Friday, May 29, 2015

Next Up - Canadian Telecom Summit

I'll be attending two conferences next week, and both happen to be local. We don't have much in the way of telecom events in Canada, and by far the biggest is the long-running Canadian Telecom Summit here in Toronto. I can only get to the first day, so I'll be there all day Monday, and if you happen to be there, let me know.

It's a great program, and if you're still considering going, make up your mind today. Here's the CTS website, and maybe I'll see you there.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why a Collaboration Vision Matters for Bringing Lines of Business Together

Over the course of this five-part series, I’ve talked about the value of collaboration for making enterprises more successful and the role played by communications technologies to make this possible. Conversely, I’ve also looked at the challenges facing IT to fully leverage today’s collaboration solutions along with how the dynamics of enterprises act as inhibitors against these intentions.
The nature of large enterprises and collaboration technologies are each complex in their own ways, and IT must manage both, and that brings us to the final post in my Collaboration Insights series. Vendors offering collaboration solutions are really just one piece of the puzzle that IT needs to pull together into an overall plan.
On a broader scale, IT has to sell the virtues of collaboration across the organization. Not only does management need to be sold on the business case, but employees need to buy into the personal productivity benefits, plus line of business managers need to buy into this as a better way to drive team-based results.
Dealing with Shadow IT
To further understand how daunting this can be, consider present day realities. I could write many posts along this track, but will touch on one common example here – Shadow IT. Despite best intentions to serve the overall needs of the enterprise, IT often runs up against gaps that simply cannot be filled, either at all or on a timely basis. These are the conditions that give rise to Shadow IT, and while this can lead to effective solutions, they don’t always align well with enterprise-wide priorities such as collaboration.
While there certainly is merit for innovation coming from anywhere inside the organization, Shadow IT initiatives within a specific department or business unit can undermine IT’s efforts to serve the business as a whole. Rather than leave this unchecked, IT can take a more inclusive approach to welcome these forms of innovation and look for opportunities to make them part of an enterprise-wide collaboration platform.
The key here is to clarify that Shadow IT projects are condoned, but that IT wants to be informed throughout the process. This approach actually empowers both parties; namely validating Shadow IT as a conduit for innovation, and positioning enterprise IT as being more engaging and less controlling.
Ultimately, this puts IT in the role of a leader rather than a follower, making it easier to step up and own collaboration. Strategically, IT is in the best position to do this, since collaboration should be a horizontal solution for everyone, not just a specific department or line of business. My last post touched on this in terms of making collaboration strategic, and I’ll now extend that for IT to have a vision to drive this strategy.
Creating a collaboration vision
By nature, each LOB has its own agenda and corporate targets to achieve. Regardless of how independent LOBs may be, there will always be a need to work together – to collaborate – with a common objective. Just like how employees must work together, things become more challenging when the numbers grow. Two LOBs may not require much help, but when several LOBs must pool resources, ideas, data, etc., they really need a common platform. This scenario goes well beyond what Shadow IT can address, and serves as a prime example of the enterprise-wide collaboration vision that IT needs to both create and own.
The real value-add here comes from IT showing how this vision makes it easier for LOBs to collaborate, as well as for individual employees. While LOBs need to operate independently, they must also see how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts for making the business more successful. This is the power of seamless collaboration, where the platform is easy for everyone to use and does not get in the way of achieving shared outcomes.
For IT to sell this vision convincingly, they need to choose collaboration technology partners that have the same vision and understand how to support it. That’s where IT has some of homework to do, but when that piece is covered, IT will be empowered, knowing that they can deliver this capability enterprise-wide.

Not only does this bring LOBs closer together, building consensus on how best to collaborate – without threatening their internal workings – but it diminishes the need for Shadow IT initiatives that conflict with or undermine collaboration solutions. That’s a winning approach for IT to own collaboration and play a more strategic role as the business comes to rely more on technology-driven trends to drive growth.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Genband Perspectives 2015 - 4 Takeaways

Last week I attended part of this event in Orlando, and here are my takeaways - better late than never. I've been in moving mode all month, and that explains my short visit to Genband, as well as the delay getting this posted. I try to share my thoughts here when attending industry events, and this time around, I need to add a couple of caveats.

First, I only had one full day for keynotes and sessions, so it's not a complete picture. Am pretty sure I saw the richest presentations in terms of messaging, but it was all about the industry and Genband's business. I didn't see or hear anything about their financial performance, go-to-market/channel plans, or how they're going to monetize Kandy. In short, from what I saw, there was very strong content about both sales and vision for how the comms space is being transformed, and pretty good content about marketing as well as demos for how various customers are using Kandy.

