The caring, sharing economy

My first job was delivering prescription drugs to the infirmed after school on my bicycle. One minute before my start I’d arrive, throw that day’s scripts into my backpack and off I would trundle. When I get back, I’d have to clean up the boxes from the day’s deliveries and burn them (yes it was pre-recycling). Little did I know that I was Activity Based Working – I worked where I needed to at that time!

Today, I’m engaged in helping companies improve communications between their staff and to their customers and suppliers. Their people are scattering to the winds so they need to embrace new models of work. The key elements of productivity, culture and engagement are:

Where: Our location at a point in time determines the requirements and limits of our work.
How: What tools or resources are at our disposal for us to use to most effectively work.
Why: The most engaged employees are there to have fun AND make money.
Each of these are being significantly impacted by change today. Our work environment, hours, location, motivators etc. are changing more rapidly than in any time in history, and it is being bought about by technology. No, robots are going to take over but technology is. In a hyper connected online and real time world our approach must be forced to change – whether we like it or not. It is how we drive and control the change that is the key element to having a productive and happy workplace.

Where we work is about business culture than location. If I don’t like the nature or style of people I work with but I love what I do and my customers, I’m more likely to work at home or at a customer’s site.

When I first worked in an office environment – I had an office. I shared it with someone else but I had made it, I had an office! Now as CEO, I can have an office but I choose not to. I’d rather work amongst my team, to enjoy the banter, to engage live during brainstorming or problem solving. If I need to do something in private, I will simply move to a meeting room.

Open plan, flexible offices are the norm today. No more walls and the team is much more visible. While this has provided many benefits, it often can be the cause of some problems. Some companies are embracing activity based working, allowing people and teams to form flexibly to suit the needs of that day.

For 20+ years I have heard of the promise of telecommuting as an alternative to all workplace woes. The limiting factor wasn’t company or individual motivation, technology or even cost effective bandwidth, it was employee engagement. Remote employees feel segregated. The recent abundance of video solutions goes a long way to addressing this, but nothing does beat the morning “chat” in the tea room or having lunch with a colleague. The right answer is balance of location, a grand activity based working model if you like. The organisational change required however can be significant and not underestimated. The move to measuring quality of output rather than input is a fundamental though shift which can only be embraced if sufficient reporting data is made available to managers.

A recent trend that I see growing fast are co-working spaces. Either commercial ventures or government initiatives, these spaces provide the luxury or human engagement without the drudgery of the daily commute. They started out as collaborative offices for start-ups, freelancers or small teams. They provided high quality fit outs and services like high speed internet or video conferencing at an affordable rate. Co-working spaces have become a popular alternative to working from home.

Each of these topics will be covered at the Australian Skype for Business Launch & Conference www.skypeforbusinessconference.com.au.

Your call has progressed in the queue

“Your call has progressed in the queue and we will be with you shortly”.  Aren’t these the words designed to be the most soothing, they might be for you but I find them, well . . . .

Getting your customers to communicate with the right person with the least amount of resistance is the holy grail of customer service.  The magic is working out 1) what the customer really wants and 2) who is best to solve their problem quickly for them and efficiently for you.  One person owning the customer interaction from the first “Hello” to “Good Bye” is the utopia that customers want but how do we achieve this in a modern business with specialised staff, multiple time zones, distributed work forces etc., you get the picture.

Traditional contact centre’s were specific organisational units, often with all staff co-located, in effect the expertise was centralised.  This no longer however matches how we design our businesses, distribute expertise or have people working from a variety of locations.

Couple this with new forms of customer access like Twitter, Email, Facebook etc., contact centres need to be open longer, respond more quickly and the transition to a new way of working is inevitable.

The contact centre of today needs to be more flexible and to do so its staff need more flexibility.  For example, the ability to work from wherever suits them, which could be at home particularly if late or early shifts are involved or the access to know in real time that a colleague with the right expertise is online and available.

The modern contact centre worker is empowered to make decisions.  We now don’t measure them in minutes but in net promoter score, repeat business or if an unhappy customer does not call back.  Integrating this into modern business workflows is what is enabled by combining your contact centre with a unifie3d communications platform li9ke Microsoft Skype for Business.

