Navigating Upcoming Changes in the Telco Environment By Melissa Swartz

It's easy to complain about the phone companies. And it's ironic that, as "communications" companies, it's so darn hard to communicate with them.

In all fairness, they are struggling to address changes in technology and in behavior while still meeting their obligations to make a profit for their shareholders. Networks are migrating away from copper to fiber, from wired to wireless, and from circuit switching to packet (IP) switching. ILECs (Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers) are caught between requirements to support legacy networks and the need to invest in new technology.

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Hidden Problems with Project Management: Is Your Project in Jeopardy? By Melissa Swartz

Many times, the project plan created by the vendor’s project managers is not complete in scope. It does not address all of the tasks required of all the involved parties.

When I work on a project that involves replacement of an existing telephony system, the equipment vendor typically assigns a project manager to the installation. In most proposals, there is a section that covers the installation process and how the vendor's project manager will ensure that the system is installed successfully. Rainbows and butterflies will abound.

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Should the Mitel Purchase Offer Impact My Consideration of a ShoreTel System? By Melissa swartz

What impact do the ongoing Mitel/ShoreTel acquisition developments have on an organization’s communications systems procurement?

I'm working on a project in which the client will be acquiring a new UC system. It's done the due diligence and narrowed the field to three contenders, one of which is ShoreTel. Last Monday it hears the news that Mitel made an offer to buy ShoreTel and even though the company's board has since refused the bid, the looming question remains: What impact does this news have for organizations that are considering the purchase of a ShoreTel system?

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Evaluating Internet Dependence By Melissa Swartz

Our office building is comprised mostly of small businesses. Recently, I encountered two employees of the insurance company across the hall wandering aimlessly in the hallway with lost expressions on their faces. As soon as they saw me, they eagerly inquired, "Is your Internet working?" Ours was, theirs was not. They said they weren't able to do any work when their Internet was down, and they remained in the hallway apparently hoping that somehow the connection would magically be repaired.

This week, I was on a three hour flight on a plane without Wi-Fi. A lady sitting in my row complained that she was unable to get any work done on the plane due to the lack of an Internet connection.

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Demos -- How to Win the Deal By Melissa Swartz

As consultants, we see a lot of demonstrations as we work with our clients to find the best solution for their needs. Most of these are not at an Executive Briefing Center; they are done "out in the field". Typically the system is presented at a location that is local for the client by people whose jobs are not centered solely on system demonstrations.

Here is a true story of three demonstrations that were given to our client. The client had a committee of 8 people (a combination of IT staff and business users) who were tasked with making the decision. After issuing an RFP and evaluating responses, they had narrowed the field down to the top three contenders who were asked to present their systems. Each company was provided with the same agenda outlining the topics that the committee wanted to cover, along with a time frame for each topic indicating the relative importance to the committee.

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Don't Get Lost in Demo Daze By Melissa Swartz

In my No Jitter post last week, I talked about the importance of the product demonstration from the vendor perspective, explaining how a demo can make, or break, a deal. Today I'm flipping the table, taking a look at the production demonstration from the enterprise perspective.

As part of a product selection process, many organizations ask top contenders to demonstrate their systems. Should you happen to attend such a demonstration for communications technology, do you know for what you need to look? It's best to be prepared so as not to get lost in any fluff.

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Is the RFP Process a Waste of Time? By Melissa Swartz

recent article by Kevin Kieller took a look at problems that can emerge with an RFP (Request for Proposal) that is not well thought out in advance. He advises that before issuing an RFP, organizations should make some key decisions and have specific requirements agreed upon.

This is excellent advice.

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8 Tips to Ramp Up User Training By Melissa Swartz

I was recently on a call with a client and an industry analyst, and the client asked if end user training would be necessary when the new communications technology system was implemented. To my surprise, the analyst said, "No." The theory was essentially that the new system should have a user interface that is easy to use and, like a smart phone, users should be able to figure out how to use it on their own, without training.

While I certainly agree that systems should be easy to use, I think that the smart phone analogy is faulty. Smart phones are an individual tool; they are not necessarily part of an eco-system. Yes, you can install apps that increase interaction with a selected group of your BFFs, but that doesn't make it the equivalent of a corporate communication system.

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Privacy and How to Lose It By Melissa Swartz

I live in Kansas City, which was the first city selected by Google to roll out the Google Fiber service that offers Gigabit Internet connections and TV for (often) less than what other providers charged for 15MB Internet and TV. I have seen Google Fiber signs in front of many residential houses during the deployment, and now they have a small business offering.

One of the big local news stories this week is AT&T's announcement that it will be offering its new U-verse with GigaPower service, with features and pricing that are quite similar to the Google offerings.

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Does the Cloud Services Deployment Model Need to Change? By Melissa Swartz

As I attend industry events, I hear many companies saying that their cloud businesses are growing fast and often account for significant revenues. Yet out in the real world I've seen the struggles that user organizations go through when deploying these services.

Many of those opting for cloud services are small to mid-market organizations. Often they don't have a lot of internal expertise (which is one of the reasons that they are going to the cloud in the first place). They love the idea of simple and quick deployments, with cloud providers taking on the heavy lifting afterwards.

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Number Porting Insanity By Melissa Swartz

I have been working on several projects lately, large and small, that involved porting of numbers from one carrier to another. The process is highly regulated, and there are time frames for each step of the process. It should all be very predictable and well defined.

But it's not.

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Mind the Gap: Technology Upgrades By Melissa Swartz

If you've ever taken a trip around London on the Tube, you might recall that at subway stops, a recorded voice tells passengers "mind the gap" when the doors open, to remind everyone to step over the gap between the train and the platform. (It makes me wonder how many people stepped into the gap before the voice reminder was there.) Because the recording plays at every stop, for me during my travels, the voice reminder eventually became background noise, and I was no longer consciously aware of hearing it.

In a similar way, I think that many professionals in our industry have become so accustomed to new technology that companies create, sell, and deliver, that we don't recognize that there is a gap between what is normal for us communications folk, and what is normal for "everyday people."

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Communicating with Communications Companies is Absurd By Melissa Swartz

It's no secret that some of the largest companies in the communications industry don't really communicate very well with their customers. Here are a couple of examples that fall under the heading of "You can't make this stuff up":

And then there's this chat conversation with a different company, which has been edited for brevity:

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Going UCaaS: How to Choose the Right Option for You By Melissa Swartz

We are all hearing that the cloud is the future, and unified communications as a service (UCaaS) is certainly a high growth area. If you have done your research, see the value of the cloud for your unique enterprise, and are thus considering moving your business communications to the cloud, how do you get there? The market is flooded with options -- how do you decide? How do you narrow down the choices to a more manageable select few?

The answer depends, in part, on why you are moving to the cloud in the first place. There are several reasons that organizations often make this decision:

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3 Tips for Comparing Complex Communications Solutions By Melissa Swartz

One of the major trends that I saw at Enterprise Connect 2018 was the evolution of offers from a variety of separate tools to more fully integrated solutions. There certainly is a need for fully customized, build-your-own UC or contact center capabilities; however, many organizations prefer to utilize a solution that has already been built (especially if there is a way to tweak it to better meet their needs).

I'm working on a project right now where the organization needs telephony, contact center, mobility, conferencing (audio and video), document sharing, the ability to host medium (250 attendees) and large (1,500 attendees) webinars, and a team collaboration capability (whew!). All of these tools fall into the larger category of "communications," but clearly, they are quite different from one another. My client wants a solution that meets all of these needs now, with the flexibility to evolve with the company into the future as its needs change and grow. And if the questions that were asked during Enterprise Connect sessions are any indication, they are not the only ones in such a situation.

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Getting Technical with Cloud Migrations By Melissa Swartz

At Enterprise Connect in March, I presented a session about avoiding the "gotchas" in a cloud migration. There were five panelists who discussed the issues with me, and who had some great advice for the audience:

  • Mehdi Salour, SVP of network operations and DevOps at 8x8
  • Skip Chilcott, global head of product marketing at IR
  • Curtis Peterson, SVP of cloud operations for RingCentral
  • Jamshid Rezaei, CIO at Mitel
  • Chad Elford, global director product management, business collaboration - UCaaS solutions at Tata Communications

Cloud's Network Impact

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5 Keys for Successful End User Adoption By Melissa Swartz

Last week, my cell phone screen went blank and wouldn't come back. I had knew that the time to replace it was coming, but this forced the issue. I got a new phone, and then had to deal with the transfer of contacts, calendar, and all of the useful data that makes the phone an effective tool for me. While I didn't choose to make this change, once things were put into motion, I was fully in control of the process. Yet it was still unsettling to be without a comfortable and essential tool for a while, and it's been an adjustment to learn how to use the new one.

That experience is similar to what many end users go through when their organization moves to a new business communications solution, except that the end users typically don't control the process. The change is forced on them and they just have to deal with it.

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How Microsoft Is Innovating in Collaboration By Melissa Swartz

The judges for the Best of Enterprise Connect Award program reviewed 62 entries -- entries that spanned a variety of segments in the enterprise communications space, such as contact center, conferencing, management tools, team collaboration, emergency notification, speech analytics, and beyond.
There were some very innovative solutions. However, in my opinion, nothing matched the breadth of capability and vision demonstrated by Microsoft’s entry for Teams, which included the Teams for Firstline Workers (also known as frontline workers) and enhancements to the “intelligent workspace.”

5G: The Promise and Impact By Dennis Goodhart

There is an old Chinese saying that goes, "May you live in interesting times." Certainly, anybody involved in the enterprise communications technology field would have to agree that we are indeed living in not only interesting, but complex times.

Arguably the most immediate impact on your network and business in the next several years will be 5G. If you believe everything you read and hear, 5G is the panacea that will solve all of your communications problems. In my last No Jitter post, I wrote about the promise and potential of 5G and the technology behind it. Let's look at what has transpired over the past six months. (Please remember this is not a technical update on 5G but more of a "heads up" as to what is coming your way.)

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Making Sense of Blockchain, Bitcoin By Dennis Goodhart

By now I'm sure you have heard of Bitcoin, and may even be kicking yourself for not buying and getting in on the ground floor. The technical term for what Bitcoin is, is known as cybercurrency or cryptocurrency. And while you may debate the merits or risks of whether or not to invest in this type of commodity, there is actually a very interesting and rather unique technology that was developed specifically for Bitcoin that is now being look at for other types of data network transport and transactions. This article will explore the technology behind cryptocurrency and the implications this type of technology may have upon your next-generation infrastructure.

But first, to better help understand exactly how this technology works, and to satisfy those who are curious as to what cryptocurrency is all about, a little primer.

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