During a video panel held as part of the most recent Enterprise Connect conference, cloud phone systems consultant Melissa Schwartz expressed what’s becoming a common refrain among knowledge workers faced with juggling between different tools for remote collaboration, voice and video.
With remote work increasing the importance of offerings and capabilities of different products from Cisco, Microsoft, Zoom and other leaders, Schwartz said she’s pining for the day when all the leading productivity and collaboration tools can achieve widespread interoperability. In essence, she said there are too many gaps, lost productivity and missed opportunities caused by tools that won’t work together with the user in mind.
“I have six video conferencing apps on my computer right now,” Schwartz said. “Interoperability has got to happen because it drives me crazy.”
Her fellow panelists agreed, however, that she Schwartz and others hoping for a coherent ecosystem of video, voice and collaboration vendors working together happily is probably a long way off.
“If you’re all on different platforms it become a real pain,” said Jim Burton, founder and CEO of CT Link. “We all know each vendor finds out they have an advantage if they control, so why would they want to do interoperability with someone else?
Many Players, But No Clear Winner
Aside from the top-level frustration of having to switch from a video presented on one vendor’s platform to a chat or collaboration capability on another, there is a dollar value hit that comes from relying on redundant and incompatible products that are intended to improve productivity.
Zeus Kerravala, founder and analyst with ZK Research, said that the shift to remote work caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has put many more tools and vendors in play based on workers’ preferences and initial offerings of free trials that will soon require licenses by the thousands for some organizations. That means the search will be on for an all-in-one solution, even though no company has distinguished itself as the true king of the digital collaboration jungle yet.
“You think about how long companies are going to want to pay for Slack for messaging, Zoom for video, Ring for audio, WebEx for meetings,” he said. “You’re paying for three or four different platforms and you see every vendor has moved to this path here for example Ring came out with video instead of reselling Zoom. People want an integrated experience that extends past the desktop into meeting rooms and spaces and the barrier to entry has been high, but every vendor has a suite of products from different angles.”
Kerravala said the sheer size of Microsoft’s presence in the marketplace for all productivity needs will continue to fuel the growth of MS Teams usage. Because so many companies already have enterprise agreements in place with Microsoft, leaders see a switch to Teams as an attractive solution and a way to eliminate some of the operational cost of licenses for vendors that offer similar products to what’s available with Teams.
“Teams has fantastic momentum today, but I’ve never heard of a company migrating to Teams because the user base wanted it that way,” he said. “I think they still have some work to do on the UI side of things but clearly the licensing aspect of what they’ve done has made it a no-brainer to at least look at. The better that product becomes the bigger the threat they become because they’ve captured so much else in the productivity suite.”
Vyopta’s Data Delivers Top Multi-Vendor Performance
Magnifying the user experience issue, Vyopta co-founder and CEO Alfredo Ramirez, said simultaneously using a combination of tools from Microsoft, Cisco, Zoom and other players in the unified communication space makes it difficult to manage quality and usage data in a way that allows for maximum performance. Without a multi-vendor analytics provider like Vyopta, UC and IT managers will have to spend valuable time hunting through reports and dashboards of each service when they have to address a quality issue or find out if a tool is being used as expected by different user groups.
“For these multi-vendor environments these companies will lack visibility to deliver on their charter of delivering quality user experience because Microsoft is only going to focus on their products and aren’t going to worry about Cisco Call Manager products,” Ramirez said.
“That opens you up to call quality issues around voice, choppy voice conversations, pixelated and unclear video and that limits people’s ability to meet internally. It also can get you a bad customer call or a bad sales call with a prospect, and that leads to having to reschedule meetings outside of the company, which is any sales team knows is really hard to do. It’s at least a week or multiple weeks out and that slows the sales cycle down.”
As part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vyopta is currently offering a free trial to help IT teams support massive expansion in remote work.
Chad Swiatecki is a business writer and journalist whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Billboard, New York Daily News, Austin Business Journal, Austin American-Statesman and many other print and online publications. He lives in Austin, Texas and is a graduate of Michigan State University. Find him online on LinkedIn.