Continue the conversation at www.linkedin.com/groups/Skype-Business-Launch.

Each of these topics will be covered at the Australian Skype for Business Launch & Conference.  See you on the 4th June!

Meeting rooms that work

Have you ever been in a meeting room that just didn’t work the way it should have?  For example:

  • Wrong cable for the screen
  • Power points in the wrong spot
  • Lights too bright and washed out the screen
  • Too hot
  • Too small for the number of attendees
  • Remote staff can’t hear you
  • Too complex to operate technology and no instructions

This is strangely pretty common.  We spend significant amounts on office fit outs and inject an enormous amount of effort into getting it right, but the practical reality is that no one ever designs rooms with one simple idea in mind – what conversations will be had in that room.  This is the fundamental piece of information required before a design pen should ever touch paper.

I’m not talking about a broad approach like “we will talk to clients” or this is “HR’s internal meeting room”, I mean specifics.  The approach should be specific.  For example “1 or 2 of our senior advisors will work with our customers (up to 6) to demonstrate our product X in the room so that we can get them to understand its value, ask all of their questions and make a decision to purchase there and then.  The questions will be commercial and often highly technical.  They should be able to clearly see our product on the screen from their seats without the need to move and share what is on the screen with their colleagues remotely who will access it securely just via a web browser. At the meeting, they should register at Reception and be guided to the room via electronic signs.  The room’s lights, displays and air should come on 5 minutes before the meeting starts.  If video conferencing is to be used, it should start automatically before I enter the room.”

Writing a brief like this actually isn’t even detailed enough but you get the idea.  Meeting room design is simple if it is broken down into its elemental components starting with a thorough understanding of what you want in plain English terms.

Taking this to reality though requires experience and expertise.  The calculations and design requirements for good audio alone are significant, let alone ergonomics, lighting etc.

Continue the conversation at www.linkedin.com/groups/Skype-Business-Launch.

Each of these topics will be covered at the Australian Skype for Business Launch & Conference.  See you on the 4th June!

Nothing so constant as change

Coming to the Launch and Conference will be people from all works of life – customers, vendors, those who already want to, those that aren’t sure, sceptics and believers.  What is common is a single theme: Transitions.

A hackneyed phrase is that change is constant, but in 25 years in the communications business, I have never seen so much not being constant.  There are some big drivers:

  • The impact of Generation-Y on the dynamics of the workplace
  • Later retirement age connecting more generations in the workplace
  • Access to 4G and cost effective broadband supporting mobility
  • Drive to reduce costs in real estate
  • Employee “fickleness” means staff are less likely to stay for a longer time unless they are constantly motivated
  • Staff more motivated than ever to work in a way that suits them rather than a way that might suit the organisation
  • Staff are being recruited based on skill alone and their location is now a small variable
  • Competitive threats are now global so every opportunity to improve productivity must be taken

Each of these is motivating positive change in our workplace but is creating some big headaches:

  • Need for access to quality, ongoing training
  • Alignment of individual staff motivation to their personal KPI
  • Change from measuring actions to measuring outcomes – a fundamental change for many managers
  • Staff desire to balance work & life greater than ever in history
  • Ongoing change in real estate usage patterns means long term leases and fit outs are too inflexible
  • The desire to minimise travel and use video instead

A key enabler for business to achieve all these transition objectives is to improve how people communicate.  Giving customers and employees access to information and expertise when they want and from where they want is what Skype for Business delivers.

Continue the conversation at www.linkedin.com/groups/Skype-Business-Launch.

Each of these topics will be covered at the Australian Skype for Business Launch & Conference.  See you on the 4th June!

Sonus SBC AD Lookup Gotchas

I have recently been troubleshooting issues with a Sonus SBC 1000 doing call routing using AD lookups.

There are many blogs out there about how to do this, including the guide from Sonus themselves which is pretty descent.

