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

At IBM the Future of Collaboration Isn’t Rosy. It’s Pink!

B. Shimmin

B. Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

• IBM has a problem. How can it present a viable alternative to the Microsoft collaboration juggernaut that is Office 365 while simultaneously bringing its still sizable IBM Connections customer base forward?

• The answer, apparently, is to turn pink. After Connections 6 rolls out, IBM will completely reinvent its collaboration platform, quite literally throwing aside internal obligations, existing software investments and technical dependencies.

Usually I find it hard to take a man dressed in a pink linen pink suite seriously. That’s especially true if the man is standing in front of a huge PowerPoint slide adorned with an animated, dancing puffer fish. So, when I sat down this week at the IBM Connect 2017 conference in San Francisco to listen in on a session by IBM’s Baan Slavens and Jason Roy Gary on the future of IBM Connections, I was prepared for disappointment. Rather, I was prepared for “yet another” grand but ultimately unachievable view of how collaboration might be, if only IBM were free from corporate obligations, past engineering investments and technological dependencies. I was entirely mistaken. 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

Collaboration Trends for 2017: What Enterprises Should be Looking for

G. Barton

G. Barton

Summary Bullets:

• In 2017, enterprises should expect more integration between UC platforms and applications and services such as CRM, Salesforce, and workflow tools.

• Enterprises should begin to talk to ICT providers about their plans to deliver RCS-enabled collaboration services.

In many ways, 2016 has been a quiet year for unified communications and collaboration services. Although Broadsoft has made good progress in becoming the most popular vendor in the SME sector, Microsoft and Cisco remain the dominant market forces. Mitel deserves an honourable mention and remains a keen competitor, whilst Avaya’s struggle to make progress in the hosted UCC space, despite its contact centre strengths, has contributed significantly to its present challenging situation. Google enjoyed a positive 2016. Its market penetration remains modest, but publicised case studies of Google-based collaboration solutions are becoming more common, particularly in the public sector in geographies such as the UK. The newly branded G-Suite offers a genuine alternative to Microsoft Office 365. Although Google’s proposition must still sit alongside a hosted voice and UC solution from another vendor, its collaboration features make it an option that should be considered by all enterprises. Read more of this post

Establishing a Zero Outage Standard is About Technology, People and Processes

C. Drake

C. Drake

Summary Bullets:

• A new initiative, spearheaded by 11 major IT companies, aims to establish industry-wide standards that enable zero outage and the continuous operation of IT systems.

• To succeed this initiative must include the wider industry, and should address the interaction between technology, people and processes as a source of IT systems failure.

On November 4th, a group of 11 major IT firms announced the formation of the “Zero Outage Industry Standard” association. Established in London by founding members Brocade (now being acquired by Broadcom), Cisco, Dell EMC, Fortinet, Hitachi Data Systems, HPE, Jupiter Networks, NetApp, SAP, SUSE and T-Systems, the association aims to kick-start discussions that it hopes will lead to new industry-wide standards that enable the continuous operation of IT systems. 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

Accessing the Digital Economy: It’s About Bandwidth and Applications

G. Barton

G. Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • The economy is moving online and failure to respond is likely to lose enterprises business.
  • SMEs are likely to be the least well prepared to take advantage of the digital economy, but the transition can be relatively straightforward.

Much attention has been given in the UK over the last six months to the provisioning (or lack thereof) of broadband services.  Much of the criticism that has been levelled at Openreach, and by association BT, has related to concerns about the perceived lack of progress in rolling out superfast and ultrafast broadband services.  The UK government has now also dropped its commitment to the provision of universal broadband access.  This in itself is something that businesses, especially those in rural areas, should seek to have their say on. Read more of this post