Monday, October 28, 2013

Amazon's "Mayday" Button - Contact Center Implications - Webinar

Amazon's "Mayday" feature is getting a lot of attention, and while the vast majority of businesses lack the scale to offer this service promise, it sure raises a lot of questions for contact centers. One of those is "just because you can, does it mean you should?", and from there many other implications pop up. It's too early to tell if this will be a passing blip or a new stage in delivering JIT customer service, but people are talking about it now, so the webinar is definitely timely.

Thanks to the Internet, our attention span is now measured in seconds, and if you take this level of instant gratification seriously, then you need to think about what Mayday could mean for your business and how you support your customers.

If this is on your mind, then you'll want to join us on Thursday, November 11 at 2pm ET. I'm part of a panel that will be discussing the various ramifications, and will be joined by well-known consultants Neal Shact and Dennis Goodhart. TMC is hosting the event, which is being sponsored by SAP, a company that certainly wants to know where this could take things as the pathway between customers and agents gets shorter.

We're still fine-tuning the agenda, but all the pertinent details are here, including a link to the registration page. I'll have more updates as we get closer to the date.

Friday, October 25, 2013

UCStrategies Podcast - State of SBCs with UC

Alphabet soup comes with the territory in our space, and the most recent UCStrategies podcast focused on SBCs - session border controllers - and their impact on UC. I've followed SBCs since this category emerged in 2004, and not being a technical analyst, I focus on the business-level issues. However, even among the analysts steeped in IT, SBCs have always been difficult to understand. On some levels, you can ignore them with UC, but as many deployments are calling for SIP trunking, SBCs become unavoidable. I've learned that SBCs are fairly new and somewhat foreign to the UC space, so this podcast was a long time coming.

Stephen Leaden did a great job moderating, and I was happy to say my piece along with the other UCS Experts on the call. Since Acme Packet scored close to $2 billion being acquired by Oracle, everyone is wondering what all the fuss is about. Well, our podcast has been posted now, so to find out, you'd better head over to the portal now, where you'll find both the download and the transcript.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Next Webinar - VoIP Adoption for SMBs - November 15

It's time for another webinar with Ziff Davis. I regularly contribute content there, and build on some of that with webinars when the stars line up.

This time around, I'll be presenting on adoption trends for VoIP among SMBs - a topic I follow pretty closely. Registration is already quite strong, and I hope that keeps trending as the promotion efforts continue. As always, participation is free, and here's the link with the details as well as the webinar abstract.

I'll do a few more shout-outs along the way, and I hope you can join us - Thursday, November 15 at 2pm ET.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Next Stop - Florida - Cisco Collab Summit

Travel has been fairly light for me lately, and am totally fine with that. That said, I'm always glad to attend Cisco's Collaboration Summit, being held this year in Boca Raton, FL. No complaints going to someplace warm, especially in the same time zone.

Collaboration is by nature a moving target, and it sure will be interesting to see what Cisco's 2013/2014 take is going to look like. The more all-encompassing these collaboration platforms/solutions/ecosystems become, the higher the stakes get with customers, especially the big-spending enterprises.

Over the last week or so, we've seen some big moves by Avaya and Siemens - now Unify - to give us their flavor of collaboration, and now it's Cisco's turn. I've also had a few in-depths recently with Microsoft and their visions for Lync, so there's no shortage of end-to-end paths businesses can take for collaboration.

Cisco always does a great job with this event, and I'll be blogging/tweeting as time allows. For reference, the event hashtag is #csummit, and my handle is @arnoldjon.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pros and Cons of Desktop Video

My regular followers will know that I recently attended the LifeSize Tech Day, held at their Austin, TX HQ. As per my recap post, it was a great experience; not just to see their offerings up close, but also to be immersed in the video space for a day and a half. In the spirit of using video to collaborate and extend our group experience beyond the onsite visit, LifeSize is engaging us in a series of occasional video-based briefings to more fully explore various aspects of this market.

