Friday, May 30, 2014

Next Stop - Interactions in Indy

Am flying to Indianapolis on Sunday for the 2014 Interactions event. This is Interactive Intelligence's showcase event for customers and partners, along with the analyst/consultant/media communities.

I've been to a few of these, and the event keeps getting bigger and better each year. It always has a relaxed mid-Western vibe that sits well with my small town USA roots. No overkill or excessive hype here - just stuff you can understand and take at face value. My kind of event.

If you follow me, you'll know I write often about ININ, and based on their stock price trajectory - at least up til a month or so ago - it looks like the world is catching up to all the good things they've been doing. As analysts, we get a closer view of that, and the company has become a bellwether for whether there's a viable business model for cloud communications. If anyone can do it, they can, and I expect to see more validation of this next week.

Stay tuned, both here and on my twitter feed - @arnoldjon. You can also follow their direct feed for all the tweets - #InteractIndy2014.

Finally, for a change, I get to be part of the fun. The SIPtones are a group of consultants who play at these events when the stars line up, and are always great to watch. At last year's Interactions, I guested on guitar for a couple of songs - here my post  from last year, including a YouTube link to a video compilation someone put together of their set.

Well, I'm glad to be back again. This time, I'll split time on keyboards and guitar, and the SIPtones get to stretch out for a full night of music. Interactive has set this up at a local club, and this will be part of the Tuesday night entertainment. If you're comning to Indy, we'll see you Tuesday night at the Slippery Noodle!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wanna Hangout? Google Hangouts and UC

Where does the time go? Been ages since I last posted - sometimes things just don't get on the radar. No shortage of things going on, though, and trips coming up the next two weeks.

For now, I wanted to share my latest article for UCStrategies. It's sponsored by NextPlane, but as you'll see, it's pure thought leadership - no reference to them at all. The focus is on Google Hangouts, which is making some noise in the UC space. Depending on your POV, Hangouts can be a great UC application, or totally not. I believe a lot of this is generational, but other factors are at play, and my post looks at the pros and cons of Hangouts for UC.

The article has been in the works for a while, but has finally been posted on the site, and in the spirit of collaboration, I hope you give it a read and then share your thoughts with us.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

MetaswitchForum 10 - Quick Thoughts

Lots to digest here at the 10th Metaswitch Forum, and I just have a window to share some highlights. If you need any back story on the event, my preview post from last week is a good place to start, including the essay I wrote that was featured in their show guide.

The event has been great, and Metaswitch is definitely focused on where technology is going. They're actually pretty far ahead of where their core customers are at today, but as a whole, these operators seem up for the challenge. You may be surprised at how receptive they are to what's coming, especially NFV and SDN, and if Metaswitch can transition them along this path, they'll be far better prepared for the world of OTT and Web-based services.

I should also note they've added a lot of video-based content on their website, so if you weren't here, this is a great way to get a flavor of the event. Some of the video is related to their roadmap and session recaps, but there are also tidbits of the fun and creative video pieces that make this a unique event.

Enough said, and before I have to get on my way, here's a quick summary of my thoughts and pix:

 Larry Lisser of Embrase talking about go-to-market approaches for SMBs with hosted services during Monday's precon session.
CTO Martin Taylor talking about his skiing mishap, but then much more cogently about how NFV and SDN are shaping the future for telecom networks. To get his chapter and verse, you shoud read his white paper, which formed the basis of his presentation.
Futurist/TV host/digital provocateur on steriods Jason Silva saturating us with rapid-fire ideas about the power and possibilities of technology. Or, as he says, "shots of philosophical espresso". Pretty mind-numbing and for every idea you retain, about 20 more zip by, out of reach, but definitely by design. A lot of showmanship going on here, but also a lot to think about and take inspiration from. I'll show my own example in the last photo below. Jason Silva was new to me, and to get a taste for his OTT intensity, here's a good starting point.
Keeping on the "brains of the network" theme, IBM Fellow Rob High adds more food for thought. Very engaging but practical session on how the Watson project is evolving into a powerful cognitive system that emulates human learning. We know how good Watson is at Jeopardy, but he gave us more meaningful examples with how it can truly enhance our capabilities in medical research, the contact center, and even in the kitchen. Great stuff - who knew that cherries and mushrooms would go so well in a quiche?
Kelsyn Rooks of Metaswitch talking through pilots they're developing to make the home phone sexy again. You may laugh or roll your eyes, but for their customers, there's a lot of potential here to help carriers reclaim the home phone business. As Kelsyn rightly noted, for older customers, the landline is their social network, and remains their preferred way to communicate. He gave great examples of features catering to aging parents - not just in the home, but in private care facilities. Another opportunity he sees is using the Accession platform to make it easier for families to communicate on their mobile devices. Sounds pretty basic, but that's what drives this market, and it really shows how well Metaswitch pays attention to the needs of their customers.
To finish up, Jason Silva cited a quote from philosopher Isaiah Berlin that stuck with me - "to understand is to perceive patterns". That's how I see the world, and I liked how Jason talked about how man-made patterns often mimic the forms that nature takes. Like, when flying and you look down at cities - how the patterns look like motherboards - that sort of thing.

