Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cisco/J Arnold & Associates Webinar - Moving Beyond Dial Tone

Just doing another shout-out for this upcoming webinar. We're in the process of finalizing our presentations now, and this should be a good event. If you're wondering whether you should simply upgrade your aging PBX or are ready to consider the bigger/braver/better world of Unified Communications, SIP, collaboration, etc., then this is where you want to be on Nov. 13 at 1pm.

I don't have a event website to point you to for the full overview, but here's text that is being used by Cisco and IT World Canada in their email invites:

IT World Presents: Moving Beyond Dial Tone

How to gain the benefits of truly collaborative communications
Many companies face important decisions as their PBX systems begin to reach end-of-life. Decisions like ... What do we want and need from telephony? How can we extract the most value out of our communications? Can we cost-effectively gain all the benefits of today's advanced collaboration technologies? 

Once you answer those questions, what about implementation? Do you perform a full-scale rip-and-replace project? Can you gracefully migrate to new collaboration technologies without a full-scale change? Should the new system be premise-based, hosted or a hybrid of the two? 

Technology decisions about telephony have never been more challenging... 

But the good news is that today's telephony goes far beyond the dial tone to deliver valuable features like web conferencing, BYOD, unified messaging, unlimited scalability and more. Plus, the real opportunity lies in the business value gained through improved productivity, cost-efficiency and collaboration that only a unified communication system can offer.

Attend this one hour webinar to get the answers you need to make the best decisions and deliver the best business outcomes.

Does that speak to you? If so, here's the link to register, and I hope you join us on the 13th!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Desktop Video - When Good Enough is Good Enough

That's the title of my latest article running in the current issue of Internet Telephony Magazine. I think the title is self-explanatory, and am just doing a quick shout-out in case you don't get it - either in print form or the digital edition.

I hope you give it a read, and your comments are most welcome. In case you don't know, I have a monthly column in the magazine called Rethinking Communications, and you can access the article archive here.

12 Analysts to Watch in the Contact Center Space

Fonolo is a Toronto-based startup I've been following for some time, and CEO Shai Berger is definitely passionate about the contact center space. He writes regularly on the topic, and is very much up on the issues facing contact centers and where the technology is going.

Shai is also on top of how analysts are covering this space and earlier this week, he profiled "12 Analysts to Watch" on his Customer Service Blog. I'm happy to be included in the list, and while an advisor to Fonolo, I'm certainly not the only analyst cited, so I'd say this is a pretty good group to be following.

All I really want to do here is socialize the list, and if you're looking to stay on top of contact center thought leadership, you've got plenty to work with here.

ShoreTel, the Giants and yes, the Blue Jays - Right Place, Right Time

I haven't blogged about baseball in a while, but that doesn't mean I'm not following it. If I didn't have to work for a living, I'd be doing that all day long, along with writing about cooking, music, cinema and culture. Otherwise, I'm happy to steer you to my previous posts - just scan the Boston Red Sox category, listed in the sidebar of the homepage of this blog.

Those who know me well  know that baseball is a major passion, and a few threads have come together this week that call for a quick post.

First, of course, is the World Series. Really, who thought the Giants would be here? Still hard to believe, but they sure made it look easy in Game 1. Different path, but same result last night. WHY did they try to score Fielder in the 2nd? Dumb move. Slowest guy on the team - hold him up and you have 1st and 3rd with no outs - I'll take those odds any day to plate at least 1 run in that inning. That could have been enough to win. The throw even missed the cutoff man, and they still threw him out - yeesh.

Giants have the mojo again this year - plain and simple. Detroit needs a parade so bad - I really feel for them. If the NHL lockout continues, there may not be a Winter Classic, and guess where that's supposed to be? Yup. U of M Stadium, Ann Arbor - Wings and Leafs. I've been there - now, that's a big crowd.