There is always something new to learn in sessions like this, and last week they did one on desktop video. Ironically, I had yet-to-be-explained technical difficulties logging in, but was able to follow enough to gather some takeaways to share with you here. This actually merits a brief sidebar that touches on an unspoken issue which all vendors struggle with - simply getting video to work.

When you're living with video conferencing tools all day long - as these vendors typically do - it's easy to forget how complex the underlying technology is, especially with all the different standards and interoperability issues. The seamless one-touch experience is wonderful when it works as advertised, but we've all lived through much worse.

Just to be clear, I'm not saying this to pick on LifeSize. They certainly know what they're doing, and all vendors have issues here. It's an important sidebar, however, since first impressions are critical for the adoption of any new technology - especially something as intimate as video.

I think it's fair to say that many people - perhaps the majority - are skeptical about using video. Some of it is generational, and people on my side of 40 are not reflexively in a rush to go straight to video when using tools like Skype. By the way, I'm saying this as someone who is interviewed on TV from time to time, so I know what it's like to be on camera.

Another reason, though, is basic ease of use. Whether you see this as perception or reality, ease of use is not typically what comes to mind right away with video - it's almost like you expect there will be problems. When things work smoothly, it's a great experience, but when there are glitches with video, we tend to tune out real fast and not bother much trying to fix it - because we don't know what to do.

So, holding that thought in mind, if you think the tiny hiccup I had with LifeSize was an I-told-you-so moment, how do you think the analyst community felt this Tuesday when Siemens did their much-hyped re-brand for Unify? This was the biggest corporate level refresh I can remember in this space, so there was a lot riding on those first impressions.

Well, as anyone trying to watch the live video stream would attest, it was very problematic. I was hardly alone in not being able to get the feed, and when it did kick in, it was so intermittent as to be simply unwatchable. I'm not much of a twitter fan, but this was truly a good example of its value by seeing in real time that others were having the same experiences. There were tweets from all over the world with the same problem, and I had to feel badly for Unify here. Definitely a case where you live and die by the same sword.

So much for the short sidebar.

In the interest of your attention span, let me quickly come back to the topic - desktop video. Basically, what I wanted to say was how the briefing reviewed the use cases, along with the pros and cons of the applications we commonly use. Both video conferencing/calling and web conferencing were cited, with the leading exponents being Skype, Google Hangouts, WebEx and GotoMeeting.

We all know how these work, and they're easy choices for many reasons. However, it was instructive to review the limitations, such as variable video quality, limited scalability, number of steps required to get a session going, lack of support for multiparty calls and common directory integration to support everyone you want on the session.

To me, this speaks to the "good enough" nature of these applications. Nobody is expecting telepresence here, but there are plenty of use cases where the fit is good. For a lot of conferencing needs, the quality doesn't have to be HD, and if the groups are small and the nature of the meeting is fairly informal, the cost/quality tradeoff is acceptable.

No issue there, and where LifeSize comes to the table is for situations where "good enough" is not good enough. If there's one thing I've learned about video, it's the breadth of scenarios where it brings value. LifeSize does a great job explaining this, and in short, the more formal the meeting and the higher the stakes, the better the solution you're going to need.

This doesn't mean you stop using the likes of Skype or WebEx - there will always be a place for these. Rather, the higher-end solutions like LifeSize become additive to your overall toy box. When you need a better experience and a more engaging collaboration environment, it's just good business to have a room-based system where a team can gather and interact at a high level with remote co-workers.

There's a huge mid-market that doesn't need or want telepresence, but has both showing and sharing requirements that go beyond what OTT Web-based applications can deliver. LifeSize sees this as their sweet spot, and after our Tech Day experience, I can see why.

I'll be posting again when they have another deep dive session with our group, and hopefully will have a better sense by then as to how well that market opportunity is panning out.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Just Win, Baby!

