Apr
09
2014

Going Offline – another Sign You’re Ready for UC

In case you didn’t have enough reasons already, I’ve got another one here to close out this series.  Over the past few posts, I’ve examined various scenarios – clues, really – that tell you your business is ready for UC. A common theme across this series is the idea that you’re not likely to come to this decision in a vacuum. The UC value proposition is too new and fluid for most IT decision-makers to grasp out of thin air.

Of course, the vendors will spare no effort to tell you why you need UC, but if you believed everything they said, you’re probably better off working for them than trying to run a network with way too many moving parts. While the UC vendors are definitely improving their messaging, they are highly motivated to push UC into the marketplace, so it’s incumbent on buyers to make informed decisions that are right for the business.

As you should know by now, UC doesn’t fix something that’s broken, or replace something you already have – it’s additive, and you have to understand where it’s going to fit into your environment. This means you have to make an effort to understand where it adds value, how it streamlines workflows, why it can make employees more productive, when it will have an impact – and not least of which is making IT’s job a little easier. With that last idea in mind, here is your next clue:

Sign #5 – employee use of offline applications is out of control

While UC is very much about making employees more productive, IT still has to support it, and that has several implications. Since you’re already using VoIP and your employees are likely spending more time working on screens than via the IP PBX, it’s safe to say you’ve moved on from the legacy model of command-and-control.

This assumption may not be true if you think VoIP is a step down from TDM, and that the network better serves the business when IT has control end-to-end. Times have changed to the point where that’s no longer possible or practical, but the other extreme poses a different set of challenges.

With the combined rise of VoIP, the Web and mobility, end users simply have too many touch points that are beyond IT’s control. One can correctly argue that the PBX worked so well because employees were end users and nothing more – for every savvy employee with a good idea, there are many others who do more harm than good and waste IT’s valuable time sorting out simple problems.

Clearly, this is a risk management issue, and IT has to make decisions that serve the greater good. Thinking about UC, however, there really are two factors at work here. First would be the technology changes cited above; all of these shift the balance of power for network utilization from IT out to end users. Second, however, is an interrelated trend in the form of demographic change.  As the workplace gets younger, Millennials bring a native sense of tech-savvy that is often ahead of what IT can deal with.

Their experiences in the consumer world have conditioned them to believe they can – and should – have total control over their online activities, and those expectations have carried over into the workplace. Part of this is a sense of entitlement that comes with Millennial sensibilities, but another part has to do with their always-on lifestyle that blurs the lines between work and play. Whether employers like it or not, they have to go along with this to a point – otherwise they’ll never be able to attract and retain quality talent.

Defining a reasonable accommodation here is a slippery slope, but it’s fair to say that for many businesses, offline activity is way beyond their comfort level.  While you have to allow some degree of personal time communication at work, there’s a bigger concern when work is getting done this way.  When employees are using the likes of Google and Skype for work, these sessions are beyond your purview. Whether it’s for voice calls, chat or ad hoc video conferencing, these forms of work are taking place without any direct connection to the tools employees use everyday under IT’s watch.

I’ll leave the Big Brother angle for another time, but in this context, it should be easy to see the appeal of UC. The vast majority of offline applications that employees are using for work can also be done under the UC umbrella. All UC solutions can support various forms of native Web-based VoIP, chat, video, etc. While changing habits isn’t easy, by getting employees to work this way, IT gets total visibility into how they’re working.

More importantly, employees will work more productively since they’ll now have all their work tools integrated with these applications. Conference calls will be easier to run, files will be easier to share, and employees will have more tools to collaborate with.

This is just a high level picture, but it should be enough to show how things would be better for both employees and IT if that offline activity could be shifted over to a UC environment. Getting people to change their behavior is a topic unto itself, but for purposes of this series, I hope you can see why this can be a driver for adopting UC.

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.adtran.com/going-offline-another-sign-youre-ready-for-uc/

Apr
03
2014

Collaboration – another Sign You’re Ready for UC

If you’re an IT decision-maker, chances are your investments in communications technologies are network-centric. In other words, the priorities are inside-out, whereby you first do what’s best for the network and your overall IT environment. After all, your budgets are probably getting squeezed and you have to find ways to operate more cost-effectively. Not only that, but you’re being asked to deliver more and keep pace with all the data-hungry applications that are placing heavy demands on your network.

All of these things make IT a very challenging job, and your preference no doubt would be to only deal with new technologies having a clear purpose and benefit, as well as being easy to deploy on your network. In most cases, UC is none of these, so it really wouldn’t be your first choice for the next investment.  To whatever extent you’re familiar with UC, you probably wonder about how it can really benefit the business, and are likely aware of the challenges often faced integrating these solutions into the network.

This post is a continuation of a series where I’ve been examining various factors that tell you when your business is ready for UC. In some cases, I’ve shown how the clues can be both clear and strong, making it fairly easy to connect the dots. For the most part, I’m assuming you have a working knowledge of the UC concept, but still have lots of questions as to whether it’s good for your business. UC isn’t something businesses normally go out and buy – the vendors typically have to educate the market and show where and how it adds value.

Sign #4 – an outside-in mandate from management

The above likely describes how UC has shown up on your radar, and there’s nothing wrong with that. This means the vendors are doing their job and helping to diffuse the latest technology. This is a good time to mention that these vendors weren’t selling UC a few years ago, as most of them were in the phone business. As such, they have a vested interest in educating the market to make sure decision makers like you understand their evolution and that they’re well positioned to continue serving you with something better than a PBX.

A big part of doing that involves a common focus that UC vendors have embraced – collaboration. Again, vendors weren’t talking about collaboration a few years ago, but they sure are now. For selfish reasons, they know the PBX is in terminal decline, so reinvention is necessary. Instead of focusing on personal communications – which is how PBXs are generally used – the shift is on to communications that support groups and teams.

Collaboration has certainly gotten the ear of management, as they understand the changing dynamics of the workplace. As noted in my last post, decentralization is a key organizational trend, and related to that is the fact that employees are increasingly atomized. Not only are they widely dispersed across multiple locations and geographies, but they’re also constantly on the move. Team work is essential in a knowledge-based economy and conventional tools cannot do the job.

For a challenge of this scale, management prefers simplicity to a complex solution, and this is where UC comes into the picture. The name alone conjures up the answer they’re looking for, and once they make the connection that better communications begets better collaboration, UC rises up the priority list pretty quickly.

While not quite a “thou shalt” decree, if and when management decides collaboration is now a driver of business strategy, it stops being a technology issue.  You’ll know that the business is ready for UC when management tells you instead of asks you. At that point, IT’s role will be to find a suitable partner and implement UC as fast as possible.

While one could argue this takes the pressure off IT to get management buy-in for UC, it also takes ownership away from IT. Regardless of whether you have long been lobbying for this – or are just getting tuned in after the fact, this will be management’s decision and management’s glory. If it goes well and productivity rises, they’ll look good to their board and/or shareholders. Even if you’ve been advocating UC for ages – IT will take the hit if things don’t go well. Management can take the high road and say they had the right idea, but the vision was undermined by a poor implementation.

This is where a little knowledge can be dangerous, and IT should pay close attention to the tea leaves. Management can easily fall in love with an idea, and to protect yourself, as soon as you hear UC drums in the distance, you need to be proactive and insert yourself in the thought process. Otherwise, you risk being at the whims of management who will not likely have a clue about the complexities around UC.

As such, you need to keep your ears up about the need for more/better collaboration. There’s no reason why UC cannot be an inside-out process where IT identifies this as a solution to enable the collaboration that the business clearly needs. However, if you miss the clues, UC will be outside-in, and even if you get it right, it will never be your UC.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.adtran.com/collaboration-another-sign-youre-ready-for-uc/

Apr
03
2014

Part 3: Channel Partners – 10 Reasons to Recruit ADTRAN’s ProCloud Wi-Fi

As the final post to a 3-part blog series validating what I’ll label as “over the top” partner-value of ProCloud Wi-Fi, let’s now direct our attention to the final three, of the promised 10 reasons (see ProCloud Wi-Fi Part OneProCloud Wi-Fi Part Two) ADTRAN’s ProCloud Wi-Fi is unequivocally the best channel solution to build a wireless practice around. With a guaranteed 99.99% uptime and proactive 7×24 monitoring, ADTRAN’s “no worry” managed, business-class Wi-Fi service will be the best business decision you’ll make in 2014. Why? Because you’ll quickly discover how easy it is to become a leading wireless infrastructure expert in your respective market(s). Drum roll please; here we go – and the final three of the ten incredible reasons that ProCloud Wi-Fi is the absolute best channel partner solution for wireless infrastructure are;

