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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Rethinking your One-Size-Fits-All Unified Communications Strategy

June 1, 2017 No Comments

Increasingly complex technology environments have led some IT departments to try to simplify their communications by taking a one-size-fits-all approach. While this may seem like a good idea on the surface, Steve Flavell, co-CEO and co-founder of LoopUp, speaks with IT Briefcase to explain why one-size never fits all.

  • Q: Why are companies starting to reconsider the single vendor approach to Unified Communications (UC)?

A: Despite the hopes and dreams of many, one-size never really fits all. The single vendor approach to UC and collaboration started to gain steam about 10 years ago when convergence was the trend of the day. While one-size-fits-all (OSFA) seems to offer some advantages (cost, management, etc.) the reality is that for most companies it has only ever been an aspiration. Almost every example of a single-vendor solution in UC and collaboration started by offering a good product that addressed one specific need (e.g. voice, video, chat, document storage, etc.) But, these vendors couldn’t resist the urge to keep adding on capabilities that weren’t in their core competency. Rather than be just great at one thing, they opted to build (or piece together) a suite of many solutions that became just so-so. With the recent rise of cloud-based, fit-for-purpose alternatives, so-so is rarely going to be a worker’s first choice.

  • Q: What’s driving the increasing adoption of best-of-breed SaaS tools?

A: Best-of-breed SaaS collaboration tools (like Salesforce, Jira, Box, etc.) have only improved with time. They’ve also become highly customizable. Not only has this guaranteed them wide adoption in the enterprise, it also means that teams and departments are molding them to fit their specific needs and business processes. They have become increasingly business-critical, edging out OSFA alternatives perhaps preferred by IT.

At the same time, budget decisions for software are increasingly moving outside of IT into the departments themselves. This means that return-on-investment and value are outweighing price when business leaders are the ones assessing what new tools to invest in and adopt.

  • Q: But won’t these best-of-breed tools create disparate silos of data?

A: As these fit-for-purpose collaboration tools take hold in the enterprise, corporate data can become even more siloed, so the need for a way to connect these disparate solutions and data has arisen. Counter to their promise, single-vendor UC solutions haven’t become the unifier of this world, they’ve become yet another silo.

Instead, ‘channelized’ tools have emerged as a real and viable alternative to email by connecting these disparate tools and providing an easier way for people to work together and share information in and out of the tools that they use most often.

2016 was a big year for these channelized collaboration tools (hello, Slack). And even OSFA vendors have recognized the value and viability of channelized tools – just look at Microsoft’s launch of Teams this past year. Why is Microsoft promoting a channelized tool when they’ve got an alternative platform (Skype for Business) that is supposed to support everyone’s needs? Even they realize that OSFA doesn’t solve the collaboration conundrum.

There will be plenty of opportunity for other horizontal collaboration tools (remote meetings, etc.) to benefit from a ‘channelization’ approach in 2017.

  • Q: What can we take away from the shift towards best-of-breed collaboration tools?

A: This move to a federated world of best-of-breed collaboration solutions has uncovered a truth that many OSFA vendors are reticent to accept – that certain collaboration tools are no longer the commodity they were perceived to be. Take, for instance, remote meetings and conferencing. A single-vendor approach for conferencing just doesn’t work – in fact, most large organizations will need at least three different products for conferencing. As an example, a remote meetings solution such as ours, that works for the mainstream majority of users on day-to-day meetings will not be the same feature-loaded product that specialist users need for webinars and training, or that an investor relations team needs to host earnings calls with thousands of attendees. This means fit-for-purpose SaaS alternatives of tools that were once considered commodity are taking hold in the enterprise and will continue to see adoption in 2017. The key will be how the ‘right tool for the job’ works with the other best of breed solutions in the ecosystem.


About the Author: Steve Flavell

Steve Flavell is co-CEO and co-founder of LoopUp, a premium remote meetings solution that makes it easier to collaborate in real-time. Steve is responsible for LoopUp’s global commercial activities, based out of London. Prior to LoopUp, Steve was EVP and main board director at GoIndustry, the online industrial auctioneering platform. Previously, Steve spent five years in strategy consulting with Monitor Company and Mars & Co, and two years with Mobil Oil. He has an MBA from Stanford and MEng from St. John’s College, Cambridge.




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