Cloud-based unified communications were the focus of this morning’s general session at ITEXPO. The conversation ranged from everything from the Avaya (News - Alert) Chapter 11 filing, to how Slack figures in to the UC picture, to where the industry is going and what players are best positioned to enable the workspace of the future.
Before we get into the discussion of what the panelists had to say, here’s a bit of background to set up the conversation.
Avaya, a long-time leader in business communications, last month filed for Chapter 11. The company was faced with $6 billion in debt and $1.7 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. So even though the company has a pretty solid product portfolio and a good business, the company has had to direct a lot of its revenues to cover its debt payments, pension payments, and other costs.
Ultimately, Avaya decided that Chapter 11 was its best path out of this situation. Of course, that has folks wondering how the filing will impact Avaya’s customer pipeline and opining as to whether it will come out of Chapter 11 a better company or will suffer a fate similar to that of Nortel.
During today’s ITEXPO general session, Mark C. Straton, BroadSoft’s (News - Alert) vice president of content marketing and media relations; Curtis Peterson, RingCentral’s senior vice president of cloud operations; and Matt McGinnis, 8x8’s vice president of product marketing, weighed in on what Avaya’s move means for customers and the industry as a whole. (Both 8x8 and RingCentral are leaders in the UCaaS Gartner Magic Quadrant.)
“We believe this completely validates the move to the cloud,” said Peterson, noting that RingCentral recently ran an ad in The Wall Street Journal to that effect.
“I thought the ad was fantastic,” commented McGinnis of 8x8.
BroadSoft’s Straton added that the reality is that Avaya filed for Chapter 11 because of private equity. “So the Avaya deal is complex,” he said.
Straton added that the Avaya filing sends a strong signal to IT buyers that it’s important to choose partners and solutions that will position them well both for today and for the future.
The market is at an inflection point, McGinnis. That entails moving from boxes to driving the user experience through software. The move to cloud-based business communications solutions, he said, “is a matter of when not if.”
Another important UC development we’ve seen recently is the arrival of companies like Slack and HipChat, which offer team collaboration applications. While these companies have drawn a lot of interest and excitement, today’s ITEXPO (News - Alert) general session panelists indicated the multichannel workspace solutions like the ones their companies offer are what customers need and are the future of business communications, not one-off solutions like those offered by Slack and its ilk.
McGinnis said another stand-alone business app that gives users another million notifications is not the answer. A workspace with integrated voice and other modes of communication is where things are going, he said, “and I think it’s going to change the world.”
He added that team collaboration tools are an important new element in complete communications solutions.
Delivering broad communications capabilities, delivering them on a global basis, and providing them on open platforms that allow for ease of integration position RingCentral well for the future, Peterson said.
BroadSoft’s Straton believes that his company, Cisco, and Microsoft (News - Alert) will be the leaders in business communications five or 10 years from now. And he noted that the tier 1 telcos, many of which use BroadSoft, are well positioned for the future, noting the move to the cloud plays to their networking experience. In fact, he said Verizon One Talk, which connects office and mobile devices with one number, is the future.
The panel also discussed the positioning of both Facebook (News - Alert) and Microsoft in business communications. The consensus seemed to be that Facebook’s appeal for businesses and employees would be limited since most of these organizations and individuals don’t want to mix business and personal communications. And although Microsoft is already an important presence in business communications, Peterson noted that the company is new to the voice piece, which is a significant challenge.