Dealing With the Uncertainty of Changes
By Greg Pelton, CTO & VP, Infrastructure Engineering, Polycom
There is a fundamental perspective change required to be successful in this new model. In the past we have tried for stability, to make networks predictable and honor a fixed set of service contracts with users. This ensured we had a known point from which to measure how well the network was performing and whether users were getting the expected service. To stay competitive, lines of business are deploying new apps and leveraging cloud services with little oversight from IT departments. Mobility is the other big force that is changing how users access enterprise services and what constitutes an enterprise service. This genie cannot be put back in the bottle, so IT departments need to embrace cloud services and mobility, and gain hands-on experience. Cloud makes mobility simpler and more secure since less data is in flight and there are standardized methods for handling user credentials and maintaining separation of data. If you have been in business for a while, it is likely that your company’s products are going through this same transition. Server based enterprise applications are being virtualized and converted into cloud offerings, while desktop clients are expanding into mobile apps.
There are a few strategies that we use to help deal with the uncertainty of change. One is that we maintain two parallel environments, one running very stable instances of our products and one with beta code. For customer-facing or business critical meetings, we will schedule them on the stable environment and IT will be responsible for managing the environment and facing the users when any problems arise. For internal meetings and less formal interactions, we use the beta environment and beta client software. This beta network is instrumented to collect extensive logs and traces so that there is good quality debug information available and issues can be resolved quickly, reducing delay in product development.
What set of skills do you think is required for the technology leaders to be successful in the new Enterprise Networking landscape?
There is no way to predict what technologies or applications will be most important 18 months from now.
To stay competitive, lines of business are deploying new apps and leveraging cloud services with little oversight from IT departments
The first is agility. Agile requires foundational change throughout the entire product lifecycle. How requirements are gathered and analyzed, how software is developed, how testing is done, how user experience is defined, how capabilities are committed and delivered to customers is all different.
The other skill is collaboration. It sounds cliché, but collaboration is critically important to successful outcomes. We have a constantly changing landscape of employees and partners around the globe and must agilely organize and align them to react to customer needs. This requires people to be able to communicate and coordinate across space and time, with the same fidelity and immediacy. Luckily, Polycom is in the collaboration business and we are heavy users of our own technology. All meetings and discussions are done using video unless someone is in a car or airport where the video is not an option for them. Our workspaces are outfitted with appropriate solutions for their size and purpose, and a range of devices and soft clients are available for working at home or when traveling. We have developed those best practices over many years and often help our customers to adopt them.
Which growing or future technology innovation are you personally excited about?
It is a very dynamic time and many new collaboration tools and capabilities are introduced. Video collaboration is not yet ubiquitous. All enterprise users are also consumers, and applications like Facetime and Skype are setting users’ expectations that video is easy and comfortable. This is triggering many new video applications within the enterprise.
I’m expecting we will see Augmented Reality (AR) reach business users much earlier. AR still uses glasses or some other viewing device, but, it overlays information on top of what you ordinarily see around you. The benefit is that you are enhancing what you would normally see rather than replacing it with something totally different. You can imagine AR replacing the need for whiteboards and allowing remote participants to “occupy” seats in the same meeting room as local participants.
I’m also fascinated by what is happening with user interfaces, especially in speech recognition and natural language processing. After decades of slow progress, suddenly we have seen real breakthroughs in the past few years. Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana are all part of our lives now and provide a pretty good experience. Amazon Echoes keep track of grocery lists or play music or set timers while you are cooking. The idea of interacting with technology without needing a keyboard or mouse or remote is very powerful and will dramatically change the user experience.
A third area I’m looking at is Artificial Intelligence (AI). For at least 20 years we have been talking about virtual assistants – software that would be smart enough to understand and anticipate our needs. AI is used to make work easier and more productive, but we are calling it “Analytics”. These recommendations are getting more and more accurate. As the amount of data we are producing and collecting grows exponentially, only very smart analytics software can interpret this data and make it useful to us.