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7 Ways an RFP Fails By J.R. Simmons

On the surface, it appears we are communicating more than ever. We are overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of emails, tweets, announcements, newsletters, webinars, blogs, etc. It often amounts to so much noise that we don't hear the important stuff, or we shut down the inflow just to obtain some level of productivity.

How each of us filters through the cacophony to get what we need becomes a business survival skill. By necessity, we eventually learn to invest our precious time on those sources that have the most to offer. It reminds me of the wonderful catch-phrase used by Business Communications Review (which spawned No Jitter when it ceased publishing): "The best signal-to-noise ratio in the industry."

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The Folly of Future-Proofing Layer 1 By J.R. Simmons

Last month at the annual SCTC conference, I gave a speech on developments with Layer 1 (from the OSI model) technology. Although there are many intriguing technical functions that reside in Layer 1, most people think of copper and fiber cabling. Well, that's fine by me, because cabling is the subject I'd like to discuss today.

During my speech, I challenged the consultants in attendance to consider the baseline recommendation for copper cabling to the desktop. Without giving it much thought, most customers are led to believe that Category 6a cabling is the obvious preference -- it is the default choice of the cabling industry.

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Dueling Project Managers Win No Favor By J.R. Simmons

Over the many years of assisting clients implement a wide variety of technology solutions, we have repeatedly verified a common understanding: A good project team is critical. Less-than-satisfactory projects have almost always turned south on the substandard performance of a key individual or two.

The single most important player on the vendor's team is usually the lead project manager (PM). A good PM will make the client feel like everyone on the team is focused only on its satisfaction. Most vendors say client satisfaction is their chief goal, but not every vendor delivers on that promise.

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Don't Buy the Sizzle Without Being in the Know By J.R. Simmons

There is an old saying in sales: "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." But what happens if the buyer does not understand how to make the sizzle? After all, even a few drops of grease can create a sizzle.

In the contact center sales game, it appears that some are buying the trendy sizzle of the day. It used to be multi-channel, then omnichannel, and now, as analyst Sheila McGee-Smith points out in her recent slideshow on the top contact center stories of the year, the sizzle phrase is "Digital Transformation." But selling the digital transformation sizzle can be tricky since many buyers don't understand what digital transformation is or how to accomplish it.

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Seeking the Middle Ground on Net Neutrality By J.R. Simmons

Typical for a controversial topic, many people have fairly strong opinions about the effect of the recent FCC vote to repeal the government's 2015 Net neutrality rules (see, for example, today's No Jitter post by communications technology attorney Martha Buyer).

After more than one attempt to create formal Net neutrality rules (and losing court battles in 2010), in 2015 the FCC reclassified broadband providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. Now, broadband providers won't be considered common carriers, and although the FCC established "transparency" requirements, it essentially transferred oversight to the FTC. As Buyer wrote in another recent No Jitter article on Net neutrality, this may not be adequate.

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Have We Already Lost the Individual Privacy Battle? By J.R. Simmons

Have we already lost the individual privacy battle? The combination of the enormous amount of information that is gathered on an individual (big data) and the use of artificial intelligence (AI)-driven analytics means that almost any organization knows far more about us than we likely realize.

Let's just look at how information is gathered today:

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The Ripple Effects of IBM's Big Bet on Red Hat By J.R. Simmons

In late October, IBM announced its plan to acquire open source cloud provider Red Hat in a deal valued at approximately $34 billion cash, which represents roughly one-third of IBM’s market value and a 60% premium over Red Hat’s value. You know it is a big deal when the news reports on the total bid price rounded off to the nearest billion. But unlike many acquisitions featuring common-technology competitors, this one has produced more than one eyebrow-raising moment across the industry.

 
Financial analysts can focus on the merits of the price, the market opportunity, and the impact on stock prices. But it’s just as interesting to dig into the inter-company operating relationships that could be impacted by the proposed deal.

Examining Enterprise Cloud Resistance By J.R. Simmons

The excellent article shared by UC experts Brent Kelly and Phil Edholm last week on No Jitter highlights the compelling case for communications suppliers to pursue monthly recurring revenue (MRR) instead of the traditional one-time sale of a perpetual license coupled with on-premises hardware. However, as a consultant, not all of our customers are as eager to move their telecommunications systems to the recurring revenue model.
 
It was not that many years ago (at least for us industry veterans) that a telephone system was a large capital investment, followed by minimal operating expenses (OpEx) for maintenance and upgrades. Furthermore, the maintenance contracts were optional and allowed competitive (third-party) vendors to flourish. Software patches were free and software upgrades were optional. Unfortunately, some of our clients’ key decision makers remember the same thing and wonder why communications system OpEx costs today are so high.

Sampling the Many Flavors of SD-WAN By J.R. Simmons

Not everyone is fully aware that software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions can be designed differently. Enterprises considering SD-WAN should understand how the design impacts total costs, network reliability, application performance, and service-level promises. The good news is that your choices are no longer limited to expensive MPLS networks or unreliable Internet-based VLANs.
 
Appliance-Centric Design
The first type of SD-WAN design is the appliance-based pure overlay, which uses an on-premises router. This unit often replaces the standard site router at smaller offices or is a software feature activated in an edge router. In this design, the SD-WAN router leverages whatever WAN connections are provisioned – it’s agnostic about the uplinks. The unit will provide traffic shaping, prioritizing real-time protocols and latency sensitive data, and will seek the best performance pathway among the WAN links.

Is VoIP Putting Your Network at Risk? By Jon Arnold

For many of you, VoIP is old hat, and when it comes to innovations in communications, you're focusing on other things these days. Even UC may feel very 2013, and now you're more granular, becoming immersed in things like WebRTC, desktop video, BYOD and Big Data--along with anything that produces a tangible ROI for collaboration.

IT's job is getting harder, not easier, and with a near-impossible set of priorities to manage (juggle, really), you hardly ever get the chance to revisit things once they're up and running. This brings me to VoIP, and based on the research done for my latest white paper, I would advocate some second thoughts on that. Whether you deployed VoIP last year or many years ago, you're facing a tougher environment today regarding network security.

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What, There's Something Better Than Real Time? By Jon Arnold

Those of us from the analog world will hopefully see this question as a play on a classic line from the seminal "2000 Year Old Man" routine from Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. If you do, I'm sure you'll also see the irony right away in that our generation may be asking this question with Mel Brooks in mind, but it's really pointed at Millennials who almost certainly have never heard of the 2000 Year Old Man. I'm not sure if the joke is on them or us, but the question is timely, as it challenges a core attribute of communications technology that has defined its business value for generations.

The real-time nature of voice -- initially analog, then TDM, but now VoIP, both fixed line and mobile -- has long been the communications gold standard upon which carriers built their fortunes. We don't think much about it now, but telephony was so much better than what had come before it and, for quite some time, what followed as well. Outside the realm of science fiction, nothing is faster than real time, and like anything else, the perceived value of telephony is gauged against the alternatives. Not only is telephony real time, but the voice mode has higher utility than most other modes of communication, especially when nuance is required.

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Amazon Chime – Did AWS Buy the Wrong Company? By Jon Arnold

The recent debut of the Amazon Chime team video meeting service has drawn lots of attention and, as you may already have read about here on No Jitter, has led to a host of questions about Amazon Web Services' intentions. Here's another wrinkle that perhaps raises some more interesting questions as we all try to make sense of this shape-shifting space.

A week after the Amazon Chime announcement, I was part of a small group that attended CafeX Communications' analyst event, where a major focus was on

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Messaging, Chatbots, AI: Finding the Enterprise Opportunity By Jon Arnold

We hear a lot these days about how the digital generation prefers messaging to voice, and we're starting to hear a bit of the same regarding chatbots and artificial intelligence -- especially for applications in the consumer world. While messaging, chatbots, and AI each have a role to play for enterprise users as well, developers do face a challenge in finding the right fit in there.

A colleague and I recently presented a session on messaging, chatbots, and AI at Jeff Pulver's Spring 2017 MoNage, a conference focused on the future of the conversational Web, chatbots, and messaging. Many developers attended, and during the conference we saw great innovation, both from those that have launched successful apps and those with promising applications in development. Not surprisingly, the focus today is mostly on consumer apps, but I did find some tie-ins to contact centers and digital customer service. This is to be expected given that so much of the work today around chatbots and AI is about driving online commerce.

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Midyear Pause: 6 Weeks, 7 Events, and the State of Collaboration By Jon Arnold

Over the last six weeks, I have attended or spoken at seven industry events in the U.S. and Canada. If that doesn't cover the ground, I don't know what does. After a while, it's all a blur, and that's why I take lots of notes. With that much immersion in and around collaboration, it's a good time to pause and share three trends I think bear watching for the second half of 2017.

They are:

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Habitat Soundscaping – and Now for Something Completely Different By Jon Arnold

I'm one of several analysts recently briefed about Plantronics' recent Habitat Soundscaping launch, and I think it's fair to say I wasn't the only one who didn't know quite what to expect from the company (see related article, "'Habitat Soundscaping': You Didn't Know You Needed It'"). Given the shape-shifting, moving target we call "collaboration," I say that's a good thing. We have no shortage of offerings that can support every imaginable type of collaboration, and given how hard it is to choose from all this, Habitat Soundscaping is refreshing in a Monty Python-esque way as being "something completely different."

My intention is not to poke fun at Habitat Soundscaping, but based on just a casual glance, doing a double-take wouldn't be out of line. We're so used to hearing about the cloud's scalability, seamless integration across networks, open APIs, chatbot automation, one-touch conferencing, etc., that you'd think collaboration was completely driven by digital technology. Being known as a headset vendor, this wouldn't be its route to market, but there's plenty of room for innovation -- as shown by the many non-traditional players in this space.

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Apple Business Chat: Tough to Beat on Messaging, Mobility, Brand By Jon Arnold

Much of my current research focus has been around messaging and chatbots, both of which tie into broader trends around UC&C. Increasingly, this extends into the contact center space, and with that come companies we don't normally focus on. Apple is one of them, and with the recent release of iOS 11 and the iPhone 8, the timing is good to revisit why it's an important company to watch.

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Using 'Hackonomy' to Create Relevance for Customers By Jon Arnold

As keynote speakers are inclined to do, Bonin Bough, CEO of Benin Ventures, took the stage at the recent BroadSoft Connections conference to shake up our thinking -- and that he did.

While analysts generally don't comment much on keynote speakers, I'll do it when the content is fresh and highly applicable to a market like ours -- meaning, one that's fragmented and being disrupted in many ways -- and the messaging is provocative enough. I'd not been familiar with Bonin, but from his keynote I can tell he's clearly on top of messaging trends and is quite knowledgeable about how digital media is transforming businesses and the way they go to market.

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2018 Outlook: The Shape of Collaboration By Jon Arnold

I saw "The Shape of Water" over the holiday break, and couldn't help but see some parallels with the collaboration space as we head into 2018. The title of the film is bit of an oxymoron, much like the term "team collaboration" -- as if there's any other mode for collaborating. By nature, all forms of collaboration are team-based, and the fact this term exists says a lot about how hard describing the UCC space actually is.

Along the same lines, water is "shaped" by whatever form contains it, whether that be a land mass to form a lake, or as in the film, a bathtub or -- spoiler alert -- the bathroom itself. Likewise, collaboration will occur with -- or be shaped by -- whatever tools are available. Workers can get great collaboration results using just one application, or by using many -- with or without a platform like UC. Bottom line: There's no fixed way to collaborate, just like there's no fixed shape for water.

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EC Tutorial: 3 Big Ideas for Speech Tech By Jon Arnold

With Enterprise Connect 2018 fast approaching, you're no doubt doing a lot of planning to prioritize which meetings to schedule and which sessions to attend. You can't do it all, and this is my moment to draw your attention to the Speech Technology track, a new addition to the EC lineup.

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Is the Contact Center Going the Way of the PBX? By Jon Arnold

A lot has been written about what came from last month's Enterprise Connect 2018, and I've got a takeaway you may not have yet considered. The contact center, one focus of this conference, is very much part of the broad communications landscape, especially when considering collaboration across the enterprise, including both the office and the contact center.

Disruption is the new normal these days, with cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) invariably being the main drivers. Based on all I heard and saw at Enterprise Connect, I would contend that the short answer to the question posed in the headline is "Yes."

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