT organizations, our part of the industry is being impacted by much broader market forces--from the "cloud" and video, to mobility and social networking. As the scope of our niche expands so do the interests of market giants like HP, IBM, Microsoft and Cisco, who are moving to leverage communications and collaboration to drive deeper into one another’s turf.
These dynamics form the core of our Business Communications and Collaboration Strategies Summit, which will run October 4-5 in Washington DC (www.enterpriseconnect.com/summit).
The focus of the Summit is on how enterprises can harness all these emerging trends to reshape the way their organizations plan for, deploy, manage and consume communications and collaboration systems and services. It’s clear that throughout the enterprise--from the executive suite to the contact center--expectations for communications and collaboration are expanding. The suppliers are doing their best to reposition themselves for new ways of doing business; enterprise IT will need to be alert and agile to stay ahead of the game and to deliver the goods for their organizations.
As Jim and I discussed these issues--and as the level on the wine bottles got lower--we realized that what was new today was that these themes were achievable...they were no longer just part of some "futures" conversation. That said, we also both acknowledge that change doesn’t come as quickly or easily as we used to believe.
But there are signs of progress everywhere. Unified Communications has become the umbrella term for using communications and collaboration tools to improve personal productivity and to embrace new possibilities for business processes and work flow. The widespread agreement about the benefits that UC can deliver means that as the economy begins to expand, the sales of UC equipment, software and services should begin to rise dramatically.
So, the time for planning is now. The Business Communications Strategies Summit will be an important step, as will Enterprise Connect in Orlando next February. I look forward to seeing you there.