Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Next Webinar, with ShoreTel - Understanding BYOE and Driving Value for UC

If you follow me, you'll know that I often write about user experience, especially for UC. There are many ways to create value, and lately this sure seems to be a big one. Most recently, I've been exploring this via research for a White Paper commissioned by ShoreTel. The paper is due for publication shortly, and to build on the findings, I'll be featured in their upcoming webinar on Tuesday, January 20.

That's just a few short weeks out, and thought I'd start socializing it before the New Year. All the details are here on the registration page, and if you're wondering how BYOE and the user experience drives value for UC, you'll want to join us then.

Monday, December 29, 2014

2015 UC Outlook - Who's Driving the Bus?

That's what I want to know, and while I don't profess to have all the answers, you might enjoy my take on the UC space as we head into the New Year. I have a pretty good idea of who's driving the bus, and it doesn't bode well for the status quo among vendors. Nobody is really on terra firma these days, and long-term success with UC remains elusive.

Small changes are easy to manage, but when they're on the scale we're seeing now, there is no certainty about when to jump or how high. It's possible that everyone will just muddle along in 2015, but I think we're more likely to see some big changes either in terms of exits/consolidations or new entries that really shake things up. Probably not as confrontational as Uber, but the fundamental challenges facing UC are on the same level.

This is starting to sound like a blockbuster movie script, so I'd better stop now - unless someone wants to bankroll me! A safer bet is to read my December column on UCStrategies, and then tell all of us what you think 2015 holds in store.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

ITExpo is Coming - R U Going?

Looks like Xmas in Toronto will be the warmest on record, but a month from now I have no doubt that Miami will be looking really nice compared to being here. Blogging slows down now, but this seems like a good time to start talking up the conference.

As you may know, TMC has been running ITExpo for ages, and Miami Beach has become the familiar spot for their winter show. I'm a regular, and while the program is still rounding into shape, I'll be moderating two panels:

What is Real Unified Communications, Really?

Customer Experience and Telco 2.0

I'll post more in the new year about these sessions, and if you're attending the show, I hope to see you at the sessions and maybe on the beach.

Of course, there are many other reasons to go, including C-level keynotes from Mitel, Intel, Oracle and HP. If that suggests a bit of push up into the enterprise, you're right, and I suspect that trend will become clearer as more speakers are announced.

More posts to follow, and until then, check out the show site, and if you register to attend, even better!

Friday, December 12, 2014

My New Column with Network World and First Post: "Do you know your VoIP?"

Just like the world of IP communications, nothing stands still. I've been writing about VoIP for a long time, but there's still lots to learn and explain, and I now have a new channel for doing that.

I recently got re-connected with the folks at IDG, and I now have a new blog there under their Network World banner. The publication and online presence has a large following, and I'm hoping this will help me reach a new audience - something you just have to keep doing as a writer.

My new column is called Reinventing Voice Communication, so it shouldn't be hard to figure out what I'll be writing about. For my first post, I've focused on the murky world of unregulated VoIP, and why businesses need to be careful when partnering with VoIP providers.

Hopefully you know that not all VoIP markets - or carriers - are created equal, and when serving global markets, that's pretty important. I'll leave it at that, and hope you now hop over to the site and read my post in full. I'd love to get your feedback, as well as suggestions for future topics - and if you really like it, I hope you follow me and share it with your crowd.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Fonolo's Top Contact Center Analysts Review - JAA Included Again

Fonolo may be a small player here in Toronto doing cool things in the contact center space, but CEO Shai Berger stands out from his peers as a thought leader in his own right, as well as being very proactive engaging with industry analysts.

This is the third year Fonolo has done this, and am happy to say I've made the list each time. For the 2014 edition, they've expanded the group to 21 analysts, mainly as a reflection of how emerging trends like WebRTC, the cloud and social customer care are adding new layers to the contact center technology ecosystem.

Fonolo has just announced this and have put together a nice presentation profiling all the analysts. So, if you want to know who the smartest people are to follow in this space - at least in Fonolo's eyes - hop over to their blog for the post - as well as lots of other thoughtful insights from their regular posts.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Next Webinar - VoIP and the Business Case for Remote Working

Just a quick shout-out for my next Ziff Davis B2B webinar on the topic of remote working and the value that VoIP brings. Not every business is comfortable with remote working, but it's becoming the preferred option for many employees, and VoIP has something to do with that.

I'll be exploring the VoIP angle, along with other trends and developments that are giving businesses good reason to re-think remote working. Whether you're considering this for a few employees or pretty much everyone, I think you'll get some helpful insights from the webinar.

The date is next Friday - December 12, at 1pm ET, and I hope you can join us. For more details about the webinar and how to register, here's the event page.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

November Writing Roundup

Time flies when you're busy, and it's time for my November blog digest. Here are my top posts from last month that are still timely reads and current examples of what I'm seeing in the UC&C space.

UC Outlook, 2015 Technology Resource Guide, Backbone Magazine, November 2014, pp. 16-17

What's your Plan for Tech-Savyy Employees with UC?, Adtran UC blog, November 26, 2014

Can Cisco and Project Squared Drive Innovation? UCStrategies, November 25, 2014

Post-Deployment with VoIP - your Legacy Migration Plan, Toolbox.com, November 23, 2014

Your Boss Just Heard From Your Tablet - You're Fired, Internet Telephony Magazine, November issue

VoIP Deployment Checklist - Three Employee Considerations, Toolbox.com, November 17, 2014

What to do with UC when Employees are Laggards, Adtran UC blog, November 13, 2014

Ease of Deployment - More Hidden Value for VoIP, Toolbox.com, November 4, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Backbone Magazine - 2015 Technology Resource Guide

Backbone is one of Canada's better known technology magazines, and they just published their annual Technology Resource Guide. It's a pretty handy reference source for the latest trends across tech, including UC, digital media, mobility, wearable tech, security, etc.

They reach out to me as a source from time to time, and for this issue, I was asked to comment on trends in the UC space.

Both the print and digital editions are out now, so if you don't see it at the newsstand, you can review the complete issue here. My comments about UC are in the Digital Media section of the guide, and you can read them here, on pp. 16-17.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Can Cisco and Project Squared Drive Innovation?

Following last week's Cisco Collaboration Summit, I've had a chance to reflect and pull my thoughts together. Most of what we heard and saw is under NDA, so I can't say all that much. I touched on a few things in my last blog post - especially telepresence - but wanted to share something more representative of what they're doing overall in the UC&C space.

Instead of finding clever ways to work around the NDA, I decided instead to comment on how well I think Cisco personifies what lock note speaker Steven Johnson talked about when characterizing the process of innovation. I tried to do that in the context of using innovation to make Cisco's collaboration business more successful, and that's really the end game analysts and consultants were there to hear about.

The logical home for my analysis is UCStrategies, where I'm a UC Expert, and contribute a monthly writeup to help keep their content fresh. My thoughts are now posted on the portal, and after you read it, I hope you stick around as see what my colleagues there have to say about all things related to UC&C.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cisco Collaboration Summit - Quick Thoughts, Pix and a Wayback Video clip

Just have a window here with some quick thoughts, photos and a short clip I think you'll enjoy. As all of us who were there knows, most of the content is under NDA, so I can't say much anyhow. I do plan to share some high level analysis of my takeaways, and need to get some clearance first, so stay tuned.

The 2014 edition of Cisco's Collaboration Summit was very good as always, and worth the trip to LA. Actually, I missed some of the best parts as a variety of delays caused my flight to be 4.5 hours late. This means I didn't get to see the opening talks from John Chambers and Rowan Trollope. At least I can get a replay of Rowan's session, and will watch that once I'm back.

In short, the big news was Project Squared, a mobile collaboration platform. If this sounds like Circuit, you'd be right, but that's all I can say for now. Overall, Cisco has a lot happening in their collaboration business, and don't let the recent dip in sales numbers fool you. They have a laser focus on this space, and are all about innovation, the cloud, mobility, video and being user-centric. There are a lot of moving parts here, and the time was well spent getting updated on where all this is going. Sorry to sound so careful, but... I have to be careful. Hang on, and next week I'll have something more interesting to say. Until then...

