- Despite marketing rhetoric, Enterprise Connect and its exhibitors are still struggling to blend communications and collaboration.
- One solution is to invite unusual exhibitors steeped in collaborative business solutions outside of the realm of unified communications.
As a dyed in the wool software enthusiast, I often feel a bit out of my element at trade shows like last week’s Enterprise Connect, where solutions come in rack unit increments and business value is measured in port densities. Over the past year, especially after show organizers dropped the VoiceCon moniker in favor of a less PBX-centric name, Enterprise Connect has shown signs of becoming a venue capable of reflecting the needs of enterprise customers both today and tomorrow. That is, an enterprise where collaboration and communication not only co-exist but also understand and directly drive business value. But as my compatriot IT Connection blogger, Jerry Caron, pointed out yesterday, most of the vendors exhibiting at Enterprise Connect have not yet heeded this memo.
Certainly vendors like Avaya, Aastra and Cisco are saying the right things, preaching collaboration as a broad, organizing principal. Avaya, for one, has revamped its go-to-market messaging first around “Collaboration” and most recently around “The Power of We,” all denoting the fact that enterprise customers recognize the transformative power typically trapped within each employee that is just waiting to be released by simply bringing those employees together with each other as well as with customers and partners. And yet as I met with these vendors and saw their wares on display, I was struck by the fact that despite tackling industry hot buttons like mobility, social networking and cloud, the solutions showcased by these vendors stayed within the confines of voice-centric use cases.
Does this mean that the industry formerly known as unified communications (UC) doesn’t get collaboration? I don’t think so. I think they understand how mobility impacts the solutions they understand (call center products, voice and video conferencing systems and the like), but from this vantage point they cannot see how those solutions might operate within the context of the enterprise “at large,” where solutions typically come from the cloud and where business value is measured by revenue gains (not solely by revenue saved). In other word, these vendors and by extension enterprise customers steeped in unified communications need a change of perspective.
What the conference and its attendees need is for vendors wholly unfamiliar with UC to play an active role on the exhibition floor, in keynote presentations and on panels. All it would take is for big guns like IBM to showcase Connections or Cisco to play up Quad to jumpstart things. More importantly, conference organizers should do whatever it takes to bring in pure play collaboration players such as Jive Software, Telligent, Socialtext, Moxie Software, Yammer and many others. These vendors are already actively seeking to mind meld with UC and have a firm foundation within non-UC use cases such as sales enablement, human resources and intranets. Interestingly, through accident or keen foresight, one such vendor, Wrike (itself a fish out of water), was invited to the conference having won one of four Innovation Showcase awards from Enterprise Connect. Perhaps real change is afoot.