The large IT vendors have really latched onto the collaboration buzz created by enterprise 2.0 and are rolling out their offerings for the 2009 budgeting season in large enterprises.
Budget Bingo This is the season many IT departments are working up their proposed budgets for the coming financial year, and anything which 'checks all the boxes' of the business requirements units and partners have been asking for will receive close scrutiny and then matched to these offerings.
The overarching benefits of greater productivity, communication and innovation are extolled, the big question is how much does it cost? Cisco have a shiny unified model for 2009, bringing their components into one Cisco Unified Communications System Release 7.0 offering.
This is wrapped up to appeal to people cutting the financial cloth for next season: touting significant improvements in total cost of ownership, ease of use, and interoperability with business applications.
Both Cisco on their website and Oracle at OpenWorld this week have been rolling out examples and case histories but as Christopher Carfi put it, with Oracle he was not able to get any details of how 'real' the applications were - the demonstrations were very scripted and quite a bit of the demo 'required the suspension of belief once you started to delve into the details'.
Cisco have great case histories for specific communications products but combining them all into a unified one stop solution is a stretch for many people. These unified systems are only as good as their weakest link, as the people who actually have to try and use them will start raising a ruckus about when the budget season gifts are unwrapped and put into action.
Ironically the main reason enterprise 2.0 has gained such traction is because of the inadequacies of institutional IT infrastructure: employees have been picking up on freely available web 2.0 tools in order to get their job done.
Clearly Cisco and Oracle are moving in the right direction with these offerings - and firing a shot across the bows of the Microsoft Sharepoint juggernaut - but any smoke and mirrors gets exposed very quickly once the real utility of the offerings is exposed. A test drive of any expensive purchase by the people who are going to have to drive it is always a good idea.
Buying an eighteen wheel truck and then realizing you needed three sportscars is an analogy, but despite this no one ever got fired for buying Sharepoint...