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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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Managing CX from the Inside-Out By Jon Arnold

The contact center space is changing before our eyes, and whether you think it's imploding or exploding, there's no going back to the telephony-centric callcenter we've known for so long.

Yes, the race to cloud is on, customer expectations are far more challenging now, and AI could be the savior of the whole sector. Check, check, check; we're all covering that ground in our research and consulting. For this post, I have another angle that may be less obvious, but still pertinent for coming out on the right side of things when, or if, all this disruption runs its course.

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Contact Center 2.0: More Than Just Going to the Cloud By Jon Arnold

Contact centers are facing unprecedented change, and decision-making has never been more challenging. The new technologies can be daunting and disruptive, but in many ways, they offer great opportunities to modernize in a hurry. None of this is really news for No Jitter readers, but when new research comes along to validate the state of things, it's worth looking at the data.

One such study has crossed my path recently, and the findings illustrate how complex decision-making is becoming in the current environment. RingCentral commissioned CITE Research to conduct the study, titled "Contact Center Digital Transformation," drawing insights from 500 contact center respondents in managerial and supervisor roles or higher at a wide range of enterprises by size, ranging from 50 to 10,000+ employees, in the U.S. and U.K.

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How Blockchain Could Improve Collaboration... By Jon Arnold

Blockchain events are popping up everywhere these days, and last week, I spent a day at the Blockchain Futurist Conference in my hometown of Toronto. Like most people in my orbit, I have some toes dipped in this pond, both for business opportunities and to explore potential applications for collaboration. Well, in "Spinal Tap" style, if the artificial intelligence (AI) hype cycle is at 10, then it's at 11 with blockchain, and going higher.

Whatever your concerns are about blockchain, they're probably justified, and this event really didn't clear up mine. As with any emerging, disruptive force, there are more questions than answers, but more so than any other we've seen, this is purely a product of the digital generation.

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Follow Generational Clues to Collaboration Success By Jon Arnold

As Millennials make their mark, and with Generation Z coming up quickly behind them, intergenerational research has become a thing -- and it’s something we all need to pay attention to. The implications for marketers are obvious, as the buying behaviors of digital natives are much different from older generations, and that’s where much of this type of research is focused.

Closer to our world, there’s a different set of needs to understand, namely around how digital natives use communications technology in the workplace. Compared to consumer behaviors, the research on that front is fairly thin, and even less well understood is how digital natives will behave when moving into decision-making roles for these technologies. That area should be of intense interest to collaboration vendors, as the buying criteria and the decision-making process will likely differ with this cohort from older generations.

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Speech Tech in the Enterprise: 3 Themes to Explore By Jon Arnold

Enterprise Connect 2019 is just a few weeks away, and during the conferenceI’ll be giving an update talk on the state of speech technology. Last year, I gave a speech tech 101 presentation, and this year I’m reviewing how the space has evolved since then.
 

I certainly have a lot to talk about, and this post serves as a preview of what to expect. If you’re trying to assess where and how speech technology can bring new business value to your workplace, you’ll want to hear about three themes I’ll be addressing.

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How Next-Gen Networking Impacts IT Security by Scott Murphy

Over the past few years, the stories of security breaches at large enterprises such as Sony, Target, and Home Depot have been making headlines. Many of my clients ask how this could happen to these organizations, what with their multi-million dollar IT budgets and substantial resources. The answer is both simple and complex at the same time. Allow me to explain...

These organizations are continually balancing their investment in technology and the cost of operating that technology, often on a daily basis. They try to minimize the complexity of their networks wherever possible, but unfortunately, minimizing complexity often results in decreased security; in particular, it results in a reduction of network segmentation, the act of splitting a computer network into subnetworks for the benefits of improved performance and security.

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Cloud Operations: Creating Business Agility By Scott Murphy

The trend is steady and unmistakable: Businesses are moving to the cloud. In stages, they are moving externally and internally facing services and custom and off-the-shelf applications and services. They are adopting infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS), increased virtualization, microservices, and containerization for improved reliability and performance. They are using public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid clouds; but the trend has been shifting to the public cloud in the last few years at an accelerating rate.

We are seeing this trend toward cloud in the communications technology industry. Traditional on-premises communications services have been moving to the cloud for over a decade, but we are now starting to see this happen on a larger scale.

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Cyber Security: Locking the Door Is Not Enough By Scott Murphy

Most enterprises have long been focused on preventing the bad guys from getting in to their networks and systems. Historically, the especially security conscious enterprises -- ones that understood their organizations were a target -- were focused not just on prevention, but also on detection and response to security incidents. The IT security landscape has changed – the reality of today’s security landscape is that it’s not a question of if you have been hacked, it’s whether or not you know about it. Detection and response capabilities are more important than ever before.
 
The risks to your physical business office and assets, as well as the mitigation techniques you can take to protect your assets from this risk, are much more obvious than when it comes to the cyber world. Fifty years ago, good physical security for many businesses was a locked door – it was enough to keep most bad guys out. Today, a locked door is barely a deterrent; yes, you still need to lock the door, but that needs to be reinforced with a security system to detect if an intruder has gained entry. That security system needs to be connected to a monitoring agency that is alerted of the break-in and notifies the police so they can respond in a timely manner and catch the intruder to prevent serious loss of assets.

Getting Started with Successful Security Breach Detection By Scott Murphy

Organizations historically believed that security software and tools were effective at protecting them from hackers. Today, this is no longer the case, as modern businesses are now connected in a digital global supply ecosystem with a web of connections to customers and suppliers. Often, organizations are attacked as part of a larger attack on one of their customers or suppliers. They represent low hanging fruit for hackers, as many organizations have not invested in operationalizing security breach detection.

As this new reality takes hold in the marketplace, many will be tempted to invest in new technology tools to plug the perceived security hole and move on with their current activities. However, this approach is doomed to fail. Security is not a "set it and forget it" type of thing. Defending an organization from a breach requires a careful balance of tools and operational practices -- operational practices being the more important element.

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Moving to IaaS: Big Changes Required by Scott Murphy

There are some huge opportunities for improvements in moving enterprise services to the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud, but there are some equally daunting challenges -- both technical and operational.
 
Demand for public cloud infrastructure, or IaaS, is expected to grow 36.8% in 2018, according to Gartner. IaaS refers to the basic computing, networking, and storage services supplied by the big three providers: Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. The cloud allows your infrastructure to scale dynamically but requires a fundamentally different approach than premises-based infrastructure. You cannot do everything the same as you did in a private data center.

Endpoint Decisions & Strategies Evolve By Barbara A. Grothe

As communications consultants with clients all over the country, we have helped with many enterprise deployments over the years and have seen just about everything. In all those deployments, it’s become clear that most enterprises tend to struggle with supplying communications endpoints and devices. This is largely due to the wide variety of options available today for endpoints, as well as the myriad factors to take into account when crafting an endpoint strategy. In addition to cost, these factors include differences in employee roles and skill sets, varying use cases, and of course user demands and preferences.
 
Ultimately, every business (and its users) is different, and there simply cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution. An enterprise’s endpoint strategy will come down to analyzing its environment and deciding on a solution that fits its unique needs. However, lessons learned from other enterprises can be helpful as you work to craft your enterprise’s endpoint strategy.

SD-WAN: Yes, It's a Revolution Alright by Tom Brannen

SD-WAN: Yes, It's a Revolution Alright by Tom Brannen

In an industry filled with overused buzzwords and overhyped technologies, the word “revolution” gets thrown out year after year, to the point that we don’t even know what it means anymore.
 
Every new service and application promises to revolutionize your business, revolutionize the industry, and revolutionize the way you communicate. We’ve become so numb to this cycle that we’re susceptible to missing a real revolution when it comes. Or, our anti-hype blinders are so pronounced that we’re unable to distinguish genuine transformational change from this year’s industry darling.
 
Such is the case with software-defined WAN (SD-WAN). I don’t think enough people realize just how revolutionary it is.