Friday, May 15, 2015

Next stop - Orlando and Genband Perspectives

I've been operating fairly locally lately, but have a short trip next week. From Monday-Wednesday, I'll be Genband's Perspectives 15 conference in Orlando. It's still pretty cool here in Toronto, so no complaints about heading south.

The company continues to push ahead, especially in the cloud applications space, and it will interesting to see what kind of traction their PaaS offering, Kandy, is getting. Genband is hardly alone among vendors transitioning from legacy-based hardware to the new worlds of software and the cloud, and Kandy will be a good barometer of that.

As a benchmark, here are my takeaways from last year's event, and I'll update that as best I can while in Orlando. If you care to follow on twitter, my handle is @arnoldjon, and the event hashtag is #GBP15.

Monday, May 11, 2015

CTCA Spring Conference Shout-Out

Time zooms along, and while I haven't been travelling much lately, I have five industry events over the next five weeks. Am doing a shout-out now for the CTCA's annual spring conference, being held this year at Hockley Valley Resort. It's a great time to be there - about an hour north of Toronto - and unlike last year, there won't be any ice still on the lakes - but the Stanley Cup playoffs will probably still be going! Canada, eh.

If you follow me, you may recall that I keynoted at last year's conference, and this time around I'm sharing the stage with a few others. On the second day, I'm part of a "blue ribbon panel" - gotta like that - on the "future of our industry", which includes fellow UCStrategies Expert Steve Leaden. Not only does Steve know his IT/telephony, but he keeps great time on the drums for the SIPtones. I'll be guesting with them the week after on keyboards at the Interactive Intelligence event, but I digress. More about that later.

Also since last year, I've finally joined CTCA as an Affiliate Member, so am doing my part here to promote both the association and the conference. We'd love to see more attendees, so to learn more, here's the current conference program outline. Updates are coming, but there's plenty there to help you decide about coming up to Hockley Valley, and from there, the main website provides full details on registration and how to get there.

Monday, May 4, 2015

April Writing Roundup

Not as busy as March, but still plenty of things keeping me busy. Here's a digest of my top posts from April in case you don't follow the various sites I'm published on.

BYOD Opportunities - Becoming Mobile-Centric, Toolbox.com, April 8

Understanding Adoption Barriers to Collaboration, Part 1, JAA blog, April 10 (also running on the Cisco Canada Blog)

BYOD Opportunities - Innovation From Everywhere, Toolbox.com, April 13

Mitel's Crystal Ball - Business Communications in 2025, JAA blog, April 15

BYOD Success Factors - Three Things About Millennials, Toolbox.com, April 17

Why Verizon Can Be a Great Fit for SMBs, Toolbox.com, April 21

GetVoIP's Top UC Experts - Me and 49 Others, JAA blog, April 23

Understanding Adoption Barriers to Collaboration, Part 2, JAA blog, April 28

5 Things SMBs Will Like About Verizon's VCE, Toolbox.com, April 29

Cisco Collaboration Summit - Two Messages for UC, UCStrategies, May 1 (was written April 30, and better to post it now while it's still current rather than for my May roundup)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Two UC Messages from Cisco's Customer Collaboration Summit

Got back late last night from Austin, and took away some strong messages from Cisco's collab event the past couple of days. I addressed two of these in my current contribution to the UCStrategies portal, and it's just been posted, so I hope you run over to read it now.

Basically, I see UC facing similar challenges to the contact center, and for the latter, Cisco has lot on the ball now, especially with their focus on omnichannel. They are definitely being strategic in this space, and while UC is part of the story there, UC has its own issues finding a niche as a standalone solution. My post talks about two things Cisco is doing with contact centers that all UC vendors could stand to apply to their plans. That's my teaser, and for the rest of the story, head over to the UCS portal.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Understanding Adoption Barriers to Collaboration, Part 2

