Enterprise Connect 2017 – IT Needs to Act Less Like Vader and More Like Yoda!

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• Enterprise Connect 2017 focused around three common themes: cloud, collaboration as-a-service (CPaaS) and team collaboration apps.

• IT needs to act as ambassadors for the users they support to counter the potential issues associated with shadow IT.

Despite being a predominantly technical event, Enterprise Connect 2017 saw vendors concentrating on more business focused messaging and the value that IT departments can offer to enterprises. As both a speaker and attendee at Orlando last week, three key themes stood out to me as a focus for organizations in 2017. Read more of this post

Google and Microsoft: Suite Spots for Team Collaboration Apps?

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• There will be a resurgence in the suite versus best-of-breed debate, as organizations look to simplify and rationalize their IT environments.

• A combined ‘best-of-suites’ approach is likely to dominate until vendors can eliminate redundant functionality and provide better integration within their single offering.

Recently, there have been some significant advances in the team collaboration space from Google and Microsoft. This burgeoning market has seen some early pioneers (e.g., Slack and Atlassian HipChat), garner considerable success; however, history oftentimes shows that latecomers grow to dominate markets and both Google and Microsoft have advantages that do not apply to the likes of these first movers. Google and Microsoft have significant customer bases, strategic partnerships, plus the combined assets of their respective G Suite and Office 365 services. Indeed, application and service integration is a key selection criteria for team collaboration apps and consequently, purchases are likely to be influenced by a customer’s preference for a specific office productivity suite vendor. Read more of this post

Question: What Is Watson Workspace?

T. Banting

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • IBM has much to do to ensure Watson Workspace is comparable to other competing services already established in the market prior to its mid-2017 release.
  • IBM’s unique differentiation is in the power of Watson Workspace Services APIs – utilized in Watson Workspace and made extensible to other platforms.

With IBM Connect 2017 (IBM’s conference dedicated to all things collaborative) at a close, I have some time to digest and share my reflections regarding Watson Workspace. Anchoring on the Watson brand (yes, that 2011 computer champion from Jeopardy!), Workspace is one of a long line of collaborative team apps made famous by market-making vendor Slack. Currently in private preview, Watson Workspace is far from a finished service; indeed, compared to many of its counterparts that offer real-time communication alongside collaboration (e.g., Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Rainbow, Cisco Spark, Slack, Unify Circuit, etc.), Watson Workspace could be dismissed as a rudimentary persistent chat service. However, IBM is leveraging its Watson might to differentiate through ‘cognitive’ computing (as opposed to the artificially intelligent bots offered by all too many vendors), while integrating with other companies such as Box, GENBAND, Cisco, Vidyo, Zoom and over 500 ecosystem partners exposed through IFTT, Workato and Sapho web automation services. Read more of this post

2017 – The Year of Integrated Communications and Re-platforming

T. Banting

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• 2017 is likely to see more innovation in the field of integrated communications (embedding click to collaborate functionality within business applications) which may incorporate Communications as-a-Platform (CPaaS).

• In order to support digital transformation initiatives, enterprises will be faced with a re-platforming choice – arguably this is likely to be a cloud-based team collaboration application.

Season greetings! It’s that time of the year where analysts start looking towards the year ahead and dust off their crystal ball to offer vendors and customers an insight into what’s to come. As we look at 2017, two key collaboration and communications trends emerge:

1. There is a move away from innovation in united communications (UC) and towards a new category of integrated communications.

This trend is triggered by the need for companies to squeeze additional productivity from their businesses and this is driving a need for integrated communications. This is not merely limited to providing click to collaborate features in office productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and Google G Suite), but also to home-grown applications and mobile apps. Consequently, this requires an extensive range of APIs for developers to leverage and potentially, a new platform: CPaaS. This has the potential to disrupt the traditional UC market considerably which has hitherto focused on the unification of numerous real-time modalities (voice, video, instant messaging and conferencing) into one client. CPaaS essentially allows developers to embed real-time communications functionality directly into business applications, circumventing the need for premises-based PBXs or UC servers.

Read more of this post

Platform, Person, Place: The Recipe for Productivity

T. Banting

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• Organizations should understand how employees work, what they need to do their job effectively, and where they need to work to ascertain what they need to be more productive.

• Organizations should only consider new collaboration and communications applications with the endorsement of their employees.

Many workplaces face daunting challenges today, including employee engagement, time management, and overwhelming workloads. And unfortunately, many vendors sell collaboration and communications technology as a panacea and not the business tool it really is. Communications and collaboration today is a combination of synchronous (i.e., communicating at the same time), and asynchronous tools; however, forcing people to use a tool that does not fit their personal preference inhibits their productivity. Some companies still try to force employees to adhere to standard platforms (e.g., email, unified communications, corporate intranet, etc.); however, consumer technology has made a strong presence in our everyday lives and subsequently, has made its way into businesses too – not only in terms of hardware preferences (e.g., smartphones and tablets), but also services. In an attempt to make themselves more productive employees are circumventing IT and embracing non-sanctioned applications (e.g. Skype, Facetime, HipChat, Slack, etc.), a phenomenon known as ‘shadow IT’. Read more of this post

Cisco Live! 2016: Partners, Bots and Spark, Oh My! – Cisco’s Yellow Brick Road to Magical Experiences

T. Banting

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • Cisco is partnering with IBM (enhancing e-mail social networking, collaborative team spaces, cognitive computing and analytics) to compete more effectively against competitors such as Microsoft.
  • Cisco’s partnership with Apple will bring native dialing through iOS release 10 and integrate the iPhone within the Cisco infrastructure, thus improving business communications.

