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August 04, 2011

The Social Media Ambiguity: an ITEXPO West Interview

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor
Evolution in technology is necessary to ensure the market can keep pace with consumer demand and trends. In anticipation of the upcoming ITEXPO West event in Austin, TMC CEO Rich Tehrani (News - Alert) recently spoke with Jon Arnold, Principal at J Arnold & Associates, to get his take on changes in the past year. The major revolution for Arnold has been the breadth of offerings coming from all corners of the Unified Communications space.

As for the next disruptive force in technology, Arnold points to virtualization. The cloud has gained adoption, but Arnold isn’t sure if it is totally accepted. The biggest requests he gets from his clients is for thought leadership to validate the trends discussed in this interview. Arnold sees the continued growth of social media as a key disruptive technology and believes that no one really understands the potential. As for virtual workforces, Arnold believes there is just as much uncertainty in mobility as there is in social media.

At ITEXPO (News - Alert) West, Arnold is looking forward to being part of the experience in this new setting. He also anticipates that the location could help to drive increased attendance. During the event, Arnold will be moderating two panels focused on the contact center space, including multichannel solutions and hosted offerings.

Their entire conversation follows:

How has your market segment evolved over the past year and what trends have fueled those  changes?

In broad strokes, Unified Communications best defines the market I cover.  The major evolution this year has been breadth of offerings coming from all corners of this space.  Things have moved well beyond telecom vendors, and we’re now seeing UC solutions from non-telecom vendors, as well as service providers with their hosted offerings. The key trend driving this is the desire for businesses to communicate with all modes, both telecom-based and web-based.

What do you see as the next disruptive force in technology and how will it impact your market or business?

For communications, I see virtualization being pretty disruptive, as it allows IT infrastructure to migrate offsite, which will change their role in the enterprise. There certainly are cost-saving benefits here, but there’s a positive disruption in that employees can be 100% productive anywhere they can get a broadband connection. They no longer need to worry about carrying their PC around, and that can be a real driver for UC, and by extension, collaboration.

How has the acceptance and adoption of the cloud model influenced your development cycle and process?

I would say the cloud has gained a lot of adoption in the communications space, but am not so sure yet about acceptance. There are still legitimate concerns about security and scalability, but in time, I’m confident they will be addressed. Even at present levels of adoption, I would say the cloud is shortening business cycles by enabling better real-time communication and making it easier for disparate teams to work together.

What is the most common request you are seeing from your customers? How is your company addressing these demands?

As an analyst, the biggest request I get is for independent thought leadership to validate the trends we’re talking about in this interview. To address that, I spend a lot of time getting to understand vendor offerings and then talking to customers and channel partners to assess how these things impact end users and decision makers.

How is the continued growth of social media changing service and product development strategies?

This is another key disruptive trend right now, and nobody fully understands the potential. That can be both good and bad, but either way, companies know they can’t ignore social media. As such, companies are experimenting a lot right now, and there are some very interesting applications emerging in the contact center. We don’t have business models around social media yet, but companies clearly recognize the impact it can have on business drivers such as brand image and customer satisfaction.

Will Google+ become bigger than Facebook and Twitter (News - Alert)? Why or why not?

Don’t follow close enough to comment.

As businesses continue their move toward virtual workforces, how are you meeting the need for increased mobility?  What barriers are keeping others from adopting mobile strategies? 

I can only speak to what I see other companies doing, and there is just as much uncertainty here as with social media. There’s a lot more at stake here, since smartphones – and now tablets – can serve as exit ramps that take employees off the LAN to get work done. Cisco (News - Alert) Cius is one step forward in addressing this issue, but companies still have a long way to go in feeling totally comfortable extending their data out over WiFi (News - Alert) or the public Internet.

What are you most looking forward to at ITEXPO West  in Austin? What do you see as being the biggest trends at the show?

Aside from live music and BBQ, just being part of the experience in this new setting. For many of us, there will be less travel involved, and that could make it easier to get even more people coming out. It will be very interesting to see how this translates in terms of bringing in a new audience.

What issues will you be addressing during your ITEXPO session and why should attendees be sure to attend?

I’ll be moderating two panels focused on the contact center space - multichannel solutions and hosted offerings. Both represent leading trends that will be of interest to anyone wanting to know how IP technologies are impacting contact centers.  They play into two themes from this interview – UC and virtualization, both of which have only recently been relevant to contact centers. If you’re not sure why this is happening, then you need to attend my sessions!


Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend
ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.


Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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