This is the second post about adoption barriers, with both being part of my broader series titled Collaboration Insights. Overall, this is the fourth post in a five part series, where I’ve been examining issues and opportunities to help enterprises move forward with collaboration technologies.
No matter which way you turn, there are challenges, but vendors are doing a pretty good job of developing solutions that speak what businesses need from their teams, as well as how people are communicating with today’s technologies. There’s a lot of complexity for sure, but the biggest barriers are internal, both in terms of your culture and how you think about collaboration. The latter point is where this post picks up the thread.
Next steps – thinking boldly and differently
When you can position collaboration as an enabler for these kinds of business outcomes, it becomes very strategic.  Clearly, these are desirable outcomes for any business, but are difficult to measure, which is exactly the holdup with the collaboration concept. However, this difficulty won’t stop management from allocating resources to achieve these outcomes, and by demonstrating the strategic role that collaboration can play, the adoption barriers will become much lower. Not only that, but if IT can craft such a vision for collaboration, then IT will likely get to “own” it.
To do that, IT may have to think differently, and that’s the impetus for this series. If you believe that “owning” collaboration is the best way to drive adoption across the enterprise, then you better be able to deliver. Creating such a solution is not normally the forte of IT, so the onus then falls to the vendor community. If the path I’m advocating is new to you, then you might need to reconsider your existing vendor relationships.
Most vendors do not have organically-developed collaboration platforms; rather, they are an outgrowth from point applications they have been selling forever. Standalone applications are not the answer here, and if that’s their core DNA, you’ll need to carefully evaluate how well they understand your need for collaboration to drive business outcomes. Otherwise, to keep your business, they may try to make your needs conform to their offerings, but that’s the opposite of what your vision requires.
Another aspect of thinking differently pertains to how you would manage this. Presuming you have found the right vendor with the right solution, you may face internal operating constraints, especially for your network. If you’re accustomed to owning and managing your IT resources, you may expect the same for collaboration platforms.
Given the complexity of today’s technology – and considering the strategic benefits outlined above – you may also have to accept that your collaboration platform is better managed from the cloud, especially if your resources are being pared back. Now you start thinking in terms of the PaaS or IaaS model, where the ability to integrate various communications applications comes from offsite, but is still very much within your purview. Along with this comes a shift from Capex to Opex, which could actually make your vision easier to sell to management.
Now, this becomes a strategic IT consideration, where you leave the complexity to the vendor, and focus instead on making a tighter connection across the organization between your collaboration solution and how it can drive business outcomes. That may be a big leap from your current situation, and again, will impact the kind of vendor you’ll need to partner with.
You may think I’m asking a lot here, but the stakes are high, and the results are worth it for everyone involved. If this is what you believe collaboration can do for your business, then you have to make it strategic for management and you have to be strategic when considering the vendors.
Conclusion
Part 1 talked about seeing the whole as more than the sum of its parts when it comes to collaboration applications. This is not easy to do, and poses an adoption barrier for truly effective collaboration solution. As long as each application lives in its own domain, they will remain great point solutions, but not part of something bigger – something that’s strategic rather than tactical. The key take away from that post was for IT to make collaboration strategic, and doing so involves tying this to business outcomes. These are the results that management values, and their buy-in is necessary for this strategic vision.
This post builds on that by addressing the need to think differently. Status quo thinking is likely a key reason why collaboration solutions have had limited impact to date. Making communications easier is not enough to become strategic; collaboration needs to drive business outcomes and to sell that vision, IT needs to think differently. Of course this entails risk, but the upside is worth it, not just for the business but for IT’s future as well.

For clarity, please note that this Collaboration Insights series is sponsored by Cisco Canada, but the content is my own, and by design is vendor-neutral.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

GetVoIP's Top UC Experts - Me and 49 Others!

GetVoIP.com is a pretty handy resource for decision-makers looking for solutions in our space. They serve as an independent information clearinghouse of sorts, where buyers can find the right offerings and determine the best ways to compare what's out there. They rely on analysts like me for industry-based perspectives on core communications needs that all businesses need to stay current with - UC, hosted VoIP, SIP trunking, contact centers, etc.

I've written for them occasionally, and one way they support the buyers is to profile the top thought leaders. Everyone has an opinion on the Web - but in most cases, nobody is asking for it (which doesn't seem to deter most people) - with the result being an impossible ocean of viewpoints that decision makers could draw upon for guidance. To make that a bit more manageable, GetVoIP puts out their top lists from time to time, with the most recent being for UC.

In case you haven't come across this yet on social media, I'm blogging about it here. I'm happy to report that I'm in their "Top 50" list, and if you had the time to peruse the whole group, you'll probably end up making some really good decisions. And if you play your cards right, it won't cost you a penny.

Of course, analysts like me are always available for hire if you need more strategic expertise, and I'm just an email or phone call away from taking your business to the next level. For now, though, my one piece of free advice is to check out the list, and keep regular tabs on GetVoIP.

Monday, April 20, 2015

State of the Mid-Market with UC

The stars haven't lined up for me lately to get on a UCStrategies podcast, but they did last week, where the topic was the mid-market opportunity for UC. We certainly spend a lot of time on both sides of that space, with smaller scale SMBs being price-driven, and larger scale enterprises dealing with complex network environments.

The mid-market is really neither of these, and once you understand their needs, there's a distinct opportunity for UC vendors and channels. Avaya has been focusing there lately, Lync has a strong play, and vendors like Mitel, ShoreTel and NEC are right at home serving these customers.

We covered the ground during out podcast session, which was led by Phil Edholm. All told, 10 of us weighed in with our views, and my comments start at the 24:29 mark. The replay has now been posted to the UCS portal, including start times for each speaker if you just want to catch what specific UC Experts had to say.