Enterprise Connect 2013: What Was Hot, What Was Not

Cloud. Mobile. Video. WebRTC. Unified Communications. Those were the biggest trends at Enterprise Connect 2013, according to analysts convening at the final session of the the communication and collaboration industry’s leading conference, which attracted 5,000 attendees between Monday and Thursday this week. Though this all-star cast didn’t always agree on which direction each trend was headed, nor why.

Take Unified Communications, a term describing the convergence of voice, video, instant messaging, presence and some other services into the same application or dashboard.

“It used to be that Unified Communications wasn’t all that unified. You had to go get it all yourself,” said Zeus Kerravala, the former Yankee Group analyst who is now principal analyst ZK Research. Now, vendors are finally delivering solutions that in his mind truly live up to the UC moniker.

As a result, many enterprises at EC13 told Kevin Kieller, a partner with EnableUC, that they are deploying UC to more than 10,000 employees. “It’s no longer about if they should use UC. They’ve moved past the pilots,” he said.

“UC has moved out of the dream stage,” agreed Fred Knight, the longtime organizer of Enterprise Connect and moderator of the analyst session.But others argue that UC’s inroads into areas such as mobile remain disappointing. “You go to a UC conference, and you hear a lot about mobility,” said Michael Finneran, president of dBrn Associates. “You go to a mobile conference, and you never hear about UC.”

Once dominated by hardware such as telepresence systems and the iconic PBX box, the communications industry has moved heavily towards software, and the next logical step, the delivery of that software as a cloud service or through a browser interface, such as with WebRTC.

(Avaya is helping to lead this trend. Read about the Collaborative Cloud services we announced earlier this week at EC 13, as well as our work with WebRTC).

The move away from hardware-centric PBX boxes and telepresence rooms towards software and services will empower workers and IT managers alike to be much more agile.

Unified Communications “is moving away from being a set of applications, but a platform” where you can quickly turn on features like video chat and turn them back off again, Kerravala said.

Similarly, mobile communication and video apps “no longer just sport dumbed-down desktop interfaces but were taking advantage of what the devices can offer,” said Melanie Turek vice-president of research with Frost & Sullivan. Software and apps “are the only way to get us to the next level, that of ubiquity.”

That’s especially true with WebRTC, which proponents argue will empower regular Web developers to easily build communications services in a matter of days or hours.

This “will start a whole new wave of communications,” declared Dave Michels, an analyst with TalkingPointz. 

However, WebRTC is getting so much positive attention despite still being mostly at the standards-building phase that it was on the verge of being “overhyped,” said Keiller, who noted only a few mature WebRTC applications so far today.

The inexorable move towards software is also causing the enterprise applications and communications worlds to blend. As a result, vendors like Salesforce.com and SAP are now selling true communications applications – call centers, in the case of SAP, said Marty Parker, principal consultant with UniComm Consulting.

“Communications is moving up the stack and other vendors are moving in,” Kerravala
said. You’ve got IBM dancing around, Oracle moving in.”

To survive, communications and collaboration vendors need to up their knowledge of what businesses want, especially now that line of business managers are going around IT and buying cloud-based services themselves, Turek said.

The alternative is for system integrators and service providers to fill in the gaps by tailoring technologies towards specific industries and customers, says Parker.

One of the ironies of the communications industry is that gear between different vendors often don’t naturally communicate well with each other (though some vendors like Avaya have been emphasizing interoperability and open-ness, see CEO Kevin Kennedy’s keynote at Enterprise Connect).

On this issue of interoperability, analysts disagreed whether progress has been made. “Two years ago, vendors said it couldn’t be done. This year, they said it could be,” Parker said. But Knight thinks the interoperability situation is getting “uglier” as does Michels. “I think we’ve given up that that the vendors will solve it.”

And Harris noted that WebRTC is already becoming the next battleground for interoperability, with Google, Mozilla, Cisco, Avaya and other players
supporting one standard, Microsoft seemingly in another corner with its CU-WebRTC proposal, and Apple the wild card.

Parker is optimistic that the industry is moving towards open standards and interoperability, though. “The losers will be those people who still believe that top-to-bottom vertical integration is the right business model,” he said.

Other losers will be the many smaller cloud-based communications vendors that will not survive the inevitable shakeout in the next several years, said Michels. With an estimated 200-odd vendors, “those numbers will come down,” he said.

Room-based videoconferencing gear and telepresence systems may be supplanted by desktop and mobile video chatting, though they won’t go extinct, just as “PCs didn’t replace the mainframe,” Kerravala said.

Michels was more definite. “The video industry has to drop the term conferencing. That’s not where things are going” he said.

While the Consumerization of IT has also made its way into communications, though there are limits. “There will be IT decisionmakers who think that the way they Skype with their grandkids is how you do it in the enterprise, they don’t realize how much hardware is still involved in those solutions,” Harris said.

Others like Parker say that heavily-regulated industries like healthcare by necessity won’t be able to import many consumer innovations.