Rowan Trollope during the locknote
Author Steven Johnson with some great insights about the real nature of innovation
One example - "the slow hunch" - talking about how great ideas often take a long time to properly germinate. This is a cool photo of a slide he put up from the earliest days of the Internet. It's the sticker hand-written by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN exclaiming that this server should not be powered down. Why? Back then, this was where the entire Internet resided and the whole thing would grind to a halt if some nitwit did that. I think you'd need to do a bit more now to get that result, huh?
Demo of the new and improved IX5000 telepresence. Very nice and still an impressive experience. Still very costly, but much less maintenance cost, power consumption and more manageable to install. What you can't see here is the open space around us, with a lot of natural light and ambient sound. You'd never know from the quality we experienced, so kudos are due for how well engineered this system is.

With that taste of today's telepresence, how about TP circa 2006? Here's a 2 minute video clip I made of the demo I got at Cisco Canada's HO when it first came out. Back then, this was a very cool experience, and I thought you'd enjoy comparing how it looks to the above picture. Notice how much bigger the camera was back then, and how you launched a call via an IP phone. I don't make video clips much any more, but this is by far the most widely-watched clip of mine. If you like like music, you might want to spend some time on my YouTube site, and we can talk more about that later.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Next Stop - LA and Cisco Collaboration Summit

Not travelling as much lately, and that's ok as I'm plenty busy with new projects and new clients.

That said, Cisco's annual Collaboration Summit is a fave event for me, and no complaints heading to LA this time of the year. All of a sudden, it's gotten pretty chilly here in Toronto, with a dusting of snow on the ground now.

I'll be flying down early Monday morning and will be there for the full time. Got some promising meetings lined up and am looking forward to the 2015 roadmap. If you follow Cisco, you'll know collaboration revenues are down, but that doesn't mean business is soft. All the players in this space are adapting to the cloud where the revenue streams and business models are new, and they're not alone in seeing this result.

Well, that's my theory, anyway. I'll let you know next week if it's reality or there's something else in play. As usual, I'll blog and tweet as time allows, and will pass on the collab summit hashtag once things get going on Monday.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Next Webinar - VoIP and Remote Working

My next Ziff Davis B2B webinar is coming up a few weeks from now, so it's time to tell you about it.

During this webinar, I'll be looking at how VoIP can support the business case for remote workers, and if you're still using legacy telephony, there will be a lot of good news here. Whether you're trying to reduce the need for office space, add some flexibility to your contact center, or better meet the needs of the always-on generation, VoIP brings a lot of value.

The webinar is on Friday, December 12 at 1pm ET, and here's the registration form, along with the full topic abstract. My ZD webinars are always well attended, and I hope you can join us.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Your Boss Just Heard from your Tablet - You're Fired

If you believe this scenario is closer to being fact than science fiction, then you'll probably agree with me that the world is becoming a less friendly place. Thanks to technology, things will work more efficiently, and ideally, people will too.

Well, to some extent this is true, but the always-on lifestyle, coupled with the all-encompassing Internet of Things (and its cousin IoE) means there will be strings attached. You already know what some of those look like, and these are the trade-offs we make to manage the many moving parts that define our modern lives.

Without being too philosophical, that's the gist of my current Rethinking Communications column now running in TMC's Internet Telephony Magazine. The Internet of Things is going to take us in many new directions, and before going too far along that path, I hope you're giving this careful thought. If handled right, all this new connectivity can truly help us work smarter, but things can also run amok in the wrong hands.

If you want to think about this with a smile, my article contains some pre-Internet references to classic Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick, and after reading it, you just might have a different take on IoE - hurry, before it's too late!

Monday, November 3, 2014

October Writing Roundup

October turned out to be a good month for writing activity as well as new projects, so no complaints here. I still don't know if there's a causal link, but something tells me if I keep writing, business will keep coming. I'm good with that, and I hope you are too, as this virtuous circle keeps me close to the trends driving the comms space, which is central to what I need to do as an analyst. On that note, here the highlights from October that I think you'll still enjoy reading if you didn't catch them first time around.

Hits and Misses - 6 Takeaways from Unify's Circuit Launch, UCStrategies, Oct. 30

More Ado About doing nothing with UC, part 2, Adtran UC blog, October 30

Is VoIP Cool Enough for you Yet?, Toolbox.com, October 30

Is the Internet of Things Good for your Business?, Internet Telephony Magazine, October issue

Bring your own 'danger', am cited in this feature about BYOD security risks - Toronto Star, October 20

Who are you really selling to with UC?, Adtran UC blog, October 16

Three Things you Lose with VoIP, Toolbox.com, October 15

What to look for in a Contact Center Solution when Deploying Lync with UC, UCStrategies, October 7

UCStrategies Interview with Jon Arnold About the State of UC, UCStrategies, October 3

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hits and Misses - 6 Takeaways from Unify's Circuit Launch

Earlier this week, I was part of the UCStrategies podcast that did a collective debrief of last week's Unify event, along with the Tuesday launch of Circuit. By now, I'm sure you've seen lots of buzz from Unify as well as the industry at large, so there's lots to digest.

As someone who there last week first-hand, I had more to say than my allotted three minutes on the podcast, so I've pulled my thoughts together and distilled things down to six takeaways. In the spirit of balance that characterizes being an analyst, I've got three hits and three misses. There is lots to like about Circuit, but there are definitely shortcomings, and if you want to know more, please read my post that's running now on the UCStrategies portal. I hope you like it, and would love to hear your thoughts - and no doubt, Unify would as well.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What's the latest with Huawei? UCStrategies podcast update

While everyone in the UC space has good reason to fear the big outsiders like Amazon and Google for the disruption they bring, the one player that pretty much all the UC vendors worry about is Huawei. They've been working hard for years, and you knew it was just a matter of time before their footprint was too big to ignore. That's certainly the case outside of North America, and it's hard to see how that domino isn't going to fall on our home shores at some point in the near future. They're simply too big, too well backed and too smart to not succeed when pursuing growth opportunities.

To better understand that, UCStrategies finally lined up a podcast session with Huawei, and on this call, we were joined by Edward Diender, their CTO for Western Europe operations. We covered a lot of ground, and while it's clear they still have work to do before becoming a major force in North America, they are in active learning mode, and I wouldn't underestimate their capabilities. To better understand that, I think you'll enjoy the conversation, which was finely moderated by Blair Pleasant. The link has been posted to the UCS portal, along with a transcript if you'd rather just read along.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Unify, Ansible and now Circuit - UCStrategies Podcast

Many of us with UCStrategies attended last week's Unify summit for analysts and consultants, where we got an up-close preview of Circuit. This is the go-to-market name for their new offering which is based on the well-received Project Ansible. Beyond that, it's hard to concisely say what Circuit is, but you'll catch on really fast.

Speaking of fast, we've never turned around a podcast so quickly at UCStrategies, and for that, hats off to moderator Dave Michels. We recorded this yesterday so it would be ready for posting just after 10am EST today, which is when Unify's press embargo ended. It pays to play nice and respect the rules - otherwise we'll never get invited by back to swank spots like Scottsdale - can you blame us?

Since the Circuit news is spreading its way across the Web now, I hope you add our podcast to the list to stay uber-informed. You won't go wrong with our group, as we shared a range of opinions based on our first-hand exposure to Circuit last week. It's a mixed bag for sure, and I'll have more to say in my own analysis of Circuit, hopefully by tomorrow. Until then, here's the podcast, including time markers for when each of us is speaking.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Unify Analyst Summit - Quick Thoughts

Am at the 2014 Unify Global Analyst Summit in Scottsdale, AZ, and can only share some high level thoughts. This isn't a long event, but it has a purposeful, singular focus. Unify has been a work in progress for a while now, both as an organization and as an enterprise-grade vendor in the ever-changing UC&C space.

Most of what we're hearing is under embargo til early next week, so we're getting a preview of things to come, and no doubt you'll be hearing about it in a couple of days. Basically, we're getting a deep dive on Project Ansible, their UC platform, and suffice to say they have something bigger and better under wraps. That's all I can say for now, but once things go public, I'll have more to share then. In the mean time, I can at least share a few photos of yesterday's executive speakers.

