Friday, April 17, 2015

My Next Webinar - Why the Time is Now for Hosted VoIP - April 21

Another shout-out here for my next Ziff Davis B2B webinar. They've been keeping me busy lately, and this time around, I'll be addressing the hosted VoIP opportunity for SMBs. Their webinars are always well-attended, and am expecting more of the same next Tuesday.

Start time is 2pm EST, and for more info, here's the registration page. Hope you can join us.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mitel's Crystal Ball - Business Communications in 2025

Well, sort of. Everyone needs to put thought leadership out there to enhance their brand, and few things grab attention more than looking into the future. It's always fun to speculate, but at the rate things keep changing, I'd be happy predicting accurately six months out.

Anyhow, this is one of the ways analysts stay busy, and Mitel recently polled a bunch of us for our thoughts. As you know, Mitel recently went through some serious re-branding, and it's still early to say where/how it's paying off. Well, they've pulled all this together, and the results have just been published in an e-book format.

I'm in there, along with several others you likely follow, so this provides a nice cross-section of views, including off-the-floor predictions from Enterprise Connect 2015 attendees. That's a lot of free advice, and the price you pay is viewing some promotion at the end showing case studies of how Mitel customers are solving problems using all the wonderful technology we've been crystal balling about.

Fair enough, but overall, it's a good read, and of course, a great way for analysts like me to share our views on where technology is going. You can download the e-book here, and if you want to chat further, drop me a line any time.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Understanding Adoption Barriers to Collaboration, Part 1

This is the third post in my Collaboration Insights series, and since effective collaboration eludes so many companies, I wanted to examine the barriers to adoption. Despite the widespread availability of so many applications that enable collaboration, the results often fall short. While it’s easy to blame this on the technology being complex and/or costly, or limitations on the network/IT side, there are other factors at play. One such factor is tying collaboration to business outcomes, something you might not have considered.
Generally speaking, the easier something is to use, the more often people will use it. The same is also true when the benefit is clearly understood. Think about the telephone – everyone knows how to use it, and the benefits are clear. The same can be said for most communications applications, such as email, messaging, many forms of conferencing and even fax. They’re all easy to use, and each has a distinct benefit – or use case – that drives their usage.
With today’s technologies, there’s no reason why collaboration can’t be the same. Vendors understand the importance of making these platforms easy to use, although some do it better than others. The bigger challenge, however, lies in the benefit, as collaboration results are hard to measure. After all, collaboration is the collective result of using various communications applications in an integrated fashion.
Bigger than the sum of its parts
You can’t conclude that a collaboration session was a success because the call quality on the voice connection was great, or the presence engine made it easy to pull the team together, or the conferencing features made it easy for everyone to join a meeting despite using different endpoints and networks. All of these play a role, but you can’t equate success with any one in particular.
In this regard, collaboration is bigger than the sum of its parts, and that creates specific barriers to adoption. As noted in my last post, the point applications that comprise a collaboration platform each have their own standalone worlds within an enterprise. Telephony is managed by one team, fax by another, video conferencing elsewhere, mobility somewhere else, etc. Each is in a silo, with distinct performance metrics and budgets managed independent of the other communications applications.
Each point application is owned, so to speak, by a team with a budget, and that budget is based on hitting specific metrics. This is very much a legacy model that keeps silos in place, but has no real strategic value to the business. The value is very high tactically, and that’s actually an adoption barrier for today’s collaboration solutions.
Collaboration is strategic, end of story
When you think of collaboration this way, it’s easy to understand why adoption is challenging. Collaboration isn’t tangible like the point applications that comprise a solution, and as such, nobody really “owns” it. The IT group may own the collaboration platform that they acquire from a vendor, but the results that come from collaboration are all driven by end users. Since end users don’t have an economic stake in that platform, they don’t have much incentive to use it, which creates a barrier to adoption.
This is where business outcomes come into play, providing a path for IT to tie these loose ends together. The first step is to start thinking of collaboration as being strategic. Point applications are tactical, and don’t play well together inside the enterprise, which runs counter to the collaboration concept. Strategic resources need to be evaluated differently, using benchmarks that are strategic, not tactical.
The next step is to demonstrate how collaboration can drive business outcomes that have strategic value to the business. Strategic benchmarks can be based on P&L-style metrics, but when management is focused on creating strategic value for the business, other things will carry more weight, such as:
·         Faster time to market for new products/services
·         Better quality products that last longer, perform better, don’t break down, etc.
·         Easier to do business with – both for customers and partners
·         Improved customer satisfaction by providing great experiences and personalized service
·         Happier employees by supporting their preferred work style – better morale, performance and retention
·         Driving innovation to improve processes, workflows, product quality, customer experiences, etc.
·         Inspiring invention to create breakthroughs for competitive differentiation
This is what you need to do to make collaboration strategic, but there’s more to the story. When it comes to breaking down adoption barriers, you also need to think differently. Old habits are hard to break, and that will only happen when you can show there’s a better way with today’s technologies. You’ll need a vision, and that’s where I’ll extend this topic in my next post in this series.

