Sunday, November 16, 2008

Business Communications - How much change is welcomed?

Over the past few weeks I have attended and been panelists at both National Association of Realtors on Business VoIP and VoiceCon on The Role of Open Source Telephony in the Enterprise. Today's post will look at some trends from vendors I saw and customers I spoke with. Why is this a column for the "Open Disruptor"? The basic fact is because a large number of businesses are facing the same challenge: businesses must become more efficient and maintain or grow revenues with less budget or people. Basically, the network manager, IT Director, and small business owner's mantra has become a common theme, "I have to do more with less!"

How does one do this? There are many ways to explore, and depending on the individual, the priorities change but here are my top 10 "take aways" from these past few weeks:

1. "I need new tools that make me more efficient"

* IT departments need more efficient management tools to optimize performance and save costs
* SMBs or Small and medium sized businesses need to save costs and be more efficient
* Think Web 2.0 Services

2. "I can't afford to buy a new system even though I've been planning for it for some time! How can I get what I need accomplished now?"

* Oops. Delays, lost budgets, layoffs in larger companies and now it's "cap (spending) and grow" a different way (more efficient, less costly)
* SMBs have little or no money to spend as they need to survive the economic challenges
* Think open source and Web 2.0 Services

3. "All I see are large players delivering more features that are more expensive! They look great: video, integrated cell phone with office, web-based tools. But my system can't handle these capabilities without a rip-and-replace or very costly investment!"

* Many IT Directors have outdated legacy systems that can't be expanded thus new systems need to be purchased to get the benefits they need to solve today's problems.
* SMBs are more open to newer solutions that can make their businesses more effective.
* Real Estate offices are looking to be both more efficient and maintain control of their client base in spite of high agent turnover
* Think open source, VoIP and Web 2.0 Services

4. "Too much fluff!"

* A couple of end users I spoke with sat through one large vendor's presentation only to say, "Huh? What was that all about?" They did not tell me anything except I need to spend more money and get trained!"
* Think open source to reduce total cost of ownership

5. "I want to take advantage of the Internet but have tight money and not a senior IT team!"

* This is where I told users to look at disruptive companies. Some have open source software-based solutions lowering total cost of ownership; some have new business models offering special lease programs and tradein programs
* Think open source

6. "Twitter Twitter everywhere!"

* New PR and Marketing tools are being used around social media. At least one VoiceCon exhibitor and competitor went and followed competitors and pre-registration lists pre-show. When I caught up with the PR firm who did this, the person was a new-hire PR team addition to leverage new media and gt their message out.
* Digium has been using Twitter and created Digium, AsteriskPBX, Astricon, AsteriskNOW and Switchvox accounts on Twitter to inform people and build community goodwill since earlier this year. Others are following suit but this is a huge trend and will evolve more. We used Twitter at Astricon, an Asterisk community event in September, and placed large plasma screens around the show floor.
* Think young and growing fleet afoot companies

7. Less people are traveling even to the best events

* These two events are important for their respective industries. Both had down attendance
* Quality of attendees is higher because there is no "perk" trips, only serious buyers. we have had great leads from both events that will produce revenues
* Think the fact that smaller events with more serious buyers are good, not bad

8. There are some traditional companies and analysts that just don't get it

* Working at a young company where the average age is about 26ish, I have to learn how to work with millennials. What I saw in some sessions that I attended was some traditional companies and subject matter experts refuse to acknowledge evolving trends such as open source, Twitter and other social media, and that younger workers are savvy you just need to know how to work with them.

9. More on Twitter

* During keynotes, sessions and the VoiceCon event as a whole, Tweeters would talk to each other and their followers about goings on. During one keynote, there were some interesting discussions between Microsoft, Cisco, Siemens, Digium and IBM executives
* During the NAR event, there were more breakout sessions and meet-ups on social media and blogging and how to leverage in your business than any non-social media event I have seen yet!

10. Final word on social media and Twitter

* At least one cross-over occurred between the two events as I met up with a friend I met through Twitter. She helped myself and a colleague understand unique requirements of the real estate small and medium business segment when it comes to contact management, integration of cell phones and office phones and a variety of other topics related to our respective businesses. Years ago, this would never have occurred as we learn new ways to leverage Web 2.0 and new ways to network.

Find me on Twitter here

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Find Digium here


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