CEO Dean Douglas

CMO Bill Hurley

EVP WW Channels, Jon Pritchard

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Next Stop - Unify's Analyst Event

I've quietly been productive doing my regular writing along with new project work, and haven't travelled on business since June. Some people think I travel all the time, and it's not the case - these trips come in waves, and now I have a couple of trips on the horizon.

Tomorrow, I'm going to Scottsdale, AZ for Unify (nee Siemens Enterprise Comms) and their Global Analyst Summit. For sure, the weather will be better than the dreary drizzle here in Toronto, but more importantly, we'll get a close-up of how the major re-branding for Unify is panning out.

Their UC&C offerings are on par with anyone's, and I don't think there's much to complain about there. While they have a great global brand, the company has always struggled getting their share of the North American market. We all have our theories, and by the end of this week, I expect to have a better sense of that, and will share my thoughts here and elsewhere. If you want my in-the-moment commentary, follow my tweets - @arnoldjon - and otherwise, check back with me here in a day or so.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Is the Internet of Things Good for your Business?

I'm sure the time is not far off when MBA programs will have course titles like this, and maybe even full-blown majors. I was still writing papers on typewriters when doing my MBA, so that tells you how much things have changed. Let's just say my POV is a bit different from the Millennials that I write so often about. I proudly cling to what we were weaned on back then, and am not shy to say it produces superior results to what people produce these days, but I can also see where they now have access to much richer tools, but how well they use them is another story.

If I'm baiting you into an exchange of opinions, bring it on! I love debating stuff like this, but with a purpose - I just think people are underachieving - more like overwhelmed - with all the apps and gadgets at their disposal.  I'll let that simmer for a bit, and steer you to my latest Rethinking Communications column for TMCnet's Internet Telephony Magazine.

I've been writing regularly about IoT and IoE, and after cloud, I think it's the next big frontier that will wash over everything we do - and eventually, think about. If you thinking I'm hinting at my favorite dystopian subext - 1984 - you're correct, but I'll stop talking now and hope you'll read my article. It's early days yet for IoT, but it's coming for sure, and the sooner you get it on your radar, the safer your future will be.

IoT is as much about what it can do for your business as what you cannot seem to do today without it. We're already drowning in data, and IoT will ramp this up by a few orders of magnitude, and unless you somehow get a handle on Big Data, IoT will kill your business. I'm being a bit dramatic here, but a lot of people underestimated the Internet, and the same for mobility. IoT is simply the next big thing, and sometime soon, those MBA grads you hire could be the saviors of your company - especially if they take my course, if only some school will come along and ask me to teach it!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Canadian Contact Center Trends - my Next Speaking Appearance

Industry events are few and far between in Canada, and am usually pretty receptive when I get asked to speak at them. If you follow me, you'll know I recently spoke at a couple of CTCA events in the Toronto area, and I've got something else coming this week.

On Wednesday, Interactive Intelligence is hosting its annual Canadian Customer Conference Day, and I'll be speaking on one of the panels. This year, the event is being held at Microsoft Canada's HO, which makes total sense since they're close partners. If you want to know how close, I just wrote an analysis about the challenges of integrating contact center solutions with Lync, and that's something that Interactive Intelligence does very well.

Along those lines, I'll be speaking on a panel addressing current contact center trends, and we'll be looking at things like social media, the cloud and multichannel. This is a closed event, so it's just for Interactive's partners and customers, but if you're there, I hope you'll catch our session at 2pm.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Deploying Cloud-Based Contact Center Solutions with Lync

This is a big topic for any business looking at the cloud when deploying Microsoft Lync and looking for the best way to support their contact center. These days, if you don't have a contact center, there's no excuse not to, as the cloud makes it feasible for any size of operation. If you don't know why having a contact center is essential, drop me a line - that's a whole other topic.

Let's stick to the program - you're going with Lync for UC, and now you have to decide how best to integrate the contact center with this new regime. Since Lync is becoming so popular, there's a lot of interest here, and that's exactly what UCStrategies focuses on.

As you likely know, I'm a UC Expert, and was engaged to write my analysis about this on behalf of Interactive Intelligence, who has recently partnered with UCStrategies for some thought leadership. Being a sponsored post, you should still take it at face value, as my focus is on the issues and challenges facing all businesses in this situation. My conclusion does touch on the virtues of what Interactive Intelligence brings to the table, and I'll leave that for you to decide.

More importantly, I've tried to present an industry-based perspective on what to consider when making this particular decision. The article has been posted now to the portal, and I can think of a few parties other than myself who will be quite keen to hear your thoughts. I hope you can give it a read, and after that, the floor is yours.

Friday, October 3, 2014

UCStrategies Talks UC with... Me

The community of Experts in the UCStrategies circle is pretty broad, and we have a healthy mix of seasoned analysts and consultants. New faces such as Evan Kirstel continue to expand our roster, and I can't think of a better place to stay on top of all things UC.

One way we do this is to share our personal views, and I was recently interviewed by UCStrategies to tap into those views. The interview isn't very long, but it's a good snapshot of my current thinking about what's driving UC. As you likely know, I do a lot of writing, and every now and then it's always nice to be asked for your opinion instead of putting it out there in the hope that people are actually interested.

There's a fine line there where everyone's an expert online, and people will do anything for their 15 milliseconds of fleeting fame - as opposed to being schooled in knowing how to write for an audience. I'll save that thread for another time - for now, I invite you read the interview, and in the spirit of our community, I hope you share your thoughts back with us.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Gartner's Magic Quadrant for UCaaS - UCStrategies Weighs In

Acronyms are a fact of life in this space, and UCaaS is one of the more awkward terms, but it's accurate. When we talk about UC as a Service, we're really talking about hosted UC or cloud-based UC. Yes, that's basically three ways of saying the same thing. Don't dwell on that too long - these are the problems people like me make a living trying to understand and then explain to our followers.

The cloud is fast becoming the home for everything, and UC is no exception. This says a lot about how technology keeps changing, but it says even more about how this change is impacting the UC landscape. Whereas conventional - premise-based - UC was the sole domain of vendors, they are just one class of player with UCaaS. Since this deployment model is hosted away from the customer's operation, UC can now be provided by anyone with a carrier-grade cloud infrastructure.

That cues the music for service providers to enter the game, and that's where the mix gets more interesting when it comes to the Gartner Magic Quadrant. The criteria for inclusion into this circle differ from the premise-based market, so to get the big picture, you really have consider both sets of analysis. Our latest UCStrategies podcast was all about the UCaaS MQ, and if this side of the coin is new, you'll definitely want to check it out.

Speaking of awkward terms, I'm not sure if "podcast" is the right label since this edition was done via video. If you close your eyes and just listen, sure, it's a podcast, but if you want to see what we all look like in living color, now's your chance. The session was ably moderated by Dave Michels, who is leading the  "more video" charge with UCStrategies, and we were greatly enabled by Vidyo, who provided the video conferencing platform. I'm happy to give them a plug here, and the experience was great, and as you'll see, the Hollywood Squares tile format is pretty easy on the eyes.

We may not be the most exciting bunch to watch, but nobody really is when you're just talking from your desk. Anyhow, it's the commentary that really matters, and to help you navigate this 53 minute production, Dave has broken out the times when each of us is talking. I'm at the 8:36 mark, but I hope you'll set the time aside to view the full session. Where else can you get this much free advice from people who look so good on camera?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

September Writing Roundup

I'm probably the only person out there who sees everything I write, and I'm ok with that! As much as it seems we're in a post-literate world, I'm not going reduce all my ideas to clever 140 character missives or infographics that, by the way, take way way way longer to put together than a long-form post.

Rant over. If you like my take on all things telecom/disruptive tech, here are the posts you'll enjoy from last month:

Can Cisco Crack the Code for Video? Do They Need To? UCStrategies, September 29

Making Sure you get Quality of Service with VoIP Toolbox.com, September 28

Where's the Fun in UC? ADTRAN UC Blog, September 25

Will Messaging Displace Voice? Internet Telephony Magazine, September issue

What IoT Looks Like in the Healthcare Sector Toolbox.com, September 20

Getting out of the Box and Making UC Social ADTRAN UC Blog, September 18

VoIP's Hidden Value for SMBs Toolbox.com, September 10

VoIP, the Internet of Things and Business Transformation Toolbox.com, September 3

Monday, September 29, 2014

Can Cisco Crack the Code for Video? Do They Need To?

