Friday, September 30, 2011

Next Stop - Las Vegas and Metaswitch

Been a busy road month, and up next is my third week of travel during the past four weeks. Enough!

On Monday, I'm flying out to Las Vegas for the 2011 edition of the Metaswitch Forum. I've been out to several of these, and they always do a great job. It doesn't hurt to have a large, happy customer base and great financial performance, not to mention continuously evolving technology. If you follow them, you'll know they launched an SBC a few weeks back - Perimeta - and next week I'll get a detailed update on their 2012 roadmap.

Aside from attending, I'll be moderating one of the panels, which focuses on the SMB market opportunity for IP communications. Joining me will be Metaswitch's Chris Carabello, and 2 customers - Ray Napoletano from Saddleback and Ernie Hoffmann from Optimum Lightpath.

Our session runs on Wednesday at 10:50, Track 4, and you can read the full details here. Hope you can join us!

Oh - for the tweeters out there, you can follow the forum buzz using their hashtag: #mforum11, and if you want to follow me, my handle is arnoldjon.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Social Media and Contact Centers - Getting Your Brand Back

This is a topic I've been keen to explore for a while, and the time has come. I've been writing an ongoing series about the impact of social media in the contact center space on the Exony site, and my latest focus is on steps companies can take to get control of their brand back.

Social media sure cuts both ways, and it's a mistake to think that once people - customers, ex-customers, prospects, competitors, grumpy people, yahoos, etc. - start using the tools to say whatever they want, that you hand over your brand to them. That's marketing suicide, and in my current post, I address the issues and explore some ways companies can use the same tools to offset all of this out-of-control activity. Everyone has an opinion on the Web - don't get me started on that one - but that doesn't make everyone right - and companies have a voice too.

Enough - you get the idea, and if this topic is keeping you up at night, please give my post a read, and hopefully you'll sleep better. Better yet, give me a call and I'll try to help you save the day for your company!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

TMC ITExpo - UC Takeaways - There's Work to be Done

Am on a family visit this week, and Internet access has been hard to come by. I've got this one window this morning, so I wanted to get a quick post out now.

Last week, I had a few posts and photos about TMC's ITExpo in Austin. It was plenty hot there, and it's more of the same here in South Florida. Those posts provided my general take on the Expo, but I've since put my thoughts together on the UC implications, which I think are pretty important.

That post is running now on the UCStrategies portal, where a few of us took in the show last week. If you're wondering about whether the cloud is going to rain on UC or accelerate its adoption, please give my post a read, and then immerse yourself in what my UCStrategies colleagues are saying too.

Friday, September 16, 2011

ITExpo, Austin - Loose Ends

Am back now from the ITExpo, and it's much cooler here in Toronto!

Yesterday was pretty full for me, as I moderated two contact center panels and walked the floor for the afternoon. Our panels went very well, and if you were looking to hear from some leading companies in that space, we delivered. I just find it interesting how the cloud and UC are now part of the contact center conversation, and that brings a new circle of vendors who you might not normally think about here. Add mobility to that, and I think about Nuance - they did some nice demos show how speech recognition brings new life to voice in providing customer service.

Otherwise, I'll say it again - the show floor was big - about 250 exhibitors, with quite a few new ones. Lots of cloud here, and it will be interesting to see how many return for the next Expo in Miami. Based on what I'm hearing, it sounds pretty promising, so if these exhibitors stick with the program, ITExpo will move up a notch or two in scale, and maybe that will bring in some of the Tier 1 comms players like Cisco, MSFT and IBM. Sure hope so!

Overall, I'd say Austin was a success, and when I polled my panels, it seems like most people agree. Hats off to the TMC team for putting together a great show, and I'm sure we'll see more of the same in February.

Just wanted to leave you with one photo, taken during the Startup Bootcamp at the end of the day on Wednesday. The star attraction was Bob Metcalfe - inventor of Ethernet, 3Com founder, etc. - and he was a real treat to see. Very old school - no slides, just note cards - and he shared a lot of wisdom about what makes for a successful startup. Definitely a highlight for me - and everyone else, I'd say.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

ITExpo, So Far So Good

Well, it looks like TMC bet right with Austin. So far, the ITExpo has been great. I was busy on Monday for Editor's Day, and had a bunch of briefings yesterday. The keynotes were strong, as were the sessions I had a chance to check out. It's hard to gauge how big the crowds are, but there's lots of energy here, and everyone I talk to really likes the change in venue.

