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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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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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