Even communications hardware isn’t disappearing the shelves, either. Many vendors are bringing out integrated software-hardware appliances for fast, easy deployment, Kerravala said, pointing to Avaya’s Collaboration Pods as an example.

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What Smart Analysts Think About Microsoft's Lync Telephony Claims

black telephone handset disconnected.jpg

The big brains at UCStrategies had a very relevant podcast last week. Ten of the Unified Communication industry’s leading independent analysts weighed in on Microsoft’s recent claim that its Lync unified communications suite was “leading” in shipments of enterprise voice/telephony software.

Microsoft appears to be basing its claim on shipments of Lync voice, but doesn’t say much more. As a result, “there’s a lot of debate and discussion” about what Lync voice shipments actually mean, says UCStrategies analyst and podcast moderator Blair Pleasant. “Are they paid licenses, free licenses that customers get from enterprise CALs (client access licenses), (voice) seats actually being used and deployed, or (numbers) just out there because companies have Lync [suite]?”

One thing’s for sure: when you go by the tried-and-tested methodology of tracking the number of phone lines actually being deployed to users today, Microsoft isn’t on top according to any of the analyst firms. Indeed, according to one of the most respected market watchers, analyst Alan Weckel of the Dell ‘Oro Group, Avaya is actually number one in enterprise voice. My colleague Enzo Signore pointed this out in a blog several weeks ago – before the UCStrategies podcast.

There were too many opinions in UCStrategies’ 38-minute podcast to neatly summarize. Not all of them agreed with each other, of course. But here are the quotes that particularly stood out for me:

Blair Pleasant: “I personally have some issues with these numbers and what they mean…I don’t think it’s fair to say that Microsoft is a leader in enterprise voice at this point. Again, they’re doing gangbusters, but they’re still a niche player. And the companies I speak with aren’t rushing out to deploy Lync voice.

Marty Parker: “I think [Blair] you’re exactly right, that any claim like this should be greeted initially with some serious skepticism…Microsoft, pretty uniquely among the leaders, sells licenses far ahead of deployments. The number of licenses can be 2x or more what is actually being deployed. The deployment reports we’ve seen from a number of sources put Microsoft in the 5% range in terms of actual deployments for FY12. If you extrapolate from that 6-7% for FY13, and then double that, you get 13%…That is a number that wouldn’t stand up when someone goes out to use a rigorous approach to market share data. Maybe for shipments, but it doesn’t reflect reality on the ground.

Dave Michels: “I see a lot of firms deploying Lync. I don’t see a lot of firms deploying Lync voice…I also know from other observations that Microsoft is pretty shady about their numbers. A lot of other firms are very open. Microsoft is very secretive about this stuff. They don’t put a lot of detail behind this…It’s a whole different level of open-ness you don’t see with Microsoft.

Jim Burton: “When I was in debate in school, my Bible was a book called ‘Lying with Facts and Figures.’ I don’t think he [Microsoft blogger] lied, but the way he presented it was a bit of a misrepresentation, if you understood all of the facts.”

Roberta Fox: “It really wasn’t til late 2012 where Microsoft was considered for telephony or even desktop video. They really were not seen as reliable or credible telecom solutions from enterprise clients as replacements for their PBXes, due to concerns about reliability, availability and the feature set. Another interesting thought: there was very little interest in Lync for desktop video applications.”

I encourage you all to take a listen to this podcast.

How Mediocre Customer Service Is Driving Your Customers Away

Some companies drive away loads of customers with one big move. Like that department store chain that got rid of coupons and sales promotions. Its base of cost-sensitive mom shoppers quickly fled to other stores

For most companies, losing customers is a slow, inexorable process, that looks more like this:

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What’s the cause? In many cases, it’s weak customer service. Most companies over-spend on customer acquisition and under-invest on keeping existing customers happy. The result is statistics like this from Forrester Research:

There are many reasons why your customer service may be leaving customers less than thrilled. Customers are more diverse than before, for one:
Technology has also made customers more independent – and demanding. They want to be served right here, right now. 
Problem is that most companies, even if they talk the multi-channel talk, fail to walk the walk. Beyond voice, they may have deployed 1-2 additional ways for their agents to deal with customers. Turns out, there are a dozen channels besides voice that your customer may want – nay, demand – to be able to reach you on. Also, companies trying to deploy new contact center channels will, how can I be polite about this, often do it BADLY.
Do these problems sound familiar at all? Are they ones you want to solve? If so, you might consider attending the next Avaya Customer Experience webinar, ‘Where Did All of my Customers Go (and How Do I Win Them Back?)’
Broadcasting this Thursday Nov. 7 at 11 am PT (2 pm ET), it features a mix of experts in this area, including:
– Sheila McGee-Smith, independent customer experience analyst;
– Tony Bridgewater, Executive General Manager, Technology & Products, for Australian system integrator, Salmat;
– Mark Wilson, CMO for Avaya;
– Jeanne Bliss, our moderator, who writes and consults on customer experience and is a former Chief Customer Officer at multiple companies; 
Attendees to the webinar get a print copy of the book, Managing the Customer Experience, mailed to them.