These are big questions, and my take might surprise you. The analyst community was recently updated on Cisco's collaboration roadmap, and the emphasis was very much on the new WebEx and desktop video. I wasn't expecting this much focus here from Cisco, but they have their reasons, and that's what I examined in my current posting on UCStrategies.

As a UC Expert, I contribute a monthly column to the portal, and this time around, I think there are as many questions as answers, and you can never have enough debate when it comes to big moves from market leaders like Cisco. There are several disruptive technologies in play here, and that's what makes Cisco's update so interesting. I'd love to hear your thoughts, so I'll steer you now to the portal and hope you give my post a read.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sept 30 Webinar - Cloud TCO and the Contact Center

Time flies, and we're just days away from next Tuesday's webinar, hosted by Interactive Intelligence. Registrations have been very strong, and I can see we'll have a great turnout.

As per my last post about this, here's what you need to know:

Tim Passios will speaking from their side of table about the merits of the cloud for contact center deployments. ININ is a real leader in this space, and while that may be their agenda, I'm sure you'll come away learning some best practices for the cloud business case.

To keep Tim honest, the always-questioning Dave Michels will provide the voice of reason, and I'll be by his virtual side to do the same. We won't be ganging up on Tim, but we'll be asking the kind of questions you'll want answers to, and if that doesn't do the job, the audience will have their shot as well.

Otherwise, here are the registration details - we start at 11:30 ET - hope to see/hear you there!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Will Messaging Displace Voice?

I think that's a pretty provocative topic, and there certainly are trends happening now to support that position. Just as the telephone replaced the telegraph, we may end up coming full circle where short form communication is favored over the open-ended mode of voice.

Real time is still more important than near real time, but as we struggle and endlessly juggle 10 things at once, brevity often carries the day. This doesn't help improve our grammar, penmanship or civility, but messaging goes a long way to keeping our jobs, right?

That's the teaser for the latest iteration of my Rethinking Communications column on TMCnet's Internet Telephony Magazine. It's been a while since my last column, mainly because the pub ran a double issue during the back end of summer. They're back now to monthly publishing, so my upcoming posts won't be so far apart. With that said, here's the link to my current article, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Social Customer Service - new Podcast

As a UC Expert, I gladly participate in the regular podcasts run by UCStrategies. I can't think of a better forum where you can hear from so many analysts and consultants at one time, and this should be part of your regular diet to stay current in the UC space.

Our current topic was social customer service, and this time around we were joined by Karina Howell of Interactive Intelligence. As you may know, ININ is at the forefront of trying new things, so it was great to counter our voices with a vendor that is in the trenches figuring out how to make social media part of the contact center experience.

Not surprisingly, Blair Pleasant moderated the podcast, and we all had our say, both feeding off of Karina's insights as well as sharing best practices across the business space. The podcast has been posted now to the UCS portal, along with a transcript, so you have two ways to take in the content. Whatever format you choose, we'd love to hear your thoughts, as well as suggestions for new topics you'd like to see us discuss.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My CTCA Presentation - Millennials and Collaboration

September has started off strong, and while I won't be travelling to any conferencs for another month or so, I do have an event this week closer to home.

Tomorrow, I'll be giving a keynote presentation at the CTCA's annual golf tournament, held at the Shawneeki Golf Club in Sharon, Ontario. I've never been there, and with the weather being so nice now, I'm really looking forward to going.

The topic is what Millennials can teach us about collaboration, and it's an extended analysis based on an article I wrote last month for UCStrategies. Since we're still in back-to-school mode, I thought the timing was good for reflecting on what we can learn from the younger generation, especially for something they tend to know more about than we do.

You may recall that I was invited to keynote back in April for CTCA's annual conference, and it looks like that went well enough to have me back for more. Am happy to do it, and if you're coming up for the event, I look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Upcoming Webinar Q&A Panel - Cloud TCO and the Contact Center

Sure glad I got all my leisure trips done this summer. Have hit the ground running this week, with lots happening on many fronts. Am doing an early heads-up here for a webinar that I'll be speaking on at month end, Tuesday, September 30.

The sponsor is Interactive Intelligence, and Tim Passios will speaking from their side of table about the merits of the cloud for contact center deployments. ININ is a real leader in this space, and while that may be their agenda, I'm sure you'll come away learning some best practices for the cloud business case.

To keep Tim honest, the always-questioning Dave Michels will provide the voice of reason, and I'll be by his virtual side to do the same. We won't be ganging up on Tim, but we'll be asking the kind of questions you'll want answers to, and if that doesn't do the job, the audience will have their shot as well.

If this sounds like an offer you can't refuse, then register here, and we look forward to having you join us on September 30.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

August Writing Roundup

Tough getting back to writing, but write we must. August was a pretty light month given I was away for about half of it, but there were a few posts worth sharing for my monthly writing roundup.

I have plenty going on to kickstart my fall, and will be back to my regular volume of writing in no time. With that said, if you didn't catch these posts from last month, now's your chance:

There's Something Bigger than the Internet of Things, Toolbox.com, August 29

Top 10 Risks you take with UC, Part 2, Adtran UC blog, August 28

Five Things We Can Learn From Millennials About Collaboration, UCStrategies, August 27

VoIP's Hidden Value for SMBs, Ziff Davis B2B webinar, August 26 (presentation available upon request)

BadUSB and the Risk of Remote Working, Toolbox.com, August 14

Top 10 Questions to ask UC Vendors, Adtran UC blog, August 7

How VoIP can Transform your Business, Toolbox.com, August 4

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Five Things We Can Learn From Millennials About Collaboration

That's the title of my August post for UCStrategies, and if you want to know what the intersection of what collaboration and Millennials looks like, this is a good starting point.

As you may know, I'm a UC Expert with UCS, and it's a great collective of expertise aligned with this space. There are lots of strong voices in our group, and if you don't follow us regularly, I hope this gets you going! My post can be found here, and after that, I urge you poke around and see what else is on tap at UCS.

Friday, August 22, 2014

VoIP's Hidden Value for SMBs - Webinar Reminder, Aug. 26

Been away for the better part of two weeks, and it's time to get back to work! Glad to see lots of registrations for my webinar next week with Ziff Davis B2B. Just wanted to do another reminder if it's not yet on your calendar.

The webinar is at 2pm ET next Tuesday - August 26 - and I hope you can join us. Here's the landing page with the abstract and registration form - it just takes a minute.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Webinar Reminder - VoIP's Hidden Value - August 26

Am in between vacation road trips, so not much blogging right now. Just wanted to keep or get this on your radar before heading out tomorrow.

My next webinar with Ziff Davis B2B is Tuesday, August 26 at 2pm ET. My topic is "VoIP's Hidden Value", and to find out what I mean, you'll have to join us then. Along with my regular writing for ZD, these webinars are always well attended, and I hope you can make it.

Not much else to say other than here's the webinar landing page, and you're just a few short clicks away from being registered.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Is UC Succeeding or Failing?

Now, that's a good topic for discussion, and we did just that on last week's UCStrategies podcast.

It's safe to say that UC hasn't been adopted as expected, and there are lots of good reasons why. Along with my fellow UC Experts, I've written about this often, and the core obstacles remain. There certainly are plenty of success stories, but as the cloud spreads across the entire comms landscape, UC faces new challenges, and things aren't getting easier.

This is definitely a glass half full/half empty discussion, and if you're not sure which way the wind is blowing, you'll want to review the podcast. Blair Pleasant did the moderating, and we all had our say, with mine coming at the 32 minute mark. That's all I have to say now, so it's time to give it a listen - it's posted here on the UCS portal, and as always, your comments are most welcome.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

July Writing Roundup

Time for another digest of my latest writing. July was a bit quiet, especially with no conferences, but here's a summary of my top posts that you may have missed and aren't time-sensitive.

