Thursday, August 29, 2013

ITExpo Takeaways - Innovation, Startups and Implications for UC

Just saw Steve Wozniak's talk here at ITExpo in Las Vegas. Definitely the marquee session, so everyone is here. Lots of great stories about how he learned how to build things as a kid and how that set the stage for what was to come. The natural curiousity that comes with being a kid is the best magic of all, and if everyone followed their early instincts, most of the world's problems would be solved overnight. Nevermind....

Back to work. I just posted my thoughts about Tuesday's StartupCamp8. It's a different take, and is focused on where - or how - UC fits into the startup ecosystem, especially around driving innovation inside businesses. Problem is that I'm not seeing much of a fit, at least based on the startups we saw.

Is this a big deal? I don't know, but my instincts tell me that UC is on the outside looking in when it comes to how startups think about the business problems they're trying to solve and whether they see UC as an enabler for their ideas.

If that raises questions for you, I think you'll enjoy my post, which is running now on the UCStrategies portal. Please give it a read, and would love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

ITExpo 2013, Las Vegas - Day 1

Yesterday was Day 1 of this year's ITExpo West, being held for the first time in Las Vegas. Much bigger here in many ways than Austin was last year. Too early to tell how this location plays out, but there are definitely lots of people here. Just sharing a few high level thoughts from what I saw yesterday.

Things kicked off with a roundtable panel on tech trends, with voices from TMC, analysts and consultants. There were a lot of good ideas and food for thought, and the hour flew by fast. Topics covered included M2M, white spaces, WebRTC and the need for IPV6. Bigger picture, a key theme was the idea that our personal identities have value - as we better understand that, the relationship between buyers and sellers will change, and this has implications for everyone in the room - both as consumers and as businesses trying to make money in telecom.

Moving on, I moderated a well-attended session on how technology can be used in the contact center to improve the customer experience. Lots to talk about there, and it's clear that things like social media, mobility and multichannel communication are presenting big challenges for contact centers. It's also worth noting that almost everyone in the room was a first-time ITExpo attendee. This happened as well in the panel I ran this morning on hosted PBX. I'm sure the Las Vegas location has something to do with that, and maybe TMC is tapping into a new audience - time will tell.

Otherwise, yesterday was full with briefings and from there, everyone went to StartupCamp8. Over the past few ITExpos, this has been the most engaging session, helped in large part by the open bar, but also the content. The format is well honed now, and 4 startups gave their pitches, followed by some feedback from the judges. After that, the audience voted on winner, which turned out to be a local startup, Alice Receptionist. None of these really stood out for me, but I have a more detailed post coming about these startups - it will run on the UCStrategies portal, hopefully before the week is out.

Preceding the pitches, we heard a good keynote from Jeff Bonforte of Yahoo!. Aside from telling us how they missed out on acquiring Twitter for pocket change in its early days, Jeff covered 12 elements that characterize innovative organizations. Overall, this sounds like a good recipe for success, and clearly most businesses simply aren't wired this way. Aside from things you'd expect to hear, I enjoyed his take on the need to fail before you can succeed. For companies that can learn from this, the main idea is that the more you fail, the more likely you'll find something that actually sticks. It seems countertintuitive, but when you compare the culture of startups against enterprises, it's not hard to see why this is standard procedure for the former type of business.

I'll get another post out by end of the week, and I'm sure the buzz will be great when the show floor opens later this afternoon.

Rich Tehrani kicking off the show
 Technology trends roundtable
 View of the strip from the 62nd floor during the reception following StartupCamp8

Friday, August 16, 2013

ITExpo Preview - Session #3 - VaaS

Last but not least, my third session at the upcoming ITExpo is titled: "VaaS - Leveling the Playing Field for SMBs". Add one more acronym to your alphabet soup canon in this space - now we're talking about video as a service. With cloud, you just know that sooner or later, everything will get their "aaS" moniker, just like finally getting added to the Apps store up in that same cloud.

Well, if any application can truly benefit from the cloud it's video. This is the most expensive of all communications modes to provide with a premise-based solution, and now that the technology is "good enough" for just about any endpoint, the market is finally here. This certainly isn't what Cisco had in mind with telepresence, which is such a great experience, but really just for the Fortune 1000 set. Cloud-based services are nowhere as good, but my favorite tag line of "good enough" definitely applies here, and that's one of the themes we'll be exploring on the panel.

Our session is Thursday, August 29 at 1pm, and is part of the the Cloud4SMB Expo, which runs under the ITExpo tent. I know it's one of the last sessions of the conference, but if you're not dashing off to catch a red-eye back East, this should be a fun session.

Joining me will be Vishal Brown - Yorktel, Mark Cray - AGT, and Steve Vobbe - Glowpoint. Full details are here, and hope you can join us.

Am on vacation next week, and blogging gets a break too, so I won't likely post again til just before the Expo. As a reminder, I'm also moderating panels on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I posted about them here and here. See you in Las Vegas!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

ITExpo Preview - Session #2

Continuing from yesterday's post, this is a series of shout-outs for the sessions I'm moderating at ITExpo West, coming real soon. This is TMC's flagship event, and is being held in Las Vegas from August 26-29.

So, on Day 2 - Wednesday - I'll be hosting my second panel, titled "10 Ways Hosted PBX Will Benefit Your Business". Gee, I wonder what that one will be about? Whether you call it hosted or cloud or managed, the trend to go off-prem is really strong, especially in the SMB space.

