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.