Internet of Things - a Twitter Chat  hosted/posted by IT World Canada, July 30

Who Really Benefits from Remote Working  Toolbox.com, July 29

Are you Communicating or Collaborating? Internet Telephony Magazine, July issue

The Race for UC in the Cloud - is Avaya too Late?  UCStrategies, July 24

Five Ways You'll Know VoIP was the Right Decision, Toolbox.com, July 8

Top 10 Clues you Might need Unified Communications  Adtran blog, July 7

Financial Theft and VoIP Security  Toolbox.com, July 2

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Internet of Things Twitter Chat - Full Replay Posted Now

As you likely know, I was a panelist on yesterday's twitter chat about the Internet of Things. The session was hosted by IT World Canada, and was ably managed by Candice So and Brian Jackson. I was joined by Laurie Desautels of PwC and Sachin Mahajan of Telus, and our views were nicely complemented by all the participants who chimed in.

I've never done a twitter chat before, and one great thing is that the results can be shared in real time, as well as right after the event. As such, IT World Canada was able to post the full set of tweets over the course of the hour within minutes of it being over. I'm sharing that now with my followers, and I hope you give it a read - here's the link.

I enjoyed the experience, but this was new for me, and it was a real struggle to keep the tweets coming. The posts come in rapid succession, and with TweetDeck some show up right away and others much later, or not at all. So, it's really hard to follow what's going on, and it's easy to miss threads. Since it happens in real time, you have to write quickly, and that's not my style. I hate making typos, but it comes with the territory, and if I had more time to think, I'd probably answer differently.

Then, there's the 140 character thing. IoT/IoE is a rich topic, and you just can't say much in this format. Wearing my biz dev hat - which must always be on - I could say that the strategy is to only say enough to sound wise and then hopefully companies will hire me to get the full set of advice. Well, that is my business, so I would always welcome that, but our main purpose was to create dialog and educate the market about why this is such a hot topic.

I think we did a good job overall, and we had some great dialog. My main caveat is that this format is unmoderated, making it a free-for-all. Spontaneity can be great, but I don't like seeing tweets promoting your work/company interspersed with genuine conversation from people who just want to learn what's going on. Anyhow, social media cuts both ways, and I'm sure you'll get something out of this, and I'd love to hear what you thought of the event.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Last Call - Today's Twitter Chat on the Internet of Things

Just a friendly reminder about this twitter chat at 1pm ET today. I've never done a panel with this format before, but it should be fun.

IT World Canada is the host, and they've outlined 10 questions for the panel. I'll be joined by Sachin Mahajan from Telus M2M and Laurie Desautels from PwC. All the details are in this post, and I hope you can join us.

Monday, July 28, 2014

VoIP's Hidden Value for SMBs - Aug. 26 Webinar

Among other things, I contribute regularly to Ziff Davis B2B and their portals, Toolbox.com and VoIP News. Aside from articles and buyer guides, I do webinars with them to provide more in-depth coverage of topics to help SMBs make better buying decisions.

My next webinar is Tuesday, August 26 at 2pm ET. The title is a bit of a hook, and the hidden value I'll be talking about is two-fold - the rich feature set of VoIP as well as the overall ease of deployment. VoIP isn't a simple matter of snapping your fingers, however, so I'll be looking at both sides of the coin for what lies in store.

The main message, however, is that there's more to VoIP than cost savings, and how it puts you on the path to where communications technology is going instead of where it's been for the past 40 years.

I hope you can join us on the 26th, and all the details for registration are one click away.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Race for UC in the Cloud - is Avaya too late?

I don't have the definitive answer for that, but yesterday, Avaya announced their "fast track" cloud-based solution for UCC. By now, you should know that UC has morphed into UC&C - UC + Collaboration - making it a more strategic investment. This isn't what the pioneers of UC had in mind, but if that's what drives sales, so be it.

On top of that is the full-steam-ahead push to the cloud for everything, including network infrastructure. I sure hope this works, since almost everyone is now betting heavily on the cloud. I'm sure things will work out in the end, but right now, this is where you have to be to win or keep business - even if the business model isn't all there yet.

Avaya's news - and emphasis on "fast track" - got me thinking more about where UC is going, and that's what my current writeup for UCStrategies is about. I'm not sure if Avaya's "fast track" ultimately refers to them or their customers, but it really doesn't matter. What matters is getting to the cloud now, hopefully before your competitors do.

Just as the cloud is now superceding premise-based deployments, something else could come along a few years from now to supecede the cloud, but let's not go there yet. Instead, please go to the UCStrategies portal now, and I hope my post gives you some food for thought.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Shout-out for our July 30 Twitter Chat on the Internet of Things

Just wanted to keep or get this event on your radar. IT World Canada is the host, and they're doing a great job promoting it so far. There are two updates since I last posted about this:

1. New speaker from Telus M2M - Sachin Mahajan

2. A third speaker has been added: Laurie Desautel from PwC's tech advisory group.

Of course, I say "speaker" loosely since we'll all be tweeting, and I'm too old fashioned to call someone a tweeter.

Should be a great session, and I hope you can join us. For more detail, including all the related twitter handles, I'm going to steer to you to my initial post - it's all there, including the link to the sign up page.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Twitter Chat on the Internet of Things - Join us, July 30

Well, here's something different. I'm going to be a featured speaker - for lack of a better word - on this upcoming event. It's being hosted by IT World Canada, and they've invited a speaker from TELUS and myself to discuss a series of issues around the hashtag du jour, #IoT. If you blink, that hashtag becomes #IoE - and this itself will be one of the things we'll be covering - the Internet of Things and the Internet of Everything.

Something tells me that before July 30, another concentric circle will be added to this ever-expanding IoX universe. Kinda reminds me of the 2000 Year Old Man routine, when Mel Brooks explains his initial reaction when he discovered God's existence - "you mean there's something bigger than Phil?". Oy.

All schtick aside, this is a big topic, and it needs vendor-neutral attention. There's a lot of hype but a lot of promise as well, and businesses need to be thinking about what IoT/IoE could mean to them sooner than later. Big Data has a lot to do with this, so this means thinking big about new frontiers nobody really has a handle on yet. Should we fear IoT or embrace it? Well, I'm not really sure, so why not tune in and add your own take to things.

Call it what you want - we'll be chatting, tweeting, texting, messaging, discussing, speaking with our keyboards - something to that effect, but it should be interesting. I'll be joined by Greg Stark from the M2M group of TELUS, and here's the landing page for more detail.

If you're into hashtags, you can follow me here: @arnoldjon, and for the event itself, #ITWCIOT. Tweet you there!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Are you Communicating or Collaborating?

That's the title of my current writeup for TMC's flagship Internet Telephony Magazine. As you may know, I write a monthly column there, Rethinking Communications, and I'm always looking to push the envelope on what defines value in our space.

These two words are often used in close proximity, and since the definition of UC is so fluid, I felt it important to examine the differences between communication and collaboration. They are not equivalent activities, but it's easy to see how you  might think that way, especially while hopelessly multi-tasking.

Collaboration means different things to different people -as does communication for that matter - and these will be further explored separately in future columns, but to get the ball rolling, I'll steer you now to my column - and hopefully hear what you think. Isn't that what these ideas are all about?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Multichannel and the Contact Center - join us with Fonolo, July 17

Good things take time to put together, and the good folks at Fonolo are hosting another Google Hangouts session on July 17. As you may know, Fonolo is a Toronto-based vendor that continues to do innovative things in the contact center, and they're great at sharing knowledge and educating the market.

Multichannnel is a pretty disruptive concept that changes the way contact centers operate and how communications technology is becoming so critical to today's customer service experience. What that in mind, our next Hangouts is framed by the title "Top 3 Questions About Multichannel Customer Service".

I think we'll go a bit beyond three questions, and if this is on your mind, you'll definitely want to join us next Thursday, July 17 at 3pm ET. Fonolo's CEO, Shai Berger will do his usual hosting/moderating, and the questions will be handled by a panel of four - Art Rosenberg of The Unified View (and fellow UCStrategies Expert), Keith Dawson of Ovum, Ian Jacobs of Forrester, and myself.

Google Hangouts has its pros and cons, but for sessions like this, it's a great tool, and I hope you can join us. Fonolo has posted all the details here on their blog, and after you register, I hope you spend some time on their site to see some of the cool things they're doing in this space. Canada may have come up short at Wimbledon, but we've got some pretty good tech companies, and I know a few of 'em.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Internet Trends 2014 from Mary Meeker - UC Implications

We had a great podcast last week at UCStrategies, with the focus being our take on Mary Meeker's annual state-of-the-Web address. With over 140 slides, her presentation and video chat was OTT overkill, and you'd need to do a lot of unpacking to digest all of this.

