Looking Ahead – A Nexus of Forces meets The Third Platform?

Any attempt to look over the horizon from a ground level position is fraught with danger and full of uncertainty and the further you try and look the more dangerous it becomes. But we won’t let little things like that put us off as Editor Ian Hunter compiles our views and those of the channel on what we are likely to see in 2016 and beyond.

Two events over the last few weeks stand out as I write this article. Firstly on October 21 – Back to the Future Day, I duly watched all three of the films in the franchise on TV. The first was the best. Of the other two, which were made three years later but concurrently, I preferred #3 – the old west film with ZZ Top playing at a hoedown. For everything else there was MasterCard.

Secondly, I ‘attended’ an IDC briefing held on the east coast of the US where Frank Gens, IDC’s Senior Vice President & Chief Analyst, delivered their collective view on what would happen in our industry from 2016 to 2020.

I’m a big fan of IDC (more later) but to be honest, when I had time to consider both of these two events, I had to categorise them both as on screen entertainment.

Whilst Marty McFly gave me the hover board to ponder IDC left me feeling more than a bit threatened, à la, ‘Freddy’s Back!’ by the time we got to the end of the presentation.

Three-Platforms-Graphic-01Back in the summer I spent a lot of time researching; trying to collate views from the good and great in our industry on what was likely to be driving IT purchases over the next five years.

As a result, during 2016 we will be introducing the IDC’s theme of The Third Platform; the idea that CTO’s will be driven by four key trends; these being The Cloud, Big Data and Analytics, Mobile and Social Media. That’s not to say we’re going to be talking about ‘selling Facebook’ rather we are acknowledging the fact that 70% of all purchases – whether good or bad experiences – are posted on social media sites and are therefore having significant impacts on future purchasing decisions.

Think Trip Advisor, think LinkedIn discussions, think Twitter alerts. It is how firms are handling and reacting to those product/service complaints on social media as well as how they are exploiting the positive reviews that are energising and exercising C level executives across the globe.

Against all this positivity of the last six months however the IDC 2016 and beyond presentation seemed more full of threats than opportunities. I’m sure it was not meant but that was my perception.

My notes remind me that IDC predicts that by 2020 30% of the top firms in every business sector will not exist, as we know them today. They will be replaced by new firms, will have merged, will have not kept pace and declined, or will simply not be relevant any more to the business needs of the day. That’s 30 per cent.

I don’t have the space here to go in to all that IDC predicts so take a look on-line as IDC has thankfully uploaded all the presentations together with the Frank Gens soundtrack. Let me know what you think.

Gartner, as the other big gun in the analyst world, takes a similar view by the way but terms their future world ‘The Nexus of Forces’.

When I say that Gartner identifies the Nexus of Forces as the convergence and mutual reinforcement of mobile, social, cloud and information you can see what I mean by similar.

Gartner uses the ‘D’ word extensively these days and the phrase ‘Digital Transformation’ is achieving widespread use in our industry.

It’s hard to express in a nutshell exactly where Gartner sees this future but the following would seem to be a good effort IMHO.

‘Consumerisation and democratisation of IT drives this convergence and reflects a technology-immersed world. Gartner has interacted with organisations worldwide that have adopted new patterns and practices to deliver nexus-aligned solutions, and these patterns are now stabilising into a platform for the digital business.

Digital business scenarios — which feature value networks of people, businesses and things – rely on flexible configurations of the nexus forces for effective experiences. The Internet of Things (IoT) further extends digital business possibilities, especially as ‘things’ become smarter, ubiquitous and autonomous.

Digital business goals change the nature of solution delivery: opportunities appear and disappear at faster rates, lightweight configurable systems displace legacy IT, functionality is decomposed across internal and external providers, and monolithic systems and vendor relationships give way to loosely coupled ecosystems. Traditional power relationships are profoundly shifted in an advanced digital business — they are flipped outside-in and upside-down. Nexus patterns and practices underlie all of this change.’

Again, we recommend that you look up Nexus of Forces to get the detail.

Connecting the World

So let’s go back to the future and take a look at connectivity in 2016. We think the only significant event next year will be the start by BT of the roll out of G.fast and trials of XG.fast.

G.fast is currently being trialled by Openreach in Huntingdon and Gosforth. Trialists are receiving speeds of up to 330Mbps downstream, more than ten times the current UK average.

BT says if the trials prove successful – and if UK regulation continues to encourage investment (Ed. So much politics in that statement) – Openreach aims to start deploying G.fast in 2016/17 alongside its fibre-to-the-cabinet and fibre-to-the-premises services. The company expects speeds to rise to up to 500Mbps as the technology is rolled out across the country.

A potential future development of G.fast broadband technology, known as ‘XG.FAST’, has achieved speeds of more than 5 Gigabits per second in early experimental lab trials conducted by BT and Alcatel Lucent. The results give BT confidence that G.fast is a future proof technology that can help the UK maintain its position as the leading digital economy in the G20.

What the Channel Says…

So here are snapshots and sound bites others in the channel have made recently regarding potential activity that will be significant in 2016.

Frost & Sullivan Senior Consultant Anthony Leather The rising use of Web intelligence and Big Data analytics throughout law enforcement. Constraints on budgets and an increased focus on business efficiency will squeeze security provider prices with a focus on affordable security solutions that show a clear return on investment both for protection and operation. The cyber problem will continue with a call for greater collaboration between government and industry, focus in the boardroom, and better cyber security hygiene.

Will Morey of distributor Pragma I think in 2016 there are going to be three key themes; channel, cloud and on-premise PBX.