Oh, and speaking of the stars not lining up, the Giants are a decent team, but how cool would a Tigers-Cardinals WS have been? If you're old enough to remember 1968, you'll likely agree with me that's right up there for all-time great finals, especially if you like pitching. Bob Gibson and Mickey Lolich EACH pitched 3 complete games - it's just so unthinkable by today's pitch-count driven standards. Al Kaline is one of my all time faves - he fell 1 HR short of 400, but got 3,007 hits - how criminal is that? Only 8 players ever got 400 HR and 3000 RBI - soooo close to being #9. At least he got his WS ring in '68 - there is some justice in Tiger-land.

Back to 2012 - and some telecom too. Watching the opener on Wed, I just had to smile and think back to March, when I attended ShoreTel's analyst day, where they shared their initial roadmap for how the M5 Networks acquisition was going to tie in with their business.

Well, they hosted the event at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Naturally, it was a dreary, rainy day, but that didn't spoil our fun during the stadium tour. I included a few photos of the park on my blog post about the event, and if you're a fan of their stadium, you'll like this. You'll like it even more if you want to see what complexity looks like in terms of the telephony infrastructure that ShoreTel has replaced there.

I didn't think much of it then, but it was really cool to wander freely about an empty ballpark, and needless to say, I took a lot more photos. Thought I'd share a couple of shots that you're not likely to see anywhere else.

Behind home plate - how often do you ever see an ungroomed baseball field - no base paths, no mound, no plate area. Well, you have now!

The view deep and low in the right field corner - cool, huh?

Enough said and shown. Here we are, 7 months later, and the ballpark is a lot busier! Thanks for the event, ShoreTel, and kudos for making a big splash with M5 the same year as the Giants being here, in both of your home towns. Not to mention both of you having the same color schemes - that's good marketing - brilliantly simple, right?

This alone is enough for a nice baseball post, but there's more! Wednesday marked the 20th anniversary of the Toronto Blue Jays first of back-to-back World Series wins. That was pretty cool, especially being the first WS title won outside of the U.S. It was also special for me, not just being in Toronto, but also because my first son - Max, whom many of you know - was born on that date. So, he's also 20 - wow - where did the time go?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In Cloud We Trust - Even for Contact Centers

Wearing my UCStrategies Expert hat, I regularly contribute content to their portal, which I believe to be the best go-to spot for what's really happening in the Unified Communications space. This includes writing sponsored posts, and we're very transparent about that. I was engaged to write the most recent one for Interactive Intelligence, a company I have long followed and always regarded as an innovator - and I'm not alone in that assessment.

The topic was the suitability of the cloud for contact center solutions, and to help our readers better determine if this is right for them. To me, it really boils down to trust, and that's what my analysis is focused on. Sure, ININ has a cloud-based contact center offering - CaaS - but the article isn't really about that. Yes, I think CaaS is a good solution, but others exist too, and my main objective is for readers to look beyond that - and look within themselves to think through what trust really means.

For broader context, I referenced what Google did last week to pull back the veil and let us see what really goes into a cloud infrastructure. It's way more complex than most of us can possibly imagine, and we need more of that instead of the blind trust that seems to be driving this push up to the cloud.

Hopefully, that's enough of a teaser to get you reading my article, titled "In Cloud We Trust", which was posted on the portal late yesterday. From there, I urge you to spend time exploring the UCStrategies portal. I'm just one of many analysts and consultants who follow this space, and if you can't something new from our collective insights, then you're probably in charge of Google's cloud team!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

ITExpo Takeaways - Views from UCStrategies

This is a bit late in coming, but for last week's UCStrategies podcast we focused on the recent TMC ITExpo event in Austin, Texas. I did my own posting about the show previously - as many others have - but this podcast was a good opportunity to share our collective thoughts, specifically about what we took away from a Unified Communications perspective. The transcript of our podcast has been posted now on the UCS portal, and I hope you give it a read.

In addition to the UCStrategies takeaways and my blog post, TMC's Paula Bernier did a video interview with me at the show. It runs about 10 minutes, and I cover a wide range of topics around UC, including the challenges of selling it through channels, getting end users to understand the UC concept, the current state of UC offerings, and how UC fits in the contact center. Here's the link to view the interview, and from there, I urge you to view the other interviews conducted by various TMC editors during the show, mostly with vendors, but some keynotes are posted there as well.

