If there’s one thing I’ve learned from automation it is this: if there’s a digital tool to make something faster, better and/or more replicable, then you’re going to be doing a whole lot more of that something in the future.
It happened with email, presentations and online shopping, and it’s happening with collaboration. Trouble is, a little too much of anything can be a bad thing.
If you’re like most, you spend one-third of your day on email. Middle managers spend a third of their day in meetings. And every one wastes time trying to make sense of the plethora of new digital tools that have been introduced in the past three years.
What is all this collaborating doing to us? It’s killing our productivity. Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Bain & Co. Partner Michael Bankins says, “The evidence continues to mount that, for many organizations, the costs associated with meetings, emails, IMs and other forms of workforce collaboration now exceed the benefits.” Adds The Economist, “The fashion for making employees collaborate has gone too far.”
How did we get things so wrong and who is to blame? For insights I turned to Jive Communications co-founder Matt Peterson. Jive develops a range of Unified Communications (UC) products, including voice, video, contact center and mobile applications. As for Peterson, he spends his days studying the market, including what works and what doesn’t.
When I asked him what he thought of all the news and studies that conclude that collaboration is killing our productivity, he surprised me with his response: “Duh,” he essentially said, “bad collaboration technology, anyway.”
Here’s a sampling of his thoughts, which perfectly capture the state of UC and collaboration.
Who Is to Blame for the State of UC, Collaboration and Productivity?
It’s not who you think, Peterson says. “You cannot blame the customer, who is trying to make sense of a chaotic world. Talk to enterprise customers and you’ll learn that they are using 10, 12 or even 20 different tools.” This includes everything from Gmail to WhatsApp to Slack to GotoMeeting, WebEx, Skype and more.
End users also waste countless hours downloading plug-ins, upgrades and more just to make things work. Worse yet, Peterson adds, customers find themselves dialing into calls only to switch devices, browsers, apps and audio options in search of a better and more seamless experience. And when it comes to video, most don’t even bother. (There’s a reason that in-room video conferencing systems are a tangle of wires covered in dust, he agrees.)
“Equipment such as phones that are 10, 20 or even 30 years old that is still in use is preventing customers from embracing a pure software approach,” he adds.
So Is UC a Bust?
No way, says Peterson. But it’s still very early in the game.
“People think we’re at the end game, which isn’t the case at all. We are starting to get a sense as a vendor community as to what we need to be. If you look at penetration numbers of pure cloud-based players, that’s still a small share of the market. Some people are still selling 30-year old PBX systems that have never been upgraded,” he says.
As technology becomes more interoperable, more simple and more reliable, then companies like Jive inch closer to an all IP-based, all-cloud world. But today that’s just not the case due to the number of analog devices still in use and the number of software clients installed on desktops and mobile devices.
But things are looking up. One reason: new use cases, which are challenging norms. Take email. “I grew up in the email generation; it ate everything,” says Peterson. “But right now, my teens don’t even use it. They use other modes to communicate and collaborate. So little things like this are teaching us that context is a big thing for [future communications.]”
How Does Jive See the World?
“At Jive we try to think in terms of ‘what if the Internet pre-dated the analog switch network and PSTN?’ Would we force people to dial in a seven-digit pin from their mobile devices while driving? Of course not. So that’s how we are trying to look at the entire scope of UC and collaboration,” says Peterson.
He believes that the divide between hardware and software companies will persist. “If you are used to selling boxes, that’s how you see the world,” he says. “Hardware guys still think in terms of cramming functionality into phones and hardware. That opened up the market for mad dash of SaaS offerings.”
Today, he sees a lot of SaaS and cloud providers one-upping one another. But eventually he expects to see significant market consolidation, which is generally the case in the telecom world. Afterwards, he expects consumers to begin gravitating to seamless experiences from point solutions. As of yet, no one has nailed that. But Jive is on it.
“One of other critical parts is this: some of these point solutions ignore voice. We have had the year of video and the death of desk phone. But they will have a place in the fabric of communication architecture. It’s very hard to write a real-time app based on IP that has infinite scale. We also believe in a true, cloud architecture that pushes presence to edges,” he adds.
Advice for the Channel?
“Simplicity is going to be a big factor, especially for the MSP community. If you need to add layers to get to a unified offering, that is going to be crippling. MSPs operate on time. Things that take a long time to set up, install and manage? They aren’t going to win out because they will just result in lower profitability for MSPs. As for Jive, we work exceptionally with those who have nailed networks. Once you have a solid network in place, you never have a problem with us. We believe we have the most reliable, true cloud platform that fits with the business model of MSPs. If the quality of your network is good, the quality of your experience is exceptional. That’s where we play,” says Peterson.
If you’re interested in learning more about Jive and hundreds of other companies, then join me at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo 2017 event slated for April 10-13 in Las Vegas. I’ll be there moderating panels on vertical markets and “collaborating” in the best way possible.