Most impressive for me has been the size of the show floor, which opened up last night. Much bigger than expected, and I heard that from a lot of people - very nice to see. Also, there were lots of new exhibitors, so new blood is welcome. Cloud is the trend du jour, and that's what stands out the most for me. That's driving a lot of new exhibitors, so it's taking some getting used to seeing this ecosystem here, but the time is right. Nothing wrong with that.

Back to the Expo now - I'll have more updates later. Until then, here are some photos...

Rich Tehrani kicking off the Expo

Mike Tribolet talking about Magicjack and how disruptive the VoIP space has become

Thomas Howe leading a panel during the CloudComm Summit

My UC Unleashed session from this morning, with Bill Bumbernick from Alteva speaking here. We had a full room, so kudos to everyone who came out for a 9am session!

I'm liking the Expo so far, but for me, this is the best reason to be in Austin...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Last call - tomorrow's webinar on remote working

Just a quick note about tomorrow's webinar about getting more productivity from remote workers. I'll be presenting along with Polycom - my perspective will be about the trends and drivers around remote working, and they'll focus more on video-based applications as an enabler. It's not too late to register, and the details are here. Hope you can join us!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

ITExpo Session - the Multichannel Contact Center Experience

This is the third in my series of posts in advance of next week's TMC ITExpo in Austin, Texas. If you've been to the show website, or follow the various email blasts, tweets, etc., you'll know there's a lot going on as always. The keynote lineup is solid, and based on the breadth of the program and strong roster of sponsors, I'd say the move to Austin is going to work out just fine.

My third panel next week is about the multichannel experience, and how this is impacting contact centers. We all use the tools - chat, text, social media, mobile, etc. - and expectations are rising from customers in terms of how they want to interact with agents. I've been writing about this pretty regularly on the Exony website, but let's stick to the topic!

Joining me will be fellow Torontonian Shai Berger from Fonolo, Kimberly Drobny of Fonality, and Christy Murfitt from Nuance. All of these speakers are living the multichannel experience, and if you're wondering why voice is no longer the only way customers engage with agents, you'll want to be with us.

Our session is on Thursday at 11am - we're on the Call Center Track - and you can read the full details here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

ITExpo Preview - What’s Really Driving the Hosted Customer Care Trend?

Just keeping the momentum going here for next week's ITExpo in Austin. I'm moderating three panels, and yesterday I posted about the first one. Today's post is about my second session.

As the title of this post says, we'll be talking about trends in the hosted customer care space. Regular readers of my blog will know that the contact center has been a recent focus here, especially where it intersects with Unified Communications. Just as hosted UC solutions are sprouting up everywhere, the same thing is happening in the contact center world.

To explain why, I'll be joined by Dena Skrbina of Nuance, James Dunn of TelStar Hosted Services, and Dave Van Everen of Five9.

We'll be starting bright and early at 9am on Thursday - we're part of the Call Center Track - and you can read the full session abstract here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

ITExpo Preview - Unified Communications Unleashed

TMC's ITExpo is just around the corner, and I'll be doing a series of shout-outs the next few days to let you know about my panels.

The first session I'm moderating is "Unified Communications Unleashed", and as the title implies, we'll be exploring how UC helps both companies and employeess get productive and stay productive. It's a pretty core driver for the UC value proposition, so your time will be well spent here.

Joining me will be Wes Durow from Fonality, Bill Bumbernick from Alteva (recently acquired by Warwick Valley Telecom - we could do a panel just around that!), Michael Marchioni of ICON Voice Networks, and Angie Reed from Digium.

That mix sure covers a lot of ground, so it should be a fun session. Join us if you can - we're on first thing Wednesday at 9am as part of the SMB track.

I'll be arriving on Monday, and prior to this session, I won't be hard to find in either of these two places:

- TMC Editor's Day on Monday - I'll be with their editorial team doing scheduled briefings and interviews

- Avaya's Technology On Tap reception on Monday night. If you haven't registered to attend, here's the link

While I have you, I want to be sure you're up on all the other co-located events running alongside ITExpo. Lots of great content happening there, and I want to especially draw attention to the programs being run by my good friends at both Crossfire Media - Carl Ford and Scott Kargman, and Principals Larry Lisser and Thomas Howe of Embrase (and by extension, Dave Michels from Pin Drop Soup).

