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Smart Facilities Demand Converged Networks By Howard Feingold

Smart campuses and buildings and the Internet of Things (IoT) are the logical next phase of network convergence, which my consultant firm Technology Plus has been focused on for the last 20 years. As intelligence is added to everything from lighting to trash bins, the network is becoming the central nervous system for the physical environment.

Concurrently, users and employees expect network connectivity everywhere, self-service everywhere, and connectivity to every device and service. These two trends fuel each other, and the rate of change continues to increase. But who is responsible for these interrelated concerns in the design and construction process? One physical network may now support:

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Technical Projects: Eating the Elephant One Bite at a Time By Elizabeth English

We've all been held captive in meetings that should have lasted 30 minutes but instead dragged on for several hours while technical issues were hashed out in excruciating detail between two team members. You've also likely been in a meeting where one person sidetracks progress by launching onto a soapbox of issues relevant only to his or her department. Perhaps you've attended meetings for which team members have not adequately prepared status updates, thus hijacking and diverting the meeting into a black hole while the rest of attendees are reduced to observing work that should have been completed outside of the meeting.

With technical projects, team members from multiple divisions and disciplines are typically brought together into one meeting designated for reviewing project status, addressing larger issues, and communicating plans.

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Project Management: Eating the Elephant One Bite at a Time By Elizabeth English

Given the right tools and processes, can anyone successfully manage projects? Does it take a certain personality type to be an excellent project manager or can the skills needed be learned?

Last month I talked about making meetings more productive. This month's elephant bites will focus on the necessary skills and traits required to be a truly effective project manager.

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Taking a Holistic Approach to Business Continuity in UC By Elizabeth English

In Andrew Prokop's recent No Jitter article, "Peeling Back the SIP resiliency layers," he addressed some of the methods available to increase redundancy when implementing SIP solutions. I'd like to take this topic a step further and dive into the intricacies of business continuity for unified communications.

When implementing a unified communications platform in a multisite environment, designing for business continuity is an imperative for most organizations. Balancing the cost of a highly available solution against business requirements while understanding where the various redundancy options fit, is a challenge that plagues many ICT departments.

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You've Acquired a Company... Now What? By Elizabeth English

These days, the pace of organizational mergers and acquisitions is rapid. Once the ink has dried on the acquisition agreement, what steps are required to ensure a successful and secure IT transition? How does the acquiring company protect its existing and new assets, while ensuring the benefits of the acquisition are realized? Employees of both organizations will need to work together during the transition, while maintaining separate workflows.

One of the first things to consider when developing a tactical IT infrastructure transition plan is understanding how the acquisition is structured. For example, is one company purchasing the other in whole? In part? Are two companies joining forces as equal partners? The acquisition structure will drive the level of planning and security required.

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Planning for a Successful 'Carve Out' Acquisition By Elizabeth English

You've just been notified that your company is purchasing a large business unit from another company, and you've been placed in charge of moving the IT components to your organization without disrupting business and keeping all aspects of your organization secure. This type of arrangement is commonly referred to as a "carve out," and it requires extensive planning and forethought to navigate the complex, competing requirements.

Complicating and Uncomplicating a Carve Out

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6 Key Ways to Prepare for a Carve Out By Elizabeth English

A carve out acquisition, or when one company purchases a business unit from another company, is not a simple endeavor -- especially when considering the IT components. Carve outs involve moving IT assets from one company to the other, and can be complicated by IT systems that are shared across an organization rather than restricted to use by the business unit being acquired.

As we explored in the last post on this topic, "Planning for a Successful 'Carve Out' Acquisition," these sort of transitions require extensive planning and forethought to navigate complex, competing requirements, with a separate transition environment often created.

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Identifying the Hidden Challenges Facing IT Infrastructure By Elizabeth English

The main challenge facing IT infrastructure operating environments lies in the rapid advancement of technology and communications. The current industrial revolution is different from its predecessors in that the fundamental shift is a change in connectivity and communications, rather than technology.
 
Organizations are being faced with increasingly complex options, combined with an exceedingly rapid pace of advancement, making the landscape difficult to navigate. Technology that was previously premises-based is moving to cloud. Most organizations will be forced to make this transition for at least some applications on the near horizon. Equally interesting is the growth of edge computing as a strategy to move computing functions closer to applications and offload network traffic.
 

Checklist for a Successful Cloud UCC Implementation By Elizabeth English

Transitioning to a cloud-based unified communications and collaboration platform includes many moving parts. To ensure success, start gathering data and making decisions early in the process, and include client-side project management to oversee the project.
 
With any cloud UCC implementation, as the vendor selection process winds down and contract negotiations are in progress, your organization can take steps to reduce risk and cost -- not to mention ensure that the project proceeds quickly once it gets under way. Some of these steps can, and should, start well in advance of implementation kickoff. Here are some key points to keep in mind on your cloud UCC journey.
 

We Must Re-Think the Business Process By Barbara A. Grothe

As an independent technology consultant, I have been advising clients and giving vendor-neutral options on technology for the past 28 years. In this article I wish to share with you our past experiences of why enterprises need to know the importance of proper planning and preparation when making any technology change.

In the early days of my career it was all about providing an apples-to-apples comparison of PBXs (how each box compared to the other box; how many different feature sets one had over the other; the pros and cons of each, the limitations, strengths and weaknesses, etc.).

