You won’t see it until it is too late.
I’ve spent most of last week at Enterprise Connect 2015. It was my second time at Enterprise Connect and I enjoyed it immensely. I had little time for the ongoing sessions, and even getting to the show floor was challenging due to the many meetings I had – it made great use of my time.
I was invited to speak at the WebRTC conference-within-a-conference day. Last year, I talked about contact centers and CRMs. This year, I decided to talk about Unified Communications and Enterprise Messaging – or why I believe UC vendors are going to be challenged.
The vendors in the room and panelists throughout the day didn’t really like my opinion. The feedback I received later from some of the people who attended the session were very positive. Go figure.
My main concern is that Unified Communications is no longer a service. WebRTC made implementing the basis of UC so much easier, that we should all be treating UC capabilities today as a feature. Something you go and embed into some other service. This being the case, what’s the point in buying a feature when you can go buy a service?
Colin and Messaging
Before I begin, I’d like to share a few lines from a great post by Colin Berkshire I’ve read on TalkingPointz this week:
I’m hard-pressed to find anybody in Asia anymore who is not on WeChat. It’s used for sending text, voice, pictures, and now even for audio and video phone calls. Yes, I think this means it’s the new Unified Communications.
It’s too early for anybody to declare that this is definitively what’s happening. But I’ve never seen a service take off quite so widely and be used in business so much so quickly. We negotiate contracts through it, we send pictures of expense reports through it, we do all the stuff we used to do in an email through it.[…]
So I’m going to stick my neck out a little bit here and predict that the new Unified Communications looks like WeChat and other chatting services.
Read it. Colin looks at this from a consumer messaging service – I am looking at it from an enterprise messaging service. Both ways, Unified Communications as we know it today loses.
Me and my venture
To make my point at the conference, I gave the example of a recent venture I’ve been involved in with a few partners. How the whole operation of starting a company has this checklist of things you need to do – decide on a company name, design a logo and brand, open a legal entity, open a bank account, open a website, and open a Slack account.
Slack was the next thing to select after Google Apps (which brought us email and drive). The reason? Wanting to manage and sync better as a team.
As for Unified Communications, we’re oscillating at the moment between Talky.io and Skype, not really seeing any real value in picking or paying for one tool. We could have just used Google Hangouts, appear.in or Room from within Slack – all WebRTC services that have been integrated into Slack (either because Slack did the work or the vendors did it – who cares?) We chose not to. If Slack adds it in on their own, we might use it.
And there lies the threat to Unified Communications – I no longer care if and what I am using as long as it is integrated into my workflow, which is more and more being ruled by the Enterprise Messaging services – the ones I use to communicate asynchronously throughout the day.
Where do I see the main difference? Especially when compared to Cisco Spark, Unify and Skype for Business?
I missed Cisco’s keynote, but did look at the Cisco Spark YouTube video. I saw Unify and how it was pitched at their booth. I sat in Microsoft’s keynote.
All of these tools were focused on video (and voice) communications. On showing off work rooms, and groups and online collaboration. They took Enterprise Video Conferencing from 2010, and introduced to it a few aspects:
Reduced reliance on the on-premise, room system and hardware.
The end result is great, if you come from a Unified Communications background, but seriously lacking if you deal with enterprise messaging as it is used in 2015 or with project management tools.
I like how Slack define themselves on their homepage: Slack is a platform for team communication: everything in one place, instantly searchable, available wherever you go.
The bold marking of “instantly searchable” is my own doing. Cisco and Skype never mention this capability. It wasn’t front and center for them. Their systems are based around people as far as I could tell, which is a nice progress from designing enterprise software around the IT administrator. The missing part here is that I am not always searching for a person to communication with, but rather with a piece of information that got shared.
Unify had a search capability, but it seemed a bit cumbersome, with too many filters. It might be great. It just might be my own bias.
Slack excels exactly in the searchable. It searches not only in the conversations held on the system, but also inside the links that got shared. You shared a Google Doc? Uploaded a Word file? The contents get indexed and become searchable. My guess is that none of the Unified Communications vendors have even thought of that angle – too engrossed with the here and now of voice and video communications, the storage and retrieval part flew over their heads.
Which brings me back to my point:
- Adding voice and video? Easy now that we have WebRTC and a large number of vendors offering tools, services and platforms for developers.
- Changing a mindset and DNA from real time/UC to workflow/project management? Harder…
If you are interested in the session’s slides, you can find them here: