Wednesday, April 30, 2014

UC Summit 2014 - Highlights and 7 Takeaways

We've completed the second full day here at UC Summit 2014 in La Jolla, and the final segment is underway this morning. This is my third summit, and it's clear that there's a great balance here between vendors and channels - with the analysts and consultants in the middle to keep everyone honest. The ground rules are clear, and this format seems to be working. The roster of vendors is solid, and this year there are new faces like Logitech and Nectar, which speaks to how the UC ecosystem is evolving.

The content has been solid, with a mix of perspectives from both vendors and our tribes, and any channel attendee I've talked to feels this is a great forum for learning and sharpening their business focus. I'm not going to rehash the panel sessions - after all, this is what the channels are here for. However, in addition to posting some photos of the sessions, I'll share seven high-level takeaways:

- Telephony is definitely dead, at least on the desk - IP PBX has been referred to here as a CLM to be supporting - career limiting move. Enough said.

- Cloud is for real and getting better. Complexity isn't going away, and the harder it becomes for IT to manage what UC is turning into, the more sense the cloud makes. Not many are quite ready yet for a full migration, though, and the hybrid model is the leading preference for now.

- Adoption for mobile UC applications isn't happening much, so until further notice, the desktop rules. End users don't think of these devices as vehicles for UC - simultaneous ring is more what they're looking for.

- We saw some pretty comprehensive tools for measuring CEBP and productivity, and they're getting better all the time. This is a key development, not just for helping businesses make the case for UC to management, but also for where and how the channels can make money.

- The expected showdown between Cisco and Microsoft is pretty much here. We saw current survey data showing how Lync has leapfrogged Avaya, and there's no question now who the #1 and #2 UC players are, at least in North America. Oh, and by the way, Google and Skype are ranking ahead of several well-known names in the UC space, and that takes me to the next point....

- Millennials will inherit the world sooner that we think - we were told that by 2025, they'll be 75% of the workforce. They're not making the big economic decisions yet, but that's coming, and their idea of collaboration is quite different from what most of us can relate to.

- Continuing this theme of who will rule the world, Dave Michels tells us to watch out for Amazon Workspaces. It's not ready for prime-time yet, but think about the first generation versions of just about everything we live and breath with, and this won't be a big leap of faith. When the term DaaS hits your radar - desktop as a service, you'd better own Amazon stock, because they'll be well on their way to owning a big part of the collaboration space.

Jim Burton kicking things off in style - reading his notes off Google Glass - cool!
Dave Michels telling us that we're all wrong - and Michael Finneran thinking up his comeback for that
Jim Davies, Mitel CTO - telling us how Avaya is worried about Cisco, how Cisco is worried about MSFT, how MSFT is worried about Google, how Google is worried about Facebook - and how everyone is worried about Apple. Darwin would be impressed by his understanding of the UC food chain and how things are evolving.
Even on one leg, Dr. Joseph Williams is smarter than just about everyone in the room - except of course, Dave Michels
Blair Pleasant talking about the growing importance of analytics in the contact center and how difficult social media is to manage in that environment
Marty Parker, Stephen Leaden and Bill MacKay covering issues such as E911, how to sell UC's business value across the enterprise and right down to personal productivity, and why telephony has zero value today when businesses are planning their technology investments

Monday, April 28, 2014

Migrating Your Business to VoIP - Next Webinar, May 16

Time to get the word out about my next Ziff Davis B2B webinar. I've been writing about this topic for some time now on their portal. Migrating to VoIP involves a lot of decisions, and it's really a journey. Lots to talk about there, and I hope you can join me for this webinar.

The date is Friday, May 16 at 2pm ET, and registration is simple - just fill out the form here!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Next Stop - UC Summit, La Jolla

Travelling to California is always a treat, and the long flight is worth it for something like the UC Summit. This is the annual conference put on by UCStrategies, where I'm a regular contributor. Jim Burton and his team have a good thing going, and UC Summit 2014 will be solid as always.

This is my third time attending, and am looking forward to seeing my UC Expert colleagues in person for a change. The event has become fairly channel-centric, so both the vendors and UC Experts will provide an intense re-fresh on the challenges and opportunities for driving UC adoption.

