November 1, 2014

Resist the Urge to Chase Technology: Define Business Objectives and Requirements First

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As we mentioned last week, Carousel will have a big presence at the Enterprise Connect Conference in Orlando next week, including a presentation by Ed Walbrook, our vice president of applications and collaborative solutions. We caught up with Walbrook to learn more about what he’ll be discussing; it’s thought-provoking stuff, to say the least.

He has been in the IT industry in various capacities for 30 years, so Walbrook has seen a lot of trends come and go. But he is somewhat uniquely qualified to talk about trends related to unified communications because he’s been involved in the IP voice technology on which many UC solutions are built literally since its inception, when he was with a startup (NBX, which was acquired by 3Com) that developed the first IP PBX.

Define Business Objectives and Requirements

So while Walbrook has seen his share of shiny new technology, the point of his talk will be that it’s dangerous to chase technology for technology’s sake. You’ve first got to define your business objectives and user requirements, then go from there.

“If you take it from the business case to the users to the technology investment, in that order, you can structure a reference architecture that may not have been in your crosshairs if you were just chasing technology,” he says.

One customer he visited, for example, was conducting trials of four different collaboration platforms, from four different vendors, without a clear vision of what it was trying to achieve. “It was like putting another layer of paint on a piece of furniture when you should’ve stripped it first,” Walbrook says. “Silos get taller as a result of efforts like that instead of getting flattened.”

Another IT executive complained that too many employees were bringing in iPads and connecting them to the company network. The devices were creating havoc and IT was going to figure out a way to keep them out, the executive said. But the executive couldn’t say what the devices were being used for. “It was like, build a moat and raise the gate,” Walbrook said. Had the executive taken the time to talk to his customers he may have found – as Carousel did – that users had legitimate reasons for using those iPads and that the devices could actually help drive business growth.

Creating More Open Solutions

Further complicating the UC landscape is the fact that there are so many vendors playing in the space. That means companies need to define an end-to-end architecture that can accommodate solutions from many vendors and adapt as requirements and products change over time.

Adhering to open standards such as SIP is one way to accomplish that. And beware of vendors who lure you in to a UC solution with promises of openness, only to revert to a predominantly proprietary suite once you get your foot in the door. While the single-vendor suite approach does give you the proverbial “one throat to choke,” it may be better to use a systems integrator to get the same effect. The integrator becomes the throat to choke but can likely put a solution together using less expensive components, and be your advocate with vendors. Customers can also choose the delivery option that best suits them, whether it’s an on-premise solution, a managed service or a cloud model, he notes.

Creating a flexible architecture is especially important given the increased rate of technology change. An IP PBX, for example, typically had a useful life of 5-7 years, towards the end of which the vendor would come knocking trying to sell the next iteration of the product. But the iPad 2 came out within about 12 months of the original iPad. Similarly, wireless LAN speeds are doubling or more about every 2.5 years. You can’t wait around for “episodic” change anymore; you need to be prepared for changes as they happen, Walbrook says.

Get A Free Expo Pass or 35% of a Conference Pass On Us

Walbrook will be presenting his talk, “Technology in Search of a Customer: Critical Factors to Consider for Your UC Strategy,” on Tuesday, March 27 at Enterprise Connect.  If you’d like to catch his session in person, we can help. Click on this banner and get the Carousel discount.  We can’t wait to see you at the show.  Stop by the booth and let’s talk!

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  1. [...] we discussed in our preview of the presentation, Wadbrook cautions against adopting any unified communications technology for its own sake. You [...]

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