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A Tale From the Telecom Trenches: Expect the Unexpected By Barbara A. Grothe

Sometimes, no matter how prepared you might be for an IT project, you find yourself facing challenges you never could have imagined. Take, for example, the situation we encountered recently working on a project for one of our retail clients.

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Deskphones: Going, Going, Not Gone Yet By Barbara A. Grothe

Well it's 2015, and what is the future trend for deskphones in the enterprise? I have polled consultants in the U.S. and Europe to see what the reality is on this topic.

From the US Perspective:
It is my opinion that deskphones in the enterprise are dwindling in their usefulness. I say this because I have had two deployments now where they went with no deskphones -- just headsets and using the client application on the laptop/PC. (See "What ... No Deskphones?").

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Call Centers Need to Live in the Now By Barbara A. Grothe

Are your customers frustrated by the time they reach a live agent? Are they complaining about your self-service options? When was the last time you asked?

In today's fast-paced, multitasking, and busy world, customers want to get in and get out of your call center. They don't want to spend any of their precious moments listening to a recording saying, "Your call is important to us, please remain on the line and we will be with you momentarily." Think about yourself as customer. You know you don't like this sort of messaging yourself, so why make your customers listen to it?

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Social Networks and the Communications Shift By Barbara A. Grothe

As I write this article I am attending the Society of Communications Technology Consultants Annual conference in Atlanta. Our keynote speaker was social media expert Crystal Washington. She gave us great information and tips on using LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and Google Alerts. It got me thinking how well do we all do with social networks, and do we really know how to use them to our advantage?

If we are going to spend time on social media it needs to be very strategic. We need to be able to measure, to see results, and it needs to be practical. This allows all of us to get better use out of it with our existing clients and provides better visibility into the people who are searching for information about our company or services.

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Deskphone Decisions: How Mobile Are You? By Barbara A. Grothe

Last we checked in on the state of the deskphone in the enterprise, a growing number of organizations were making the shift away from the traditional deskphone toward softphones and mobile devices. In 2017, I am seeing deskphones are still around in droves, with many large enterprises continuing to deploy thousands of deskphones each year.

When I was speaking at Enterprise Connect last year, I asked the audience of about 150 people how many companies had deployed new systems with no deskphones at all -- not one hand went up. However, when I asked who had deployed a mix of deskphones with softphones and/or mobile, about 25 hands went up.

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When Cutovers Cause Chaos By Barbara A. Grothe

With over 25 years' experience in implementing and managing carrier and client telecom projects at The BAZ Group, we have certainly seen it all. And while each project carries its own unique challenges, if there is one thing we have learned, when it comes to carrier cutovers, if anything can go wrong, it most definitely will. They say that experience is the best teacher, and nowhere is that more true than in Wi-Fi installs and upgrades.

Prepare and Plan

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Getting a Handle on Your Communications Expenses By Barbara A. Grothe

Let’s face it, telecommunications can be confusing. From under- or over-procured services and costly legacy technologies that are hard to locate, to carrier billings that never align with what was promised, gaining transparency in telecommunications can be a challenge for even the strongest IT department.
 
For the past 25 years or so we have seen it all. Recently, however, with our clients we have seen a significant increase in mobile devices being used in the enterprise. It did not take long for the consumer, who enjoyed great features with their smartphone, to bring that same technology into the enterprise. Businesses are now aware of these shifts and bowing down to the user’s preferences for them to collaborate effectively wherever they are. According to Pew Research, while only 35% of Americans had smartphones in 2011, that percentage grew to 68% in 2015, and in 2017, 92% of Americans had smartphones.

Is True TCO Important? By J.R. Simmons

The answer to the first question, apparently, is most of the time.

Total is a very ambitious target. It is very difficult to capture all costs when projecting or comparing -- whether it is for actual proposals in hand or for a general business case. Each unknown variable will impact the accuracy, and at some point the analysis must focus on the cost categories that "move the needle." But labeling a selective life-cycle cost analysis as a "Total Cost of Ownership" is misleading.

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The Disappearing Generalist Consultant By J.R. Simmons

When I joined the ranks of independent consultants 30 years ago, most consultants provided value by understanding a broad range of telecommunications services, options, and vendors. Much of the value offered to clients was the knowledge of how to get things done with the myriad of vendors -- not to mention the confusing bureaucracy of the big vendors (some things never change!). The most common telecom consultants were those who understood both telephone systems and telephone carrier services, including networking. A veritable one-man band.

When wide area data networks, became a common part of the clients' telecommunications landscape, it also became a knowledge demanded of the consultant. In fact, the gentleman that brought me into the consulting business hired me because I also understood data communications. As an old "telephone company guy," he did not have this background and knew that our clients needed the breadth of knowledge that spanned both voice and data services.

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Rethinking Implementation Planning for the UC World By J.R. Simmons

Implementation planning for communications technology solutions has evolved over recent years, although vendor methodologies lack consistency. Still, what used to pass for acceptable procedure or even best practice is no longer the right way to optimize the opportunity for successful installation.

A legacy PBX vendor often still uses the same approach that worked for years with telephony cutovers. Most every industry veteran can recall the long weekends of a large flash cut to a completely new PBX, replete with copious amounts of coffee, cross-connects, and cold pizza. Many a telephony tech made more money in overtime on cutovers than regular pay, albeit at a cost to family time.

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