Crossfire has a few events running, but the main one is their 4GWE Conference, and for Embrase, it's the Cloud Communications Expo. If these topics fall into your sphere, you won't want to miss them, and if I play my cards right, you just might see me up there during the Cloud Expo at some point.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Getting More From Remote Workers - Focus Webinar with Polycom

Just getting the word out about my next webinar with I'll be presenting along with Polycom on the topic of remote workers. This is a big trend that I write about from time to time, and it's worthwhile for employers so long as remote workers have the right tools to be productive. There are many ways to do this - and we'll be examining that during the webinar, and of course, Polycom will have their spin on things as well.

The webinar takes place Wednesday, September 14 at 1pm EST, and I hope you'll join us. All the registration details and the full webinar abstract are here on the website.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Gartner's UC Magic Quadrant Review

This was the topic of our latest UCStrategies podcast. Gartner's Magic Quadrant always gets a lot of attention, and there was lots to talk about here. Each of us in the UCStrategies group has a distinct perspective, and I had a few takeaways, namely:

1. How well Cisco fared considering how voice/telecom-centric their quadrant analysis is, along with the fact that Cisco is so strong in other areas that touch on UC

2. How well Microsoft is faring with Lync considering their lack of voice pedigree. I also noted it was nice to see the report acknowledge the Skype acquisition, which I think is a huge wildcard in this space.

3. Nice to see Mitel get recognition among the second tier vendors; they were the only vendor to fall into the "Visionaries" quadrant - this being a nod to their focus (more like betting the farm) on virtualization.

Lots of good insight all around, and if you want some lively debate about the state of UC, you should enjoy this. The podcast was just posted today on the UCStrategies website - here you go!

Would you buy a shirt from this man? Remember Woody Allen's "Sleeper"?

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll notice something different today. The bots and automated search algorithms that only scour keywords but don't actually read anything won't notice, but if you have two eyes and a brain, you will.

I've been blogging since 2005, and I love to write. Those who know me will know that my blog has never been a commercial venture, and I have this old school Church/State thing about keeping my content/thought leadership separate from the pressures of making a living. For that reason, I've always maintained a separate website for J Arnold & Associates, and that's where you go to learn about my practice and areas of expertise. As I always tell people, my blog is where I do my telling, and the website is where I do my selling. Fair? I think so.

So, what's new today? OMG, there's a banner ad at the top of the landing page! What's that about, and why there an ad here for a... tailor - huh?

Ok, so let me explain. I've never done this before, but am happily giving it a try. Here's the story. I get a lot of inquiries and offers from outside tech/telecom - some of it is way off base, some want to tap into my traffic and some really like my writing.

Generally, I only write about tech/telecom here, but will occasionally write about the Red Sox, Americana, music, film and culture - and I could easily create standalone blogs and write endlessly about any of them. Any sponsors out there?

A few weeks back, I was contacted by Modern Tailor, and as you can guess by now, they do everything on the Web - a very modern take on tailoring. I'm old school enough that I still like suits and dressing well, although that seems so out of place in telecom. I don't shop online much, but I'm interested in their products, so we're doing a small contra deal.

It's not that big of a stretch, really. My readers are consumers too, and the males buy shirts and suits from time to time. If the ad catches your eye, hopefully you'll click through to their site, and you might even give them some business. In return, I get to try some of their handiwork, and if all goes well, we'll keep it going.

As Harvey Fierstien used to say, "is that so wrong?" Well? I don't think I'm compromising my analyst integrity, and I happen to love nice shirts. No money is changing hands, and we're both trying something new. I'm dipping my toe into the Wild West world of Internet commerce...

So, now for the really big question - would you buy a shirt from this man? I've never understood why people would buy personal attire like clothes and shoes online, unless they knew the fit was good. I've come across a few online tailors like Modern Tailor (mostly for shirts, mind you), so they must be doing something right.

I don't know about you, but the first thing that popped into my head was the scene from Woody Allen's futuristic Sleeper, where he gets fitted for a suit by a robot tailor. If you haven't seen it (or it's been forever since you have), take 90 seconds now and check out the clip.

Nu, so you vant a suit? Plain or fancy? This scene says it all, but I'll close here by telling you my first experience with Modern Tailor was exactly the opposite. They have a great process, a virtually unlimited pallet of options, and the fit was great. If you trust me for my telecom writing, I hope that transfers to Modern Tailor! It works, and I'll be back for more.

That's my story, and if you're still with me, I'll be writing a more detailed review shortly about the process and results so far with Modern Tailor. It works for me, and if you have your doubts, you'll want to read my review.