I attended Cisco’s annual Collaboration Summit in the US two weeks ago and would like to share my three key takeaways from the event with you. Cisco told the audience that it’s going to:
Focus on mobility. Cisco announced the launch of several new products that support its “mobile first” strategy and aim to reduce the complexity and effort required to securely connect a remote user to the corporate network. The products that the company unveiled include:
Intelligent Proximity: a mobility solution for connecting corporate communications equipment with mobile devices. The solution will automatically connect a company’s videoconferencing equipment with users’ smartphones whenever the two come in close proximity, providing users with a host of multimedia collaboration capabilities.
Expressway: a network edge gateway that recognizes and automatically authenticates external connections with Cisco devices and applications without the need for a VPN or device registration.
According to Forrester’s Forrsights Combined Budgets and Business Decision-Makers Survey, Q4 2012, 61% of Asia Pacific (AP) organizations are currently using or actively planning to implement software-as-a-service (SaaS) for collaboration, which puts AP adoption ahead of both North America and Europe (see the figure below). I believe that the increased rate of adoption of cloud-based collaboration services is mainly due to three key factors:
The consumerization of IT, changing social behaviors, and AP end user communication preferences are compelling organizations to consider deploying enterprise collaboration solutions. To this end, cloud collaboration services are gaining traction among organizations seeking to extend collaboration capabilities to their employees, while also minimizing the costs associated with both hardware and operational expenditures.
The easy provisioning and simplified maintenance of cloud-based collaboration services allows organizations to quickly operationalize new sites and individual accounts with minimal IT effort.
The strong focus from service providers like Orange Business Services and Verizon Business in building and strengthening their regional capabilities in cloud collaboration services is leading to an abundance of service options for customers that are competitively priced and packaged to align with their requirements.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Google+ are fast becoming a big topic for business. Consumers are embracing these communication and collaboration channels for more than just sharing holiday memories. According to software provider Invesp, one-third of workers use social media at work for at least an hour a day. Most of us also expect to use these collaboration channels increasingly in our work environments to improve the information flow.
We want to communicate at work as we are used to communicating when off work – with or without the consent of our employers. Today, however, Invesp data shows that less than 20% of companies have integrated social media with their customer care, sales or product development. Moreover, communication culture is part of business culture and work flexibility and as such impacts any business’ endeavor to attract and retain creative talent. Data by office solutions vendor Intelligent Office, indicates that 25% of people say they would not work for a company that does not allow social media at work.
For IT and business leaders, these social dynamics bring their own opportunities and challenges, as social media communication:
Provides an innovative and attractively priced communication infrastructure.Top management and business line managers alike increasingly recognize that social media forms a fundamental channel for informal communications. Social media offers cost effective collaboration and communication channels.
In mid-July, my colleagues and I attended Orange’s annual analyst event in Paris. There were no major announcements, but we made several observations:
ORANGE is one of the few carriers with true delivery capabilities. Its global footprint is a real advantage vis-a-vis carrier competitors, in particular in Africa and Asia. At the recent event, Vale, the Brazilian metals and mining corporation, presented a customer case study in which Vale emphasized the importance of ORANGE’s global network infrastructure for its decision to go with ORANGE as UCC and network provider. ORANGE’s global reach positions it well to address the opportunity in emerging markets, both for Western MNCs going into these markets and also to address intra-regional business in Africa and Asia. Another customer case study with the Chinese online retailer 360buy, focusing on a contact center solution, demonstrated ORANGE’s ability to win against local competitors in Asia.
Henry Dewing with Dan Bieler, Katyayan Gupta, Tirthankar Sen, and Bryan Wang
Buldings on Huawei's Headquarters Campus in Shenzen, China
Huawei continues its drive for more financial openness and transparency. In an effort to shed the image of a secretive non-listed company, Huawei provided detailed information about its financial and operational performance. In 2011 Huawei grew revenues by 12% to reach US$32.4bn and EBIT by 9% to US$3bn. The main regional growth was registered in Latin America, while a 9% cash margin was the result of their investment levels – particularly in the enterprise space. These financial figures paint the picture of a company that is still enjoying strong growth and sufficient free cash-flow to fund its expansion and innovation.
Vodafone agreed to acquire Cable & Wireless Worldwide (CWW) for 1.04 billion pounds in cash, valuing CWW at three times EBITDA. The deal propels Vodafone to the second largest telco in the UK with revenues of GBP6.97 billion, behind BT with revenues of GBP15.6 billion. From a financial perspective, the deal has a limited impact, accounting for only 3% of Vodafone’s 2011 EBITDA. However, given BT’s lack of a mobile division, Vodafone, becomes the leading integrated telco in the UK, offering fixed and mobile operations. The deal is expected to complete in Q3 2012.
The main focus of the deal is on CWW’s UK fixed-line network and CWW’s business customer base, both of which Vodafone aims to add to its UK mobile network. CWW provides managed voice, data, hosting, and IP-based services and applications. The deal boosts Vodafone’s enterprise offering, both in terms of access and transport infrastructure and also in terms of customer base. CWW is a major global infrastructure player: Its international cable network spans 425,000 km in length, covering 150 countries. In the UK, CWW operates a 20,500 km fiber network. Moreover, CWW has about 6,000 business customers. The future of CWW’s non-UK assets remains uncertain. In our view they do provide true value for Vodafone, strengthening its global network infrastructure. Vodafone will provide further details regarding these non-UK assets later in the year.
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.