I'll be out there Sunday afternoon and am staying til wrap-up Wednesday afternoon. If you're attending, I won't be hard to find, and will share updates on my blog and twitter (@arnoldjon) as time allows. Even better, you can follow the event in near real time via the direct twitter feed: #UCSummit14.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Life After Nortel Webinar - this Friday at 1ET

Just a friendly reminder for my next Ziff Davis B2B webinar this Friday.

As you may know, I write regularly for their portal, and some of that content is complemented by webinars. "Life After Nortel" is a theme I've been writing about there recently, and that's what this upcoming webinar is about.

The theme is pretty self-explanatory, and for more details along with how to register, here's the landing page for the webinar. Hope you can join us.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cisco Connect 2014 - Takeaways

Yesterday I attended Cisco Connect 2014 here in Toronto. This was their 12th event, and it sounds like this was their biggest to date. Sure looked packed to me, and a good sign that Cisco is doing its fair share of business in Canada.

Analysts and media were on a track of our own, so the day was pretty structured. The opening talks were similar to last year, but this time around we're pretty much being told that IoE and IoT is the future, so get ready. The Internet of Everything sure sounds ominous, and they're expecting the world to have 50 billion "people, processes, data and things" connected by 2020.

Well, if that doesn't make us really smart, I don't know what will. There's ceratinly an opportunity here, and lots of business to be had from "connecting the unconnected". What that opportunity really is, nobody knows, but it will be big. The number Cisco is putting out there is $19 trillion - too big for me to comprehend, but we're talking about a new world order after all.

Just to clarify, however, this isn't a spending opportunity - it's "value at stake", and primarily represents cost savings from doing things more efficiently. Still, it's another big transformation that's very much underway, and it was correctly noted that some big names out there will go away but new leaders and industries will emerge.

On a local level, we heard a lot about what Cisco Canada is doing to drive innovation here, and they're making good on initiatives we heard about last year. There was a well-done video illustrating how technology is being used to deliver telehealth and education to remote communities in the Far North. Closer to home, the innovation hub is going to be built here in Toronto, and they are seeding research chairs in the higher education sector to get more kids going into science/technology studies. Financially, they'll soon be announcing initiatives about how they're working with the VC community to help foster startups and entrepreneurship in our space - definitely something we need more of here.

We also had a guided tour of the show floor, with lots of focus on the cloud and data centers. Not too many phones, but lots of video/collaboration tools along with security offerings. Aside from that, everywhere you turned, there was something about their role in the 2015 PanAm Games which will be held in the greater Toronto area. These mega-events are great technology stages for the likes of Cisco, and prime opportunities to show us why IoE is the next big thing.

As a sidebar, if you only want to think locally, the PanAm organizers looking for 20,000 volunteers, so if you want in, Cisco Canada can get you in touch with the right people. That number isn't quite 19 trillion, but it sure shows that we need a lot more than technology to get big events like this done. My toaster may soon feel empowered to talk back to me, but it won't be much good helping people find out where the ping pong matches are being played - leave that job to us humans - it may be the only job we have left.  :-)

Exec keynotes from Nitin Kawale and Rebecca Jacoby

Rowan Trollope demo'ing the SX10 - small scale out-of-the-box telepresence for about the same price as a decent HD TV - I'd say they've really got it right with this one. Would you buy telepresence from this man? I would.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

This week's smart grid webinar - reminder and update

Just a quick shout-out for tomorrow's Zpryme webinar on managing power outages in extreme weather. I'll be moderating and presenting trend data based on a recent survey conducted by Zpryme. Joining me will  be sponsor Ventyx (an ABB company), and Kansas City Power & Light. This is a last minute change, as Oklahoma G&E had a change in plans.

We're on at 1pm ET tomorrow, and as usual, registrations have been strong. For more details, here's the registration page on Zpryme's site. Hope you can join us.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Next Stop: Toronto and Cisco Connect

I hardly ever attend local communications events here in Toronto, mainly because there are so few of them - and the same applies to Canada in general. Very strange, given how active I am in this space, but that's another conversation.

Not only am I attending one in my native Toronto, but this is an unprecedented second week in a row for local events. As you may know, last week I attended the CTCA's annual conference, and was happy to contribute not just as a moderator but the keynote speaker to open the event. You can read more about that in this post from earlier today, along with links to the presentations.

Back to the future - so, tomorrow I'm attending Cisco Canada's big annual partner event. It's called Cisco Connect, where they'll be showcasing the latest and greatest in their technology and partner ecosystem. As Canadian events go, it's pretty big, and there will be tons of customers, prospects and aspiring partners roaming about. Aside from the exhibits, there will lots of content and talks from key execs, including rising star, Rowan Trollope.

Content-wise, there's a lot of focus on data centers, service providers and network security, so that should tell you something about what Cisco thinks is important right now. Yes, they'll be talking about collaboration, but I bet we'll hardly hear a word about phone systems or video. The mix of sponsors reflects a lot of this, with most of the top tier supporters being our big 3 carriers catering to enterprises - Bell, Telus and Allstream. Interesting to also see Microsoft, their favorite frenemy up there as a Gold Sponsor. Interesting times, for sure, and I'll do my best to tweet as time allows.

CTCA Conference - Quick Coda and Presentation Links

I've been meaning to post again about last week's CTCA event in Gravenhurst, ON. This the Canadian Telecom Consultant's Association, a community that is a step to the left of what analysts like me focus on. Their clients are the end users, and our clients are the vendors/carriers, so together, we pretty much know everything that's going on in the comms space.
Maybe that's wishful thinking, but the collective experience on hand was pretty impressive, and I'll bet the main sponsors and participating vendors got their money's worth - Cisco, NEC, Interactive Intelligence, Huawei, Mitel and ShoreTel. Ditto for the operators, Bell (lunch sponsor too!), Primus and Cogeco Data Services.
All told, the quality of speakers and content was great, and being a small group, the audience interaction was lively. I've been waiting to post until now, as CTCA has been uploading the presentations to their website, and most of them are there now
Am really glad they're doing this, as it will help show the kind of thought leadership CTCA can pull together, and hopefully they'll continue to grow their membership. Aside from there being some informative vendor presentations, we got a lot of updates on the state of network infrastructure policy issues, telecom regulation, and implications for the 700 MHz wireless spectrum auction
Lots of good updates here worth reviewing, and I would also urge you to look at the locknote keynote from Ron Pickett. He gave a very engaging talk about why a lack of an innovation strategy is really hurting the Canadian communications sector. It was a great way to end the event with lots of food for thought for how we could be doing things so much better.
For the record, I'd be remiss to mention that my keynote presentation has been posted there as well
I hope you review them all, and your comments would be most welcome - both here and by the CTCA.
That's my take on the event, and I'll leave you with a few pix to mark the event.
Cisco's Fran Blackburn addressing the audience
Yup, mid-April - snow, ice and wind - come back in a month, and you'll never want to leave!

Monday, April 14, 2014

VoIP Security - What You Don't Know Can Hurt You - new article

Regular followers will know that I've been focused a lot lately on VoIP security. This post is timely in light of Heartbleed, which is yet another example of how vulnerable we are online, despite what we think are solid measures to avert security breaches.

I don't think VoIP is connected to Heartbleed, but as it becomes more widely used, there will be a lot more weak links to worry about - at least until both end users and enterprises step up their efforts to properly secure VoIP.

My latest article on this topic has been published now by U.K.-based Enterprise Management 360. I've been doing things with them for a while, and their current print edition is out now - Q1 2014. The magazine is big and glossy - very impressive looking - but they also have a digital edition. There are apps you can get from their website to download it to your mobile device, but the link to view it online isn't up yet.

Until then, I wanted to share my article, which is part of the Q1 2014 edition. The publisher has provided me with a PDF version, and I've web-enabled it so you can view it here. I hope you like it, and more importantly, I hope it gets you thinking more critically about the connection between VoIP and IT security.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Is Voice Really Dead?

Geez, seems like I'm asking a lot of provocative questions this week - I hope that's creating some good food for thought out there. Disruption never seems to end in the comms space, and this time around, I'm looking at voice.

One of the monthly columns I write is for TMC's Internet Telephony Magazine, and this one is called Rethinking Communications. With a mandate like that, my latest column fits right in - "Is Voice Really Dead?" - and is running here as part of the magazine's digital edition.

Chances are you have a pretty good idea about that already, and whatever side of the coin you're on, I think you'll find this a good read. My commentary is based largely on takeaways from the SmartVoice track during the last ITExpo in Miami, with particular reference to what Martin Geddes had to say. He's definitely on to something with hypervoice, and I would encourage to you to explore that further.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why Does Customer Service Suck?

Well, I'll bet that sure got your attention. It's not my headline, but if it gets you reading my article, you'll see why, and hopefully you'll learn something new.

That's the title of my current writeup for InformationWeek. If you don't know, I write a monthly colulmn for their Unified Communications portal, and it's running now. Here's the link, and if you like it, your comments are most welcome. This is a great topic, and I have a follow-on post coming about in my next IW column.

Life After Nortel - my next Webinar, April 25

Seems that when I'm not writing, I'm busy at conferences - or doing webinars. If you follow me, you'll know I keep busy both in telecom and smart grid, and this time around it's the former.

My next webinar is another Ziff Davis B2B event, with the focus being on Nortel customers. I've been writing about this a fair bit lately on their IT portal, and now I'm going to complement that with this upcoming webinar.

The title is self-explanatory - "Life After Nortel - Key Considerations and Options for your Telephony Roadmap", and we're doing this on April 25 at 1pm ET. If you can join us, here's the registration form, and I look forward to having you on the call!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Calling all Conferencing Users - Share Your Experiences in a Survey (with prizes!)

I'm a market researcher by trade, and when LifeSize told me about this survey they're running, I figure why not help out and make more people aware of it.

Actually, I wish every company would do surveys like this (especially if they hire me to do it!), as I think end users need to be better understood. Whether doing quantitative surveys like this, or qualitative research such as focus groups, there is no substitute for learning first-hand from end users. If you're not familiar with the virtues of market research, there's a primer about the basics on my website, and I'd be happy to tell you more any time.

Enough about me. Here's the pitch, along with a link to the survey and a chance to win a $200 Amazon gift card:

5 minutes – 5 winners!
$200 Amazon Gift Card

One of the keys to a developing a great product is when a company truly understands its consumers wants and needs.  LifeSize, a pioneer and world leader in high-definition video conferencing systems and software applications is doing just that.
Please take 5 minutes to tell us about your usage and experiences with audio and video conferencing solutions in the workplace and you’ll automatically be entered to win one of five $200 Amazon Gift Cards. Five winners will be randomly selected from all completed entries between received between April 7 – April 18, 2014. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Next Stop - Gravenhurst, ON - CTCA Conference

Yup, the Great White North, eh. Well, I do live in Toronto, and a 2-3 hour drive around here barely gets you out of the city. Most people have no idea how big Ontario is, but they'll find out when the world runs out of water, and the province is annexed by a superpower to harvest our lakes to survive. Sounds like this could make a good movie, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it actually happen in my lifetime.

On a more cheery note, the weather IS warming up, but my Red Sox are suddenly in last place, so things could be better. For me, Gravenhurst will make things better, and that's where I'm going this week, from Tuesday - Thursday.

I've had some near misses to participate in CTCA events, but this year, it's finally on. CTCA is the Canadian Telecom Consultants Association - our version of the STC in the U.S. Their 2014 annual conference is being held at the Taboo Resort, and it's very scenic - and expensive - up there in Muskoka country.

Am really looking forward to attending, and I'd better not be late. I've been kindly asked to give the opening keynote on Wednesday morning, and I'll be talking about five trends in the communications space we all have to pay attention to - not just consultants, but vendors, carriers and channels. Oh, and of course, businesses - if nobody's buying, we'd better find something else to do. My presentation is ready to go, but I'm not giving it away here - you'll just have to come up to Gravenhurst and get a ticket - or ask me nicely after the event.

I'm also moderating a session on the cloud later that day, so I hope you stick around for that. Joining me will be speakers from Cogeco Data Services, Interactive Intelligence and NEC.

It's not too late to drop everything you're doing this week and make your way up north - right? For locals, the Leafs should be dropping out of playoff contention by tomorrow, so it's not like you'll have any distractions. :-)

Hope to see you there, and for more detail, here's CTCA's landing page for the conference.

I'll do my best to tweet and blog - my handle ia @arnoldjon, and the event handle is @CTCA_Canada

Friday, April 4, 2014

Next Smart Grid Webinar - Managing Outages in Extreme Weather

With ETS behind us now, it's time to get back to smart grid webinars. The next Zpryme webinar is on April 17 at 1pm ET, and I'll be in my usual role as the moderator/host.

Even though winter is pretty much behind us, and baseball is back, extreme weather threats are not too far back in our rear view mirrors. Ice storms are off the table now for a while, but depending where you live, floods, hurricanes, etc. can happen any time.

That's what we'll be covering in this webinar, with a particular focus on what utilities need to do to keep the lights on under extreme conditions. Joining me will be Clinton Davis of Ventyx, and Kandace Eaves of OGE - Oklahoma Gas and Electric.

Our webinars are always well-attended, so I'm just giving you an early heads-up here about the next one, and to register, here's the web page. Weather permitting, I hope you can join us! :-)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

State of Cloud-Based Solutions and Ecosystems - UCStrategies Podcast

Our latest UCStrategies podcast included a guest, namely Zach Hinkle. He's the Solutions Program Manager for Interactive Intelligence and their cloud-based contact center platform, CaaS. His company has long been a leader in moving communications applications to the cloud, so they were a great addition for this topic.

For a change, I served as the moderator, and led Zach through a series of topics that our usual group of UC Experts had no trouble chiming in on. We started by talking about why vendors are moving to the cloud and why their customers are now following them. Naturally, we wanted hear about Interactive's experiences, but then moved on to the broader vendor space.

Building on that, we talked about the challenges and realities, along with the importance of building up an ecosystem to support the changing needs of a multichannel contact center environment.

The podcast has been posted to the UCStrategies portal, so you can give it a listen here. We covered a lot of ground, so it's a pretty long session, and if that's asking too much, you can just read the transcript as well as fast forward to the parts you really want to hear.

Book Review - Hacking Exposed for UC and VoIP

I don't usually write book reviews, and I've never written a business book. Definitely looked into the latter, and I'm sure I could it, but it just hasn't grabbed me enough to do one. I'll bet I could ghost-write a good book for someone else, though, so if that grabs you, I'm not hard to find. :-)

Back to business. Mark Collier is the CTO with SecureLogix - both he and the company know the nuts of bolts of IT security really well. I've known Mark for some time, and when the 2nd edition of this book came out, he sent me a copy and asked if I'd be kind enough to review it. Our paths crossed recently once he saw the white paper I authored on VoIP security for VoIPshield. Since we're on the same wavelength about these issues, I was more than happy to do it.

The book at hand focuses specifically on IT threats related to VoIP and UC, and is part of an ongoing series of books under the Hacking Exposed theme. Mark co-authors these books with David Endler, another major thought leader and practitioner in ths space.

I decided to post my book review on instead of here since it will get broader exposure there. I'm not a big online shopper, but have recently discovered the joys of hunting down hard-to-find CDs and books there, and have since added a couple of short review of CDs. If you've never posted a review on Amazon, it's easy to do, and I figured why not post my Hacking Exposed review there too.

Without further ado, then, you can read my Customer Review here, and I hope you find it helpful - maybe even helpful enough to add their book to your shopping cart! There are a few other reviews about the book as well (much shorter than mine!), so you can see that I'm not alone in giving it two thumbs up.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

March Writing Roundup - my top 7 Picks

I recently started a roundup post to summarize highlights of my writing for the previous month. March was busy as usual for me, and while I don't expect you to follow everything of mine, here's a digest of the posts that I think you'll find the most interesting.

My writing turns up in many places, so I figure this is an easy way to make sure my followers don't miss the posts that I feel represent my most timely/relevant thinking.

If you don't want to wait this long, aside from following my blog and tweets (@arnoldjon), a good way to track my articles and columns is on this summary page on my website. As you probably know, I don't make a living blogging, and if you want to know what clients hire me for, you should spend some time there. You might be surprised to learn the various ways I work with clients, and if you think I can be of service, I'd be happy to hear from you!

Words of the Woz and Other ETS Takeaways - we Need More Invention, not Innovation - this blog, March 28

Top 100 Tech Podcasters as per GetVoIP - me and 99 Others! - this blog, March 14

How Legacy Phone Systems Could be Hurting Your Productivity - Ziff Davis,

Change is Good - Starting Fresh After Nortel - Ziff Davis,

Business Implications for Hosted VoIP - Size Doesn't Matter - Ziff Davis,

Five Signs Your Business is Ready for UC - ADTRAN blog

How Amazon Mayday Could Have Helped Weather the Toronto Ice Storm - Internet Telephony Magazine

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Colonel Chris Hadfield - Lessons Learned from Collaborating in Space

It's not everyday you get to see an astronaut and bona fide space hero, but this was a pretty good way to start the week. I was invited to attend a talk last night sponsored by Cisco Canada and Allstream, and we were graced by the presence of Col. Chris Hadfield, who gave a really inspiring talk about his time in the space program. When it comes to local-boy-makes-good, he's as good as it gets for being a homegrown hero, and a world-class example of the kind of leadership Canada is capable of producing.

The event was fittingly held at the MaRS facility in downtown Toronto. While the acronym has nothing to do with the planet, it actually is home to one of Canada's leading edge innovation incubators, especially in the life sciences.

You may be wondering what this has to do with tech, but the event title provides a good clue:

The inspirational message is that there are always ways to go higher, further, faster, etc. Being out in space is the ultimate challenge for pushing the envelope, and I doubt anybody on the planet has lived this out more than Chris Hadfield.

He gave a fascinating recap of his career, and with so much of it being on the Space Station, his perspectives on team work and collaboration were great. Nations tend to be very competitive and political when it comes to space exploration, but he made some great points about how well everyone gets along out in space when you're together on a common mission. When you have to work in very tight quarters with so little margin for error, those cultural and language differences go away in a hurry.

On a larger scale, he contrasted how differently the world behaves depending on the circumstances. He showed a map of the world during WW II, identifying the Allied countries, the Axis countries and the neutral countries. It was a pretty stark reminder of what the term World War means - in real life, not some stupid video game - when nations are solely focused on defeating and/or destroying their rivals.

Fast forward two generations later, and it's amazing to see how these very same nations are united with a common purpose in space exploration. He pointed out all the various centers across the globe that share in the Space Station initiative for our collective benefit and understanding of the universe.

His main point is that in the space of living memory, this is proof that we can change behaviors on a large scale, and when we work together, humanity can accomplish amazing things.

By association, of course, both Cisco and Allstream are hoping that message sinks in with their customers. Once that link has been established, the next step is to start the Unified Communications conversation - but in this context it's on a very strategic level.

We may not have to collaborate at work as intensely as Chris and his colleagues do out in space, but the message is a strong one. Like anything else, if you have the right tools, it's much easier to achieve a common goal. Collaboration is a big driver of behavior in business today, and when UC's value proposition can be presented - and understood - as an enabling solution for this desired outcome, then I like UC's chances of success.

Time will tell, but Chris's messages were as good as it gets, and I hope Cisco and Allstream succeed in driving them into the marketplace. Cisco has been focused on this message for a long time, and last night made me think of their 2011 C-Scape event, which I attended. John Chambers gave a strong presentation on the power of collaboration, and in my post, I tied his messaging to football and deaf culture. If you have an affinity to either of these references, I think you'll find the connections I made to collaboration thought provoking, and as a small tie-in, it just so happens the deaf person I wrote about works for NASA. Again, with the right tools and frame of mind - anything is possible.

Chris Hadfield - so, a Canadian, an American and a Russian astronaut walk into a bar.... :-)