- In determining long term plans for communications and collaboration services, enterprises must not only consider corporate requirements, but also understand how stakeholders want to work.
- Cloud and mobility are the linchpins of enterprise communications going forward, but providers must be prepared to support on-premise infrastructure and applications that are already in place.
BroadSoft held its Connections event a couple of weeks ago, under the theme “Defining the Future.” During the event, there was a panel about The Future of Work that yielded some interesting perspectives from enterprises regarding the shift to new communications models. The companies were from the hospitality, healthcare, and education verticals, and while all agreed on the need for cloud and mobility, there were different perspectives on how to get to the next level, and some of the challenges they faced.
For a number of years now, we have heard the marketing mantra that everything is moving to the cloud. This perception was reinforced by panelists, all of whom noted a cloud-first approach to technology migration, with mobility a key element of those solutions. Enterprises are increasingly finding that there is little value to owning assets such as a PBX if they can obtain feature flexibility and technology refresh, and perhaps even more important, the reliability and uptime they require through a cloud-based solution. However, mobility and cloud are not absolutes. As a couple of executives noted, there are some areas where they still feel that wireline services are needed, and some companies require support for a mix of hosted and on-premise solutions. Enterprises may have assets that are not fully depreciated, and owners want to fully sweat those assets before moving to a new model. In addition, hotels continue to offer in room phones, if for nothing else, to support reliable E911 calls. Further, while enterprises may be working towards a long term cloud strategy, there are some infrastructure elements that they prefer to keep on premise, at least for the near term, while other elements move to the cloud, and enterprises want their provider to support this model.
Not surprisingly, a generational divide exists in stakeholder communications preferences. An executive from the Marriott hotel chain noted that while the company had a cloud-first vision and saw a huge opportunity in the shift from CapEx to OpEx, some of its franchise properties are operated by older people that “don’t get” the benefits of cloud and are more comfortable with on-premise solutions. Executives from higher education institutions emphasized cloud and mobility: the executive from University of Michigan highlighted their campus-wide WiFi deployment, noting that although they make landlines available to students, not a single student accepted one. The executive from NY Hall of Science made a similar comment, indicating that WiFi is critical to every aspect of their business, but they also need to address the fact that older and younger employees work in different ways, with “traditional” voice more important to senior staff, while younger workers and students use a wider array of collaboration tools. In the near term, enterprises can work with those staff that are resistant to moving to new models through training so they are more comfortable with these services. But the situation will resolve itself over time through attrition as older workers retire and employees that have grown up with technology take their place.
Looking ahead five years, the recurring messages were that enterprises want to deal with fewer providers, but several executives noted that providers need to remember that there is not a “one size fits all.” Sometimes legacy infrastructure must be accommodated alongside hosted services. Voice over WiFi was considered a key technology by panelists, although the idea of eliminating desk phones was mixed, with some panelists indicating a dim future for physical handsets while others indicating that a need would remain at least in some parts of their company for the foreseeable future. And finally, customer support is tantamount. Regardless of the solution a provider brings to bear, they can quickly tarnish their reputation, and the relationship, by not listening to, and responding to, customer needs.