Well, I'm not Jason Silva, but hey, I can do this stuff too. What do you see in this picture?
If you were here, you'd recognize this giant lattice from the towering atrium here at the Hyatt Regency hotel. It's very cool by itself, but look closely - look beyond the latticework. See anything?

Again, if you've been here, you should get it. Looking outside, that's the landmark Greater New Orleans Bridge that spans the Mississippi River. If you can view this in a large enough screen, notice how the triangle patterns of the bridge fit snugly within the lattice pattern. Neat, huh? Gee, imagine what I could do with a really good camera. I know.... yet another reason to move on from my BlackBerry. Oy - maybe I'll find a good deal on Bourbon Street. Thanks again, Metaswtich - great as always!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Migrating Your Business to VoIP - Webinar this Friday

Just a quick reminder for my next Ziff Davis B2B webinar.

It's this Friday at 2pm ET, and I'll be providing an overview of what SMBs need to be thinking about when making their migration to VoIP. Hope you can join us, and here's the registration page.

What is Cisco Selling? It's not UC.

As a UC Expert, I contribute regularly to UCStrategies, and one way is via a monthly column that runs on their portal. This time around, I wanted consolidate my learnings from two recent Cicso events. One was Cisco Connect, held in Toronto last month, and the other was their Customer Collaboration Day held last week in Phoenix.

In short, Cisco is focusing more on delivering business value  based on technology rather than the value of the technology itself. All market leaders have to do this, but these events provided a good window on how Cisco is going to market. With a focus on what this means for UC, I put this article together for the UCStrategies portal. I hope you enjoy it, and would welcome comments any time.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Personal Video and UC - What are You Afraid Of?

That's the title of my latest Rethinking Communications column that runs in TMC's Internet Telephony Magazine. I write about video a fair bit, both for personal video and room-based scenarios. These are different branches of the video tree with distinct value propositions.

This time around, the focus is on personal video and the growing role it is poised to play with UC. You may not think personal video is business-ready, but a lot has changed both with endpoints and the various applications that support video.

My current article summarizes the current state of personal video, and my views are complemented by Simon Dudley, video evangelist for LifeSize. He's immersed in this space on a daily basis, and we both see lots of opportunity here not just for personal video as a standalone application, but also as a driver for UC. 

You can link to the article here, which is running now in the magazine's digital edition. There's more to explore on this topic, and I've written a Part 2 follow on piece, which will run around this time next month.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Cisco Customer Collaboration Day - Quick Thoughts

I just have time for a quick post about this event in Phoenix. Technically, it was over 2 days, and nobody was in a hurry to leave - except me to catch my flight home. This was a nice, comfortable mix of analysts and Cisco's collaboration team, and it was a great way to share updates and get our feedback on their direction.

Clearly, Cisco keeps trying to move higher up the value chain, and while some still view them as a network plumbing vendor, they are clearly well beyond that. We've been hearing a lot about the "human network" from Cisco, and more recently the next big curve - Internet of Everything. While these are very lofty and abstract end games, what we heard about in Phoenix was much more nuts and bolts.

They have a clear vision of what today's contact center and collaboration platforms need to look like, and if you weren't paying attention, you'd think this was Bain or McKinsey talking. For Cisco it's all about tying technology value to business outcomes, and while IT is a key part of the conversation, the sell here is further up the ladder. Cisco has been on this track for a while, but the roadmap we saw seems pretty credible, and they brought out some great customer and partner success stories to show us how it's done.

In short, the mantra now is along these lines - deliver collaborative customer experiences that drive business outcomes. My MBA days are well behind me, but I sure hope this is what they're teaching now, because that's what I'd be looking for as an IT buyer and/or an executive decision-maker. Historically, these have been difficult worlds to bridge, but today, technology is so powerful that it pretty much has to be this way now.

The cloud is driving everything, and we got a taste of how they're working with Big Data and predictive analytics. There sure is a lot of promise here, and it's too soon to know if Cisco will get it right, but they certainly understand the role they can play. From all accounts, they're posting great numbers in the contact center and collaboration spaces, so the momentum is in their favor.

If there's one area where it could all fall apart, it's in the partnerships and maintaining control over the customer relationship. As with any Tier 1 vendor, Cisco wants to own the customer, and we had some interesting dialog around the challenges of keeping technology partners happy as Cisco tries to build out their vision. These partners sell directly to their customers too, and balancing all this to deliver a tidy solution that Cisco can control is a tricky business.

