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Polycom Highlights Unifying Unified Communications at ITEXPO

September 15, 2011

Polycom Vice President of Product Marketing, John Antanaitis kicked of the second day of ITEXPO West in Austin, Texas with some important insights on how businesses can enable their employees to work more efficiently and effectively leveraging unified communications (UC) as enhanced by visualization and tighter integration with applications and business processes. At the same time, Polycom was introducing it new Polycom® RealPresence™ Platform universal video collaboration platform and the strategy aimed at using this platform and other tools to take UC to this next level, “Unifying unified communications,” to deliver on the vision and its promise.  

Antanaitis got right to it: “Collaboration has become mission critical.” He went on to cite several studies from noted research houses to demonstrate the point that improving collaboration is the proven path to increasing productivity and that integrating collaboration solutions with applications and business processes has become a business priority. In fact, the market for enhanced collaboration is moving fast. A recent study by Forrester Research found in the enterprises they surveyed:

  • 66 percent said they were already implementing or planning to do so
  • 28 percent sated they were interested but have no current plans
  • 6 percent stated they had no interest or did not know

And even that data may be a bit conservative. What jumps out is that awareness of the need to transform to improve collaboration is so high. The question that immediately comes to mind is, why?

The answer is that the pressures on IT departments big and small to cut costs, increase productivity and doing so while pleasing a customer set whose expectations are now driven by the utility they derive from their personal communications and computing tools has reached a boiling/tipping point. Inaction is not an alternative.

In short, as has been cited by almost every speaker at ITEXPO, cost and the phenomena of individual user experiences being driven by the tsunami of constant touch capabilities from the explosion in smartphones, tablets and purpose-built apps for these platforms has transformed enterprise communication. It is a revolution from the bottom up. It is, in many ways, out of IT control. And, the further “socialization” of enterprises, which will be heavily reliant on visualization in real-time, is not a question of if but when and under what policies and rules. The reality is, IT now needs to be proactive rather than reactive because, as cited below, the genie is out of the bottle and the relationship between IT, business leaders, the internal users they serve and the customers the enterprise serves have all been fundamentally altered and there is no turning back.

As a result, all of this pressure and the speed at which historic relationships are being disrupted are driving the concomitant increase in the need for tighter integration of communications and computing collaboration tools with business applications and processes as indicated above. The good news here for providers is the customers get it. In fact, in many ways the customers are driving the market and not the vendors. What has been holding things back is that, as the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” Despite all of the hype, the industry is actually playing catch-up.

Driving this from Polycom’s perspective is that video collaboration, for a variety of reasons (not the least of which is that real-time visualization provides a measurable improvement in knowledge transfer and retention and hence leads to faster and better decision making), holds the promise of exponential increases in business productivity gains. It therefore needs to be at the heart of this integration process as witnessed by where growth is being experience in enterprise networks.

As an exclamation point as to why video collaboration is emerging as the cornerstone of exploding UC deployments, a summary of the work of several research houses says it all:

  • Video Clients: Personal +340 percent, Enterprise +524 percent from 2010-201211
  • Information Workers: Video solutions growing from 15-50 percent by 201622
  • Teleworkers: 1 Billion+ in 2011; 75 percent of US workforce virtual in some capacity3
  • Mobile Tablets: 44M to 70M+ by 201234
  • Cloud Computing: 40B to 240B+ by 202045
  • YouTube: Video Streams +31 percent to 14.5B6

Source 1: Gartner – Market Trends: Videoconferencing Worldwide 2011 – April 2011 
Source 2: Forrester - Preparing for Uneven Corporate Adoption of Video Communications – May 2011 
Source 3: IDC – Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker – March 2011
Source 4: Forrester – Sizing the Cloud – April 2011
Source 5: NielsenWire – January 2011

And a 2011 Yankee Group study that directly speaks to what happens when video is a core component of an integrated and enhanced collaboration solution speaks volumes about measurable increases that lead to a higher and faster ROI:

  • Absorption increase:      40 percent
  • Learning improvement:   200 percent
  • Better meeting results:  73 percent
  • Better retention:            38 percent

Antanaitis stated that having traditional unified communications was a foundation for collaboration. However, in today’s fast-paced environments the real impact of new capabilities can only be realized by, “breaking down the barriers and unifying all of the partners in the ecosystem to maximize collaboration benefits.” He added, “you have to have the right network solution and the right partners because no one company is capable of supplying all of the pieces necessary to get it right for the customer.”

The last point gets to the meat of the matter. In fact, it is the reason, Antanaitis says, that Polycom is changing focus from its historic concentration on point solutions and looking more towards enriching them through integration. In fact, he raised similar point to those articulated in the Cisco and Siemens keynotes from the first day of ITEXPO. These were that going forward industry focus has to be on:

  • Enriching the customer experience. This includes things like: better and more nuanced content and context presentation and mediation, ease-of-use, consistent look and feel of applications across platforms, the addition of visualization, seamless handovers, the elimination of delays and ultimately technology transparency.
  • Making sure enterprises have the “right network.” This means the right physical and virtual resources, accessible in an agile and secure environment according to user defined and enforced policies and rules, and interoperability with internal and external capabilities of ecosystem partners and public Cloud resources as well.

The simple but powerful idea is that putting the right tools in the right hands at the right time can’t help but improve the bottom line.

Antanaitis addressed a question that is a significant part of the chatter of the event. How do you deploy?

He noted that so long as sight is not lost that this is about creating optimal results for customers who each have their own unique (financial, governance, compliance, security and even internal political) needs, an on-premises, private Cloud, public Cloud or hybrid solution will result in implementing the “right network.”

That said, he reiterated that this must be driven by a push to break down barriers and provide what I have characterized in the past is “frictionless” interoperability between disparate communities. This includes not just end user communities, but partners with specialization in different parts of the stack.

He gave an impassioned pitch for the efforts of the Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC). The goal of the group, comprised of leading solutions suppliers and network service providers is to:

Establish a global, standards-based, multi-network, multi-vendor exchange between members to deliver a consistent B2B experience and allowing each member to:

  • Deliver intercompany connectivity to accelerate the reach and value of customer investments in video and unified communication services and infrastructure
  • Contribute to fair and equitable standards, establish guidelines for exchange expansion, and create acceptable performance criteria for all consortium members
  • Preserve their investment in multiple technologies that bring differentiated value for industry commercialization efforts

The message to those in the audience was nicely stated in Antanaitis’ closing remarks. The industry needs ecosystems that “look at customer challenges holistically, and choose partners wisely.” The latter actually address two types of relationships, internal vendor ecosystem ones and the engagement of these ecosystems with customers.

The breakout sessions were given a lot of food for thought.    

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place NOW, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.

Peter Bernstein is a technology industry veteran, having worked in multiple capacities with several of the industry's biggest brands, including Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent, Telcordia, HP, Siemens, Nortel, France Telecom, and others, and having served on the Advisory Boards of 15 technology startups. To read more of Peter's work, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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