- Two key themes dominated GENBAND’s Perspectives16: Collaboration (leveraging KANDY) and network transformation.
- Not all of the vendor’s messages fit into those themes, creating some important tensions – but potentially signaling new growth opportunities for GENBAND.
Beyond connecting with customers and playing some golf, user summits are great opportunities to “inspire and inform.” Customers want to get the latest product roadmap details along with the near- and longer-term strategies of any vendor they’re working with. Inspiring presentations, meanwhile, may drive them to innovate their businesses – spending money in the process. If nothing else, inspiring your customers is one way to make sure they feel good about doing business with you.
Against this backdrop, GENBAND Perspectives16 did just what you’d expect it to. Held from May 2nd to May 5th in Orlando, the event convened GENBAND executives and customers, along with a handful of press and analysts, to talk about – and learn about – the vendor’s products and strategies. In the process, GENBAND extended some of these messages in important ways – and came up short in others.
- Network Transformation & Collaboration. From the CEO’s keynote to a TED-esque presentation from author Margaret Heffernan, the importance of collaboration – to innovation and corporate survival – was at the forefront of GENBAND’s messaging, linked to the KANDY “communications as a platform” offer. Not far behind it was the need for service providers to transform their networks, ideally using GENBAND’s NFV products and stable of partners. None of this should be news to anyone who follows, or buys from, the vendor. None of this should be news to anyone who’s read our GENBAND company assessment. And yet, just because it’s not new messaging doesn’t mean it’s not important. Strategic consistency, after all, helps to hammer a message home.
- Proof Points. Messaging is nice, but only if a company can back it up; slideware and booth demos alone are a poor justification for network or service investments. As much as SAP had been leveraging KANDY since its inception, for example, customer traction and customer stories provide more certainty. Tales of the tour bus evangelism with the Kandy “Real Time Communications Tour,” then, were one thing – but traction with Deutsche Telecom’s virtual mobile phone service immmr, Telecom Italia’s Sparkle communications platform, and the MBODY360 health and wellness platform were more powerful. On the network transformation and NFV front? Well, there weren’t the same sorts of customer announcements. But, for any would-be customers on the fence around NFV maturity, a live demo of VNF set-up and teardown was compelling, if not in the same way as major customer testimonials.
- Skills Gaps. An infinite number of live NFV demos wouldn’t be enough to convince a smaller service provider that they have the requisite skills to move on the technology in the near-term. As with so many other NFV-related panels and conference sessions, the concept of a “skills gap” surfaced on the panel I ran at Perspectives16. Smartly, then, GENBAND also surfaced the availability of its support services. Recognizing, one supposes, a potential conflict with partners like HP, the “services” message was not a particularly loud one, but it was nice to see.
- Misfit Products. Network Transformation. Services. Partners. Together, all of these components painted a fairly cohesive picture. Even when specific products were touted – think SBC, media processing, application servers – they fit well. Yet, for all the discussion of NFV, a lack of discussion around SDN was confusing (though not new). At the same time, a focus on Voice over WiFi (complete with its own breakout) seemed out of place, only tangentially linked to the larger communications focus.
If there was a third major component to GENBAND’s messaging this year, it wouldn’t be difficult to identify: fear. Keynote sessions and follow-on presentations highlighted how companies who fail to innovate, collaborate or transform their networks will, themselves, fail.
GENBAND isn’t alone in using fear as a sales tactic. And, to be fair, some service providers may be motivated by the worry that if they don’t transform their networks or don’t drive collaboration, they’ll find themselves trailing the competition. Regardless, beginning any sales effort by explaining to the customer why they should want something is always less favorable than having customers come to you looking for solutions or products. Hopefully, that comes in the form of customer endorsements as references begin to roll in.