In advance of AVI-SPL’s upcoming Collaboration Expo 2012, I interviewed keynote speaker Andrew W. Davis, cofounder and senior partner at Wainhouse Research. He discussed the changing nature of communication for businesses, and what it’s like to be called an “industry visionary.”
- What is the value of the expo for attendees?
The Collaboration Expo is a fantastic way for people to get up-to-date information on the latest conferencing and collaboration products and services. AVI-SPL’s event pulls together several features and benefits, including a short, focused conference, an exhibit hall for real demos, and a chance to network with likeminded colleagues. Even better, most customers will be able to attend without the cost and burden of long-distance travel.
- What changes have you seen in the work environment that are worth noting as they relate to communication and collaboration?
The most obvious change is the shift away from phone and email communications on the part of the younger work force and more use of mobile and social tools. You can’t help noticing that everyone today has a “follow me” link for Twitter, Facebook, etc. whether you are in high tech or low tech. It’s really amazing how things have changed so fast and so deeply. Mainstream enterprise communications today I would say is still driven by audio conferencing, but web is coming up fast. The issue here of course is that both of these technologies enable multitasking – doing other things while you are on the call. Video conferencing is enslaving in this respect – you have to pay attention. This is both a plus and a minus, depending on who you are and what your intention is in attending the meeting. Nevertheless, I expect video conferencing to explode as the application is “ported” to tablets and smartphones.
- What do enterprises need to do to adapt to those changes going forward?
My advice is to be flexible and stay flexible. One way to do this is to shift the focus from buying solutions as hardware or CPE deployments to buying solutions as services. Managed services come to mind here, but cloud-based or hosted services as well. Enterprises should invest in conferencing and collaboration solutions to help them gain efficiencies all over the map; but doing so does not necessarily mean the customer has to own all the bits and pieces.
- What are some collaboration technology trends you’re watching for 2012?
There are two separate but related things to watch, both video-centric. One is the incorporation of video capabilities into what we have known for the past few years as web conferencing. Citrix HD Faces is a case in point, and Cisco’s WebEx Jabber is another. The interesting angle here is that most people are comfortable with web conferencing; many already have accounts, and the video being incorporated today is not only high quality, but often free in the sense that there is no extra charge above the web conferencing costs. The second technology trend is one we’ve seen a lot of already – the move to mobile platforms like tablets and smartphones. These two developments could help video go mainstream; they will also change the nature of the industry for both vendors and channel partners.
- How important is AV/IT convergence in today’s workplace?
It’s important for several reasons. One is that the convergence offers the potential to enable a whole new set of applications and solutions. My supposition is that five years from now, many of the solutions you will be selling haven’t been invented yet. The second reason is that the convergence will change the skill sets required to be successful in the industry – both for vendors and channel partners as well as for the customer’s internal support staff.
- Does technology drive change in the workspace, or are advancements in tools and systems more the result of pressures from within an organization?
Sad to say, I believe technology drives change and not the other way around. To paraphrase Steve Jobs, end users don’t really know what they want or need.
- Let’s say it’s 2020 – what does a well-run organization or company, regardless of industry, look like and do well?
For starters, the solutions we will be using in 2020 haven’t been invented yet. And the solutions will be wireless, whatever they are. New capabilities change behavior in unpredictable ways. (Did you know ten years ago that you’d be shopping on the Internet for books, movies, music, clothing, and power tools?) And change is not always continuous. I think a well-run organization in 2020 will look very much the same as it does today from the outside, but from the inside it will be very different – with distributed information workers, less focus on working from the home office, less travel for workers, less commuting, more home-life balance. I also think we are more likely to be shaped by or constrained by external events than we are by technology – energy costs or shortages, global climate change, terrorism, economic shifts. I try to not get too depressed about these things, but you can’t help it if you read the papers.
- What are your daily industry must-reads?
In the traditional media world I am a devotee of the Wall Street Journal and the Economist magazine. Online resources include NoJitter and TechCrunch and reuters.com.
- What is it about the technology industry today that excites you?
You have to admit that the continuous changes is an effect that is both exciting and stressful. In our space — conferencing and collaboration — there are continuous improvements in the technology on one hand, and interesting battles going on in the politicial/technical/marketing arenas between the vendors. It’s a giant football match, with the size and shape of the football changing all the time.
- What’s it like to be called an “industry visionary?”
It’s a crappy title, but somebody has to wear it. Remember though, being a visionary is a dangerous job, particularly when it involves predicting the future.
Register now for the April 18 Collaboration Expo 2012 event in Dallas to see the latest in collaboration and communication solutions from over 25 of the leading manufacturers. In addition to learning about the trends in digital media, video conferencing, Unified Communications and telepresence, you can attend Andrew Davis’s keynote address: “Beyond ROI: Finding Real Value in Collaboration.”