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The moment of clarity for me, when I understood what it meant that communications was moving from hardware to software, came (not surprisingly) during a Microsoft talk back in 2008. The speaker said that with software-based communications, upgrades wouldn’t be annual, as PBX managers were used to, but more like monthly. I could sense the reaction in the audience: This didn’t sound like a promise; it sounded like a threat.
One of the things that has made that statement less of a threat has been the rise of the cloud. You no longer have to worry that your IT team will be scurrying to install and test a hail of upgrades that come flying at you every month like tennis balls from a practice machine gone haywire. With the software running in the cloud, upgrading your platform is the service provider’s problem -- in fact, it’s the provider’s job and even its competitive differentiator.

But this evolution doesn’t mean change won’t happen, or won’t be noticed by your team or your end users. However, it does mean you get to have a bit of control over that change.

In two Enterprise Connect webinars just two weeks apart, I heard variations on the same phrase as a description of how you can handle and even thrive in this new environment of change. In the first of the two webinars, Kevin Dunn, CIO/CISO at US Retirement Partners (USRP), described how his company, a financial institution, moved to the cloud with 8x8. In his talk, Kevin stressed the importance of not being bleeding edge when it comes to technology. USRP brings in new technology when it has a business case.

Part of this “leading but not bleeding edge” strategy involved understanding the pace at which USRP could roll out new features and applications -- and more importantly, controlling that pace. Kevin called it a “consistent cadence of predictable upgrades.”

And in our webinar this week, Darryl Addington, director of product marketing at Five9, used a nearly identical phrase, encouraging the audience to be mindful of and control the “cadence of change.”
It’s not surprising that both instances involved cloud-based services. Theoretically, an enterprise has a better chance to control the pace of change when it owns the software and data center; CPE is all about control, after all. In practice, that could be a recipe for missing releases, spending way too much time troubleshooting, and not having much opportunity to strategize with business leaders about features and functions that could actually improve the business.

Which is not to say that a cloud-based service is set it-and-forget it. Both speakers stressed the need for enterprises to develop a real partnership with their cloud providers, and for those providers to do the extra work necessary to understand the individual enterprise’s needs for basic support as well as business imperatives.

The good thing for enterprises, at least at this stage of the market, is that the competition is fierce among cloud providers for your business. Ideally, that should bring (or keep) prices down, but it’s even more important that it motivate these providers to become effective partners.

The dynamics of a market that’s moving to the cloud are among the most important elements of the industry that we’ll be covering at Enterprise Connect Orlando next month. All the big cloud providers will be there, and let’s face it, no one isn’t a cloud provider. So you’ll get to meet them at their booths, hear from them on panels, and engage with them informally throughout the week. As you start thinking about the right cadence of change for your own organization, Enterprise Connect is the place to go to flesh out that thinking and kick the tires on the services that will deliver that change.

Eric Krapf
GM & Program Co-Chair Enterprise Connect & WorkSpace Connect
Publisher, No Jitter

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