Peter Drucker on UC

by Dave Michels

If you are not familiar with Peter Drucker, he was an Austrian-born American management consultant, educator, and author, whose writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of modern business. He was also a leader in the development of management education, he invented MBOs as a concept, and is generally known as “the founder of modern management”.

He taught business at MIT for decades and was known for his Yogi Berra style of obvious observations. In 1969 he wrote the Effective Executive that had four habits of productive people. All them remain valid today, and coincedentally were four of the seven in the pop book/series Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Below are a few of his greatest and most iconic quotes. I’ve taken the liberty to apply them to the current UC industry.

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”

Telecom is an industry with a lot of something old. Modern telecommunications has roots that are over 100 years old, and the industry is filled with anachronisms. This includes the technology itself, the colloquialisms “I will ring you later” and behaviors such as avoiding calling because of per minute charges (was long distance, now it’s cell minutes) or the obligation to have a toll-free number.

It’s hard to break old habits, especially when they were best practices just a short time ago. Now it’s time to rethink several items, for example:

  • Hard phones
  • Decentralized communications infrastructure
  • Conference rooms
  • Narrow-band communications
  • Purchasing any CapEx (even on-prem gear can now easily be rented)
  • Corporate owned mobile phones
  • Dedicated communications apps
  • Phone numbers

“There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all.”

This is how I feel about audio conferencing.

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”

There are two elements to this. The first is visual communications – which is why we communicate so much better in person or with video than we do via email, text, or audio. I think we should all be using video communications much more. The second element involves active listening. Many people speak in code. The most impactful statements are the most encoded. Never assume a company (or analyst) means what it says. For example, did Mitel really intend to acquire ShoreTel last week?

Kind of reminds me of  Yogi’s “”You can observe a lot by watching.”

“Doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing right”

This one can be paraphrased as ‘Ready, Fire, Aim.’

This is how I feel about Unify’s new Circuit product/service. I absolutely think this is the right direction, and it separates Unify from the UC pack (Avaya, Mitel, NEC, ShoreTel) with a social element. However, I don’t think Unify (yet) nailed the go-to-market. Hopefully they will figure this out and Circuit won’t end up on the same list as Google Wave.

“What gets measured gets improved.”

We are still very early in this transition, but UC analytics will become critical to long term success for both vendors and customers. For the past decade we have thrown UC at users and expected miracles with mixed results. It’s becoming clear that detailed analytics are required to drive consumption.

Vendors will utilize analytics to improve their products – for example, which features are never used and why? What functionality or operation is searched the most in Help and why? Administrators will also use analytics to drive consumption – who never uses IM or video? Who never answers their phone? Who takes the longest to hear a voicemail?

In the next few years expect to see radical new service models where providers charge by feature usage or actual results rather than flat rate per user per month. “Don’t think you need a phone system – take this ‘coin-operated’ solution for free.” This will prove to be very profitable.

“Meetings are by definition a concession to a deficient organization. For one either meets or one works. One cannot do both at the same time.”

Unfortunately this is still true, and to some degree meetings are reasonable. We can’t expect people to be on the same page unless we communicate matters. It’s called overhead. It won’t go away, but can be reduced.

The good news that meetings are becoming the way we work – it’s called collaboration. I see this in a lot of ways – video, virtual whiteboards, screen sharing – but I also think it is going to get a lot better. I was in a meeting recently where we first worked on a Word Doc with screen sharing. It was productive, but painful too.

We were all acting like backseat drivers telling the presenter where to move the cursor and how to change the document. We then switched to a different topic and document and this one was in Google Docs. Instead of screen-sharing, we simultaneously contributed. It went very quickly and the experience was notably more productive. Meetings can be the productive part of the day, but only if we all can indeed be productive in the particular medium.

“The most effective way to manage change is to create it.”

Good luck ignoring WebRTC and Chrome.