Second, the event was in a bigger venue this year, but it's hard to say if the audience was really larger. Anyhow, the main room was spaced out more this time, and even though analysts/media had front row seating again, we were set off pretty far to the right and back from the stage. I don't have a great camera - that's another story - and taking photos was just not an option short of walking up closer. They had roving professional photographers doing this all day long, so I'll leave that to them. As such, I just have one photo to share from the venue.

Finally, for reference, here's my post from last year's event, which does have more photos - and if you didn't know any better, they could have passed for Perspectives 2015.  :-)

1. "Protect what you have, invest for the future"

This was the mise en scene CEO David Walsh used to position Genband's customers for success in today's world of rapid, constant change. Fear is a great motivator, and the show opened with a high energy perfomance piece by actor Steve Connell (@steveconnell). It was pretty OTT - pun intended - but a great way to set the tone early that carriers need to adapt or die. This could have been the preamble to a pro sports event - "you play the game to win, not to lose" and "learn how to play the game better" - but totally on message for the challenges facing all carriers now.

David Walsh has his own style of presenting and he did a great job talking about how every aspect of our daily lives is being transformed by technology, and that "boundaries are being broken every day". He is genuinely imploring carriers to think this way as the status quo doesn't work any more. Naturally, Genband is the perfect partner to help them do that - both to protect their customer base with innovative applications, and to transition away from outmoded legacy networks to the cloud.

2. Green telephony

He also touched on this last year, but here he clearly articulated the virtues of going to the cloud. If you strip away all the drivers around making money and just focused on the environmental impact, there's a very powerful story here. He cited a string of facts and figures around heating and power consumption (and costs), then showing the magnitude of change with the cloud. If fighting global warming and saving the planet are key criteria for your decision-making, Genband totally gets it.

Just as effective, however, were the data points he shared about the economic impact, and this will resonate even stronger with anyone trying to build a business case to move on from the PSTN. He cited how there are 30,000 Central Offices in the U.S., and there's a huge real estate opportunity waiting to happen as telcos reduce their footprint when converting to IP. The PSTN remains a $100 billion business in the U.S., and telcos are still spending $1.3B annually to keep it going.

His main message from this is that if all those savings and opportunities were channeled properly, there's more than enough money to fund the move away from legacy to the cloud. Clearly, this is a vision problem, not a financial problem, and if all carriers invested in their future this way, everyone would be better off - carriers, customers and the planet.

3. Ecosystems create value

Now we get to Kandy, which is really the focus of their business now. We heard a lot about embedded communications being the key to survival for carriers, and if they don't get on board with the cloud and WebRTC, OTTs will continue taking their traffic, revenues and customers. All that's left will be a hardware-based network, and that won't get you much these days. On that note, I thought these posters in the hallway told the story pretty well. Today's customers want a personalized experience with apps they can use anywhere, any time and with anyone. That's kind of how we like to communicate as people, and not let technology get in the way.

Kandy is the solution by providing carriers a rich platform and ecosystem for delivering this experience and providing apps that customers will not only use, but will be happy to pay for. We certainly saw some great vertical market examples, so I have no doubt about what Kandy can do. It's just not clear to me what the revenue opportunity is for Genband and if it's enough to keep them playing at a high level.

4. "We aim low and succeed"

Every conference has a special speaker, and Genband sure picked a good on in Sir Ken Robinson. I was hardly alone in not knowing him, but now I will avidly say you should follow him (@SirKenRobinson) and check out his writings on creativity and the education system. Great stuff here, and the "aim low and succeed" mentality really says it all. He spoke at length about how we're not really encouraged to be creative or even believe that we can be. With his classic British tongue-in-cheek delivery, Sir Ken made the point by telling how the music teacher of both Paul McCartney and George Harrison told them they had no musical talent back in their Liverpool days. Oops.

It's really about fostering a culture to encourage everyone to explore their creativity - it's not just the domain of artists. While his frame of reference is the education system - and how it's been failing us this way for generations - it applies equally well in the business world. Large organizations tend to stifle creativity for all the wrong reasons, and when you connect the dots back to what Kandy is doing, there's an important message here for carriers. As David Walsh noted, let Kandy do all the heavy lifting, which frees you up to focus on what customers really need - that's where and how carriers can be creative and create the new value needed to protect their base.

So, don't underestimate your imagination and creative energy - it's in all of us, but you need to deploy all your senses to fully tap it. As Sherlock Holmes would say, seeing and observing are very different, and when you take advantage of all the tools around you, that's when amazing happens. To inspire you, here is a great clip that Sir Ken shared with us - if this doesn't wake you up to what's possible, then you're spending way too much time staring at screens rather than the world around you.

