Thursday, November 29, 2012

Next Friday, Webinar - VoIP: Stepping Stone to UC

Just another quick shout-out for next Friday's VoIP News webinar. I've been doing a series of these with them, with the last webinar being a primer about VoIP for SMBs.

Now it's time to build on that, and the focus will shift to the broader possibilities of VoIP, especially when used in a Unified Communications environment. That's the ground I'll be covering on December 7 at 1pm ET, and I hope you'll join us. Here's the URL - it just takes a moment to register.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

ShoreTel Partner Conference - UCStrategies Podcast

If you're still thinking about what to make of ShoreTel's prospects following their partner event event earlier this month, here's how you should spend the next 30 minutes of your life.

Last week's UCStrategies podcast focused on our collective takeaways from the conference, but with a twist. For the first time, ShoreTel invited consultants to the event, so our podcast included perspectives from both analysts and consultants. You may not realize it, but we're in different lines of business with different types of expertise, and we're glad that ShoreTel has embraced both communities.

The twist is that no UCStrategies consultants were at the event, but a couple who are friendly with us were. So, not only do you get a complete picture of the event, but you also get to hear from some new voices. The podcast was ably moderated by Blair Pleasant, and if you can't spare the time to listen, there's a trascript to read as well. Here's the link, and as always, your comments are welcome.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

This Thursday - State of the Contact Center Space on Google Hangouts

Here's something different, but I think it will be fun. Toronto-based Fonolo has always been a bit outside the box, but in a good way. This Thursday's live video chat session is a good example, and if you want to catch up on what's driving the contact center space these days, you'll want to join us at 2pm ET.

I'm one of three analysts on this virtual roundtable - to my left will be Dave Michels, and over there on the right is Dan Miller. We all have something to say, and Fonolo CEO Shai Berger will be the ringleader trying to keep us honest.

If you haven't used Google Hangouts before, it's bit like doing sketch comedy. The format is open ended, so we just keep going until the schtick runs its course and the audience stops laughing. Well, in this case, it's more like we'll keep talking as long we have something interesting to say, and as long as there are people still hanging out with us. If things really get dull, maybe we'll switch and talk about the Middle East or even who should be the next Mayor of Toronto. Anything else you'd like us to cover?

Enough of the big buildup. It just takes a minute to sign up and drop in, and if you want to see what analysts look like, here's the landing page with all the details.

Monday, November 19, 2012

VoIP - Stepping Stone to UC - Webinar, Dec. 7

Am doing another webinar with VoIP News next month, and I hope you'll join us. Last month, we did a webinar on the evolution of VoIP, and now the focus is on how VoIP's foundational value sets the stage for Unified Communications.

The webinar is titled "VoIP - the Stepping Stone to UC", and that should be pretty self-explanatory. I'll be presenting at 1pm ET on Friday, Dec. 7, and for more details, along with the registration form, here's the link.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Collaboration - Why Now? My Current Internet Telephony Column

As you may know, I write a monthly column for TMCnet's Internet Telephony Magazine, titled Rethinking Communications. Each month I explore issues in a bit more depth than a blog post, and it's a good forum to reflect on current trends I see in my ongoing industry research.

This month's theme is collaboration, and my focus is on why it's becoming so important now, especially for SMBs. Equally important, of course, are all the great enabling technologies and the value they bring to make businesses more competitive. The article is running in the current issue, and if you don't get the print edition, you can read the digital version here. Furthermore, if you enjoy this, you might want to read my other columns, and the Rethinking Communications archive is here.
Finally, if collaboration is of ongoing interest, there's a Part 2 coming, and that will run in the next issue, fyi.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

ShoreTel x 2 - My Latest White Paper and Video Interview

Being busy takes many forms, and not all of my work is public. ShoreTel has been high on my radar lately, mainly around last week's conference, and I have two items to share with you here.

First up is my new white paper. Independent of the conference, I also have been working on a white paper for them, which was just published. The paper is titled "A Spectrum of Choices for Unified Communications", and it presents three scenarios for businesses considering UC. The most common choices would be to remain premise-based or to switch over to the cloud. Both have their virtues, but not everyone is ready to make a full move to the hosted model, and that's totally understandable. This gives rise to the hybrid solution, where you keep some pieces on prem and push others out to the cloud.

It's early days for this approach, but one that ShoreTel sees value in supporting.  In a nutshell, that's what the paper addresses, and you can have it in your hands in about 5 minutes - here's the registration page. If for some reason, this isn't working out, ask nicely, and I can send you the PDF.

