Back in 2008 we started publishing extensively on the notion of Peak Oil and its pending and growing effect on business and life in general. Peak Oil is the theory (and theory trumps hypothesis or just plain opinion) that there is only so much oil in the ground and that you can only extract it so fast. When you reach a peak rate of extraction you need to figure out how to curtail consumption or pay increasingly high prices for anything related to the cost of petroleum.
Many people quit analyzing that last statement when they think about the gas pump but oil permeates every aspect of modern living from the rubber in the elastic waistline of your tighty whities to the fertilizer that grows your food. We reached Peak Oil in about 2006. Though we continue to find new oil reserves, however, older reserves continue to diminish so that the overall trend is stable and heading lower.
This article from the New York Times earlier this week might be reason for optimism but a knowledgeable assessment might only show reason for caution.
It’s widely believed by petroleum geologists and engineers that the planet still contains about 900 billion barrels of untapped oil (down from 2.5 Trillion bbl. in 1859) and some of it is either unreachable using currently technology or so expensive to get at that it will raise pump prices when it comes to market. The article cited above is a good example of oil that is now within reach thanks to modern drilling techniques.
Then, too, there is the issue of quantity. The Monterey Shale referenced above, whose untapped deposits are estimated at 15.4 billion barrels, is a case in point. Although the deposit seems like a lot, in a world that has an appetite for about 80 million barrels of crude oil per day, this whole deposit would last less than a year if you could get it out fast enough, and you can’t.
Most of the remaining oil on the planet is found in such small deposits, which adds significantly to costs because each deposit has to be found, drilled and brought to market and none of those activities are free.
This post has a VoIP headline and it is, indeed, about that though I needed to give you some context for why I think VoIP is important and why it’s just the hint of a big opportunity. Higher transportation costs driven by high oil prices are already causing people to change their travel patterns and it is reasonable to think such change will continue. Into that reality, VoIP with its ultra low costs and the add-on technologies that are also available makes a good deal of sense.
That’s why we strongly believe that technologies that make on-line video mediated meetings easy to do — without the intervention of a host — will gain in importance and could possibly become another part of the extended CRM suite. Today it’s voice over IP but that’s table stakes compared with what’s possible and what will be in demand in the near future such as whole conferences. Our advice is to keep an eye on all kinds of VoIP providers and their infrastructure brethren. If you can’t go to the business, the business might be able to go to you.
I almost never attend a webinar unless I am speaking. When I need to know something I usually get a one on one with a CEO or other leader of a company. They’re very gracious with their time and the tutelage helps me as an analyst though often I don’t run out and write something about my experience.
Part of the reason for my reticence is that most briefings are on background — the leaders are often trying out a new idea and looking for feedback. Frequently those ideas undergo significant modification before they finally emerge. Other times, the briefing in embargoed pending an official announcement. And often a briefing is about an incremental release — suffice it to say there are lots of reasons not to write about something. At least right away. Sometimes, months later, an idea strikes and I write something. It’s not the best system in the world but I doubt I am the only scribe that uses it.
Last week I broke with precedent and attended a webinar on Microsoft’s unified communications server also known (I think) as Office Communication Server. It immediately reminded me of why I don’t do this more often but after I got over the pitch aspect and the interminable demo, I got the big picture and was happy I made the effort. Now, breaking with another looser precedent I am writing about it because I think it’s important.
Lots of companies, mainly in the telco space, are deploying unified communication servers; they include, but the list is hardly limited to, Cisco, Avaya, NEC and Microsoft, just to pick a few. This is a new field and standards are still loose and one vendor’s gear might not work with another’s. But Gartner has a Magic Quadrant for them so it’s a real market.
If UCS is new to you and you are not a dyslexic fan of USC football, it’s all about bringing together your calendaring, email, mobile, voice mail, VoIP, video and other telecommunications under one roof to better coordinate workflow, customer access and intra-company communications. I think it’s important, especially from a sustainability perspective.
I’ve been researching sustainability ideas all my life but my interest intensified in the last couple of years and now I am writing about it. I think UCS coupled with other new product ideas like content libraries, SharePoint and Salesforce’s Chatter, offers the potential to squeeze a lot of friction out of business.
By friction I mean all those things that suck up energy — both the personal and the carbon based kind — without delivering business benefit to either customers or vendors. Unified communication brings together the exploded cornucopia of communications technologies that have been invented over the last few decades into a manageable framework giving users the ability to tame what has become a communications beast.
Unified communication integrated with CRM offers the possibility of making us all more proactive and responsive to customers but in ways that simplify rather than complicate our lives. It seems like whenever we get a new technology one of the first uses we dream up for it is to somehow accelerate a business process, like selling. Ironically, that’s true occasionally but quickly everyone gets the same idea and what was once an accelerator turns the whole thing to gridlock.
A classic example might be email. As a tool for sales and marketing it proved very useful and many companies like Responsys, ExactTarget or ConstantContact (just to pick a few) have elevated it to a science. But then came various flavors of social networking with the same idea and in a short time we had way too many technologies trying to use the same basic technique resulting in jammed (and spammed) inboxes.
Unified communications reverses this trend partly. It does little to arbitrate between your media of choice but because it can track the whereabouts and activities of the recipient, it can result in one message rather than several from an impatient colleague, vendor or customer. It may not accelerate many processes but then again it might surprise you. What unified communications will certainly do is help us organize how we communicate and liberate time that is wasted because we simply don’t know.
More importantly, when you add video, VoIP and other advanced technologies, you may come to realize that what used to take a face to face meeting now only requires a quick chat. My research shows that as the recovery gains momentum, the cost of transportation will increase just as it did in 2008 when liquid fuel prices spiked. Having an alternative like unified communications might be the difference between doing business and not.
Unified communications wasn’t on my radar until the webinar and I am glad that I attended that one.