In L. Frank Baum’s first book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy follows the yellow brick road toward the Emerald City, where everyone wears green-tinted eyeglasses to protect their eyes from the “brightness and glory” of the city. What it actually does is make everything appear green when the Emerald City is, in fact, “no more green than any other city.” At Cisco Live! 2016 in Las Vegas, Cisco’s vision for the future appears crystal clear and in little need of eyewear. Read more of this post

2016 Collaboration and Communications Forecast: Cloudy with Outbreaks of Hybrid?

T. Banting

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • Many enterprises are so hampered by traditional, inflexible IT models that they’re eager to jump into the cloud and start reaping the benefits.
  • Some customers still have security and privacy concerns, and will continue to err on the side of caution by favoring private cloud or on-premises deployments.

Having attended two large industry events this month, it is clear that public cloud services are top of mind for many customers and a trending topic for 2016. Indeed, both Enterprise Connect and Jive World abounded with customers adopting public cloud collaboration and communication services. Cloud adoption in 2016 seems more tangible compared to the hype of last year and the momentum is staggering. While customers believe the cloud offers lower total cost of ownership, productivity improvements and increased flexibility, I also discovered two other themes worth mentioning. Read more of this post

Jive Software: Repackaging, Repricing, and Imminent Resurgence?

T. Banting

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • Jive Software recognizes the collaboration market is particularly dynamic and has taken steps to realign and capitalize on that change; consequently, the vendor’s new packaged solutions address specific line-of-business issues and key verticals.
  • Demonstrating tangible business value to specific departments and verticals markets is expected to result in an easier sales cycle (and subsequent broader adoption) compared to the wholesale enterprise implementation of social collaboration platforms.

Last week during Jive Software’s FY 2015 Business Update, the vendor announced its end-of-year results and that it will focus on simplifying its packaging and promotion through 2016. While Jive’s full-year 2015 earnings showed improvement (10% year-on-year revenue growth of $195.8 million), the company anticipates a return to profitability by Q4 2016; indeed, the Business Update call highlighted to me that Jive Software recognizes the collaboration market is particularly dynamic and the company has taken steps to realign and capitalize on that change. While it has been common practice for organizations to start their adoption of social collaboration platforms with simple features and small intranet group deployments, Jive’s new packages address specific line-of-business issues and key verticals: namely, Jive for Healthcare Collaboration (capitalizing on the success the vendor has had with deployments at Trinity Health and MD Anderson to support care coordination and enhance clinical productivity), Jive for Employee Engagement (an internally focused solution based on Jive-n for HR departments), and Jive for Customer Engagement. Read more of this post

Jive’s WorkHub: Why a Social Collaboration Platform Is Different from an App

T. Banting

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • Jive’s WorkHub branding aligns well with the vendor’s strategy to allow businesses to connect, communicate and collaborate based on their unique needs and personal workstyle.
  • There needs to be a distinction drawn in the market between the pervasive and integrative nature of social collaboration platforms and lightweight enterprise team applications such as Slack.

Recently, Jive announced its WorkHub branding alongside new packaged solutions (Jive for Healthcare Collaboration, Jive for Employee Engagement and Jive for Customer Engagement) designed for vertical markets and use cases. Jive Software was, I believe, one of the first vendors to introduce us to the concept of hubs and the social intranet being central to collaboration within an organization. A successful social collaboration platform supports all areas of the business and all employees; however, Jive Software’s focus on new line-of-business segments (e.g., HR and marketing) is likely to cut through some of the broader and more historical concerns associated with adoption (e.g., behavioral change, cultural fit and changes to working practices) and clearly aims to provide specific solutions to broken business processes. Consequently, this is likely to accelerate Jive’s marketplace momentum and (once an initial use-case is secured) establish a beachhead for wider employee adoption. Read more of this post

Why Is IBM So Averse to Screaming About Verse and Other Innovations?

T. Banting

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • IBM has changed itself around from a product-focused company to one which is more asset-led through the application of its ‘design thinking’ approach.
  • However, IBM must ensure its differentiation gets heard above established and emerging competitors in the collaboration and communications marketplace.

Last week’s IBM Connect 2016 (IBM’s annual collaboration conference) was somewhat of a revelation for me. What stood out for me was how IBM has changed itself from a company that was more product-focused to one which is more asset-led. Asset-led companies tend to make decisions based on the needs of the user and the assets of the solution. The perfect situation is, of course, for a business to relate customer needs to the business’s own strengths. This, then, is where IBM’s design thinking approach to solution development is key to success. Read more of this post