The Alcatel-Lucent Forum is one of my favorite conferences, and not just because it's in Paris (all right, that's a big part of it). In addition to the keynote, there were many sessions focusing on unified communications (although these sessions were generally under the category of collaboration), along with sessions covering contact centers, mobility, managed communications, services, and vertical industries. There were lots of interesting sessions to choose from, as we got to hear from both Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) representatives and customers.
The theme this year was the Dynamic Enterprise. CEO Pat Russo's keynote sparked comments from Tom Burns, CEO of the Enterprise Business Group for Alcatel-Lucent. Burns noted that the greatest challenge for corporations is bringing in knowledge to the enterprise, and that encapsulating knowledge and bringing it into the work environment is key. Burns explained that there are several transformation drivers, including the rise of mobile workers, a new generation of workers, new work styles, Web 2.0 services and new mandates for CIOs.
Driving the Dynamic Enterprise
These transformation drivers have brought with them new challenges, including rising expectations, increased complexity and the need to improve performance. Challenges aside, these transformation drivers have also brought several benefits, including strengthened relationships with employees, customers and partners, as well as simplified communications and increased productivity. This concept of transformation has led to the notion of the Dynamic Enterprise -- consisting of the network, people, processes and knowledge – all working together.
For the network, the Dynamic Enterprise requires always-on secure communications infrastructure. To that end, ALU is focusing on becoming a thought leader in security.
In terms of people, workers in the Dynamic Enterprise need personalized tools for collaboration and mobility. Burns noted that while ALU released its unified communications (UC) offering several years ago, it was seen as too complicated. The company now utilizes user profiles, which I'll discuss in a bit more detail shortly. Another way ALU is simplifying UC is with its new client, My Instant Communicator. Processes are another element of the Dynamic Enterprise framework. Burns discussed the Genesys Dynamic Contact Center, which, according to The Dynamic Contact Center for Dummies book (and no, I'm not joking), "leverages basic capabilities and, based on business rules, shifts priorities in real time to meet current contact center conditions." The goal is to provide a consistent user experience and help companies and workers make decisions quickly and efficiently.
The fourth part of the framework is knowledge. Knowledge is generally spread throughout an organization, and capturing that knowledge can be challenging. Dynamic Enterprises need to connect knowledge with real-time communications to help workers exchange knowledge when necessary.
Burns noted that by tying together these four elements while transforming the network and introducing new tools such as Web 2.0, companies can make it easier for workers to share knowledge and better collaborate with co-workers, partners, suppliers and customers. I saw a couple of demos about ALU's work in Web 2.0, and the company seems to be on the right track, with interesting applications.
ALU show floor
Speaking of demos, there were lots of interesting demos at the forum, from both ALU and its business partners. One of the demos that caught my attention was user profiles. Several months ago, ALU introduced the concept of user profiles, where they identified five user profiles and bundled UC offerings to match the individual user's communication needs of specific job functions.
Obviously, an executive will have needs different from those of an office worker. In the demonstration, ALU representatives showed how they determine which category a worker falls into – executive, mobile worker, on-site roamer, office worker or team worker – and then provide a bundled solution for each of these types of users. The solutions include an appropriate phone device, plus telephony capabilities and advanced applications. Each bundle can be customized to match the user profiles as well as vertical applications. ALU introduces the user profiles early in the sales cycle so that rather than trying to sell unified messaging or conferencing, for example, they let the users talk about their business issues. ALU can then sell a solution that supports a user's business processes.
Other demos that caught my attention were focused on ALU's new UC client, My Instant Communicator. I've written more about My Instant Communicator in my blog on UC Strategies. In the past, ALU sold multiple clients for its UC suite, including My Messaging, My Phone, My Assistant and My Teamwork. My Instant Communicator brings these together in a single application, with a single client and single sign-on. My Instant Communicator accesses all services (voice, IM, email, etc.) from anywhere with a single interface, providing the same user experience. This is the first step toward a user-centric approach rather than a device-centric approach.
One of my takeaways from this conference is that while ALU is strong overseas, particularly in Europe, it is one of the best-kept secrets in North America, for reasons I don't understand. When I get briefings from Alcatel-Lucent, I always think to myself that this company really gets it – yet they're not as strong in North America as they should be. They have the right products and strategy, but they need more exposure and channel partners to gain market share. I'm not sure what it will take for ALU to get more customers and exposure outside Europe – I may just have to make another trip to Paris to figure it out.
About the author:
Blair Pleasant, president & principal analyst of COMMfusion LLC and cofounder of UCStrategies.com, provides consulting and market research analysis on voice/data convergence markets and technologies aimed at helping end-user and vendor clients both strategically and tactically. Prior to COMMfusion, she was director of communications analysis for The PELORUS Group, a market research and consulting firm, and president of Lower Falls Consulting.