This is just a high level summary, and I'll have more to say in a review I'm writing next week for UCStrategies, where I contribute thought leaderhip regularly. Look for it then, I'll post here as well once it's on the site.

John Hernandez, VP/GM Customer Collaboration
Willem Evert Nijenhuis, PLM, Unified Contact Center
Tod Famous, Director, PM, Customer Collaboration

Next Stop - Metaswitch Forum, NOLA, plus my show guide essay

Bing, bang, boom. Week 3 of travel coming up. Was in La Jolla last week for the UC Summit; I was just in Phoenix for 2 days at Cisco's customer collaboration event; and on Monday I'm going to New Orleans for the Metaswitch Forum. Oy.

So, this is my shout-out for the 10th Metaswitch Forum. I've been to 5 of them - maybe more, and this one will be a big one to mark the occasion. They held the Forum in New Orleans back in 2008, and that one is still in my all-time top 5, so the bar is going to be pretty high next week, but I know we will not be disappointed.

If you're going, drop me a line if you want to connect - I'm not hard to find. This is especially true if you check out the show guide, which tells you everything you need to know about the Forum.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary, Metaswitch asked me to write a short essay to set the stage for the event. I was happy to oblige, and the essay is featured right after you open the front cover.

The essay is titled "Simplicity and Intelligence - Can You Have Both? How Can You Not Have Both?"

I can't share the entire show guide with you - gotta be there for that - but I can share the essay with you here, and I hope you like it! This will provide a preview of what the event holds in store, and your comments are welcome - either here or in NOLA.

As usual, I'll be blogging and tweeting as time allows, and you can follow my tweets here - @arnoldjon. To follow the play-by-play during the Forum, just track the event hashtag - #MForum14

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

April Thought Leadership Roundup

I recently started doing a monthly roundup post to provide a one-stop-shop review of my writing that I think readers would most enjoy. As you know, my writing turns up in a lot of places, so here's a good way to get a best-of digest for each month.

Had my hands full at the UC Summit last week, so I'm a bit behind, but here are the posts from April I most hope you got to see - and if you didn't see them, it's not too late to share your thoughts! This list is a bit longer than normal, as it was a heavy month for me in terms of writing - and these are just the highlights.  :-)

Colonel Chris Hadfield - Lessons Learnd from Collaborating in Space - this blog, April 1

Book Review - Hacking Exposed for VoIP and UC - this blog, April 3

Why Does Customer Service Suck? - InformationWeek, UC portal, April 10

Is Voice Really Dead? - Internet Telephony Magazine, April issue

VoIP Security - What You Don't Know Can Hurt You - Enterprise Management 360, Q1 2014 Edition

CTCA Conference - Quick Coda and Presentation Links, this blog, April  15

UC Summit 2014 - Highlights and 7 Takeaways, this blog, April 30

5 Trends in the UC Marketplace: An Interview with Jon Arnold - site, April 23

Migrating to VoIP - Where to Begin? - portal, April 20

Business Implications for VoIP - 3 Caveats - portal, April 3

Key Questions to ask a Potential UC Vendor - ADTRAN UC blog, April 17

Next Stop - Phoenix, Cisco Customer Collaboration Day

Week 2 of 3 straight travel weeks - don't think I've had that before. Last week was the UC Summit, and the next two days is a Cisco event in Phoenix; and next week is the big 10th Metaswitch Forum in NOLA - more about that one later this week.

Bright and early tomorrow, I'm going to Phoenix for the 2014 Cisco Americas Customer Collaboration Analyst Day. Got that? You'd be right to wonder that if the event has such a long, convoluted name, how are they going to make collaboaration simple?

Well, it's crossed my mind a few times, and I guess I'm about to find out. Cisco's events are always first rate, so I'm sure the mystery will be revealed and I'll do my best to describe, explain and inform here. We'll be hearing about customer successes, but they'll also be updating us on omnichannel communication and data analytics - both of which I'm keenly interested in. Plus, I'm going to keep a running tally of how often IoT and IoE are mentioned, since these are the big ideas du jour.

Monday, May 5, 2014

5 Trends in the UC Marketplace - Interview Feature

I don't often engage directly with content agencies, but they're popping up on my radar more often these days. You need to be careful here, but in this particular case the fit seemed fine. The sponsor is, and having seen what's up there, their content seemed quite interesting - and worth checking out.

For my piece, I was interviewed about 5 trends driving UC, and if you follow me, you know that I'm on top of that space. They did a nice job putting this together, and they have a  pretty good handle on how to do inforgraphics. Let's see how it trends, but you might be seeing more content from me there soon!

The interview was posted late last month, but for a few reasons it's only gotten to my inbox now. Here's the link, and I hope you enjoy it.