Mary's talk was high level, but with lots of big takeaways on where the Web is going. The purpose of our podcast was to view this through our collective UC lens and share how we see this impacting our space. As our discussion unfolded, it became clear there's a lot of value to the commentary, as we reflected that Mary didn't really provide much analysis to help regular folks make sense of these mega trends. Data dump comes to mind a bit here, so it was a productive exercise for us to filter all this for our audience.

So, if you think Mary Meeker is on the pulse of technology - which I would vote Yes - then you should find our podcast time well spent. The audio file has now been posted to the UCStrategies portal, and links to Mary's slides and talk are included. Dave Michels moderated the session, and if you want to follow specific comments (mine start just shy of the 15 minute mark), there are break points provided so you can find when each of us is talking.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

June Writing Roundup

I was on the road a lot last month, so most of my blogging was about industry events. Otherwise, I kept up my steady diet of posts on Ziff Davis B2B, ADTRAN's blog and UC Strategies. For those of you who didn't read absolutely everything I wrote last month (really?), here's a quick digest that will still make for good reading.

Making music with the SIPtones at Interactions 2014, June 27, my blog

New contact center research from Interactive Intelligence, June 24, UCStrategies portal

Why toll fraud isn't your biggest VoIP security concern, June 23, Toolbox.com

Personal video and UC - what are you afraid of?, Part 2, June issue, Internet Telephony Magazine

Top 10 things that will change with UC, June 18, ADTRAN blog

Genband Perspectives 2014 - Takeaways, Tricks, Pix and Throwbacks, June 13, my blog

Should you worry about Blackshades with VoIP?, June 6, Toolbox.com

Interactions 2014 - PureCloud, Millennials, Boulders, Football and the SIPtones!, June 6, my blog

The Rise and Fall of Nortel - Infographic, June 2, Toolbox.com

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Changing IT Spending Habits in the UC Space - UCS Podcast

Back to blogging after some time off to take in the Montreal Jazz Festival. First rate all around, and if you like jazz, it's pretty hard to beat.

For bi-nationals like me, we have a small window this week between Canada Day and July 4, so today and tomorrow are the only days that people in the U.S. and Canada will be paying much attention to things like blogs and podcasts, so I'd better do this now!

Last week, the UCStrategies team had a deep-dive podcast looking at the various ways enterprise spending is changing. It's not hard to see how UC fits into that conversation, nor how things like the cloud, BYOD, WebRTC, social media and video - just to name a few - are impacting where/how the money is being spent. This makes the topic equally interesting for buyers and sellers of UC solutions, and it's incredible to see how telephony is increasingly less relevant when budgets are being set.

Marty Parker took the lead moderating this podcast, and we all had our say during the call. The podcast has been posted now on the UCStrategies portal, and you can find my comments around the 8 minute mark. As you'll see on the link, the start times are posted for each contributor in case you just want to hear specific commentary. Give it a listen, and we'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Making Music with the SIPtones at Interactions 2014

Most of you know me as an analyst, and I'm not in the habit of putting my personal life on public display. I still get my share of spam, but let's keep this upbeat!

Music is my biggest passion, and I've been playing piano and guitar most of my life. If you follow how my youngest son, Dean, is progressing with his music career, that should give you some clues as to where that's coming from. I can only take some of the credit, though - he's got a real gift, and my job is help him take it to full potential.

He bypassed my guitar playing years ago, but I still love to play, mostly blues, R&B and some jazz. I was really happy to have a chance to do that recently with the SIPtones, who got play a long, two hour set at Indy's top blues bar, the Slippery Noodle.

The gig took place earlier this month during the Interactions 2014 event, held by Interactive Intelligence, a vendor most of you will be familiar with. The SIPtones are all consultants by day, and they've been doing this a while. By night, it's Wayne Sos on bass, Stephen Leaden on drums, Rick Hathaway on saxes, and Mike Moszynski on guitar and harp.

They were nice enough to let me guest on a few numbers, with all but one on keyboard. Towards the end of the night, I comped on guitar while Mike did a Juke-like harp raveup, Off the Wall, including playing on top of the tables in the crowd. Whoo hoo!

Rick is the bandleader, and like all good bandleaders, he documents their gigs. He put together a nine minute highlight reel of the evening, and it's been posted now to YouTube. Unless you're a SIPtones groupie, you'll never find it, so I'm being the brand ambassador here and sharing it with you.

I'm on keyboard off and on throughout the compilation, and while the sound isn't great, I'm easy to spot on the far left of the stage. When comping Mike on guitar, I'm on the far right - that clip is near the end of the video.

Anyhow, watch as much as you like, and please share it with anyone who might enjoy it - or better yet, sign the band to a mega-deal and world tour. Rick is standing by on his SIP phone, and I'll keep practicing to keep the dream alive.  :-)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

New Contact Center Research from Interactive Intelligence

Interactive Intelligence is a company I closely follow, and many of us at UCStrategies attended their Interactions 2014 event earlier this month in Indianapolis. The company recently sponsored Wave 2 of their Customer Experience Survey, which is a decent sweep of what makes for a good interaction between customers and the contact center.

There's lots to like about the research, and for this month's UCStrategies writeup, I put together an analysis of three takeaways that are most pertinent to the UC space. I also included a link to the study itself, as there are other findings worth reviewing, but from my end, those will have to wait for another time.

With that, I'll steer you to my post, which is running now on the UCStrategies portal.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Personal Video and UC - "What are You Afraid Of?", Part 2

That's the name of my latest article running now in TMC's Internet Telephony Magazine. My Rethinking Communications column has been featured there for some time, and this writeup builds on Part 1, which ran last month.

We all know about room-based video and immersive telepresence, but personal video opens up new possibilities, both for one-to-one communication, but also the broader spectrum of UC.

The angle I'm exploring in Part 2 is bit more future-forward, as the focus is on the recent acquisition of Viber by Japan-based Rakuten. In the shadow of WhatsApp/Facebook, these types of deals send signals for how the communications market is shifting. Personal video is a distinct opportunity in its own right, but things get even more interesting when texting/messaging is part of the package, suggesting yet another move away from telephony and voice-based communication.

Nobody has quite figured this out yet, but when big companies get involved in acquisitions like this, the UC community needs to pay attention. Disruption seems to invariably come from outside the circle of usual suspects, and my view is that the Viber deal will filter up - or down - to the UC ecosystem sooner than later.

I'll leave it at that, and now it's time to steer you to the article. Also - to do this right, make sure you read Part 1 first if you haven't done so already. Then let me know what you think - deal?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

UCStrategies Podcast - Interactions 2014 Recap

Many of us at UCStrategies were at Interactions 2014 a couple of weeks back in Indy. This is the annual customer/partner/analyst event run by Interactive Intelligence, a company we follow pretty closely. If you want to know how the cloud is impacting the contact center space, this is a top company to watch. There are lots of reasons why I say that, and to hear them, I'll steer you now to our latest podcast.

We did this session last week, and it's been posted now to the portal. Jim Burton  handled the moderating, and I was one of several UC Experts sharing our takeaways. Here's the link, and I hope you enjoy it.

If ININ is your cup of tea, you may also enjoy my own blog post about the event from last week: "PureCloud, Millennials, Boulders, Football and the SIPtones!".

Friday, June 13, 2014

GENBAND Perspectives 2014 - Takeaways, Pix, Tricks and Throwbacks

This week was Perspectives 2014, Genband's annual customer/partner event held in Orlando. I've been to a lot of conferences lately, so my frame of reference is pretty broad. Like most vendors in my orbit, the race is on to the cloud, and Genband seems pretty far along that path. Unlike most vendors I follow, this company is firmly planted both in the enterprise and carrier spaces. Following - and understanding them is a bit more challenging, and I still don't have a totally clear picture.

My views won't move the dial much on that front, but it's clear that Genband knows where they're going, and I guess that's what matters, at least for now. Being private, they have a lot of flexibility to address both markets, as well as try new things. I got enough of a vibe that going public is in their plans, so best to get all this sorted out now. If you read my wrapup post from the Interactive Intelligence conference last week, you'll see how much harder this is to do as a public company.

