Unified Communications Featured Article

IntelliCom Analytics Shares Market Insight with TMC

January 23, 2009

IntelliCom Analytics, an innovative market research provider focusing on the Intelligent Business Communications market, is a company known for its extensive, in-depth investigative approach to uncovering industry trends.

Some of the key areas the company focuses on include services and solutions, user and business demand, go-to-market effectiveness, and industry transformation.
Frank Stinson, partner of IntelliCom Analytics, recently took some time to answer some questions posed by Technology Marketing Corporation President, Rich Tehrani regarding the economy, the “green” revolution, and his presentation on Unified Communications and collaboration at the upcoming ITEXPO East.
RT: What excites you most about our industry?
FS: In a relatively short period of time, enterprise communications has gone from being a static industry dominated by a fixed number of established players following similar approaches, to one that is a transforming on all levels.  Software-based alternatives to traditional proprietary packaging are bringing new competitors into this space and transforming the business models of existing providers looking to evolve their approach.  These delivery model shifts also provide key architectural enablers for Unified Communications and tighter integration with business applications – capabilities that have the potential to significantly elevate the value that communication solutions provide to customers.
RT: What areas do you wish you could devote more energy/attention/resources?
FS: Some of our peers invest a lot of time in blogging and other types of online social networking to promote themselves.  On the surface, this sounds like a good way to reach people that you might not otherwise.  But it entails a significant, ongoing commitment with benefits that are not easily quantified.
RT: What pain does your company take away for customers?
FS: There is a lot of noise and confusion out there in the market today because the value of communications is about to change so profoundly, and not everyone is on the same page.  Some vendors are utilizing terms like Unified Communications to position compelling new capabilities that they can provide to the customer today, while others are just trying to take advantage of the buzz to reposition existing IP Telephony solutions and/or buy time to fulfill their longer term roadmaps.  We provide an objective external perspective on which vendors are best positioned to deliver value to customers as this transformation unfolds.
RT: How did your company get to where it is and where is it headed?
FS: We were fortunate in having gotten started at a point in time a few years back when the industry was on the verge of major changes, like those mentioned in response to the first question, and have been able to build our whole approach around analyzing the implications.
RT: What does your dream mobile device look like?
FS: For me, a dream device would be more about how it functions than how it looks.  It should be small and light enough to fit comfortably in your pocket, so you don’t have to use an awkward holster.  If it utilizes a touch-screen, it should be a flip-top design to limit the potential of activating the device, and running down the battery, by bumping it into things.  But probably most importantly, if it includes new and advanced capabilities, they should be fully-developed and function reliably.  It seems to me that providers are currently treating general availability like an extended beta test.
RT: If you were forced to head Nokia, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, GM, Cisco, Nortel or the U.S… Which would you pick and why?
FS: President of the U.S. - You don’t get much grief for flying on the “corporate jet” or have to worry about antitrust suits or mandates from a czar or bankruptcy judge.
RT: Poof – you become President Obama’s top advisor on tech. What should he do to foster more technology use in the U.S. and abroad?
FS:  I would urge him to resist calls to further nationalize the banking and other industries, and emphasize the ongoing importance of the country’s free enterprise system as a key driver of technological innovation.  Limiting the potential rewards of those willing to take risks on promoting unproven technologies while also increasing the influence of political considerations into who does or does not gain access to capital does not seem like a credible way to extend leadership in this area to me.
RT: How has open-source changed our space and what more can it do for us?
FS: It is still early, but open-source seems to be gaining traction on opposite ends of a spectrum.  One the one hand, there are pre-packaged solutions that take advantage of very compelling pricing based on commodity hardware and devices.  On the other hand, some integrators and customers are utilizing it to develop highly customized capabilities.  For those in the former category, we are beginning to see packaged solutions with user-friendly clients and management interfaces.  And the current macroeconomic client certainly creates opportunities for low-cost alternatives to gain consideration from potential customers.
RT: When does Microsoft become a major force in communications?
FS:  They already are.  In this early stage of UC adoption, mindshare is as important as market share.  Microsoft may be a couple of years away from having truly competitive standalone call control capabilities in OCS, but their current emphasis on integration with existing voice platforms recognizes that many customers have significant investments in both Microsoft and their existing enterprise communications provider.  Microsoft would, of course, like to eventually own the full spectrum of capabilities from a software standpoint, but customers will ultimately decide whether a single, end-to-end provider makes sense.
RT: Apple? RIM, Nokia?
FS: Selling capabilities directly to the individual employee is going to become increasingly important in our industry given that the value of Unified Communications applies uniquely based on one’s job function and specific preferences with respect to how they interact with others.  While most voice platform providers are just starting to target their positioning to end users, the mobile device providers are well-established in doing so.
RT: What surprised you most about 2008?
FS: The extent of the collapse of the financial sector last October and how quickly that changed the general business climate certainly took a lot of people by surprise.
RT: Assuming we need it (and who couldn’t use some extra cash), what do we tell Congress to get a multibillion dollar US government communications bailout?
FS: This industry is currently undergoing significant business model shifts that have the potential to deliver substantially higher value to the customer beyond traditional voice applications.  Even prior to the downturn, it was clear that significant changes to the competitive landscape were in store for the next several years.  The vendors that have been the most forward-looking with respect to providing software-centric delivery alternatives and advanced UC integration seem to be reasonably well funded.  Propping up those with failing business models will just delay these capabilities from coming into the mainstream.
RT: Is the green movement dead now that oil is plummeting in cost?
FS: While this is more/less a religion for some, I think that most businesses will take a more pragmatic view – especially those that are fighting for survival in the current environment.  It really boils down to whether or not such efforts can produce compelling cost savings within a relatively short period of time.
RT: How do IP communications help in a recession?
FS: Companies that have undergone recent downsizing face significant challenges in continuing existing operations with a smaller workforce.  Unified Communications and Collaboration tools can help them increase the productivity of those that remain employed.  They may also help customers reduce travel costs by providing an alternative for some in-person meetings.  On the other end of the spectrum, customers with a relatively strong financial position may look at the downturn as an opportunity to make investments in areas that will provide them with a strategic advantage over their own competition once the recovery begins.
RT: You are speaking at ITEXPO which takes place Feb 2-4 2009 in Miami. Why do people need to hear what you say, live and in person?
FS: Unified Communications and Collaboration tools represent new capabilities that not only improve the productivity of individual employees and the efficiencies of existing business processes, but ultimately have the potential to transform the way organizations deploying them conduct business.  At the same time, the competitive landscape is being reordered based on emerging software-centric value models and new go-to-market approaches providing vendors with greater inroads to business users.  My session will present customer survey results jointly-developed by IntelliCom and TMC that provide current views on when, where, and how customers plan to deploy these emerging capabilities, and analysis of which vendors are best positioned to meet their evolving needs.
RT: Make some wild predictions about 2009/10.
FS: In some ways, the economy has not yet fully adjusted to the speed at which information is disseminated in an online, interconnected world, and the ease through which people can act directly on it – even if they do not always have the context to rationally interpret it.  We are currently experiencing the downside in that there seems to be a panic mentality on almost any piece of bad news.  But by the same token, people now have unprecedented access to new opportunities because they are less bounded by their geographic location.  The Unified Communications and Collaboration tools that we have been discussing are key contributors to this in that they enable people to be fully productive from virtually any location.  While some seem to think that we are in for an extended period of economic stagnation, I think that these dynamics will help drive a stronger recovery once the fundamentals stabilize.

Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world’s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.

Edited by Michelle Robart