Second is a short video interview from the conference. ShoreTel's Tricia Stream got to play roving reporter, and did a few in-the-moment segments with analysts asking about our take on the state of UC. You can watch them here, including my segment, which runs about 2.5 minutes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fonolo Contact Center Roundtable - Nov. 29 - Join Us!

Sure has become a busy month all of a sudden, and I'm posting when time allows.

Quick shout-out for a roundtable that I've been invited to join on contact center trends. It's hosted by Fonolo - based here in Toronto - and I'll be joined by analyst colleagues Dave Michels (@DaveMichels) and Dan Miller (@dnm54). We'll be talking about hot topics such as social media, the cloud, mobility and virtual queuing. Fonolo's Shai Berger is hosting, and if you follow him - @shaiberger - and his blog - you'll know he tirelessly promotes thought leadership, and this should make for a lively session.

You can get all the details here - we're on at 2pm, Thursday, November 29. Always ready to try new things, Shai is doing this via Google Hangouts - hey, why not?

Just for the record, I am an Advisor to Fonolo, but with two other analysts in the room, it's fair to say they'll keep me honest.  :-)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

ShoreTel 2012 Partner Conference - Timing Isn't Everything

On Friday, I just had time to post some photos and a short commentary about ShoreTel's 2012 Partner Conference in Orlando. It was good as usual, and on the flight back I wrote a longer recap piece, this time wearing my UCStrategies hat. ShoreTel's UC capabilities are a work in progress, but definitely coming along, and 2013 will tell us how well they're executing on their roadmap.

Yesterday, my writeup was posted the UCStrategies portal, and you may have seen it already via the twitter feeds. The post is titled "Timing Isn't Everything", and you'll just have to read it to connect the dots. Here's the link, and while you're there, please check out the rest of our content. We'll be doing a podcast about ShoreTel's event as well, and hope to have that done by early next week.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Moving Beyond Dial Tone - Webinar Next Tuesday

Just doing one more shout-out for next week's webinar, "Moving Beyond Dial Tone". I'll be presenting along with Cisco Canada, and we'll be talking about the range of options available to businesses looking to move on from their legacy PBX systems.

There's still a big legacy base out there, especially in Canada, and even if your phone system has a few years of life left, a good case can be made for making the move to VoIP. The good news is you don't need to get rid of that system to do that, so the opportunities are broader than you may think.

Registrations have been strong, so we're expecting a pretty strong turnout, and I hope you'll join us. The webinar is next Tuesday - November 13 - at 1pm, and registering is easy. The details are here, and if you'd like to learn more, just drop me a line.

ShoreTel Partner Conference - Quick Highlights

Thursday was the core day for ShoreTel's 2012 Partner Conference, and they sure covered a lot of ground. In short, the event gets bigger and better - over 1,300 here - mostly channel partners, who seem very happy to be here. There are about 25 analysts here, and for the first time, they've also invited consultants, who also number about 25.

Lots of good messaging here, and the ShoreTel story is pretty strong. Still not making money, but basically, they're investing in growth, and if things go to plan, the profits will come. There are three key areas where that investment is happening - first, building the Sky brand, which takes both time and money. They still need to build out their cloud footprint for North America with full 1:1 redundancy, and in time, to support global customers. The upside for cloud was clearly articulated here, and if you buy into that, they're on the right track. Perhaps more importantly, they have rightly noted that the cloud market is highly fragmented and up for grabs, so there's no reason why ShoreTel cannot emerge as a market leader, or even the market leader.

Second is their investment in the channel, and we heard about new programs that are coming to help partners sell both cloud and premise. This is new territory and will take time to mature for sure, but at least this gives partners a chance to address the entire IP telephony opportunity. Premise business is on a slow growth curve, and that's where the market is today; cloud is the fast growth market, and by 2015, they expect it will be 42% of the market.

Third is R&D, and we saw some new things that look pretty cool. We can't talk about the details yet, but let's just say their mobility story is catching up to the market, and the partners clearly liked what they saw. They're also moving along in the areas of virtualization, contact center and video, and it's fair to say they've moved well beyond being a low cost IP phone vendor for SMBs.

That's all I have time to write about for now, but will have a longer recap coming early next week on the UCStrategies portal, so look for that then. Otherwise, as usual, here are some photos from yesterday.

Who is this lady? Pretty campy, but fun, working the crowd with corny jokes. If you weren't here, nevermind...

