Friday, May 31, 2013

UCS podcast - the future for IT

Great topic for this week's UCStrategies podcast, and one that needs a lot of discussion.  In the wake of the recent UC Summit, we've all had a lot to think about, and it's fair to say that the role of IT has never been more challenging, with more questions than answers.

Our collective expertise is quite broad, and some of us were also at this month's Interactions event with Interactive Intelligence. When you hear what they're hearing as a vendor, the complexity of IT's job becomes even clearer for us as analysts and consultants.

I'm sure you have your own take on how IT is evolving, and it may not be for the better. Our group had a lot to say about that, and the podcast was posted this morning on the UCS portal. The session was moderated by Dave Michels, and from this link you can both listen to the podcast or read the transcript.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Microsoft Lync, UC and CEBP - Connecting the Dots

Busy is busy, and am blogging when I can - but it's never as much as I'd like.

This post will be short and my intention is to direct you to my May thought leadership contribution to the UCStrategies portal. A few weeks ago, I co-presented at the UC Summit with UCStrategies colleague, Kevin Kieller. Our topic was the business opportunity facing channels with Lync and it raised a lot of questions, especially around CEBP. Some was due to lack of clarity on my part, and to address all this, Kevin and I teamed up to share our thoughts and set some things straight. Hopefully this does the job, and we'd love to see more discussion, as CEBP can be a messy topic.

With that said, if any or all of these ideas are on your mind - CEBP, Microsoft Lync and UC - then I hope you'll read our analysis. The posting went live this morning, and here's the link.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Creating Business Value via UC and Collaboration - my Enterprise Management Interview with Sonus

I've been associated with U.K.-based Enterprise Management 360 for a few years, and my most recent engagement was doing an interview with Sonus about this topic. My partner this time around was Todd Abbott of Sonus Networks; he's their EVP of Strategy, and I've known him for some time. As an aside, he gave a solid presentation at the UC Summit a couple of weeks back, and Sonus looks to be well positioned as the SBC space moves into the next frontiers of cloud and mobility.

Back to the interview, which mainly covered the morphing of UC and collaboration into UCC. That term has become quite popular lately, and it speaks to the outcomes UC is trying to enable. On its own, UC is really just a toolset - a collection of applications that work well together as a solution. The business value comes from enabling collaboration to drive processes and do things more efficiently. That's worth investing in, and Todd shares his views on what both vendors and service providers need to do for UCC to live up to its potential.

The interview was recently published in the Q1 2013 print edition of their quarterly magazine, Enterprise Management 360, which is nicely produced and quite dense with in-depth interview and analysis. I have a couple of links to share to get you to the interview. First, to read it right away, you can access the online edition. Here's the link to the Index for the Q1 issue, and our interview runs on pages 52-55.

Next, here's the landing page on their website for the Q1 issue. I'm mentioned in the Editor's letter introducing the issue, but more important are other options to access their content. My roots are in the trade press world, and I like what they're doing here to remain relevant with digital readers. They provide apps links for both iTunes and Google play, as well as their own store where you can buy single copy print editions of the magazine.

Pick your path, and I hope you take some time to scan the Q1 issue and give our interview a read. As always, comments are welcome.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Interactions 2013 - My Takeaways and Some Music Too

Am through two days here at Interactions 2013, the global customer and analyst event run by Interactive Intelligence. It's being hosted in their hometown of Indianapolis, and they do a great job here. Time is up for me this time around, and am flying back today, so I'm going to share my takeaways with you now while they're still fresh.

This year's theme is "delivering the experience", and given the company's contact center focus, it's all about the customer. We hear a lot about network and architectures at these events, and while there's plenty of that on tap here too, it's nice to see more emphasis on the end user experience. Interactive certainly has a strong and growing customer base, so it's clear their technology works well. I like the message here, as distinct cusotmer experiences are one of the few ways companies can differentiate themselves these days.

A lot of companies are struggling in this space, and Interactive is making it clear here that they're not one of them. Being a public company, we already know that, but it's nice to get another layer of detail to reinforce how well they're doing. The deal sizes are getting bigger, their international footprint is growing, and traction is strong in the right place - cloud. They expect cloud to account for 50% of total orders in 2013, and that's way up from just a couple of years ago. It's fair to say they're betting big on the cloud, and so far it looks like they've bet right.

Small thing, but I think it will get bigger - compliance. I don't hear vendors talk about this, and since I'm currently doing work in this area, it gets my attention. It was nice to hear that Interactive understands the importance of being compliant with regulations and standards like HIPAA, SOX, ISO and PCI. Some of this is standard procedure for anyone in the contact center space, especially when agents are handling personal information like credit cards. However, I believe that IT compliance audits will become more vigilant when it comes to things like VoIP and UC, and the more they start to see these as weak links that expose networks to security threats.

Interactive has a deep and expanding product portfolio, and I like seeing their focus on value-added applications that go beyond routine contact center peformance monitoring/management tools. Of particular note were  Interaction Analyzer and Interaction Mobilizer. The former focuses on real-time speech analytics and the latter on mobile customer care. Context is a big missing link in the contact center value chain and Analyzer will help customers make more sense of what is washing over agents all day long, and it's clear that Interactive sees a lot of opportunity here.