One video in particular is Rich Tehrani's interview with Andy Abramson of Comunicano, both of whom should be well known to my readers. Andy, of course, is not a vendor, but he cites some great examples of how he's using collaboration tools to help his clients with their go-to-market plans. UC isn't just for big companies, and if anything, it's a great leveler for businesses of all sizes.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Empower, Engage and Innovate - my takeaways from Cisco's Collaboration Summit

I got back late last night from LA, and really enjoyed this year's Cisco Collaboration Summit. Yesterday I posted some photos and said I'd have a recap coming, and I managed to write that on the flight home.

Lots to think about, and I could have written 5 very different recaps - there was a lot to digest. Well, the first one's free, folks, and that one is running now on the UCStrategies portal. Wearing that hat, I'm looking at the UC implications from the summit, and you might not agree with me. That's fine - just calling it the way I see it, and I hope we can have some dialog, so let's hear from you. So, here's the link, and I'll leave it with you to share your thoughts.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cisco Collaboration Summit 2012 - Quick Thoughts and Photos

This year's Cisco Collaboration Summit finished up yesterday for the analysts, and as always, there was lots to absorb. If you followed the tweets, you'll have a good sense of this, and I'm going to write my recap in a post for UCStrategies, which will likely run on Monday. Just have limited time to post before my flight home now, and wanted to share a few photos.
First, from Day 2, Lynn Lucas

Partner panel, moderated by Rich McLeod. I found this probably the most engaging session, and we heard a lot about what customers are investing in today to bring collaboration tools into their business.

Site tour of the Staples Center, showcasing Cisco's deployments, mainly around supporting video and digital signage. Nothing overwhelming, but it was great to see all the ways that these tools make the operations flow smoothly as well as to enrich the fan experience. These are two of the guys who really make it happen.

Closing keynote from Dr. Michio Kaku. Nice insights about how science drives innovation and what our world is going to look like in the future. If he's right, we'll live a lot longer and of course, computers will be everywhere - and nowhere - as he likes to say. Here's a slightly ominous double-take of him - onscreen and with an Alfred Hitchcock silhouette.

Day 1 - Colin Miles from Virgin Media talking about how they're using Cisco's collab solutions

Cisco's OJ Winge watching Colin stage-side from his virtual office

Nice demo showing how social media tools are being used in real time to drive collaboration - and of course, across multiple screens and endpoints

Murali Sitaram talking about how cloud-based collaboration will be their main platform now, and explaining their two pronged route to market - Cisco branded as WebEx, and partner-hosted HCS

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cisco/J Arnold & Associates Webinar - Moving Beyond Dial Tone

Told you I've been busy lately. Got another webinar to share that I'm presenting on - this time it's with Cisco Canada. The topic is about options that businesses should consider when looking at PBX replacement. We're focused on the mid-market here, and I'll be reviewing the issues facing these businesses along with the need to think more strategically about the paths they can take. Inertia goes a long way to preserving the status quo, but the sooner a business can move to VoIP and closer to UC, the better their foundation to remain competitive in terms of communications technologies.

So, here are the details. The webinar takes place on Tuesday, November 13 at 1pm ET, and is being hosted by ITWorld Canada. I'll be presenting along with Cisco, and together we'll provide a good roadmap for IT decision makers about what the future holds for a world beyond dial tone. If that describes your current dilemma, here's the form, and I hope you'll be joining us on the webinar.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

VoIP webinar this Friday - "VoIP: More Than Just Cost Savings"

Been pretty busy lately, and I need to do a shout-out for my next webinar. I'm the featured presenter, and it's being hosted by VoIP News, and the registration page went up yesterday.

The webinar is this Friday - the 19th - at 1pm ET, and I'll be providing an overview of VoIP's history and why it is becoming so popular now, especially among SMBs. Should be a good webinar, and I know VoIP News is expecting a nice turnout - hope you can join us.

Pretty simple to sign up - here's the landing page to register, along with full details about the webinar.