I could easily blog 24/7 about my Boston sports teams, but that doesn't pay the bills - ESPN, are you listening? Will keep this short and sweet, and get back to regular blogging tomorrow. The picture below says it all, and I'm sure you've seen it 1,000 times, but damn, it's good.

Courtesy Boston Globe

Not only did the photographer, Stan Grossfeld, capture the moment perfectly, but the arms and legs form an almost perfect W to signify the eventual win coming in the 9th. Now that's a perfect moment!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

UCSrategies Podcast: Keep or Toss PBX? Cloud or Premise? Discuss!

Our latest UCStrategies podcast took a different route this time, with more of a debate-flavored tone. Led by Phil Edholm, we took a comparative, "versus" approach. Two topics were covered, with the merits of each side considered. First up was the PBX - do you augment it for UC, or replace it altogether? Similarly, do you stay premise-based or go cloud - or possibly have a hybrid solution?

I shared some thoughts on the first topic, and overall we expressed a wide range of views. These are timely topics for UC decision-makers, and hopefully this will clarify your thinking. The podcast has just been posted to the UCS portal, and you can download it here as well as read the transcript if you prefer.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Managing Power Outages - Smart Grid Webinar This Wednesday

Short notice shout-out, but I'll be leading another Zpryme webinar this Wednesday, October 9.

This one is on power outages - preventing them, fixing them, managing them, etc. We've all lived through these, and often they're stark reminders of our aging energy grid. Today's technologies are much improved in this regard, and this will be time well spent to learn more about that.

Joining me will be our sponsor Ventyx (an ABB company), along with two major utilities - Southern California Edison and Austin Energy. Just like our last webinar, this one is a late start, at 4pm ET. As always, registration is free, and all the details are here.

The Consumerization of Video Conferencing

I've got another item to share with you from the LifeSize Tech Day I attended a couple of weeks back. I was part of a group of "influencers" invited to attend, as was Andy McCaskey, who writes for SDR News. We hadn't met before, but being a small group, we all got to know each other during the event.

One of Andy's post-event follow-ups was for us to do a video interview. Basically, he wanted to get my take on where video conferencing is going and how it fits into the Unified Communications value proposition. From there, we talked about the LifeSize event and where we see them going in this market.

We did the interview late last week, and it's posted now on the SDR News portal. It runs about 14 minutes, and if you get a chance to watch it, I encourage you to look at the other content there afterwards. I know Andy has interviews coming with other attendees from the LifeSize event, but they're not posted yet.

Just a quick caveat on the segment he did with me. I didn't know this was being done as a formal interview for broadcast, so the quality is far from optimal. Had I known, the video setup would have been much different and easier on the eyes. Well, it's what we say that really matters, right? And, hey, this is a simple dose of realism - something that we don't talk about when trying to explain why we don't use video all the time.

Bottom line, video does not translate well for ad hoc communication, which happens to be the way that a lot of communication actually takes place. Am not sure we're ever going to fix that, and since I'm not auditioning for a job at ESPN - that would be so much fun! - I'll just leave it at that and hope you can see past what's on the screen.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The State of Teleworking - UCStrategies Podcast

That was the topic of our most recent UCStrategies podcast, and it's taken a bit longer than normal to get posted. There's a lot to talk about here, especially from a UC perspective, and if anything the two very much go hand in hand.

We had a lot of UCS Experts on the call, so you'll get your money's worth if you want to listen through the session. I was still struggling with my headcold and had very little voice during the session, but I made the effort and added my thoughts.

The session was ably moderated by Roberta Fox, who actually has a lot of experience in this area, so she was the logical choice for the role. You can listen to the podcast here as well as read the transcript. Either way, I hope you learn something here and we welcome your comments.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Last Call - Today's UC Webinar with Jabra at 2pm ET

Not much more to say, really, but I hope you can join us. This will be a fireside chat type of format where I'll be discussing various UC trends with Jabra, with an emphasis on why the time is right now for SMBs to be going in this direction. Registration is free and here are the details.