Changes Afoot for the UCIF
There've been some changes to the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF) bylaws, which may encourage some of the vendor holdouts to join the forum - notably Cisco, Avaya, and IBM. These leading UC vendors have not joined the forum, which limits the value that the forum can actually provide. I'm hopeful that the changes to the bylaws will be the impetus needed to get these folks on board. Based on the changes, it appears that companies that are non-founders will have more say in what happens and can play a more important role, which was one of their primary complaints about the way the forum was structured.
Here's a rundown of the important changes:
- The distinction between founding directors and non-founding directors has been eliminated. According to the original bylaws, the votes of founding directors carry more weight than the votes of non-founding directors. Obviously non-founding members weren't too happy about that and felt that if they joined, they would be unequal participants. The new bylaws changed this so that there's now just one class of directors, with everyone getting an equal vote.
- Increasing the maximum size of the board to 12. The number of board of directors members can be increased going forward without requiring a bylaw amendment.
- There's a new formula to determine the make up of the board configuration of the board. 1/3 of the maximum number of board seats are reserved for Contributing Participants seats, or the middle UCIF membership level (as opposed to just Board of Director Participants, the top UCIF membership level). This makes room for up to four Contributing Participant members to be elected once the eight Board Participant seats are filled.
- Contributing Participants can play a larger role on the board, and can be nominated for the board by either themselves, other Contributing Participants, or Board of Director Participants. The nominees that receive the four highest number of votes will have board seats for a two-year period.
- Chairman of Board of Directors: Previously the Chairman position was a three-year term, with Microsoft designated as the initial chairman. The new rules state that the chairman is now selected on an annual basis by a vote from the Board of Directors.
The changes gives participants at various UCIF membership levels an opportunity to play a bigger role in the forum and have their voices heard.
Several important UC vendors that were not founding members and were not part of the UCIF had complained that various issues related to the governance and structure of the organization were impediments to joining the forum. By changing the bylaws and structure, the UCIF is making it easier for these companies to become active and equal partners, and hopefully encouraging them to join in order to meet the forum's goal of promoting interoperability.
Of course these changes do not guarantee that Cisco, Avaya or IBM will join the UCIF, but they eliminate one of the biggest barriers. There may be other reasons why some of these vendors are reluctant to join, so again, there's no way of knowing how they'll proceed.
The structure UCIF did appear to favor Microsoft and some of its partners, and it's easy to understand why some competitors did not want to participate. Will the changes in the bylaws be enough to change their minds? My hope is that it will. As an advocate of the UC industry, I see interoperability as a key factor impacting the market's growth. Having all the leading vendors working together to solve interoperability issues will help the customers, the vendors, and the market. As my colleague Jim Burton likes to say, "A rising tide lifts all boats." Interoperability can be huge tide, lifting up all the vendors involved, and best serving their customers.