As more and more enterprises move more and more of their real time communications to the cloud, build and deploy applications, and even integrate real time communications functionality into CRM and workflow applications – it has never been more important for IT teams to take a step back – to take ten steps forward.
As we all head into the 2015 budget season, I thought I’d share what I’ve been learning as I have traveled around the country with my team, and have met with dozens of enterprise IT teams.
There’s a lot of talk about “as a service” – Software as a Service, Platform as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, even Back End as a Service. This can be overwhelming, so one piece of advice is to consider this: Outcomes as a Service. A pure economic definition of Outcome as a Service is to spend every dollar with a purpose to drive an outcome which increases the top-line or the overall EBITDA of the company.
As IT directors and Business Unit leaders meet to determine what they wish to accomplish in 2015, and where to invest, with what expected return – they can think about the outcomes they are looking to attain. IT historically has been focused on cost cutting through automation and efficiencies of shared/virtualized infrastructure. Business Unit leaders have been focused on driving double/triple digit top-line growth. Even though there is tension and a push-pull balancing effect that kicks it, the alignment occurs through common desired outcome that they strive for.
What follows is a summary of that “collective wisdom” from a combination of some of the smartest professionals working across healthcare, financial services, education, retail, software and more – there are many common themes.
- Virtualization: the trend continues and as everything from software to servers, data center infrastructure and IP networking improves, the cost-benefit calculation is becoming less “fuzzy” and the risks less extreme.
- Cloud: do the math on the costs and benefits associated with public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid approaches. Actually, do the “calculus” on this because the economics will continue to change over time. Most large enterprises we speak with are forecasting hybrid solutions for the next several years, while they move strategically to the cloud (based on locations, applications, and types of users).
- Mobility: mobile is no longer an option, it is a mandate, and with greater acceptance of mobile computing and working, stronger enterprise policies in place to help guide behaviors, and innovative software solutions including browser-based collaboration applications – it’s time to rethink the very definition of mobile.
- Laptops, tablets, phablets, phones: nobody needs all four, but which one or two will do the job going forward? With laptop replacements averaging every two years, and with the pain often associated with everything from Windows8 to employee pressure to support multiple operating systems, analyzing what makes most sense – makes great sense during budget cycles.
- Network infrastructure and capacity: with more multimedia enterprises need more broadband capacity, and with the advance of better and better W-Lans enterprises are saving in the tens and hundreds of thousands “pulling the wires” and finally taking the leap to a completely wireless environment including in large headquarters. Think about where and how to continue the wireless evolution and where it may not make sense (for example in physical contact centers where desktop workers have no need for mobility and workstations are – stationery!)
- SDN: software defined networking can dramatically ease the effort associated with everything from Moves-Adds-Changes to the distribution of apps, applying policies and in many industries, like healthcare and financial services, ensuring compliance. Moving to SDN is not a trivial decision but the rewards, similar to virtualization and cloud, can be substantial with the right strategy.
- Analytics: with everything moving to cloud and software, there are more opportunities to be able to capture data, including applications like call recording, then store and retrieve that data, or apply algorithms that can help improve business outcomes in near real time. What employees are doing, how customers are responding – this can be the lifeblood of dynamic business especially as the economy improves and competition heats up. Analytics is not just for traditional data – they can be applied to human communications as well.
- Collaboration: you might be surprised how many IT groups are struggling with users who simply prefer to use their own web collaboration subscription because services like Go-To-Meeting deliver a better experience than a less sophisticated and less expensive in-house or licensed application does. Do your homework on what your users really want, and compare that to what is available in the market that can give your employees better software while also allowing you to maintain the proper security and compliance standards, and also harness information about how teams are working internally and with the outside world.
- Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity: there are so many new options for enterprises today to keep their teams connected, without having to scramble should a disaster occur. There is also a wide range of features, quality, and pricing, so budget time is a good time to think about what you have in place today and could improve upon tomorrow (including improving your bottom line).
- Applications Development: when you are looking at staffing, look for developers! With the advent of cool technologies including WebRTC, and access to APIs from platforms like GENBAND’s Kandy, there are so many opportunities for your development team to either integrate “RTC” into existing CRM, ERP, and social network or to build exclusive applications that will allow your business to serve customers better and operate more efficiently. I’ve met some developer teams inside enterprises that are smarter than start-up entrepreneurs and passionate about what they are able to contribute.
I’d love to hear about what you’re thinking about as you prepare to fund your efforts in 2015 – so much to be gained, so much to be saved – I cannot remember a more interesting time in our industry (as I also work on my budget for next year!)