Who's the Real Number One in Business Telephony?

The telephone is far from dead. You know who still loves to call people? Family members, close friends and…the Pope. No joke: 76-year-old Pope Francis has startled a quite a few strangers with a call from a Vatican landline in which he simply announces, “It’s the Pope.” It’s happened to enough people that the Corriere della Sera, a leading newspaper in my native Italy, published a front-page article offering tips on how to make small talk if His Holiness calls (tip #1: talk about soccer).

You know who else loves the telephone? Businesspeople. Unified Communications may be a diverse, ever-growing set of tools and technologies, but the channel that started it all still plays a central role. It’s why there’s a never-ending stream of articles advising how to schmooze colleagues on the phone, how to run your phone meetings, how to close sales deals on the phone, how to ace telephone job interviews, etc. The stakes are high, which is why telephony remains such a hotly-contested market.

Last week, Microsoft put out a blog claiming it is “now shipping more enterprise telephone lines than any other technology company in the world.” It was a bold claim. So bold that longtime industry expert, Eric Krapf of No Jitter, felt compelled to investigate. One respected market watcher, Infonetics’ Diane Myers, told Krapf that her own research – which shows Cisco and Avaya neck-and-neck far above other rivals in telephony – made her “struggle” with Microsoft’s claims. When Krapf confronted Microsoft’s spokespeople, they admitted that Redmond’s claim to have shipped the most telephony lines was based on different data, revenue. As anyone familiar with software bundling knows, revenue alone can paint a deceptive picture.

However, revenue COMBINED with other data CAN be illuminating. While Microsoft and Cisco bicker, they are ignoring what’s really going on in the voice market. According to the well-known telecom market research firm, the Dell’Oro Group, Avaya passed Cisco in Q2 this year in telephony according to two key metrics. First, powered by growth in our small and midsized UC solution, IP Office, the number of telephone lines Avaya shipped grew 10% quarter/quarter to 1.8 million, while Cisco’s slipped for the 3rd-straight quarter, according to Dell’Oro:

dell oro total pbx shipments.JPG

Source: Dell’Oro Group

As a result, Avaya had a commanding lead of the global enterprise telephony market by revenue, both for Q2 2013:

Dell'Oro Global Enterprise Telephony Systems Q213 Rev Share.JPG


Actually, Avaya led Cisco by the same margin for all of calendar year 2012, too:


Dell'Oro Global Enterprise Telephony CY12 Rev Share.JPG


How come Microsoft’s nowhere to be found? We asked Alan Weckel, Vice President, Enterprise Telephony & Ethernet Switch Market Research at Dell’Oro and author of the report, who “confirmed that Dell’Oro Group does track Microsoft in the report. While Dell’Oro group does not break out Microsoft call control directly, based on the size of the remaining market, Microsoft would not be amongst the largest vendors on the charts.”

Why is Avaya gaining telephone users and increasing sales revenue? For a number of reasons:

1)The rock-solid quality of our flagship Avaya Aura platform (read how billion-dollar real estate firm Forest City Enterprises virtualized Avaya Aura software onto VMware and cut costs and increased reliability);

2)The cutting-edge advances in the Aura platform, including the new Collaboration Environment platform to enable developers to quickly build communications apps, and the Avaya Messaging Service that finally brings texting into the enterprise world (and supports any vendor’s system, even Cisco);

3)The quality and cost-competitiveness of Avaya IP Office;

4)The increasing attractiveness of IP Office 9.0 to the fast-growing mid-market segment;

Importantly, we see many customers that use the Microsoft Lync solution for IM and presence turning to Avaya for voice. Rather than deploying Lync software all the way or integrating with Cisco, hundreds of enterprises are trusting the Avaya Client Applications (ACA) plug-in, which offers scalability, ‘Five 9s’ of high-availability, technical features such as open call control, protection for your other communication investments, and tight integration with our contact center solution, which happens to be number one in the market according to Gartner.

Related article: Avaya’s New Wireless LAN 9100 Mutes the Sucking Sound of Network Downtime

ACA is not a tactical solution, either. Providing a comprehensive, open alternative for customers who wish to avoid vendor lock-in is part of the Avaya long-term strategy. Simply put, we want to be the best Lync integrator in the industry.

Lync software undoubtedly excels at IM and presence. But as Cisco Collaboration chief Rowan Trollope pointed out last week, IM and presence are last decade’s news. The future is things like enterprise-friendly text messaging (like Avaya Messaging Service) and open collaboration platforms that let businesses pick the best technologies for their needs.

So when you’re thinking about your UC solution, don’t think it’s only about Lync software vs. Cisco vs. Avaya. The telephone isn’t going away anytime soon. And if telephony is important to your business, the right solution might very well be a combination of a Lync client and Avaya.