Insights into the Future of Technology Innovation: ITEXPO Presenter Shares Expertise


In a world where technology plays a role in nearly everything we do, it’s tough to take a step back and recognize whether or not this is a healthy approach. The question especially needs to be addressed in the business environment to gain a better understanding of where technology investments are helping and where they might be hurting.

In preparation for the upcoming ITEXPO in Ft. Lauderdale, TMC sat down with Julie W. Stafford, SVP Strategic Consulting with Tangoe, Inc. to gain better insights into her views on the role of technology, innovations that continue to disrupt industries and the future of the marketplace, among other things. While she acknowledges there are changes to technology innovation – and change is not always welcome; she’s quick to highlight how that change is important for the enterprise.

Stafford also shared her take on Unified Communications (UC) and the disruptions in the market. While a number of companies have UC as a fundamental element within their communications strategies, there is still much work to be done. For those who believe UC is dead, Stafford is quick to point out that the conversation may have gotten stale just because of the pace is tried to maintain for so long. She believes the possibilities and the demand continue to drive toward UC with momentum that isn’t expected to change any time soon.

At the same time, the demand for access in the cloud is significant and growing. The benefits are very visible, real and measurable. However, those in telecom expense management are just now paying attention, creating gaps in the system and even bottlenecks to adoption and positive change. Fortunately, movement is happening in the right places that is creating opportunity. The key is to ensure the right players come to the table at the right time to position their partnerships as a value-add for all involved.

At ITEXPO, Stafford invites attendees to come to her session for greater insight. Stafford explains, “I am going to provide a clear process for determining what is being used today, what data is being moved to the cloud without IT’s knowledge and describe a clear solution for managing Shadow IT and the rapidly growing expenses that are associated with lack of financial control over this environment.”

Check out her interview in full below:

Is technology changing business for the better? Why/why not?

Technology is enabling business to do more with less in a timeline of weeks instead of years, allowing new solutions and services to be released without investment of full time employees and capital to develop.  These changes will only benefit the enterprise, though, if the technology is aligned with business needs and if we can adapt our processes and integrations at a rate that equals or exceeds technology adoption. 

Have we finally reached an inflection point with Unified Communications adoption? What is driving or hindering the market?

Because UC involves so many varied technologies and components including phone, email, fax, chat, video, and collaboration it is difficult to generalize about a single measure of adoption.  While there has clearly been significant penetration of unified communications within some of the components, there is a lot of work that remains to be done before the typical enterprise is positioned to fully utilize a single consolidated “channel” that effectively brings everything together.  Some of the challenges that enterprises encounter in trying to capitalize on these technologies have to do with an inability to quantify and measure the improved productivity and/or functionality that comes with additional collaboration.  Over the past five years IT departments have been working with skeleton crews to meet objectives and continue to drive cost out of the business.  This hasn’t left a lot of room for resources to be allocated toward driving toward a qualitative objective of unification.  Add in concerns about security and the disappearing line between business and social applications and you have a lot of issues that must be overcome in addition to those that are budget driven.

What do you say to industry observers who say UC is dead? 

Generally speaking, UC is one of those business terms that is just vague enough to cause consternation in conversations and I would submit that the term has fallen out of favor for that reason.  But that being said, UC is not even sick, let alone dead.  What has changed is really the incentives for pursuing UC.  In part due to difficult economic times there has not been a lot of momentum around pursuing UC for the sake of the concept of unity without quantifiable justification of benefits associated with its implementation.  But as we join a video meeting and share documents with global colleagues it is obvious that there is intrinsic value in the concept of UC even if the full integration of components remains an elusive objective to be pursued indefinitely, since there is arguably no limit to how we can improve the value and efficiency of the way we communicate from a technical and social perspective.

When it comes to unified communications, do you believe it’s better to meet customers where they are (i.e., popular business applications like Salesforce, or social networks like LinkedIn) or to use your interface as the front-end and then do integrations with those popular applications?

Depending on the application, Tangoe is doing both.  We are building a SaaS-based application that brings financial data feeds via API in from many popular applications such as ServiceNow, Salesforce and AWS.  We are concurrently building apps for ServiceNow that allow customers to access our application to place service orders.  Our philosophy is to be the system of expense record when possible, but our open architecture enables others platforms to be system of record for the data they contain (such as assets in ServiceNow or Ariba). 

How do you use social media in your daily business?  Should social be a major initiative for all businesses?