Looking at the Channel, with the increasing dominance of cloud technology we are seeing many service providers and vendors returning to direct business models and cutting the channel out of the market. Some of the strongest channel service providers already offer a direct relationship to end-users and willingly compete with their channel partners. Annual reports highlight increasing direct sales and websites offer end users the chance to cut the channel out and go direct. Commitment to the channel is going to become a hot topic again and we believe the winners in 2016 will be the companies who step up and commit to the channel and an indirect business model.

Martin Taylor, Founder and Director of Content Guru Natural Language Speech Recognition (NLSR): By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their business relationships without human interaction according to Gartner – and NLSR will play a massive role in this self-service revolution. On the web or using IVR, it’s the most natural way for customers to ask the questions they want, in the way that they want, rather than be restricted to finding answers on static Q&A pages or forced into using touch tone IVR systems that require touch tone or single word spoken responses. Used intelligently, NLSR can also enable intelligent routing and enhance speech verification and speech analytics capabilities.

Adrian Hipkiss, Vice President and Managing Director EMEA at ShoreTel We’ll see a rise in the importance of proficient enterprise-class contact centres to improve the customer experience, as the demand for omnichannel customer support like instant messaging (IM) continues to put demand on businesses and e-commerce sites. With highly cost effective contact centre technology available today, small to medium businesses (5,000 employees and below) have a level playing field and shouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of this in 2016 and beyond. SMBs need to develop their communications infrastructure to create more functionality for customers which will drive business growth.”

Darren Standing, Head of Products and Marketing, at reseller Solar Communications The convergence of UC and mobile: Enterprise demand for services on mobile devices used by employees will lead to an application led approach from vendors, as UC solutions move from desk top interfaces to smartphone apps to make the UC experience truly mobile. Expect to see more service bundles from VARs and differentiated hosted platforms come to market as vendors and VARs seek to find USPs.

Alexis Argent, Founder and Director of VoIPon Solutions Video is becoming more important to the desk phone, with more manufacturers incorporating cameras into their models. With the use of Android, it means Skype and Google Hangouts can be used directly from the phone too. With BYOD and CYOD continuing to grow it is wise for resellers of telephony to also look into connectivity infrastructure, specifically wireless. The growth within wireless networking is huge and SMEs know that downtime in communication costs so improving the infrastructure means they never ever have to be offline again.

Richard Carter, Group Sales & Business Development Director, Nimans 2016 is destined to be a dynamic year in the communications arena according to Nimans. Collaboration, wireless network connectivity, low cost video conferencing and more exciting developments around hosted are some of the ‘hottest’ areas resellers should be aware of. I don’t see one area of technology taking the market by storm but there are lots of sectors that will continue to move forward at significant pace.

Paul Heritage Redpath, Product Manager at Entanet We think consumer interest in the Internet of Things will continue to increase throughout 2016 and we expect them to once again lead the way in terms of widespread adoption. As we saw with cloud, once leading consumer brands launch a service (e.g. Apple’s iCloud) adoption and interest in a previously unfamiliar technology can soar, eventually encouraging the business world to react and realise similar benefits. Some IoT services have already started to emerge with smart heating systems and health and fitness recording devices, yet these have been very consumer led so far – will 2016 be the year that businesses start to take notice of IoT possibilities too?

In terms of technology, we’re not seeing particularly significant new communication technologies on the horizon. BT will undoubtedly continue to extoll the theoretical speeds of their new G.Fast services, which they are promoting as ‘ultrafast’ broadband. However in reality, we think these will have limited availability and hence appeal.

Peter Gradwell, CTO and Founder of Gradwell Communications. I think that the next big trend will be the integration of cloud telephony systems and other cloud applications, particularly CRM systems. You get really big benefits when you fully integrate the customer records and phone call records – SME owners can see performance improvements in sales, service and productivity – and the proliferation of cloud applications in the SME space will drive this sort of utility out of the corporates’ and into the wider market.

Stephen Larkin, Managing Director, Juniper Bridge A trend we see is the demand for greater mobile support which highlights a demand in the Voice over LTE technology (VoLTE). Network operator 3 implemented its VoLTE (Voice over LTE) in early September in the UK and the rest are set to follow in 2016. A VoLTE network has up to 3 times more voice and data capacity than 3G UMTS — and up to 6 times more than 2G GSM. As Streaming to the phone is still a hot topic and the quality now extends to 4K video, bringing VoLTE to smart phones will have a distinct advantage to the channel. It further converges the market and brings the home and office environment closer than it has ever been.

Data consumption is growing rapidly and this additional traffic is prompting more and more demand for Smart phone Voice products, 4K streaming to devices and on demand quality of service. As the price of connectivity is declining and smart phones and tablets are starting to follow suit then we believe that the VoLTE and IoT is where the Channel needs to hedge its bets.

Tony Martino, Managing Director of Tollring The Cloud is Revolutionising Call Management: One of the most common benefits of cloud-based call management applications is their accessibility on any device at any time. More important than this, is the accessibility of the right information at the right time. This may be via at-a-glance dashboards, text messages or email alerts, for example. Expectations of business analytics applications run high these days. Market demand and the development of the cloud are shaping these products and services, with the addition of new valuable enhancements. Key issues for 2016 will include fraud detection and revenue assurance.

Ed Says…

As ever, we continue to live in interesting times and the opinions here from channel players make for compelling reading – there was so much here that we did not have space for. I searched for but could not find anyone that was mentioning WebRTC as a key technology and application area for 2016… until, that is, I spoke to Timico Partners. Here the company is making an investment in the channel through planned WebRTC seminars and workshops for their channel partners that will be delivered by the very capable and engaging David Hamer. This will enable resellers of their Synergy hosted telephony application, which features WebRTC, to exploit its market disrupting features. I’m a fan.


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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine