Monday, February 29, 2016

Energy Thought Summit Updates

Many of my followers know that I've been active in the smart grid space for many years, as there are strong parallels between utilities and telcos in terms of how communications technology is disrupting everything that they do. What VoIP started doing to telecom began about 10 years ago, the Web - and other things - is doing to the energy sector now, and there's a lot to be learned from the comms space about how to handle change.

The next Energy Thought Summit - ETS16 - is a month away, and it's time for an update. I've been involved with ETS from the beginning, and it's part of my broader involvement with Austin-based Zpryme Research, where I'm also an Advisor. This is a unique event in that it's all about thought leadership from A-list executives across the energy sector, along with leading academics and policy makers. No exhibitors or show floor - just great content and insights about what's happening now and where things are going.

The full agenda was published on Friday, so see for yourself. Since we all use energy - not even the Internet is this important - you don't have to be a utility lifer to find the topics of interest. Aside from the hands-on industry issues, we'll be addressing things like electric vehicles, Internet of Things, customer engagement, smart cities, smart homes, renewable energy, sustainable business models, etc.

I'll be there wearing a few hats, including something a bit different. On Wednesday morning, I'll be the Emcee for an Open Mic session titled "What's the Next Greatest Challenge in Energy?". It's going to be a fun session, and if things work out, I may warm up the audience playing some piano.  Why not - it's Austin, right?

Otherwise, I'll moderate a session or two - updates coming-  and generally will not be hard to find. I'm also contributing thought leadership content as we build up to the summit, with my most recent posting here. Drop me a line if you want to hear more about ETS16, and even better if you want to attend.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Vertical Communications - Can They Succeed Selling Direct?

That's the big question in my mind after attending the analyst event hosted by Vertical Communications earlier this month in Dallas. I've followed the company - albeit not that closely - since their last analyst event in 2012, but they're certainly on-trend now for the UC space. We heard a lot about their cloud platform, a consistent experience across all endpoints, WebRTC, customer engagement, focus on vertical markets, mobile support and even contact center. In fact, there wasn't much they didn't touch on - well, perhaps social media, but that's fine.

Clearly, their palette is quite broad now, and while Vertical can attack many business problems this way, it's hard to nail down what they're really good at. Of course, versatility is a virtue, but when you're not that well known - as is the case with Vertical - there's a risk of not being able to stand out and a make a winning first impression.

One way Vertical is addressing this is by building their value proposition around "workflows", and they did a great job articulating - and demonstrating that - with us in Dallas. I think this can be an effective approach, as it takes them out of the arena trying to sell against the established players who are selling a more recognizable value proposition in the form of UC, telephony, conferencing, video, collaboration, etc.

While it's debatable whether these value propositions are themselves all that strong anymore, rather than focus on these technologies and communications solutions, Vertical's mantra is on what these things enable - workflows - and they're sticking to it.

Whether there's a long term business case for that remains to be seen, but the bigger question for me is can they be successful with a direct sales model? That's another mantra we heard in Dallas, and I think they have a pretty strong rationale. It won't be an easy road, but this is a path that could distinguish them more than anything else, and since there's no proven recipe for success in this shape-shifting space, who's to say it can't work?

That may be all you need to read from me about Vertical, but I do have more to say, and wearing my UC Expert hat, my take-aways have been posted now on the UCStrategies portal.  While you're there, I encourage you to read another post about Vertical from colleague Blair Pleasant, which includes a couple of video interviews she conducted there with Vertical executives.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Tomorrow - My Hosted UC Webinar

To start off the week, just a quick reminder that my next Ziff Davis webinar is tomorrow at 2pm ET.

The topic is hosted UC, aka UCaaS, aka cloud-based UC - "5 things you need to know".

There are lots of good reasons make the cloud part of your UC plan, but things are never as easy as they appear. During the webinar I'll review the drivers for both UC and cloud - they're different, along with the rationale putting these together. Then I'll review various cloud models, and the factors that go into making a strong business case.

I hope you can join us, and all the details for registering are on the event page here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

5 Things You Need to Know About Hosted UC - My Next Webinar

That's the title of my upcoming Ziff Davis webinar, and it's definitely on trend. Whether you call it hosted UC, UCaaS, or cloud-based UC, many businesses are struggling to determine the right way to go forward. They know UC has value, but the ensuing review of the deployment options opens up a variety of questions that go beyond which technology to use.

If that's your current situation, then you'll want to join me next Wednesday - February 23 at 2pm ET. All the details are here, and I hope you can make the webinar.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Convergence in Smart Grid - Transforming the Chaos Series #3

"Transforming the Chaos" is the main theme for our upcoming Energy Thought Summit in Austin, starting March 28. Wearing my Smart Grid hat, I'm the Community Advocate for ETS16, and have been blogging about it here fairly often.

To help prime our audience for the experience, I've been developing a four-part series addressing separate but connected sub-themes. To start at the beginning, this post will take you to the first two posts, covering Transformation and Emergence. The third sub-theme is Convergence, and that article was just posted to the ETS16 website, and I hope you give it a read. The fourth post is in the works now, and I'll update you here once it's running. I've got other content in the works to support the summit, and before you know it, I'll be there in Austin.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Next Stop - Dallas and Vertical Communications

Just two days of travel this month and I'm not complaining. Tomorrow I'm going to Dallas for another vendor analyst event. This one is for Vertical Communications, a company I've followed for some time, and they haven't had an analyst event for a couple of years. They've made big strides with cloud-based UC and contact center platforms, and I like how they've developed a focus on vertical markets - as their namesake implies - namely in automotive, healthcare and retail.

Am not sure how much of the conference will be under NDA, but I'll blog and tweet as time allows. To follow more directly, their twitter feed is @verticalcomminc.

Starting next month, my travel schedule picks up quite a bit, and if you want to know more, I update that here on my website. Also, I'm doing a major refresh of my site and my blog, so all of this will look very different soon - details in due time.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Is Presence Dead? Our Latest UCS Podcast

For as long as I can remember, I've been calling presence the glue that holds UC together. Just as Unified Messaging - remember that? - was a big step forward when telephony stood alone from everything else, presence was really the key enhancement that took UC to the next level past UM.

Today, we take presence for granted, but early on, it was the most efficient way to manage day to day interactions with co-workers. That said, people were just as likely to use it as another filter or gatekeeper to make them LESS accessible. Why? Because presence was making them TOO accessible, so by setting your status to DND, the unwanted intrusions would drop off, and then you could actually get some work done.

Well, that's just one take on presence, and however you look at it, there's a strong case to be made that it's relevance has passed. It's not going to disappear anytime soon, but a lot of things have to go right - and a lot of rules have to be universally followed to get full value from presence. Basically, people rely more on text/IM/SMS now when they want to find someone, and there's not much etiquette any more about bothering people. It's widely expected that with mobility you're always available or at less reachable, and in that case you really don't need presence.

That's the gist of what we covered on our last UCStrategies podcast, and there were strong views on both sides of the coin. It's a fascinating topic, and yet another example of how the UC space just keeps morphing along. The podcast was moderated by Phil Edholm, and I hope you give it a listen - here's the link.

Friday, February 5, 2016

My Latest Smart Grid Article - Emergence Theme Around Technology and Innovation

Time to wear my Smart Grid hat again. In this mode, I'm an Advisor to Austin-based Zpryme Research, and the Community Advocate for next month's Energy Thought Summit. Leading up to the summit, I'm writing a four part thought leadership series, and this is the second piece.

The title is "Emergence - New Players and Technologies Bring Utilities to the Innovation Game", and it's posted now on the ETS16 website. Utilities are 10 years behind telcos in term of Internet/IP disruption, and my focus here is on emerging trends that are poised to transform the energy sector.

I hope you give it a read, and if you like it, you'll want to read my first instalment, and then stay tuned the upcoming pieces, which are in the works now. Beyond that, if you're interested in how this overall transformation is happening, you'll want to join us at ETS16, March 28-31.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

New Article - Top 6 Tips Shaping the Customer Experience

I recently posted about a podcast interview I did with UK-based Enterprise Management 360. The focus was on trends shaping the customer experience in 2016, and I wrote a companion article to go along with it.

The article is running in their Q1 magazine, and here's the link to that.

It's just one of many articles in the magazine, and the digital edition is much more polished than what the above link shows. Download options are available in several formats, and you can explore those here.

If you missed the details for my podcast, here's the link for an audio replay.

I'll be doing a few other things with EM360 in 2016, and will keep you posted as they develop.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

January Writing Roundup

2016 is off to a good start, and January was another busy month on the writing front. Here's a quick digest of the highlights that will still be a good read.

Top 6 Tips for Shaping for Shaping the Customer Experience in 2016, Enterprise Management 360, Jan. 29 - link to my article now running in their Q1 edition, and it includes audio clips from an interview I did them them to accompany the post. Contact me for details to download the full Q1 edition.

Unify and Circuit Redux, UCStrategies, Jan. 29

The Case for Best of Breed with UC,, Jan. 27

How not to Make UC Strategic, Internet Telephony Magazine, digital edition, Jan. 27

Hidden Costs to Consider with UC,, Jan. 26

UC Experts Share Their 2016 Predictions for the UCaaS Market, Collab9 blog, Jan. 22

When the Phone System Should Drive UC Planning,, Jan. 18

Transformation: Three Themes Utilities Must Embrace, wearing my Smart Grid hat, this is the first in a series for our upcoming ETS16 event in Austin, Jan. 14

Don't Set Expectations too Low with UC,, Jan. 11

Emerging Scenarios for Video, Part 2,, Jan. 6

Evaluating UCaaS Providers with Three Key Criteria, TechTarget, Jan. 6

Monday, February 1, 2016

Unify Analyst Conference - UCStrategies Podcast Review

Following their recent conference, Unify has been the topic du jour lately on UCStrategies, and that has culminated with our latest podcast. Several of us shared our thoughts on the current state of Unify, which is now in the larger hands of Atos.

Lots of implications business-wise, but also for where things are going for Unify in the UC and collaboration spaces. I'm parsing these out because they are respectively served by OpenScape and Circtuit. If you follow me, you'll know that I view these as different spaces, but they are often talked about in the same breath and that's not always a good idea.

That's a taste of what we covered on the podast, where views were shared from UC Experts who did and did not attend the conference. The podcast is posted now on the site, and my comments start at the 14:51 mark. If you want to follow further, you can start with my recent UCStrategies post about Circuit, and from there, links to posts from other UC Experts.