  1. ProCare Help Desk; ADTRAN is the only managed wireless infrastructure provider to offer channel partners a round-the-clock, 24×7 help desk service on behalf of your customer, or your customer’s customer or guest when they’re experiencing wireless connectivity issues. If your customer wants to direct guests and clients to a “first response” help desk for wireless connectivity and usage questions, but neither you nor they have ample resources or manpower to staff one, then ADTRAN’s ProCare Help Desk is a perfect solution.  As part of our award-winning ProServices portfolio, resellers can address hospitality, education, retail and other SMB sectors to capture new revenue opportunities and improve end-user satisfaction by offloading help desk support to ADTRAN.  Another opportunity to think of ADTRAN as an extended part of your team!
  2. Scalability; with no hardware controller to worry about on the customer’s premises, ProCloud Wi-Fi is the perfect “no-worry” managed vWLAN IaaS in response to customer BYOD challenges. You’ll never have to be concerned about customer scalability as the user control and network management software operate in the cloud – thereby, the virtual controller doesn’t have to be on the same LAN as the APs – making ProCloud a great solution for a distributed network environment spanning across multiple locations. Simply deploy the necessary access points and point them to our managed cloud service and you’ll recognize a significant decrease in TCO and resource requirements.
  3. System Management & Reporting; I know what you’re thinking; “Hhhmmm, if ADTRAN is managing the customer’s wireless infrastructure in the cloud, why would they promote system management and reporting.” Great question and you’re absolutely correct; ProCloud Wi-Fi is a managed cloud-based (wireless) Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) with a guaranteed uptime of 99.99%.  ADTRAN manages, ADTRAN monitors, ADTRAN responds to alerts, and ADTRAN consistently evaluates system reports. However, at your discretion as the solution provider, you have access to ProCloud’s performance dashboards to also monitor the customer’s wireless environment in real time. Coupled with that, and if you so choose, you can create multiple customized reports (as they’re dynamic) to present perspectives of the wireless network in its current state or reflecting historical trends.

And there you have it, ten (10) extraordinarily unique and important channel partner reasons (benefits) which validate ADTRAN’s ProCloud Wi-Fi as the world’s leading wireless infrastructure solution for channel partners and end user customers alike. In review, they are; (1) Simplicity, (2) Quicker Market Response, (3) Disaster Recovery, (4) Unmatched Security, (5) Partner Cloud, (6) Freedom to Migrate, (7) ADTRAN’s ProServices, (8) ProCare Help Desk, (9) Scalability, and (10) System Management & Reporting.

Collectively, they’re why ProCloud Wi-Fi is the preferred wireless infrastructure choice of channel partners and carriers throughout the globe.

Learn more about ProCloud:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ap86AVHV90c

http://www.adtran.com/web/page/portal/Adtran/wp_products_services

 

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.adtran.com/part-3-channel-partners-10-reasons-to-recruit-adtrans-procloud-wifi-2/

Mar
30
2014

A Critical Oversight Amongst UC Solution Providers; Ignoring Wireless Infrastructure

Inevitably, a solution provider will call me to share their opinion of ADTRAN’s ProCloud Wi-Fi; a “no worries“, business-class wireless infrastructure service managed in the cloud. If I were to isolate the conversations of those who had little to no wireless experience in the past (prior to implementing ProCloud), the predominant perspective is, “that was easy”.  While the remaining channel partners who’ve learned from The Wireless School of Hard Knocks (with other vendors) are undoubtedly convinced that no other provider is able match ADTRAN’s value proposition.

Another perspective heard from either channel segment is one of what I’ll refer to as solution uniformity. What I mean by solution uniformity is choosing to carry complementary line-cards in order to avoid the appearance of a miscellaneous smorgasbord of technology offerings.  As an example, it might appear rather random if a reseller carries a portfolio of two-way radio solutions and then adds an Oracle line card to the mix. Typically, and please correct me if I’m wrong, the effort is to maintain a cohesive solution portfolio which provides a greater degree of synergistic value. “Ok, but why is that significant?”

It’s relatively important because in the context of solution uniformity and evaluating wireless infrastructure as a unified communications reseller, it plays a role in customer satisfaction – something that’s near and dear to us all. As I attempted to explain in my last two blog posts regarding ProCloud Wi-Fi; ProCloud Wi-Fi Part One and ProCloud Wi-Fi Part Two, the customer experience ultimately transcends what the channel partner initially promoted; ease of use, simplicity, security, market response, disaster recovery, choice of services, freedom to migrate, and ADTRAN’s ProServices. This in turn prompts a high customer satisfaction rating as the customer’s expectation is then exceeded.

Yet, I’ve spoken to a number of Unified Communication (UC) resellers who aren’t necessarily convinced that WLAN belongs on the same palette as UC or contact center. The dichotomy of this perspective is that wireless infrastructure, albeit different, shouldn’t be excluded from the UC portfolio as the customer could very well perceive the experience to be one and the same.  Particularly if you consider Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) solutions from vendors like ShoreTel, Mitel or others as they extend UC functionality out to mobile users. With FMC functionality such as VoIP over Wi-Fi or automatic handoff (between cellular and Wi-Fi), resilient wireless infrastructure is paramount to integrate smartphones or tablets with enterprise UC applications. It would be fairly irritating for your customers to experience poor in-building Wi-Fi coverage when cellular services can’t be attained, yet still be relied upon for mobile UC functionality such as presence, collaboration, or conferencing.

When it comes to mobile communications, UC resellers should invariably consider wireless infrastructure synonymous with UC deployments.  In addition, a subtle reminder that certain UC vendors use customer satisfaction (rating score via customer surveys facilitated by a 3rd party) as a criterion for program benefits, i.e., additional discounts, accreditation badges or levels, support, etc. If so, you certainly have a vested interest in establishing the best wireless infrastructure experience possible. And that’s where ADTRAN comes in.

If you’ve traditionally thought of wireless infrastructure as a peripheral or passive sort of offering in the market, it may behoove you to rethink its place within your line card portfolio, considering the wide array of solutions that are dependent upon it: Mobile UC, RFID Wi-Fi asset monitoring, physical security (IP cameras), or any number of enterprise software applications enabled by tablets (iPAD) that aren’t registered or capable of receiving cellular data services. It could have far greater implications than originally thought.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.adtran.com/a-critical-mistake-amongst-uc-solution-providers-ignoring-wireless-infrastructure/

Mar
27
2014

Decentralization – Another Sign You’re Ready for UC

As noted earlier in this series, compared to VoIP, the signs aren’t as obvious with UC that your business is ready for the move. At least with VoIP, the hard dollar savings are plain to see, and they flow to the bottom line almost immediately. Also, when moving from legacy to IP, the phone systems are pretty similar, so there’s a high degree of familiarity. Not so much with UC, and the reasons have been addressed in previous posts.

When thinking about the business case for UC, some examples are self-evident, while others are not. This depends largely on your point of view, and that’s why this series is being written. Those having an IT-centric perspective will see UC as a technology and/or a network-related solution. Fair enough, but management will be listening for different selling points, especially around productivity. There are several ways to frame that for management, and one of them is presented below.

Sign #3 – operations are decentralizing

There are times when you are willing/able to be proactive and anticipate how needs are changing. In terms of earning accolades with UC, these are the best scenarios, but they don’t happen very often. This approach isn’t part of IT’s job description, especially when it comes to making a call on something as amorphous as UC. Not to mention the fact that IT is usually in ongoing crisis mode, with few cycles available to plan ahead.

More likely, you’re largely confined to being reactive, and hopefully in ways that are just a step or two behind the curve, rather than off the curve altogether. Think about BYOD, and how ill-prepared most companies are in dealing with it. Even when IT saw BYOD coming, it was already too late. When end users have this much influence over network resources, IT simply has to go along and figure it out on the fly.

UC isn’t quite so disruptive, but decentralization is another big trend where these capabilities can solve a lot of problems. The main issue here is that businesses are decentralizing on two levels. First is operationally, where globalization is requiring businesses to establish more local presence to support customers.

Related to this is the fact that as our economy shifts from being manufacturing-based to being knowledge-based, there is less need to maintain the traditional business model where all operations were centrally located around the production facilities. This means that businesses can build up their workforce around where the skills are, and it’s not unusual to have operations spread out over a broad geography. For example, R&D could be located near a cluster of schools that have a particular focus the business needs, back office operations can be based in lower cost locations, and sales offices can be based close by to major customers or target markets.

On a secondary level, there is growing decentralization among employees on an individual level. Working from home has become a major lifestyle choice for some people, and if they have the right skills, businesses are happy to accommodate them. Others are constantly on the road as a matter of course, and many have next to no reason to have a regular office to call home. Add in everyday mobility enabled by mobile devices, and it’s clear that fewer and fewer people spend their full days in the same location or even cubicle any more.

Enter UC

Classical management styles are built around the command-and-control model, but that’s getting harder to sustain with all these changes.  Most of these trends should be familiar, and if so, this should be your clue to start looking at UC as being part of the solution. Management will support these trends so long as they help reduce costs and allow them to maintain reasonable control over the operation. Try as they might, these trends will be very difficult to reverse, and the old model isn’t coming back.

As such, this presents a great opportunity for IT to show how UC can be a win-win all around. Whereas you may not have seen a good reason for UC before, decentralization presents one now, and you just have to connect the dots. Decentralization can be very good for business, but the more disparate the workforce, the more essential it becomes to have a robust communications platform to hold everyone together.

UC truly is the lynchpin, especially since most of the applications are real time. When you haven to bring a team together from multiple time zones to share data and collaborate on projects, there is no better way than with UC. I’m sure you can think of other examples, but the main idea is to position UC as a solution to ensure that decentralization can continue unfolding in a way that aligns with management’s objectives, along with allowing employees to feel engaged from wherever they’re based.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.adtran.com/decentralization-another-sign-youre-ready-for-uc/

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