I utilize social media every day to track and identify the latest releases, products and services from key companies that impact our industry, as well as to keep my finger on the pulse of enterprise sentiment and thought leaders.  Additionally, I use social media to share interesting articles, blogs and research that I find in my daily social media feeds.  Social media is a tool that businesses need in order to stay in tuned with their customers, their competitors and the market.  It should absolutely be a mandatory initiative in all organizations at all levels.

How are collaboration software/services helping workers today? 

Collaboration services are allowing everyone in a global company, with global hours, to work on the same project at the same time, without having to maintain version control or multiple iterations.  It allows real-time sharing of ideas without delay…and the ability to receive multiple inputs from around the globe seamlessly. 

What is the biggest security threat currently facing businesses?

The biggest security threat is the number of systems, software, hardware, network services and end-points that enterprises must connect, manage and protect.  To have a budget to plug all of the potential holes would make a company unprofitable.  There are always going to be hackers looking for new and creative ways to infiltrate systems and looking for access to corporate data through back doors.  It is up to corporations to protect as much as possible with the allotted budgets.  That’s a challenge.

Has corporate awareness of security threats increased over the past year?  Have security practices been adjusted as a result?

Absolutely.  More than 5 years ago, most security teams reported up through the CIO.  Now having a dedicated CISO has become the norm in the enterprise.  With security now having a seat at the executive table, security practices are becoming standardized and adoption of these practices monitored and reported on.  In the past year, companies have seen F1000 peers take major PR hits that directly impact revenue.  No one wants that kind of negative publicity.  That said, unlike a year ago, the CISO is now being invited to IT meetings with vendors to ask the hard questions on how their data is being secured.  The CISOs have the power to veto a product or service that drives revenue and value if it does not maintain the security rigors that have been set by the organization.

Should mobile devices have integrated software allowing for separation of business and personal apps and data?

Yes.  Given the fact that most companies have a hybrid BYOD/Corporate Liable policies, organizations are struggling to provide access to Corporate content while maintaining a high level of data security and an optimal balance between cost and actual corporate use-cases.  Tangoe has been working on a solution that will be released in 2016 to allow end-users to delineate between their corporate and personal use and allow corporations visibility in to the cost implications of actual corporate use—thereby providing the necessary input(s) for a comprehensive approach to hybrid liability, split allocation, BYOD adjustments and reimbursement tuning.

How is cloud computing shaking up your product/service offerings?  How has it impacted your competitive market?

Cloud computing is just now beginning to be addressed by IT Expense Management organizations and we see a tremendous opportunity to expand into this market, tracking companies’ spend and usage of legacy systems as they transform to cloud solutions.  Although the cloud computing management discussion has primarily been driven by security to date, IT finance is now realizing that the promised ROIs that are derived from cloud computing will not be achieved if the environment is not carefully managed.

How are companies benefitting or losing out from the move to cloud solutions like Office 365?

Given that Office 356 is relatively inexpensive and enables organizations to host their email, access email and files anywhere, and provide 24/7 support and automatic updates, I don’t see too many ways a company can “lose out”.  The drawbacks for a company is that this now puts all of your sensitive files in the hands of a single vendor….and there are some constraints associated with bolt-on’s that plug into Sharepoint, Lync and Exchange that could be costly or limiting.  These same concerns apply to most cloud solutions, with the net benefits outweighing the capital investments and management that an organization would need to keep an on-prem solution viable.  The truth is, most enterprise-ready cloud services like Office365 have greater security capabilities than any one organization has, and can respond to an outage faster than most enterprise teams.  This is why organizations like Gartner and Forrester are predicting 25+% CAGR in areas of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS over the next 3 years. 

What, if any, wearable tech products do you use?  How do they make you more productive?

I utilize a fit bit and heart rate monitor when working out to track my progress.  This allows me to stay within a zone of fitness that I’ve chosen and that maximizes my return on the time I spend in the gym.  It also allows me to track how far I’ve run and how many calories I’ve burned, so that I can set personal goals and maintain good health….which benefits my organization as well as me personally.

Will wearable tech become a major enterprise technology?  What will drive or hinder adoption?

Our organization already rewards our employees for their steps and fitness using fitness trackers, as this drives down health care costs.  I believe that wearable tech such as glasses and watch-like devices are definitely going to become a part of the enterprise future.  Providing engineers with immediate algorithms and data when they look at a system, allowing repair men to have instant access to three dimensional machine/technology manuals via google glass, directing anyone who travels via a pair of glasses, having a watch that reads barcodes/QR codes and tracks products through the supply chain are all ways that wearable tech could easily be adopted in the enterprise.

