My 2013

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2013 was a blur. Usually that’s a result of things happening too quickly. Not in this case, 2013 in terms of UC was a boring year with only a handful of dramas. I made it a blur by searching too hard for interesting things. I overcompensated.

As mobility and presence largely played-out, conversations returned to attempting to define UC (or UC&C). Innovation stalled, and even WebRTC got held-up in sub-committee. Sales slightly increased, but not as much as reorganizations did within the vendors.

I did see some truly amazing things, and met a lot of great people. I’m very optimistic about UcaaS, video technologies, and new approaches to leveraging software-based technologies. Despite rumors of its demise, UC is alive and well.

My 2013 Annual Report.

CONFERENCES

I attended 18 industry conferences in 2013 – too many.

  • VMware PEX

  • Channel Partners

  • CRM 2013

  • TeleSpan *

  • Enterprise Connect

  • Alcatel-Lucent Analyst Event

  • UC Summit *

  • Avaya IAUG

  • Aastra Analyst Event

  • Mitel BPC

  • Siemens/Unify Analyst Event

  • ITEXPO *

  • IDG IT RoadShow *

  • Digital Telecom Event *

  • Society of Telecom Consultants *

  • Cisco Collab Summit

  • BroadSoft Connections

  • NEC iExpo *

* speaking

Enterprise Connect is the biggest event of the year, and personally my busiest week. It is a very important event primarily for the conversations. UC Summit has the best food (and wine). Mitel’s event was good, partly because it coincided with another major event resulting with a self-filtered collection of engaged analysts. Very impressed with my first Cisco Summit, excellent executive exposure. NEC’s event was amazing.

I do not like travel, but can report that I managed to maintain my hard earned status that tells airline employees to (mostly) tolerate me on two airlines.

POSTS

In 2013,

Way too much (there will be a significant drop in 2014).

It feels like SIP, presence, and even mobility have played-out in terms of postable content – but customers remain confused (especially by BYOD).

Cloud is and will be bigger than most of the premises-based industry cares to admit. I’m also seeing a lot more interest in video communications and contact center than prior years, partly because price points are democratizing these technologies. UC is giving way to Collaboration, but really both terms are problematic.

SOCIAL

In 2013, @DaveMichels did 3,064 tweets. The vast majority being telecom related. @TalkingPointz did 2300 tweets – mostly automated.

That’s about it on social. I haven’t logged into Facebook in months, though the TalkingPointz page gets updated regularly. I created a personal Google+ account, but rarely use it. I do use LinkedIn as a directory fairly regularly, but rarely as a social network.

Social just about disappeared as a UC topic. Cisco retreated with Quad/WebEx Social. Yammer (Microsoft) and SocialCast (VMware) disappeared off my radar. IBM went from keynote to footnote in UC. Jive? Moxie? Not on my blog.

REVENUE

I often get asked how an independent analyst makes money. It’s complicated and shifts based on the projects I accept. A lot of it is unpaid. I typically am not paid when attending conferences, and TalkingPointz.com has no revenue.

My revenue comes in two categories: Private and Public. The public stuff includes media posts, speaking engagements, webinars, and white papers. I enjoy speaking. Though I avoid advocating or endorsing solutions.

The private part is analysis and consulting around technology areas, vendors, and products. The buyers are usually (top tier) analyst firms and vendors. I like working with analyst firms because it increases my influence and audience – sort of. It’s true, but no one knows it’s me. I ghost wrote about 25 analyst reports in 2013. I also do private work with vendors, typically providing custom research and assistance with product strategies, partnerships/alliances, and assistance with positioning.

Sometimes I call myself a Blogolyst, it’s cheeky but the best description of what I do. Analysts and press are traditionally very different creatures with minor overlap – but both require passion, industry knowledge, and the ability to craft a story.

REFLECTIONS

There’s a lot of interesting drama taking place.

  • Products are becoming services – even “regular” products. This has huge implications yet to play out. UCaaS will be huge, but I don’t think most of the current provider’s will benefit.

  • The commoditization of voice – no one buys a UC solution based on its voice capabilities. A point that Microsoft has driven home.

  • Established revenue models are crumbling – for all parties – vendors, providers, and channel partners. Software makers are under pressure to establish direct relationships for product management. Product margins are evaporating.

  • Just as hardware gave way to software, “features” are giving way to “applications” which are giving way to APIs and integrations

  • UC is on a collision course with document collaboration (Dropbox, Google Drive, SharePoint, Evernote, etc.).

  • Huge amounts of leadership changes in 2013. Since few were hired to keep things the way they are, I suspect 2014 will be very different.

The industry in a fascinating state. All this mumbo jumbo about transformation is real, but misplaced. It is less about how UC transforms customers, and more about how the industry is transforming itself.

RESOLUTIONS

I went too broad in 2013. I covered too much and didn’t go deep enough – too many events and too many posts. There are some fascinating stories out there as every firm, it seems, is redefining itself in a rapidly shifting industry.

In 2014, I plan to go deeper. That means focusing on specific sectors and vendors. I’m expecting big positive changes at Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, NEC, ShoreTel, and BroadSoft in 2014. Each of them have compelling roadmaps. I’m also very interested in video communications.

I’m torn on Lync.The subject matter is lucrative as an analyst (probably more so than any other UC subject). However, the product is consistently lagging (voice features, contact center, mobility, WebRTC, cloud and hybrid). It is expensive, relatively closed, and very complex. Its growth is a contradiction as Microsoft is frequently the laughing stock of tech (Windows 8, Azure, Nokia, Surface). However, its customers are fanatics and its take-up is staggering. I am determined to understand this disparity. I can say that Lync is not a subject that embraces objective neutrality.

I am also going to take a proper vacation in 2014.

Dave Michels