UC Summit — A Vendor’s Perspective

I attended the UC Summit held earlier this week in San Diego and offer up in this post my perspective on the event.

My overall impression of the event is certainly a thumbs-up. Jim Burton and the UC Strategies team did a nice job assembling industry experts and a good-size group of┬áresellers and consultants. The event had a vendor area of 12-15 UC vendors, of which Interactive Intelligence was one. The panel discussion hit on relevant topics such as building the business case for UC; the evolution of the channel; the facts and current state of the UC industry; identifying the profitable part of the UC mix; the impact of cloud computing; and a handful of others. The location was great (how can San Diego be bad unless you have to pay housing prices) and the small setting really promoted an atmosphere of cooperation and business relationship building (notice that I didn’t use that over-used word "networking").

So what did I see and hear at the dinners, lunches, and in the hall ways? It was really a mix of a portion of consultants and resellers who have cracked the code, figured it out, and are making money in the UC space. These folks are all mixed in with the other half of the group who smell opportunity, but are still trying to figure out how to take advantage of it. Some specific takeaways for me, either as new ideas or confirmations of old ideas:

  1. For a reseller to think that their old legacy PBX vendor is going to help them make the transition to┬áthe new world of VoIP, presence, advanced applications, and remote and mobile solutions just isn’t going to happen. How can the legacy vendor help the reseller make the transition when they are struggling to make it themselves?
  2. The role of the consultant is more important than ever. Buying decisions today are more complex. There are more unknowns. Vendor selection in an all-in-one world is serious business. For a customer to use a good consultant to help them navigate it all makes a ton of sense.
  3. Some resellers just aren’t going to make the transition. They have huge installed bases. They’ve been in business for thirty years. They are just hoping that they can stay afloat until retirement.
  4. Some resellers are going to make it. I was impressed with some of the forward thinking of some of the resellers I met. They get it. They are adapting, ditching their legacy products, and moving to new solutions that take advantage of next gen communications.
  5. UC is still misunderstood and misused. That said, it doesn’t matter. Customers still have problems that need to be solved. A pragmatic approach to the problems, applying the right solution and product, and it doesn’t really matter what you call it.
  6. The real ROI for UC lies in the automation of business processes. We’ve been beating this drum for four years. It’s true and the market (and industry experts) are realizing it too.
  7. Keynotes are made for big companies — but they shouldn’t be. The UC Summit had the same cast of companies keynoting — Avaya, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft. Seems to make sense, right? Not if it is the same story that’s been told at every other communication event or tradeshow. Their stories haven’t changed. They aren’t saying anything new. The audience should hear something new and innovative, or it is a waste of time, no matter what their sponsorship level is or how many employees they have. Okay, I’m getting off the soapbox now.
  8. There was certainly a high level of excitement and energy at the event. Far different than the fear that clouded things a couple years ago. A lot of optimism. Good to see.

Ultimately, this channel event brought me back to the early 90’s when I was working at helping the Novell data channel make the transition to the then new world of CTI (with some of the same industry people like Jim Burton and Pam Avila). The difference is that back then, there was huge interest, and no success. Now there is huge interest, and plenty of channel success stories. As an industry, we’re making progress!

Did you attend the UC Summit event? Please comment on your experience.

Joe Staples — So glad it’s baseball season again.

6 comments to UC Summit — A Vendor’s Perspective

  • Joe – I agree with all of your observations – they’re spot on! About the keynotes…the challenge is getting the attention of executives invited to the Summit, and they seem to respond to the "big names", even tho’ they don’t want to hear a repetitive message. And other vendors won’t come unless the "big names" are there. What to do? I heard versions of your comment from others as well. Too bad more of the keynotes couldn’t have been better directed to this particular audience, since it IS an important one!
  • Ismael
    …"Customers still have problems that need to be solved. A pragmatic approach to the problems, applying the right solution and product, and it doesn’t really matter what you call it."…

    In my opinion, this is the greates point you made, Joe.
    Don’t get me wrong, we agree in that creating buzz and certain degree of smoke selling is necessary in every business in the world. It helps to have market attention and get customers knocking your door interested in "the last thing" all the people is talking about.
    But, when you get to have the customer face to face, buzz and hype only simply don’t work. You need to understand their pragamatic needs and pains, propose an affordable and effective solution and most importantly, earn customer trust with plain facts, not showy promises.

    Seems really trivial, but somehow we tend to forget this too oftenly.

  • kannan
    Hi Joe,

    Its good to hear that UC is really shaping up well. I am trying to contribute something to UC.


  • Ismael, you picked up on the most important point of the post. It’s interesting how vendors can still spend time tweaking terminology, claiming that they did UC first back in 1992, etc. — The customer really doesn’t care, does he? Instead, the customer has a problem or need. He/she is looking for a vendor who will listen, who understands the problem, and then who can provide a good solution at a reasonable price point. It isn’t that complicated. Thanks to all for your comments.
  • Great comments. The one item I pick up on is while the "keynote" itself may not be the big winner, the fact that the comanies involved also provide the draw, the reason a bigco would bring the small army to support the event, the hospitality suites for more conversations…you get the point. It’s the full suite of value they bring. Now with that said, they need a little education that the UC Summit is not the typical function so the Keynote should be designed for the audience as well as the focus groups. In some cases it was the unfocused group since the vendor missed thet target of having a conversation and feedback verses presenting at us. at the end of the day ot was far better than most conferences and we just need to educate vendors on how we the attendees wants to recieve the information.

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