What big data and analytics tools are you using and why?  How is Big Data changing the way you conduct business?

We use SAP’s Hana in-memory database for real-time data analytics.  This has enabled us to transition our business model from reactionary (billing sent and analyzed 30 days after the usage occurred) to right-time, where usage and the associated costs can be tracked and managed on a scheduled or on-demand basis. That is an enormous change in our ability to help our customers manage their budgets. 

What technology has had the greatest impact on your ability to perform your job in the past year?  Explain.

SAP’s Hana has allowed us to receive, process and provide business intelligence based on vast amounts of information in near real-time, allowing us to report on and manage mobility, telecom, IT and cloud expenses in a more proactive manner.  We can now help our customers predict when they will surpass their budget or predict when data plans or mobile voice plans will be exceeded.  This allows me, personally, to provide expense-reducing insights and real-time, global rate and technology insights for our customers. 

What has been the most impactful development or trend in 2016 that is changing how industry players need to do business?

Cloud computing.  No longer do companies need to invest in hardware, storage, development, security, software updates, and IT support for many business challenges.  The cloud service provider provides those – and most are at a price that is much lower than could be achieved in an on-premise solution.  For this reason, cloud services are changing how we do business.  Companies are expected to provision, support, maintain, secure and bill services through web-portals and mobile applications.  They are also being asked to connect to ancillary services through APIs, to provide seamless, no-touch, self-service capabilities with a full suite of analytics and BI tools to provide valuable insights in real-time.  This is allowing new products based on cloud service models to out-compete incumbents and classic IT vendors.  It’s a very interesting time to watch movement in the F1000.  

To what extent, if any, are you and your partners doing deals with line-of-business leaders who are not in IT or telecom departments?  Which departments seem to be leading the way on this trend (Accounting, HR, Marketing, Sales, etc.) and how are you changing your marketing and sales tactics to address this shift?

This depends on the partners.  The onus is on Tangoe to find partners that communicate with leaders outside of IT.  More and more of the technology spend is being managed by Marketing, HR and Sales, who are purchasing licenses from their budgets to provide valuable BI and productivity tools to run their environments.  Given that our business is financially focused, it is our job, either directly or indirectly through our channels, to demonstrate the value of managing spend in a streamlined process and providing analytical dashboards to leaders across all business-lines.  

Are channel partners keeping up with the latest products and services or is more training and education required?

Partners try to keep up on the latest and greatest to the extent possible – especially when it is in their own best interest.  It is our job to ensure that training and education occurs.  We don’t expect them to become subject matter experts in the field of IT Expense Management, but to bring us to the table as they hear of new opportunities from their customers.  Partners are great windows into areas of the market that we don't see and it is often through their lens that we discover new areas of opportunity.  We find that the stronger the channel partner relationship, the more our partners demand education on the knowledge that they don’t have access to.  The relationship is truly symbiotic when nurtured properly.

What is the greatest challenge the channel is up against today?

Maintaining high levels of communication in an increasingly fast-paced and constantly changing industry is a challenge.  Trust and transparency are critical elements for any alliance/partnership and maintaining consistent communication and transparency is the foundation.  Also, aligning with our partners’ interests can be difficult.  When we align well, our channels can become efficient marketing engines for our products and services.  Due to the variable business drivers within each partner, finding the business unit or group within a partner whose goals align to create a win-win is the greatest challenge we face with our channel partners.   

What are you most looking forward to at ITEXPO Ft. Lauderdale?

Identifying new potential partnerships, meeting with peers to understand their challenges in managing their IT Expense environment and listening to the presentations, as I see them as part of my continuing education in the rapidly changing world of IT.

Why should attendees come to your session/visit your booth?

Every company I have met with over the last year has seen exponential growth in the area of cloud services, which are no longer being dictated by IT.  The marketing, HR, finance, sales departments are all choosing cloud services that are helping them be more productive.  As organizations move into the cloud and sunset traditional hardware, they will need to know what assets and expenses they began with in order to ensure that ROIs are being met.  An unmanaged cloud environment means unchecked spending and added expense, instead of cost reductions.  In my session, I am going to provide a clear process for determining what is being used today, what data is being moved to the cloud without IT’s knowledge and describe a clear solution for managing Shadow IT and the rapidly growing expenses that are associated with lack of financial control over this environment.  

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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TechZone360 Contributing Editor

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