My 2016

by Dave Michels

Time for my annual look-back post. See previous Annual Reports here: 2015, 2014, 2013.

Through an enterprise comms lens 2016 was a pretty good year. The industry made some positive shifts in several new ways – more so than in the past few years. Here’s a few notes:

Workstream Messaging is building momentum faster than I expected. At least I think so – there’s no real data. Part of the problem is there’s no agreed name for what I’m describing. Zeus Kerravala and I initially coined it Workstream Communications and Collaboration (WCC), but that was a mouthful. I’ve since settled on Workstream Messaging and I think it’s the most meaningful term. Gartner finally dropped the moronic Team Collaboration label and seems to have settled on Workstream Collaboration (but can’t decide on Workstream or Work Stream). I can live with that term (and probably will have to). Nemertes is using Team Chat and Wainhouse is using Persistent Collaboration Space.annual-report

Whatever the term you prefer, it’s getting crowded. Slack is still the poster child, but that is fading fast. In 2016 several new enterprise oriented options appeared from Facebook, IBM, Microsoft, Avaya, ShoreTel, and Mitel (and more). Despite the plethora of options, the space is immature and highly misunderstood. The great thing about Microsoft Teams is it finally ended the “Skype4B does everything Slack does” point of view.

Slack accidentally discovered how to deliver what the UC industry has been selling for years.That’s the good news, the bad news for Slack is the UC industry (with its channels, installed base, and real-time know-how) is now selling it too.

Facebook: What’s Facebook doing in my annual report? It seems that the social network I try to ignore has Enterprise designs. Facebook seems determined to disrupt enterprise communications. Workplace by Facebook is just one example. The company had a busy year with several changes that could impact enterprise communications.

In April the company announced Group Video. Facebook Messenger now supports text, photos, videos, GIFs, stickers, emoji, documents, video messaging, phone calls, and more. The company is jealous of both SnapChat and WeChat.

Facebook is also (indirectly) becoming a network player with free and open networking technologies that directly challenge commercial incumbents such as Cisco and Juniper. In 2016 Facebook released the 6-Pack 40GB switch and the 100 GB optical version known as the Backpack. The 6-Pack combined with its Wedge 100 top-of-rack switches create a network fabric solution. These products use new custom designed chips.

Facebook turns over these designs to its Open Compute Project and also arranged for low-cost, mass production through Accton. Facebook is offering highly innovative data center networking technologies that are fast, cheap, and open. Facebook is also expanding into hosted cloud services and dark fiber networking services.

It’s becoming dangerous to think of Facebook as either just an advertising company or social network. There’s a lot more there including VR.

Internet of Things (IoT): 2016 is also the year that IoT got interesting to me. I did not fully appreciate IoT because so many aspects of it are obvious and incremental. For example, the connected thermostat. I installed mine in 2008 (could even control it from my Windows Mobile phone). I wasn’t impressed when Nest thought it invented the concept years later.

Connected toothbrushes and appliances don’t excite me either. Here’s the short version of that whole story: things that weren’t connected will be connected -big deal.Gadgets are fun, but they don’t hold my attention for long after the initial gee wow,

IoT is much more than gadgets and the bigger picture is fascinating. IoT really represents new business models, big data opportunities, connectivity challenges (power, ubiquity, reliability, security), and totally new platforms. While connecting and controlling various things is interesting, the big story is in how businesses adapt to the enormous amount of data these IoT devices will generate. It represents entirely new tools and ways in which businesses will make decisions and prioritize activities.

Most companies have little experience in managing and analyzing large volumes of data. At the Genesys conference Bosch demonstrated how it is using IoT within its dishwashers to improve customer interactions – that’s quite a leap from producing a plumbing-based appliance. Bosch turned to multiple partners to accomplish this – we are going to see this play-out thousands of times over the next few years.

With it will come new leaders, new names, and some terribly sad disasters.

It is exciting that IoT is the theme for this year’s Innovation Showcase at Enterprise Connect 2017.

Many of the established UC vendors are expanding into IoT. Cisco, Genband, Twilio, DiData, Genesys, Verizon – and so many more have IoT initiatives, products, and in some cases business units. Even more interesting is the fact that few of these offers compete with each other.

CPaaS: Another big story of 2016 was CPaaS. While that statement will make nine year old Twilio laugh, CPaaS is a relatively new concept for the incumbent communications vendors. I shared my opinion that Twilio’s IPO was a watershed moment in “The Biggest Event of 2016.”

Businesses are supposed to take care of their shareholders first, and Twilio’s valuation was a wake up call. It turns out that work anywhere, anytime, on any device may not be the best use of telecom technologies. Genband got this early – Cisco grabbed Tropo in 2015, and in 2016 we saw CPaaS plays emerge from Avaya, RingCentral, ShoreTel, and Vonage. The new gold rush is on. The combined (UC + CPaaS) value prop is still a bit fuzzy, but I’m confident it will become crystal clear.