CEO Peter Blackmore
 David Petts, SVP WW Sales
Dan Hoffman, new title: President and GM, Cloud Division (ShoreTel Sky)
Pej Roshan, VP Product Management

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Obama Redux - Flashback Photo Essay - Nov. 5, 2008 - Obama, Dallas and JFK

Four more years - that's the storyline for the U.S. election. Great win for Obama, but not much has changed across the board in the mix of power, and let's hope the two parties can find ways of working together. Nothing like a financial crisis to force the issue, and I hope they figure this out before China calls our hand and starts dictating economic policy. Yeesh.

Well, let's stay with the afterglow for now, and I wanted to share a photo essay of mine from 2008. Some of you may remember this, but many of you weren't following me then, and I hope you enjoy this.

On November 5, 2008, I happened to be in Dallas, Texas - the day after Obama got elected. Wow. Talk about a happy accident. Clinton sure had his JFK parallels, but nothing like what Obama had. While we're still living off the hope 2008 brought, it was a pretty inspiring message then.

So, if you're a fan of.... Obama, JFK, conspiracy theories, or just America, I hope you'll check out my post from my day in Dallas. Also, if you like this type of posting, please check out the other posts in the Americana section of my blog.

Enough said - let's go back to 2008, and sadly, to 1963 - would love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Next Stop - Orlando and ShoreTel

Election Day in the US of A, so it's understandable if you're not totally focused on the world of tech and telecom today. Quickly, I voted via absentee ballot last week and believe Obama will win - let's see how the day unfolds. If you like American politics and want to bask a bit in Obama's halo - which will either be very big or very small this time tomorrow - you'll definitely enjoy a flashback post I'm going to run here tomorrow that I wrote this exact time four years ago, from Dallas of all places.

Back to the present. Tomorrow I'll be enroute to Orlando for ShoreTel's Champion Partner Conference. This year's theme is titled "The Future is Calling for Growth" - it's a good slogan for ShoreTel, but probably a better one for Romney, huh? I don't think telecom can drive the U.S. economy very far, but as per their recent earnings, ShoreTel continues to post good growth, both from their core premise business and their new cloud business via the M5 acquisition.

The latter has recently been branded ShoreTel Sky, and regular followers here will know that I've written often about M5 and what this could mean for the company. You should also be familiar with my writing about how tricky it is to market cloud communications, as the underlying concepts and language used to describe them are far from consistent. Just look at how ShoreTel is describing Sky - "hosted VoIP and cloud unified communications". You could argue they're playing it safe and covering all the bases - some call it cloud and some call it hosted. Some buy VoIP and some buy UC. Fair enough, but I don't think most businesses really understand - or care - about the various terms here. Maybe I'm over-thinking this, but their core customer set isn't leading edge enough to parse these things, and too many terms may confuse potential buyers and slow down market adoption.

This is one of the questions I'll be looking for answers on from ShoreTel's leadership team, and I'll keep you posted on that as the conference unfolds. They're certainly doing a lot of things right, and if their momentum continues, all that's missing is profitability. Compared to how other vendors are faring in this space, this isn't a bad place to be and I'm keen to hear how they envision the future. Maybe we'll even hear some inspiration that the White House could use. Outsourcing telephony to the cloud looks like a pretty good idea, but I'm not a fan of outsourcing our jobs, so let's hope the next Prez can keep our economy premise-based.

I'll post here as time allows, but for more timely updates, follow me on twitter - @arnoldjon - and definitely on the ShoreTel feed - #shoretel12.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Email and UC - the Moose on the Table

Catchy title, huh? Well, that was the topic of this week's UCStrategies podcast. I have often wondered why email doesn't have a more central role to play with UC. Email is just so core to our daily workflows, you'd think it would be a big driver. I'm sure if email had been invented today, it would look a lot different, and certainly be voice-enabled.

The podcast discussion was lively, and if you've been thinking about this "moose on the table" as well, then you'll enjoy our podcast. I was on the call but didn't contribute, and just wanted to share the link with you here. Don Van Doren moderated the call, and here's the link, from which you can either listen to the discussion or read the transcript.

For me, the most interesting takeaway was Blair Pleasant's comment about how social media platforms are part the landscape now, and I've been thinking the same thing. The group talked about some numbers showing how email activity far exceeds making phone calls, but also how email is on the decline. This is largely a generational thing - email still dominates for most of us, but not Millennials.

Their tool of choice is social media and all the short form modes of text communication. Once social media becomes more tightly integrated with UC, I think that shift will accelerate - and at some point, these tools will become voice enabled. When that happens, it will be time to ask some serious questions about the long term value of email. Gee, maybe I should have jumped into the conversation!