The event was light on content compared to other recent conferences, but there was still lots to absorb. We heard a lot about the cloud, with Kandy being the big news, and if you followed the tweets, you'll know what I'm talking about. There's a lot to like in what Genband is doing, especially with their Tier 1 partners, but we didn't hear much about their go-to-market roadmap, especially with channels. On that note, most of my peers were of the same mind that we didn't hear enough about how these partners are actually using Genband's technology.

We also heard lots about how they're selling outcomes and solutions, but not as much about their specific products and how all the pieces fit together. This is important for us analysts given all the infrastructure categories they play in, as well as getting a better sense of their focus on enterprise versus SMB customers. Hopefully, we'll get more balance on that front next year.

I'll leave it at that for now, and share some high level takeaways from the presentations. Genband definitely puts on a good show - but we could do without the fog machine - it's humid enough in Florida, and it felt like a rainstorm was going to happen during the sessions at any time.

Genband also gets top marks for style - nobody talks much about these things, but I thought the staging was great. Very creative use of props, lighting and warm color mixes. Had a 60's vibe for those of you old enough to remember the set designs on variety shows like Ed Sullivan when musical acts were on. Enough about style - let's get to some substance - here's what resonated most for me......

CEO David Walsh setting the tone with strong messaging about their financial health, and the strategic path Genband is following to become a "Level 4" supplier. In essence, this means being an "outcome as a service" partner offering a guaranteed ROI - as opposed to being product focused. Tall order, and that's a new term for me, but that's where the margins are.
The reason why he feels confident they can do this is because they're private. He had a great slide showing the "fish" model, where with cloud you have to invest heavily to deliver the services initially, plus live with a downward sloping revenue curve. Over time, these paths reverse, as your costs drop and total revenues ramp up once customers come over to the cloud. He rightly noted that public companies have a much harder time convincing their investors to be patient for a few quarters until this pans out. Time will tell!
He also set the stage for four big themes we heard throughout Perspectives - OTT, the cloud, WebRTC, and the need to embed real time applications anywhere to pervasively engage end users.
Mark Pugerude, Pres. of Global Sales, providing first-hand examples of how they're leveraging the cloud and WebRTC. This wasn't the first time we would hear about voice-based applications that effectively engage customers without the need for a phone number. He cited fring and uReach as partners that allow companies to do customer transactions without the need to speak with a live agent. A lot can get done now with messaging to initiate processes and automate workflows, all self-managed by the customer.
B.G. Kumar, Chief Product Officer, talking about NFV and SDN. This is a big theme among carrier-focused vendors, and he did a good job connecting the dots, explaining how these moves are not just a Capex reduction play, but also a time-to-market driver. That's what carriers need now, whether to compete against OTT players, or to launch their own white-label OTT offers to retain customers.

BT Technology's CEO, Clive Selley. He did a great job explaining how BT is acting on what B.G. Kumar was talking about. Was great to hear how a Tier 1 carrier is responding to the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc., and it sure looks like they've done their homework. I particularly liked his example of BT Sport, where they've really leveraged technology to create a superior viewing experience. 
Aside from the World Cup just getting underway, the focus is to show how you can differentiate from the competition via a network that can deliver an immersive experience with "killer content". This applies particularly well to live sports - aside from being appointment-viewing that keep subscribers glued to your network, it's also content that a lot of people are willing to pay for. You can't ask for anything more. Being in Canada, this is exactly what Rogers Cable just did by buying up the rights to the entire NHL calendar, guaranteeing them a locked-in audience that is happy to watch hockey 24/7. Good move.

Jonathan Chambers, Chief, Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis at the FCC
I'm using his photo down below from the Genband website as I didn't end up taking one. Kinda appropriate considering Jonathan didn't use any slides. No smoke, no THX sound effects, no race car video clips, nada. Just talking, with some very heartfelt comments about where public policy and good government fits into the winner-take-all mentality that drives the tech sector.
There couldn't have possibly been any less sizzle to his talk, but it resonated for me more than anything else at the conference. It's easy to forget that monopolies can be a good thing, especially when they serve the public good, raise everyone's quality of life, and are guided by responsible regulation. This may sound like heresy to today's youth who expect so many things to be free and on their terms. 
If you're old enough to remember rotary phones, you'll know that the Bell System was more than a phone service. The White and Yellow Pages were probably the most often-used books in people's homes, and 911 was literally a lifeline you depended on when needed. Sure, it's a bygone era, but the landline was the social fabric that tied us together - everybody.
Jonathan Chambers delivered a strong, populist message about the need to include everybody in this brave new world, where it's all about me. Today, we're free to pick and choose telephony services like any other consumer product - it's just another application in our digital lives, and if we don't like the service or find a better deal online, see ya.
Well, we're not all digital natives or tech-savvyy Millennials who pretty much cease to function if separated from their smartphone for 5 minutes. What about the elderly, what about the disabled, what about the poor? Basic communication is even more important for these people, and they're in danger of being left behind. 
This was Jonathan's "big ask". Regulators can only do so much, and his appeal was to consider the needs of these people - these citizens (not subscribers) - when bringing cool technologies to market. There's a greater good that can be served here by Open Source, WebRTC, the cloud, etc. in terms of delivering affordable and accessible forms of communication. 
As he rightly noted, "libraries are more than just bookshelves" - they are social spaces that many people depend on for free Internet access. We don't read books like we used to, and the role of libraries is changing, making them ripe for innovation with the kind of technologies we heard about at Perspectives. We also heard a lot about the importance of "communities", especially when trying to monetize things like OTT, and libraries serve communities in different but equally valid ways. It's all about your perspective, right? :-)  Well done, Mr. Chambers.
Nayaki Nayyar, SVP, Cloud for Customer Engagement at SAP. Great presentation talking about what customer engagement means in the digital economy. Really compelling examples for using multichannel applications that draw a composite picture of your customer, pretty much in real time. If anyone can do this, it's SAP, so this is a good partner for Genband. 
This may have been news to the audience, but her talk was largely a replay of a webinar I did back in January with an SAP partner and customer, titled "In Search of the Holy Grail". I don't have access to Nayaki's slides, but we covered most of her messaging during the webinar, and I can get you our presentation - all you have to do is ask. :-)

Prof. Gary Hamel - the marquee speaker, talking about how our long-standing hierarchical management model just doesn't work in today's world. His main message was the turbulence in our tech-driven world is changing faster that the ability for organziations to show resilience and adapt. He attributes this to the top-down, command-and-control corporate model, and there's definitely truth to that. Good food for thought here, and he cited familiar attributes needed to get with the program, such as having a meritocracy, being open, community-focused, and most of all, being open to experimentation. If this sounds like the Web, you're right, and that's exactly his point. Very engaging guy, but he never stopped pacing around the stage and talking as if we were all wearing headphones. Intense, but he knows of what he speaks.

Day 2, starting off with Roy Timor-Rousso, CEO of Genband fring. Given how the world is unfolding lately, this is looking like a very good pickup for Genband. Yet another Israeli startup-made-good, Roy did a great job laying out the business case for OTT. With lots of carriers in the audience, I liked hearing him say that for them, OTT is a matter of when, not if. It's easy to be in denial about something that is hard to monetize, but he showed the big picture adoption trends, along with some real-life examples of how OTTs really can add value. 
The key is to find a vertical niche where specific applications make total sense. He identified five such markets, with prime examples being expat communities and university/student campuses. The key is for the carrier to offer services/applications that are customized for specific customer set. With fring, all they have to do is bring it to their subscribers - let fring white label the offering and take care of all the complexity. Under the Genband umbrella, fring can do that, and it's really a win-win strategy.

CMO Brad Bush going deep on WebRTC. He hinted at loving WebRTC so much, he has a tattoo, but that sounds like an urban myth to me. :-)

Brad hosting a panel on OTT and WebRTC. Good views here, best summed up by TMC's Rich Tehrani. His call to action was that "we have to start thinking like an industry - we're all competing with Facebook". I totally agree, and it echoes Clive Selley's comments about how disruptive and innovative outside players like Facebook have been for everyone entrenched in the comms market.