Finally, as is the Genband way, we got our fill of classic rock later that night. This year it was Kansas, who are still going strong - wow. Was never a fan, but they sure put on a great show, and sound just as good as what I remember hearing way back when. I really enjoyed seeing them, and this makes for a good coda - again, pun intended - to my post.

Playing music is my big passion, and seeing them was a good reminder of how music is unique in its ability to produce collective creativity. When you create something special as a group - as Kansas did - you keep it going as long as the energy and passsion is there. As an aside, this holds some truth for the management team David Walsh has put together, as trust and familiarity is a big part of keeping the creative process going. The big picture message, however, is that organizations - telcos - have tons of creative potential, and with the right culture, it can keep them competitive for years to come.

Coming back to Sir Ken, he talked about how this collective creativity differs from individual creativity, and sticking with the music theme, he noted how the music of the Beatles was greater than the sum of its parts. Sure, they all had good/great solo careers, but those will always be overshadowed by what they achieved together. That's another topic I'd love to riff on, but we'll leave it at that let's just stay calm and carry on my wayward son. How's that for tying all these threads together?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Next stop - Orlando and Genband Perspectives

I've been operating fairly locally lately, but have a short trip next week. From Monday-Wednesday, I'll be Genband's Perspectives 15 conference in Orlando. It's still pretty cool here in Toronto, so no complaints about heading south.

The company continues to push ahead, especially in the cloud applications space, and it will interesting to see what kind of traction their PaaS offering, Kandy, is getting. Genband is hardly alone among vendors transitioning from legacy-based hardware to the new worlds of software and the cloud, and Kandy will be a good barometer of that.

As a benchmark, here are my takeaways from last year's event, and I'll update that as best I can while in Orlando. If you care to follow on twitter, my handle is @arnoldjon, and the event hashtag is #GBP15.

Monday, May 11, 2015

CTCA Spring Conference Shout-Out

Time zooms along, and while I haven't been travelling much lately, I have five industry events over the next five weeks. Am doing a shout-out now for the CTCA's annual spring conference, being held this year at Hockley Valley Resort. It's a great time to be there - about an hour north of Toronto - and unlike last year, there won't be any ice still on the lakes - but the Stanley Cup playoffs will probably still be going! Canada, eh.

If you follow me, you may recall that I keynoted at last year's conference, and this time around I'm sharing the stage with a few others. On the second day, I'm part of a "blue ribbon panel" - gotta like that - on the "future of our industry", which includes fellow UCStrategies Expert Steve Leaden. Not only does Steve know his IT/telephony, but he keeps great time on the drums for the SIPtones. I'll be guesting with them the week after on keyboards at the Interactive Intelligence event, but I digress. More about that later.

Also since last year, I've finally joined CTCA as an Affiliate Member, so am doing my part here to promote both the association and the conference. We'd love to see more attendees, so to learn more, here's the current conference program outline. Updates are coming, but there's plenty there to help you decide about coming up to Hockley Valley, and from there, the main website provides full details on registration and how to get there.

Monday, May 4, 2015

April Writing Roundup

Not as busy as March, but still plenty of things keeping me busy. Here's a digest of my top posts from April in case you don't follow the various sites I'm published on.

BYOD Opportunities - Becoming Mobile-Centric,, April 8

Understanding Adoption Barriers to Collaboration, Part 1, JAA blog, April 10 (also running on the Cisco Canada Blog)

BYOD Opportunities - Innovation From Everywhere,, April 13

Mitel's Crystal Ball - Business Communications in 2025, JAA blog, April 15

BYOD Success Factors - Three Things About Millennials,, April 17

Why Verizon Can Be a Great Fit for SMBs,, April 21

GetVoIP's Top UC Experts - Me and 49 Others, JAA blog, April 23

Understanding Adoption Barriers to Collaboration, Part 2, JAA blog, April 28

5 Things SMBs Will Like About Verizon's VCE,, April 29

Cisco Collaboration Summit - Two Messages for UC, UCStrategies, May 1 (was written April 30, and better to post it now while it's still current rather than for my May roundup)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Two UC Messages from Cisco's Customer Collaboration Summit

Got back late last night from Austin, and took away some strong messages from Cisco's collab event the past couple of days. I addressed two of these in my current contribution to the UCStrategies portal, and it's just been posted, so I hope you run over to read it now.

Basically, I see UC facing similar challenges to the contact center, and for the latter, Cisco has lot on the ball now, especially with their focus on omnichannel. They are definitely being strategic in this space, and while UC is part of the story there, UC has its own issues finding a niche as a standalone solution. My post talks about two things Cisco is doing with contact centers that all UC vendors could stand to apply to their plans. That's my teaser, and for the rest of the story, head over to the UCS portal.