Cloud, technology populism, video, and integrated solutions were in evidence throughout the show. Here is what I learned or conformed at Enterprise Connect 2012:
Cloud is happening. Buyer interest is and has been up, service providers are investing, and OEMs are enabling. At the show, SPs from 8x8 and M5 (now part of ShoreTel) to AT&T and Verizon were demoing capabilities. SIs, including well-known names from BlacBox to Presidio to HP, were talking about cloud too. Many OEM vendors did not discuss the channel implications made obvious by SI and SP discussion of cloud services — although NEC made ease of doing business for the channel one of the tenets of its cloud discussion. If I were a solution vendor, I would spend more time discussing where my solutions could be purchased and the role for my sales force, since buyers who attend Enterprise Connect in droves want to know where and how they can buy cloud solutions.
The real story here is consumerization or technology populism. Personal cloud services have enabled information workers to be a decision AND buying center for all types of communications and collaboration. Although we talk about smartphones and tablets in discussing technology populism, unified communications and fixed mobile convergence were the examples on display at this show. Buyers (including information workers and traditional technology managers) today need to know how to integrate Box, Google Docs, SalesForce, and other services into their business processes that depend on communications.
Last week, Forrester held its annual IT Forum in Las Vegas with the interesting theme, “The Business Technology Transformation: Making It Real.” Gathering together a group of IT professionals and vendors interested in how business leaders will insert themselves into technology decisions, it provided a perfect opportunity for me to discuss Technology Libertarianism – my shorthand for IT departments that take a hands off approach to technologies workers want to use to do their jobs. On the floor of the conference I talked to an IT professional at a large, national non-profit organization and two information workers from at a public corporation providing a popular software-as-a-service application.
The conversation with the IT professional centered on his organization’s need for standardization: they were making efforts to have a homogeneous computing environment for the purposes of having greater control. During our talk, we discussed the influence an end user could possibly have over applications and hardware. His thoughts? While the end users in his organization needed a standard set of applications, and they needed to control the desktop environment to ensure delivery of said applications, he could see the potential of not having to standardize smartphones. When I introduced the idea of virtual desktops to push applications or software-as-a-service, which would allow him not to have to standardize the desktop, he did concede those are interesting ideas. However, he needed to see more evidence that these could be effective solutions for his organization.