Actually, that line above about “any where, anytime, and any device” reveals my increasing frustration with the UC industry. This may shock many, but “UC” bores me. I wrote The PBX is Back which suggests voice and PSTN are still critical, but the rest of the UC wrapper is fluff – often better via best of breed solutions. I’ve even advocated that the UC industry should kill off instant messaging. Every enterprise needs a strategy or strategies for voice, workstream messaging, comms APIs, and video which may or may not be a single vendor “UC” strategy.

Mobility: Mobility grew up. We are coming up on the iPhone’s 10th birthday. For years the UC industry embraced both the smartphone and “mobile-first.” “Invest in a new UC system so that you can use our new app.”  There was more marketing sizzle there than actual steak. In 2016 we saw Apple’s Callkit, T-Mobile’s Digits, and Verizon’s OneTalk. Google’s change in strategy, currently embodied in the Pixie, has potential to turn into something significant. Mobility is all that matters.

Consolidation: The last theme of 2016 that I will highlight here is increased M&A activity. We industry pundits love to talk about disruption, but it is mostly disruptive technologies not companies. Asterisk, SIP, WebRTC were all expected to tear down barriers to entry, but the competitive landscape is actually fewer – rather than a rise in competition we see a rise in consolidation.

There’s been a tremendous amount of mergers, acquisitions, and spin-offs.

Unify and ALE went to private equity. ShoreTel may follow suit. Avaya looks like it might break-up into several companies. Siris is expanding with its acquisitions that included Polycom and Mavenir.

There’s also a lot of acquisitions by existing players such as Genesys grabbing ININ. Vonage has made a series of acquisitions including Nexmo which may become a tail wagging the dog story. BroadSoft picked up Transera and Intellinote. NICE grabbed InContact, Avaya got TelAPI, Cisco is building momentum with Tropo, ShoreTel got Corvisa, and the list goes on.

The Year in Numbers

There was a lot of writing in 2016.

On NoJitter I wrote 34 posts, on UCStrategies I wrote 13 posts and participated in 14 podcasts. I wrote about 42 posts on TalkingPointz.

Also a big thanks to the many other contributors to TalkingPointz – especially regulars Colin, Sandra, and Sorell.

I also did three posts on SearchUnifiedCommunications and will start posting on NetworkWorld in January. I experimented with original content on LinkedIn and Facebook, but mostly just syndicate my other content to those sites.

I have no idea how many tweets I did in 2016, but will document here that I’m ending 2016 with 29,270 total tweets. This way I can report my total tweets for 2017 in a year from now. Twitter is my go-to social network, so I hope they figure out a business model.

I published about 6 whitepapers in 2016 and did 15 2Pagers on TalkingPointz.

The shows/conferences and events I attended in 2016 were:

    1. Unify AR event
    2. Avaya Executive Partner Forum
    3. Enterprise Connect
    4. Atos AR event
    5. Huawei Global Analyst Summit
    6. Genband Perspectives
    7. IoT World
    8. NEC Advantage
    9. ININ Interactions
    10. Cisco Live
    11. NFV and Carrier SDN Conference
    12. Microsoft Ignite
    13. Genesys G-Force
    14. Polycom PACE
    15. UC/BC Summit
    16. Mitel AR Event
    17. BroadSoft Connections
    18. ShoreTel One and AR Event

Various offices and headquarters I visited in 2016 include 8×8, Avaya, Cisco Oslo, Cisco Jasper, Intermedia, NEC, Nexmo, Pexip, RingCentral, Vidyo, and Zoom.

Regarding 2017

    1. For 2017 I plan to post more videos. i intended to last year, but my four year old PC just wasn’t up for it. 2017 begins with a new PC.Desktop computers are no longer instantly obsolete. Mobile phones are also seeing extended life cycles too – two years seems about right.
    2. I intend to cover more IoT topics in 2017 though I also said that last year.
    3. I ended 2016 heavier than when I started. 2017 will end differently!
    4. I also intend to focus more on channel issues. I plan to launch a UC channel advisory group soon.
    5. I have a love-hate relationship with contact centers. On one hand they are commonly the most sophisticated use of telecom technology in an enterprise – on the other hand they are mostly leveraged to create frustrating experiences. There is a big discrepancy between what the vendors sell and what the enterprise buys. There are several emerging technologies that will change the contact center including artificial intelligence, mobility, IoT, and augmented and virtual realities, I am trying to figure out how to cover more of the new interesting stuff without getting lulled to sleep with the existing stuff.
    6. I’m not big on predictions, but I do expect Avaya will generate a lot of news early in the year. I also expect to see more robust UC offers from the cellular companies.

That’s about it for 2016.

Happy new year and thanks for reading. I really value and appreciate your eyes and feedback.