Joining me for this one will be Aaron Charlesworth - Vocalocity, Tim Healy - Telepacific Communications, Steve Lingo - XO Communications, and Bill Miller - Freedom Voice. That's a pretty solid lineup, and if you don't come away learning something new here, then maybe you should moderate this topic next time around.

We're running at 10am, on Wednesday, August 28, and the session is part of the Cloud4SMB Expo, one of the many sub-events running alongside the ITExpo. For more detail, just scroll down this page to our date/time, and I hope you can join us.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

ITExpo Preview - Session #1

TMC's ITExpo is now just 12 days away, and there are lots of loose ends to manage as usual. I'm moderating three sessions, and am doing separate posts for each. They're all different, and I hope to see you at some or all of 'em.

As you probably know by now, this year's West event is in Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay. It's a pretty hot time of year to be in the desert, but that's the story. This is actually TMC's 3rd locale for the West ITExpo in 4 years, so we're all looking forward to seeing how they've changed things up. Los Angeles was their base for several years, but they pulled roots and had the last two Expos in Austin. I loved it there, but it's not really a Western spot and I guess it just didn't pull right, so off to Mandalay Bay we go.

I'll be there the full time, and my first session is Tuesday, August 27 at 10am. This will be a topic I really enjoy researching, and it's going to be fun. It's called "Solving the Customer Experience Equation", and we'll be exploring the relationship between communications technology and contact center agents, and how best to marry those for providing great service.

Joining me will be Steve Brubaker from InfoCision Management Corporation, Steve Chirokas - VoltDelta, John Cray - Zeacom, and Ann Sung Ruckstuhl - LiveOps. With four speakers, the time will fly, but you'll definitely hear some pretty sharp perspectives.

If you want get regular updates on the show, follow my twitter feed, and along with TMC's - @arnoldjon and @ITExpo.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

BestinBiz Awards Winners Announced

A while back, I posted about being asked to be a judge as part of the BestinBiz Awards. Their scope is international, but do have separate awards for North American companies, and 2013 entries for that region close really soon - August 16!. While not solely focused on tech or telecom, there certainly were companies in those spaces, but that's not really the point here.

Aside from that vertical focus, my MBA and entrepreneurial background give me a good perspective for assessing things that apply horizontally across any type of business. This is where my focus on strategy, go-to-market, organizational structure, customer satisfaction/retention, branding/positioning, value proposition, competitive standing, partnerships, fundraising, exits/M&A, etc. comes into play.

I was pleased to contribute this to the process, and it was fun evaluating the companies sent my way. While most of the 2012 International winners were outside my space, I'll give a quick shout-out here to the ones you'll probably be familiar with:

- Tekelec - Innovative Company, Silver
- Redline Communications - Comback Company, Gold
- Minacs - Customer Friendly Company, Bronze

You can read more about the competition and review the full list of 2012 International winners here.

Overall, I'm pleased to say that 8 of the 10 companies I evaluated made it to the winner's circle, and this process is a great way to get exposed to some interesting new players and technologies. A few have a focus in emerging areas that will be relevant to UC and CEBP, so don't be surprised if you hear about them at some point. Of note, I'll mention:

- Arkadin - mobile UCaasS - especially audio and video conferencing
- BlackLine Systems - enterprise SaaS to automate financial processes
- Vision Critical - engagement platforms to allow enterprises to build community with customers, suppliers, etc. to improve decision-making processes
- Mimecast - mobile security and data archiving
- Clarizen - collaboration and project management workforce platforms

Friday, August 2, 2013

ITExpo - 24 Days and Counting....

I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be in late August just before Labor Day than... Las Vegas. Yeah, it's a dry heat and everything is air conditioned anyway, but summer is short around here and if I have to travel now I'd rather be going to a cottage (that's happening the week before) or a beach (ditto).

With that said, it's ITExpo time, and this only happens twice a year, so that's where I'm going to be. As you likely know, TMC continues to expand/enhance/improve this show, and you have to admit, having Steve Wozniak speak is a pretty cool draw.

This is just a quick shout-out, and I'll be posting more extensively starting next week about the conference. I'll be moderating some sessions, so stay tuned for details, and if you're not following the TMC tweets - or mine - just add these handles for up to the minute updates - @ITExpo @TMCnet @arnoldjon

Thursday, August 1, 2013

UC Pitfalls and Opportunities

The title says it all, and that's what we talked about on this week's UCStrategies podast, ably hosted by Blair Pleasant. Our roster of Experts has recently expanded, so there's a pretty rich range of perspectives on this topic, which seems to be a perennial thread in our consulting and analyst practices.

There's a lot that's right with UC, but it's more challenging to deploy successfully than you might think. To learn why, please head over to the portal and give the discussion a listen, or just read the transcript if that's more convenient.

Now You Want Me to Collaborate? Leave Me Alone!

That's the title of my current article running in Internet Telephony Magazine. As you hopefully know, this is TMC's flagship publication - both print and digital versions - and my monthly column, Rethinking Communications, has been running there since May 2012.

As the column's namesake implies, I try to focus on issues that transform how we think about and use communications technologies. This is pretty fertile ground, and I often look at things from the end user's perspective. That's definitely the topic this month, as I approach collaboration from a slightly less receptive vantage point.

If you lean on me long enough about collaboration, you'll tap into a vein along the lines that it's overrated and overestimated. I'll leave it at that for now, and hope you'll hop over next to the digital edition and give my article read. Give that some thought, and I'd love to know if we're seeing things the same - or not.

Before signing off, I'd be remiss to not use this post as a quick heads-up for ITExpo, TMC's bi-annual conference that's just three weeks away! Yikes - I have to get my panels organized, like now. More on that in my next post. Will I see you there?