Friday, October 12, 2012

What IT needs to know today - the Canadian perspective

Long-time colleague Henry Dortmans is very well known in the Canadian telecom space, and one of the ways he stays involved is his monthly e-newsletter, On the Line. He's been doing this a while now, and it reaches about 3,000 people across the spectrum up here - IT decision makers, vendors, carriers, consultants, media, etc. It's a great way to take the pulse of the market and share learning, so I'm always happy to contribute when asked.

For the current issue, Henry asked a handful of analysts for our thoughts on what IT/telecom decision-makers need to know today about our space. Pretty simple request, and we were just asked to provide some short answers. It's not a definitive assessment, but collectively, I think we've covered the bases pretty well. The issue went out to his distribution list last night, and I wanted to pass on the URL here. I hope you enjoy it, and if you like what Henry is doing with OTL, and want to stay up on the Canadian market, he'll be happy to add you to his list.

Next stop - LA and Cisco

Tough finding time to blog this week. Was at two events last week, and Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving. All of a sudden it's Friday, new business keeps coming my way, and my plate is very full. Some of this will soon be public, including an upcoming webinar I'll likely be posting about later today.

Next week, I'll be in Los Angeles for Cisco's Collaboration Summit. This has turned into a solid secondary event in the shadow of C-Scape, and I've been fortunate to attend the last few iterations. It's very timely for anyone in the UC space, and as usual, there are always interesting things happening in the market.

This week is no exception - Polycom re-launched/re-branded their entire business (sure hope it pays off!), Siemens just had a lengthy analyst webinar announcing all of their strides to gain share - and re-brand as well, plus a firehose of news/updates across this space from last week's ITExpo.

Aside from all this buzz from the competition, there's talk of John Chambers stepping down at some point, so  next week should be very engaging. It's never status quo with Cisco, and I'll do my best to blog and tweet as things unfold.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

UCS Podcast - Polycom's Makeover

Polycom made a big splash this week with a full makeover - both their offerings and branding. There's a lot at stake, as this is a company that followers in our space are really wondering where they fit long-term in the UC ecosystem. They seem to be positioning themselves as a UC&C solution, and I think that's going to be a stretch for a lot of people, myself included. However, you have to be aggressive and bold in this space, and they've certainly done that.

That was the focus on this week's UCStrategies podcast, and if you want to hear the view from the UC community, this is how you should spend the next 20 minutes of your day. I don't follow Polycom on a technical level, so I didn't comment on the call, but there's a wide range of ideas here to digest. Basically, it's a mixed bag - some strong positives, such as a total shift to software that's channel-friendly, and some missing pieces, but I'll leave that for you to discover. Here's the link from our portal, and I hope you get to it right now! Russell Bennett facilitated the call, and there's a transcript there as well.

Friday, October 5, 2012

ITExpo West 2012 - Key Takeaways

Have only had a taste of what's on tap at TMC's flagship event here in Austin. For the time I've been here, it's been a blur of briefings, panels, keynotes and short walkabouts on the show floor. Phew. You really can't do justice to this event in a day and a half - it's longer for a good reason - you need time to explore all that's going on in this space.

As such, my impressions are only based on a limited set of experiences. First off, I'll reiterate my take from last year's Expo, and say that Austin is a good choice in moving on from L.A. Am not so sure calling it the "West" Expo is the best label, but that's what it is, and I like it.

I'm not alone in saying that horizontal events like this create stress before you even get there. There are several sub-events with specific content - WiFi, cloud, contact center, M2M, etc. - but geez, you just can't cover 'em all unless you send a big team. For every great session I see, there are many others running at the same time that I'll never see. The underlying message for TMC is that I hope they can find a way to make this content available to both attendees who can't see everything and of course, the much broader audience who can't get there. Monetizing this is always the tricky part, but it's shame that a lot of these sessions ultimately play to a small audience.

With that said, I liked what I saw, and the panels I was involved with were quite good. I really enjoyed speaking at the SUITS event - this is one of the newer sub-events, and hopefully it will grow. I believe there are a lot of participants at ITExpo who could benefit from patent monetization, but they just don't understand how it works or are even aware of the possibilities in the right hands. Similarly, the multichannel contact center panel I moderated had a solid lineup, and I can tell that the audience took away some good ideas.