Pretty sure this was from the LiveOps preso. Another strong partner for Genband, but I just thought this photo looked kinda cool. Not quite a message in a bottle, but close. Plus, if you read the rest of this post and check out my YouTube video clips down below, you'll know exactly why this photo is here. I just want to see how much you're paying attention! :-)

Fun time - Cheap Trick - really! They played at HOB - House of Blues at Universal Studios. Pretty surreal spot for a retro show like this, but it's always fun to feel 25 again.
If you like party bands and this type of vibe, you'll love this post of mine from 2006. If you were around then, you'll remember the VON days. This was THE event in VoIP, and nobody threw bigger and better parties than Jeff Pulver. My post was from Jeff's HOB party in Chicago during Globalcomm, with the-best-cover-band-on-the-planet, the Herding Cats doing their usual VON gig. If you don't believe me, check out the photos and video clips from my post. If you've seen a better band - except maybe the SIPtones - I wanna hear about it!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Best in Biz Awards - am judging again this year

Back late last night from Genband's Perspectives conference in Orlando - takeaways post and pix coming tomorrow.

That's it for biz travel til the Fall - I hope! It's been 5 events in the last 7 weeks, and 7 in the last 10, so I'm conferenced-out for now. Time to stay local while the sun is shining. I already have 4 R&R trips happening this summer, but you'll have to ask me about those - I don't share my private life online.

Couldn't get any blogging done during Genband, but here's a quick item to share. For the past couple of years, I've been invited to judge by Best in Biz Awards International for various categories. This year, I've been asked to judge entries for the 2014 Most Innovative International Company category. That's a mouthful, and I just received the company profiles, so it's time to get to work on these.

Am not sure when the winners will be announced, but I'll post updates as needed. Otherwise, feel free to follow things directly on their twitter feed: @bestinbizawards.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Interactions 2014 - PureCloud, Millennials, Boulders, Football and the SIPtones!

As conferences go in the collab/communications space, Interactions 2014 is right up there. I stayed til Wednesday afternoon, and wish I could have been there til the end. During that time, though, I saw plenty to confirm that Interactive Intelligence is living up to their tagline for being Deliberately Innovative.

I'm just going to share some high level takeaways here, and will likely drill down further on some themes next week elsewhere. There's a lot to like about ININ, and not much to dislike. Maybe I could rag on about the weather we had, but otherwise, this company has a pretty good handle on its destiny.

I have a lot of notes, but am not going to do a data dump here. I'll do my best to distill my thoughts into 2 basic takeaways.

1. Great growth story.

This is always easier to tell with a public company, and we saw lots of metrics to validate their performance. ININ would be a great target for a company with deep pockets looking to become an overnight force in the contact center space, but Don Brown is a very sharp guy. He's got a good thing going in Indy, including an I-could-work-here-forever culture that's pretty rare these days. Anyhow, it's great to hear about a company in this space with no debt, nice profits, strong margins, $105 million in the bank, and a 25% revenue CAGR since 2010.

That aside, their rapid growth for cloud-based deployments is hurting their stock price - but over time, this will even out. It's pretty clear that those who migrate to the cloud intelligently will be the winners, and ININ is definitely on the leading edge here. Problem is that you trade the up-front revenue from a premise-based sale to the annuity model of smaller but ongoing payments from customers. That's going to result in a smaller CAGR, but a more viable future. Wall Street doesn't quite follow this logic since they live quarter to quarter. Have faith, folks - I'll take this scenario over most any of their competitors, public or private. Is the recent dip a good time to buy ININ? I'm not a financial analyst, but it looks that way to me.

2. PureCloud is a big bet, but with a big upside.

This was the "big news" of the conference, and if you've been following the online coverage, you'll know by now what this is about. Basically, Don Brown looked at Amazon Web Services, and said, hey, why don't we use that model for the contact center? I think he's exactly right, and while I'm not a Web guru, I understand the basic concept of ELB - elastic load balancing. As Don explained, if this works so well for Netflix - which it does - imagine what it could do for ININ. From what I know, AWS is tops at being scalable and economical, and there's really no benefit for ININ to do this in-house.

Like any mid-tier player trying to beat the top tier guys, you have to have the right solution to win the Tier 1 business, and PureCloud gives them a great shot at doing so. More importantly, ININ understands how the cloud is changing everything - the business value of physical infrastructure and solutions/applications is going in different directions. Anyone can partner with AWS, but nobody quite has the contact center tools that ININ does. Once the end customer is ready for the cloud, they really don't care whether the data centers are ININ's or AWS's - they just want it to work and deliver on the product promise.

Another "aha" for PureCloud is that it's not a contact center solution. It's a cloud solution with a contact center module, but also does social media, directory, telephony, UC and add-ons like document management and WFM. Clearly, many of their customers are interested in doing more than contact center with ININ, and PureCloud is a great delivery platform to support a more complete offering. It's not a big leap now to see how ININ can truly go head-to-head with Cisco, Avaya, Unify, et al - how's that for stirring the pot?

Downside? Well, for contact center, PureCloud isn't much different from CaaS in terms of features. The architecture, however, is very different, and this will take some explaining. Pushing CaaS customers further into the cloud may be a hard sell - both for end customers and their channel partners. We heard how only 10% of the cloud business is through channels, but that level is now rising. Still, they have a lot of work to do to find the right channel partners and get them up to speed. This also means cannibalizing some CaaS business, so there's a bit of risk there. Two other factors to consider - one is how well the broader market will view ININ as a partner for applications other than contact center. Second is the AWS relationship, which is essential for PureCloud's ultimate success.

Lots more to say, but we all have jobs and can't read blogs all day! I'll leave you with a few more quick thoughts along with these photos.

CMO/overall host Joe Staples setting/taking the stage. He provided some great data points showing just how much impact social media has on how we communicate and what that means for customer service. They get social, and the PureCloud demos nicely showed how it can make agents more effective. Joe also made similar cases for the impact of mobility and the cloud - and how ININ has factored these not just into current offerings, but also for what's coming - which we later saw during the red-hot technologies segment.
We also heard from keynoter Jay Baer, a very engaging digital marketing star, who shared lots of cool data points/factoids that jived with Joe's themes. One killer takeaway - "if your company sucks, social media isn't your biggest problem." Yup. Companies that shy away from social because they're afraid of getting photo-bombed, etc. aren't thinking this through. As we heard often, the upside of social will be greater than the downside - presuming you do things at least half-right. Apologies -Jay was so much fun to watch, I forgot to take his picture.

CEO Don Brown - he sure sets the tone for ININ's casual culture, but also one that's very open. No big egos here, and their execs are always accessible to us.

What a treat - Aron Ralston. I didn't know his name until Tuesday, but you know the movie - Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Well, that's him - prosthetic arm and all. Kinda tenuous connection to the contact center, but he did a credible job trying. Just an incredible story, and you should just go see the movie. He tells it with a lot of emotion and it sure kept the 2,000 or so in the audience damned still - not too much Facebooking going on then. Inspirational talks don't get much better than this, and for me, the main takeaway is that you have to learn to confront the boulders that trap you in life - learn to embrace them and not push them away. Hard to do - cost him his arm - but it gave him the right mindset to survive an otherwise certain death sentence deep in a valley that nobody ever stumbles across. Wow.

Wednesday morning was another highlight - a panel of Millennials, moderated by Joe Staples. Great idea - get some 20 somethings to talk directly to us about how they engage with technology and what customer service means to them. Biggest surprise - to hear about how little they use email - it's all about text and chat with them. Totally different communication regime, and yes, they live with their mobile devices 24/7. And yes, they shop online - a lot - almost no point in going to a store any more. I really don't understand why/how people buy things like shoes online, but hey, if the price is right...

The "All American Tailgate Party" at Lucas Oil Stadium. Well, the crowd was a bit sparse, but how often do you get to do this?

Or this? The fun for me was here later on Tuesday night. This is at the Slippery Noodle, Indy's top blues bar, and the SIPtones are in fine form. Left to right - Wayne Sos on bass, Stephen Leaden on drums, Rick Hathaway on saxes, and Mike Moszynski on guitar. 
I guested on a few songs - mostly keyboard, but also guitar, and it was all good. More photos will emerge soon, and hopefully some video - stay tuned.