Stove Pipes are Easier to Sell

This is going to be one of those retrospective posts that are going to make you think so just hang in there. Although the conclusion seems like a tangent to the title I think you will understand what I am talking about when I get there.
Recently I have been thinking (those of you who actually know me may find this hard to believe) a lot about how different vendors build and present their Unified Communications platforms. Some use the method of dividing their platforms into easily recognizable products with each workload requiring a server or more (depending on availability requirements) with their own management interfaces. Why do they do this when it is possible to do it on one platform with one management platform?

Sure there are technical reasons why this is the way it is but what about when there isn’t. Here’s one reason. If they are separate products they are easier to sell in segments, easier to license and more than likely easier to derive their own revenue from. I look at this as stove pipe selling. Seems pretty simple right, but what about the customer’s perspective?

If they buy a product that has its own management interface and presents itself as a separate IT tower, it means less change and an easier product to buy from the perspective of team integration. If I need 5 separate products to run IM, Presence, Mobility, Web/ video/ audio Conferencing and Telephony but it means I don’t need to bring my IT teams together as one seamless team that somehow makes my life easier because I don’t need to deal with those other guys. It is also easier to sell to one IT tower than a whole UC team so some vendors have little incentive to mesh products together seamlessly under one management platform, in my opinion. To me, this seems counterintuitive to the whole concept of UC.

So once stove pipe selling has taken place what happens next. The CIO wants UC in the work place and now we have to figure out how all this stuff works and integrates together but because we purchased in stove pipes and we have to figure out if vendor X works with vendor Y. Now there are plugins and all sorts of other complexities that in the end will end up in a whole but what if we started in a different direction. If managers from each IT tower came together and said before we make one more IT purchase let’s form a UC architecture team to derive our direction and partners. Now this doesn’t mean buying products from just one vendor. It just means setting the direction within an enterprise for UC.

I am not trying to sell a product or convince people to go with product xyz with this post but its more around creating the idea that seamless integration starts with team and not product. The product selection is a consequence of the team not the reason the team forms in the first place.

Comments welcomed.


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