My 2017

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Time for my the annual report. See previous Annual Reports here: 2016,  2015, 2014, 2013.

Through an enterprise comms lens 2017 was a year of transition, though that may be the new normal.

A Few Posts in 2017

Quipz

2017 is the year that I formalized my research and newsletter into a subscription. I launched Quipz in September, and I’m pleased with the feedback and results. It’s odd for me to have so much of my content and opinion behind a paywall, but goddammit I’ve earned it.

If you haven’t subscribed, consider it. There is no better way to stay current.

The introductory price will soon disappear.

Conference Recap

In 2017 I attended 19 conferences. Here they are (in calendar order), with a short takeaway from each event.

  1. Cisco Launch: Collaboration=meetings, meetings=hardware. All-in-1.
  2. ALE Connex: Somewhere, over the Rainbow, a vertical can be improved.
  3. Avaya Engage: Chapter 11? Who us?
  4. NEC Summit: UC is just a small component of the Smart Enterprise.
  5. Atos AR: Unify (and Atos) has 100k employees driving digital transformation.
  6. DiData: Global-Cycles, life-Cycles, tech Cycles, and Rhinos.
  7. Enterprise Connect: Watch out for food poisoning.
  8. CenturyLink: A business is only as strong as its connections.
  9. IoT World: Everything, including the compelling and the boring, will be connected.
  10. CX17: The new Pure, omni Genesys: G9, new portfolio, new Logo, and Kate.
  11. Mitel Elite: Change everything, and use CloudLink on whatever’s left.
  12. Cisco Live: All things are made better with the new DNA (and Kinetic)
  13. Genband Perspectives: The future of the new company is Kandy (Ribbon)
  14. Microsoft Ignite: Unified to Universal to Intelligent Communications via Teams
  15. BC Summit: CPaaS, Dis-aggregation, AI, and soggy fries — not voice.
  16. GITEX: Avaya International was not in Chapter 11.
  17. BroadSoft Connections: Things are looking good. Team-One, HCS, and Polycom excluded.
  18. RingCentral Connect: Glib about Glip.
  19. Vidyo TeleHealth Summit: The Doctor will see you now.

Overall, I feel the industry is struggling to find growth, but consolidation and transformation can be rewarding.

Thoughts on 2017

Huge changes to the vendor landscape

Both Toshiba and ShoreTel were swallowed by Mitel, Cisco snagged BroadSoft. Genband and Sonus became Ribbon, CenturyLink merged with Level 3, and AT&T is trying to grab Time Warner.

It wasn’t just M&A activities either. There was also the rebirth of Avaya, and there were some big moves toward cloud from Genesys and Vidyo. IBM finally divested itself of Sameroom, and Microsoft made the mother of all pivots by moving SfB Online to Teams.

I still don’t know what to make of either Amazon or Google. Amazon continues to launch new business services — the most recent being SSO. Google keeps making noise about enterprise focus — the most recent being its new alliance with Salesforce. However, neither company shares its vision or roadmap.

New entrants are also a factor in the changing landscape — though not necessarily new companies. It was in 2017 that both Facebook and Slack agreed to keynote at Enterprise Connect 2018. There’s no shortage of companies that provide business “collaboration.” Some are established, some are pivots and some are brand new. Companies such as Atlassian, Shelf, HelloSign, Zoom, Nimble, and many more all tout enterprise collaboration.

Simultaneous Transitions

The enterprise communications vendors are positioning their portfolios and messaging around two simultaneous transitions. The first is the transition from products to services. This is the cloud trope, but also includes managed services, opex, and outsourcing angles. Every vendor in the industry has something to say on these topics.

The other big transition is from real-time-centric products to messaging-centric services. For the past 50 or so years, voice has been the center of enterprise comms and its tentacles included handsets, contact centers, voicemail, call recording, audio conferencing, call accounting, etc. Even the smartphone was borne out of the phone.

The smartphone, the Internet, and VoIP have reduced the importance of telephony. Messaging has become a preferred means of interaction. SMS morphed into messaging suites, and messaging suites now include content (uploaded and via APIs), video and (here’s the funny part) voice. Messaging as a bolt-on isn’t the same a messaging-centric. About 80 percent of the UC vendors now have a messaging-angle with varying degrees of commitment.  

The cloud-stuff is more evolution, and the messaging-stuff is more disruptive. Before you get to riled up over that, let me point out that there’s a very fuzzy line between evolution and disruption. People think disruption changes everything quickly, but realistically disruption is a very slow.

The vast majority of enterprise employees I talk to have no idea what Slack (Spark, or Teams, etc.) even is. One manager at a government office told me that they have Cisco Spark, but he wasn’t sure what or when to use it. Don’t confuse what the vendors talk about (and even bundle) with what customers actually use.

Plans for 2018

A year ago, I decided Enterprise Comms was getting boring and IoT might prove to be something interesting. Oops.

First, Enterprise Comms is on fire. UC is troubled, but that’s just one aspect of enterprise comms. The reality is we have never seen more comms (or confusion) at work. Certainly workstream collaboration is getting some action, there’s lots of drama in contact centers, video is finally being embraced, CPaaS is just getting into its stride, and ground zero for all of this is meetings.

The modern meeting is central to everything – prem and cloud, hardware and software, local and global, audio plus visual plus whiteboard plus text, fixed and mobile, proprietary and open, and so on. The vendor that claims ownership of the meeting wins collaboration. It was Siemens Enterprise Group that pushed “change the way we work” back in 2013. That was right on the nose. What collaboration means is expanding significantly, and bringing with it new possibilities along with new vendors, threats, and confusion.

Because UC has become boring, we are paying too much attention to side-shows that have little chance of materially impacting the way we work. I am talking about AI, AR, VR, and whatever else is coming on the newest smartphone apps. Despite its lack of sizzle, voice and PSTN remain critical to most organizations. That includes mobile solutions as well as messaging-centric solutions that support voice. Joan Rivers had it right with “Can we talk?” 

We are something like 15 years into the death of the telephone. It will die, but not in 2018.

Meanwhile IoT is a frickn’ disaster. My feeling is the term “IoT” hit its peak in 2017. There are tons of opportunities to reinvent products, and trillions of devices will be connected, but it’s everywhere and everything. It’s industrial jet engines, toys, T-stats, sex toys, speakers, fitness, cars, appliances and everything else. The conversation needs to be sector specific, and my attention span won’t allow that kind of focus.

On a personal note, I am finding myself intrigued by crypto currencies. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be much overlap with enterprise comms (though I’ve found a few blockchain powered messaging apps). I think cryptocurrencies represent a fundamental revolution/transformation as big or bigger in implication than the Internet.

I am not confident that bitcoin (BTC) will continue as the crypto champ. Other cryptos that have my interest are BCC, XRP, and ZEC.

Happy New Year

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

Dave Michels