Time is always short as an analyst at these events, and in my limited time there, I was kept busy meeting with many vendors, including Siemens, AudioCodes, Vertical Communications, Digitalk, Sonus,, Sangoma and 8x8. There were plenty more I wanted to brief with, but they'll have to wait until another time.

Another highlight was StartupCamp6, which always draws a big crowd. This year featured Mike Tessler as the main attraction, and he's done a great job taking BroadSoft from struggling startup to a profitable public company - something only a handful of execs in our space have been able to do. The format was especially nice - a fireside chat setup, led by Scott Wharton, BroadSoft's former CMO. They had a great discussion about the trials and tribulations of growing a startup, and I'm sure this was a nice inspiration to the many hopeful startups that are drawn to this event time after time.

That's all I have to share, as I'm flying back today. Even with the bits I saw, there's a lot to digest, so you can imagine what you'd have to sift through over the full duration. In short, I liked what I saw, and am sure I missed a lot of content that was just as good. I don't think there's an easy answer to this, but I'd much rather have this problem than nothing to choose from. TMC has managed to carve out a nice niche over the years, and this market has a lot of learning to do, so I hope they keep their focus. I don't expect that to change, but it sure would be nice if there was a way to leverage all the content that falls under this big tent. Friendly food for thought, right?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Metaswitch Forum 2012 - Photos and Quick Thoughts

Just have time for a quick post about Metaswitch Forum 2012. I was only there for 1 full day, and am now enroute to ITExpo in Austin, where I'll be speaking on a panel in a few hours.
Normally, I get to attend the entire Forum, and it's too bad, as this event is always solid from start to finish. It keeps getter bigger, which speaks well to their growing customer base, but more importantly, they do a great job sharing their vision and roadmap. This is one company that usually gets things right, and have built a strong portfolio that gives carriers a lot of flexibility in figuring out how to stay competitive.
This is particularly challenging for their core customer base, many of whom have not really lived in a competitive world until the past few years. Most are still migrating from TDM, so there are a lot of transitional issues that need to be addressed. It's important to note that Metaswitch also has leading edge customers, so there's a lot more going on here than helping RLECs and Tier 3 operators adopt VoIP.
A lot of my time is spent in the UC world, where collaboration, video, social media, tablets, etc. are part of the everyday conversation. There was hardly any reference to this at the Forum, but that's not to say these things aren't important. Metaswitch is focused more on infrastructure than applications, and by getting the foundation right, operators are in a much better position to make the big trends like cloud and mobility work in their favor.
That's one way to look at things, but the main theme this year is innovation - we're all in the Innovation Race to win customers and make money, but it's not about being the fastest. There were many clever analogies during the morning keynotes, and a key idea was that speed + direction = velocity. Simple but effective. Anyone can move quickly, but without a clear direction, who cares. What matters is having purpose - adding that to speed yields velocity, and that produces better and more sustainable results.
Another good discussion from Steve Gleave came around invention vs. innovation. It's easy to equate the two, but here's the difference. Invention is about using money to create ideas - which is fine - but innovation is about turning ideas into money - much better. With that in mind, Metaswitch has done a great job this year getting attendees stoked about the importance of innovation to give them a better future in a business that is not easy to make money in these days. Building on that, of course, their offerings provide the tools that support innovation and give carriers the confidence to try new things.
There's a lot more I could say, but not today - gotta get on a plane. I'll revisit the Forum again soon, but for now, will add a few photos from the morning sessions. All of these should be familiar to Metaswitch followers - except the last one. They had a very inspiring keynote speaker this year - U.S. Olympic decathalon winner, Ashton Eaton. Really impressive hearing his story about an ever changing training regimen and disappointments along the way, but finally resulting in his Gold Medal win in London. Great vibe in the room for celebrating USA, but equal kudos to Metaswitch's ever-so-British sensibilities to bring him to the Forum. He may not know an SBC from a media gateway, but Ashton sure knows about how innovation helps in the pursuit of excellence, and he's got the gold to prove it.

Steve Gleave, aka GleavieBoy - @gleavieboy
CEO John Lazar
Martin Taylor
Ashton Eaton - awesome!