Two other areas caught my attention for things that help differentiate Interactive. One is their focus on vertical markets, and we heard a few examples of this, such as health care, retail, financial services and utilities. Anyone can come to market with a generic solution, but Interactive has smartly been emphasizing their expertise in verticals, each of which has a distinct set of customer needs.

The other focus was IPA - their take on CEBP. This is relatively new, and while not their core competence, they have slowly been building up some traction with process automation tools. They could have quietly exited, but they've stuck with it and now have a small base of commercial deployments, including some who are not using their UC platform. This means you don't have to be using CIC to use IPA, and if they're getting some standalone business, they must be doing something right on this front.

As usual, CEO Don Brown gave us the big picture, and the main message is that their cloud strategy is working. Interactive was early to market with this, and it's clearly paying dividends and validating Dr. Brown's vision for where communications is going. There are bigger things coming that we can't talk about yet, and if you like Interactive now, I think you'll like them even better as the rest of their 2013 roadmap unfolds.

Last but not least was the Mission Control keynote by Captain Jim Lovell and Gene Krantz, recounting the Apollo 13 mission and the value of teamwork and leadership. This was the conference highlight for sure, and these guys are totally the real deal. Makes you feel pretty expendible when you get stressed out about downloads that take 2 seconds too long, and these guys are trying to bring a spaceship back to Earth without any guidance tools because they didn't have enough power to support them. It was nice hearing their views on what it would take for the US to get back in the saddle with the space program, as it would do wonders to make everyone feel good about America again. Seems like such a long time ago now, but they are living proof of what it takes to be great. This is the only time I've seen a keynote get a standing ovation at a conference, and there was no doubt about how inspired everyone felt in their presence.

To wrap up, for fun, I was asked to play on a couple of songs with the SIP Tones Monday night. They're the travelling band of consultants who have been doing this a while now at various conferences, and it really shows. Great guys, and I really appreciate the chance to join them for a bit. A quick shout-out of thanks to Alice Deer - I'm told her Dad lent us the guitar I used. I just found that out now - thanks!

Garrett Myers put together a really nice 3 minute compilation of their set, and has posted it on YouTube. I'm in a couple of segments, and overall, it's a great sampler for what the SIP Tones do so well. Here's the link - enjoy! Also, colleague Blair Pleasant took a few photos, and thanks for sending this one over.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Next Stop - Indianapolis and Interactions 2013

My travels come in fits and starts, and it's been busier than usual for me lately. On Sunday, I'm heading to Indy for Interactions 2013, the annual customer-fest for Interactive Intelligence. I've been to a few of these, and their event keeps getting bigger and better.

It's not easy catering to customers, partners, analysts and media all under one roof, but they've got this down to a science now. Not to mention they're a public company, so they have to deal with both industry and financial analysts.

Let's just say I'm sure they're glad this only happens once a year. These events take a huge amount of planning, but since ININ has been on such a good roll, it's a great way to showcase why and how they've been so successful. As analysts, we'll get a front row seat on this next week, and to the extent I can, I'll share my thoughts here on on twitter as times allows. My handle is @arnoldjon and if you want to follow the event, it's #InteractIndy2013.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

UC Summit 2013 Takeaways - Podcast

If you weren't at last week's UC Summit 2013, you missed a great event. We did our obligatory post-event debrief on this week's podcast, and it's posted now on the portal.

Am short on time today, but wanted to get a quick post out now so you can give it a listen. The podcast was ably moderated by Blair Pleasant, and a transcript has been provided as well. Whether you were there or not, any feedback or suggestions for next year will definitely be welcomed!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Reminder - Smart Grid Cybersecurity Webinar - Wed., May 8

Just a quick shout-out for this webinar coming up tomorrow.

I'm wearing my Zpryme hat for this one, and will be presenting trends and forecast data around the need for cybersecurity solutions in the smart grid space. Utilities have a lot of catching up to do, and these themes should be familiar to my core followers in the communications space.

Joining me will be Brett Luedde from cybersecurity vendor ViaSat and Nadya Bartol from UTC (Utilities Telecom Council), and together this should all make for an engaging session.

The webinar is at 2pm, and if you want to get more details as well as join us, here's the registration page. Hope you can make it.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Where Conferencing fits into UC - Podcast

Last week's UCStrategies podcast was about a topic we deal with all the time - conferencing. We all use it, and the role of conferencing is evolving in the broader context of UC. As UC becomes more widely used, it will become a more interactive experience, and go well beyond the conventional audio conferencing environment we're so used to.

The podcast was moderated by Marty Parker, and we were joined by David Frankel, the CEO of ZipDX, the conferencing platform we use for our podcasts. He's doing some innovative things in this space, so it was a great opportunity to explore things first hand.

Things are a bit behind due to the UC Summit, which wraps up today, but the podcast has been posted now, and you can listen to it here.