Know Your Alternatives, Toronto - Nicely Done!

Yesterday was the second Know Your Alternatives event, held here in Toronto, and by all accounts, I'd say the show was a success. Canada is a small market, and there's a real dearth of telecom events - it was nice to be part of something that everyone seemed to enjoy. I've been involved in my share of conference productions, and I'll first say hats off to Emily Nielsen and her team at Nielsen IT Consulting for putting this together. I think they're on to a good thing here, and hopefully it will keep evolving for next year and beyond.

All told, I'd say there were about 200 people there, and that's pretty good for Canada. Sponsor support was strong, with a good showing of tier 1 and tier 2 vendors, along with a few smaller players that were new to me. Every conference is a learning experience, and this was a good way to connect with what's happening in the Canadian telecom space.

The sessions I saw were good and they were talking about all the right kind of issues - mobility, social media, UC, SIP, contact center, IP telephony, BYOD, video, virtualization, etc. Nothing ground-breaking, but a solid update on the state of telecom here in Canada. There could have been a bit more focus on channel issues, but overall, the bases were pretty well covered.

Based what I saw and heard from talking to attendees, businesses seem content to keep using their phone systems and staying with their incumbents. They've had it good that way for a long time, and there's not a lot pushing them to change. The status quo is good on both ends, but of course we know that businesses can get more for their money with IP telephony and SIP-based applications. The reality is that we have limited competition to drive change, and there aren't a lot of forums or opportunities for businesses to learn more about what's out there.

Don't get me wrong, there are loads of businesses successfully deploying VoIP, SIP trunking, UC, video, etc., but the market simply isn't adopting these things as quickly as in the U.S. It's clear that businesses - and channels - are struggling with mobility and BYOD, and I think that's going take up most of their attention in the near term. Carriers will roll out IP services as it suits them, and with middling demand, this will take some time yet.

So, it's a mixed bag in Canada, but shows like KYA are a great forum to educate businesses about what's possible today, and in that regard, the show is very aptly named. There is more choice today than ever before, but making good IT decisions has never been more difficult. It's too bad there aren't more events like KYA, but the market is just too small to support them. This puts the onus even more on businesses to learn about where the market is going, especially to get beyond what the vendors are telling/selling them. We're not going to solve that problem today, but I hope KYA stays the course, both to keep the vendors honest, and to give businesses a fair shake to plan effectively as they move on from TDM and legacy modes of communicating.

Emily Nielsen kicking off her event with opening comments

Micheal O'Neil introducing Bell's Ari Blau for the UC in the Cloud session

Avaya's Martin Bureau, Social Media in Contact Centers

Emily moderating the wrapup Leadership Panel - with Ross Pellizzari - Avaya Canada, Donald Stewart - NEC, Pejman Roshan - ShoreTel, and Mike Ansley - Cisco

From the showfloor - Avaya showing how Aura supports multiple tablet vendors and screen environments