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Buyer Beware: Confusion Is on the Way


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Buyer beware

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History is about to be repeated — again! Over the past 30 years, we have seen many new technologies introduced in the business communications space. Each started with buyer confusion.

  • Computer-Telephony Integration (CTI) — Before vendors adopted the term CTI,  every computer and PBX vendor had a unique or different name for the solution area. This made it difficult for buyers to understand the market and the new opportunities CTI had to offer.
  • IP-PBX — Legacy PBX vendors challenged the upstart IP-PBX vendors, questioning the reliability and scalability of using IP technology to deliver voice communications. These comments, from trusted vendors, confused many buyers and led them to “play it safe,”  purchasing a dying technology rather than the next-generation solution. 
  • Unified Communications (UC) — Cisco and Microsoft started using the term UC in 2006. Two years later, my colleague, Marty Parker, wrote this article for No Jitter: “Some Light on the UC Confusion Debate.” Over the next 10 years, vendors continued to try to differentiate their offers. In some cases, vendors with competing products would try to distinguish their products by dropping the term UC and adopting a new name, while others were late to jump on the UC bandwagon. The confusion continues today.
  • Cloud —  In 2015, I wrote an article for No Jitter titled “UC in the Cloud: Confusion Reigns.” In the article, I focused on how UC vendors were causing confusion for buyers and channel partners as they repositioned their products for the cloud. 


Two Ways to Avoid Confusion in an Evolving Technology Market

As you seek to gain a market understanding, you have many options available. The two key steps involve the following: 

1. Research — According to Forrester, “70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to a sales person,” and “67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.” 

There is a lot of information online. Visiting vendor sites is an essential part of a buyer’s journey, but not necessarily the right place to start. Vendors want to convince you that they have the best product for your application and, in the process, will try to differentiate their solution from their competition, thus creating the possibility for confusion. 

Most vendors have programs for consultants and industry analysts to help educate them on their products and services. In turn, many of these industry experts write articles for sites like No Jitter and BCStrategies, and are session leaders and speakers at Enterprise Connect (join me there the week of March 30, in Orlando, Fla.). These experts provide valuable information to help reduce confusion.

2. Hire a consultant — New technology is continuing to evolve at an accelerated pace, and adding AI, machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), and next-gen contact center to the technologies listed above creates more confusion. It is challenging to keep up with all the changes and opportunities, but that is where consultants come in. Their job is to keep up with technology and trends to help their clients make informed technology decisions. 

It is essential to understand the type of consultant to engage. In addition to finding a consultant who is an expert in the technology area you are researching, you need to know if the consultant is also an agent for vendors. Some consultants are emphatically vendor-independent, accepting compensation only from their enterprise clients.  Others might represent multiple vendors. It is critical to understand the consultants’ business models, how they evaluate opportunities, and who pays them before engaging.

Consider engaging a consultant that is a member of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants (SCTC), an  association of independent consultants.  Every consultant member commits annually to a strict code of ethics, ensuring they work for the client benefit only and do not receive financial compensation from vendors and service providers.


Technology Evolution Is a Critical Part of Digital Transformation

If you are part of a team responsible for your enterprise's digital transformation and you are a little confused, do your research and, if appropriate, hire an independent consultant.

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This post is written on behalf of BCStrategies, an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.