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.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Next stop, London, ON - speaking on UC

Just a quick update post - am driving to London, Ontario shortly for a one-day seminar focused on Unified Communications. Industry colleague Emily Nielsen is behind this - her firm, Nielesen IT Consulting is running this in partnership with MISA Ontario and Middlesex County. The event is small - I'm told the room is at capacity - but will have a strong regional flavor. It's mostly for the public sector, and that vertical is ripe for what UC can offer.

Emily and I are co-presenting tomorrow morning about the reasons to move ahead with UC, along with a reality check covering the challenges. Despite living in Toronto, I don't get in front of Canadian audiences all that often, so am looking forward to hearing what's really on their minds. Plus, London is home to Western University, my undergrad alma mater, and if time allows, I'd love to visit the campus - it's been a while!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

March Writing Roundup

Maybe my busiest month ever in terms of the amount and variety of writing that's out there for public consumption. More of the same coming in April, so plenty of research and writing work to keep me busy. So, here's a digest of the best examples I think you'll enjoy if you didn't catch them first time around.

Collaboration Insights - Getting Work Done, my blog, March 2 - also posted on Cisco Canada's Blog

Will UC Become a Loss Leader?, UCStrategies, March 3

BYOE and the Rise of End-User Driven UC, Internet Telephony Magazine, March 4

Three Ways SIP Phones Add Value Value to Hosted VoIP, Internet Telephony Magazine, March 4

BYOD Expectations - Will Employees be Happier?, Toolbox.com, March 6

More BYOD Expectations - Personal Privacy, Toolbox.com, March 12

Complexity Versus Simplicity in Making Collaboration Work, my blog, March 16 - also posted on Cisco Canada's Blog

BYOD Challenges and Risks - Shadow IT, Toolbox.com, March 17

Verizon's Virtual Communications Express - Bigger can be Beautiful too, my blog, March 18

Energy Thought Summit, Austin - Recap of my Posts, my blog, March 20

TIA's Network of the Future Conference, my blog, March 27

ETS15 Takeaway: Finding Tomorrow's Leaders in the Energy Economy, ETS Insights, March 30

UC Trends and Smart Grid Opportunities - Parallels to Learn From, UCStrategies, March 30

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Energy Thought Summit - Another Takeaway - Education

I've been doing a few things around last week's Energy Thought Summit in Austin - some that's strictly smart grid, and some that weaves into the UC/collaboration space. Let me get to the latest item, and then I'll steer you to a few other things to provide the bigger picture.

I just wrote a post-ETS piece about education, and how this was a strong, but subtle theme running throughout the event. There's a big concern that not enough kids are going into the science and engineering disciplines - both in grade school and beyond - and this is the lifeblood driving the energy economy, especially among utilities. My article is running now on the ETS Insights portal, and if you're wondering where tomorrow's energy leaders will come from, I think you'll enjoy it.

Given my core focus communications tech, my perspectives on smart grid/energy are a bit different from those that live in that space 24/7. Since ETS is done now for a while, I thought it would be useful to pull all the various things I've been doing lately around that space to add a few layers to the above post.

First, from today's earlier blog post, my thoughts on smart grid parallels to the UC space on UCStrategies

Second, I wrote a series of articles leading up to ETS wearing my Community Advocate hat. Here's a summary with links to each post.

Finally, on a visual note, here's my post from ETS with some photos and first impressions.

Whatever you care to read, I greatly appreciate your time, and if this sparks any idea or dialog, I'm all ears.

UC Trends and Smart Grid Opportunities - Lessons for Both

I'm a bit of an odd fish, as I swim in two ponds that sometimes blend into one another. Communications tech is my main focus, but you may know that smart grid is another space I'm close to. I've given the backstory on that a few times lately, so if you still need that, just search a bit on my blog, or drop me a note.

Anyhow, last week, I wore my smart grid hat, and was involved with the Energy Thought Summit in Austin, TX. The details are in the post I'm about to steer you to, so I'll just move on. While many of the themes have direct implications for the energy economy, I sure saw a lot of parallels - and learning opportunities - for the UC space. A key reason why I'm active in smart grid is because the transformation challenges that utilities are now facing are very similar to what telcos have been going through ever since VoIP came along.

Not only do I see parallels, but also learning opportunities. It's clear to me that one way UC vendors can have success is by offering a deep set of applications for a specific vertical market. Smart grid - and the broader energy space - is a distinct market, and you won't succeed there unless you understand the opportunity.

If that piques your ineterest, then I think you'll enjoy my current contribution to the UCStrategies portal. It's running now, and while you're there, I welcome you to check my previous posts, as well as the rich content there from my fellow UC Experts.

To carry this a step further in the smart grid vein, watch for my next post here for another article of mine that's running now on the ETS portal.