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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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.