The final morning session at Enterprise 2.0 that I attended focused on Skype and the issues its adoption raises within the Enterprise. Irwin Lazar moderated a panel of Rebecca Cavagnari, VP of Convenos, Lou Guercia, President of WebDialogs and Michael Jackson from Skype.
Skype has become the most popular communications application, with 9.2 million users logged in at any time and hundreds of millions of downloads.
The virtual workplace is here. Nemertes Research reports that 83% of enterprises reported in 2006 that they have incorporated virtual workplaces.
Skype is the first unified messaging application. And it has taken off with individuals and small businesses.
Individual employees have introduced Skype into the enterprise. Skype has developed a Skype for Business product geared to the Enterprise environment. However, adoption by the enterprise has lagged behind individual user adoption.
Nemertes researched the views of enterprises about Skype. Almost half (46%) of their respondents have a policy to block it. (Note that the policy is not universally applied.) About one in ten – mostly nonprofit organizations – actively use it. Overall, there is not a great deal of acceptance by the highest levels in the enterprise, but there is broad usage by individuals.
Corporate concerns include control of usage and security.
Lou Guercia feels that the only element missing from Skype as a unified communications platform is data sharing. His company, WebDialogs, offers a Skype web conferencing plug in under the Unyte brand name.
Skype’s Michael Jackson says that one third of Skype’s users claim that they use it in the workplace.
How do they address the challenge of acceptance by enterprises?
Michael Jackson indicated that Skype is paying attention to the concerns and issues raised by the enterprise market. As they refine the product, they are making changes to take these into account.
Rebecca Cavagnari indicated that Convenos users include a large representation of people who are based outside of the United States. And they use Skype to establish presence and communicate prior to the beginning of the web conference.
Lou Guercia indicated that the conferences that are routed through WebDialog’s Skype plugin tend to be smaller than through its other products.
Skype’s Michael Jackson points out that Skype is never positioned as a replacement for phone service. Instead, they point to the greater capabilities, including video, that Skype enables. Skype uses its own internal uasge of Skype as a testbed.
Lou Guercia feels that the biggest challenge for a consumer-based company like Skype faces is scale. As a B-to-C company, Skype does not have the support system that B-to-B customers demand. He expects that this will encourage Skype to continue to focus on individual users while peacefully co-existing with the enterprise.
Cavagnari agrees that companies that partner with Skype should not expect Skype to change its focus to the Enterprise. Consequently, the partners must rely on their own efforts to ensure that their products that use Skype meet the needs of business users.
Bottom line for Guercia, Skype partners, not Skype, will have to meet the needs of business partners.
Skype’s Michael Jackson tackled the question of interoperability. He suggested that this has not been an issue for Skype’s end users, but more of an issue for analysts.
Skype has ventured into social applications with its Skypecast initiative. This is still very much in its formative stages. The company will wait for the community to develop applications rather than, with its limited size, try to itself push into the edge applications.
Why did Convenos and WebDialog integrate Skype into their products? Cavagnari indicated that Skype presented a superior substitute for the Codec that was in their product. Gueros indicated that they incorporated Skype for branding purposes. Skype gave them a brand awareness that they could not otherwise have achieved. Since December, they have done business in 47 countries – with no sales force and just an eCommerce site.
An interesting session for me. However, there seemed to be a lack of audience engagement. In fact, I had the impression that this session was trying to answer a question that nobody had asked.