Let me however, go into some of the gotchas that caught me by surprise, and are not well documented on the Sonus site…

AD Cache Lookup

There is a very clear note saying that it is “recommended” to have a USB stick attached to the SBC if you are going to use the AD Lookup in cached mode.

What there is no mention of, is the way the Sonus SBC uses the cache, and how it gets updated. This information was provided to me from Sonus TAC/Engineering, and is current as of the date of publishing this blog post; this applies to having the AD Configuration in “Updates” mode…

  1. All domain controllers configured are treated equally; i.e. if any one of them responds back with a successful query, then the cache is valid, even if all the other queries fail.
  2. The cache is dropped before the new cache is read; thus if the AD query fails, the system is left with “NO CACHE” unless you have a USB stick with a backup cache to be used.
  3. if “ALL” domain controllers fail to respond, the SBC switches to online mode, and tries to query the domain controllers in order for the user in question.
  4. The system will not try any failed domain controllers again until the next update cycle as configured in the “Cache Settings”

they have said that they are working on improving the process…

Case Sensitive Lookup

Again with AD Cache lookups; apparently the lookup is case-sensitive; while simply testing for “=msRTCSIP-Line=” in your transformation table may work most of the time, apparently, if an admin in Lync has decided to type “Tel:+xxxxx” instead of “tel:+xxxx” the query would fail to return a positive match.

To overcome this issue the recommendation is to use “(?i)=msRTCSIP-Line=” which would make the lookup case-in-sensitive.

Of course you can use the same “(?i)” in other locations too for matching without case.

Approach Unified Communications Like You’re Writing an Essay

“We’re just going to start by getting all of our hospitals and clinics on one, ubiquitous telecom platform. We don’t need to worry about training or communications at this stage – the users will only see a new phone.”

 
The biggest mistake a healthcare organization can make when it comes to the decision to deploy Unified Communications (UC), is to treat it like an infrastructure component that is transparent to the user community. There is nothing wrong with starting with the basics, but don’t make the mistake of assuming it will not matter to your customers. I believe the best path to UC in healthcare is to approach it like you were taught to write a well-organized essay: Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them; and then tell them what you told them. Remember that?
 
Tell Them What You are Going to Tell Them
As it turns out, a new phone is a big deal, especially to nurses and clinicians whose primary focus is the care of their patients. To them, the phone just needs to work – getting it to do so should not be difficult. The surest way to make it difficult is to NOT tell them in advance, fail to state what is going to be different, and to assume that formal, in-person training would be overkill. 
 
Just as the first paragraph in a well-written essay needs to inform the audience what the body of the essay will be about, a well-planned UC deployment will begin with a solid communications plan. My experience has shown that a comprehensive plan must:
 
• Define groups of users, 
• Determine exactly what changes each group will see,
• Identify several methods for communicating to each group, 
• Determine the frequency of communications that work best for each group, and
• Decide whom best to deliver each communication to each group.
 
Tell Them
I have found that very few clinicians are interested in learning how to use a new technology – at least for the sake of using a new technology. They are, however, very interested in learning how that technology can improve their ability to care for their patients. More so in healthcare than any other industry, the value specific UC features bring to each role will vary, for example: 
 
Nurses will need to know how to program doctor’s pager numbers into the phones for quick dialing, how to park and pickup calls, how to transfer calls to patient rooms, and how to make overhead pages on the new system.
Doctors may want to use some of the more advanced features. For example, single number reachability in order to be reached at one number no matter if they are at their desk, at home, or in transit. While unified messaging may appeal to doctors, the reality is that there is not a solution available with enough built in privacy and (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) HIPAA compliancy to be integrated with electronic medical record (EMR) and patient portal messaging – which will leave them with two inboxes. Some may be fine with that, others may choose to pass on this feature.
The central business office, scheduling and service desk will be interested in more advanced features, like screen pops (which can display customized information specific to incoming or dialed customers/patients), click-to-call integration and advanced call center functionality.
Executive staff and IT may be the only users interested in features such as presence (indication of availability), instant messaging, unified messaging (one inbox for voicemail, faxes and email) and integrated web-, video- and tele-conferencing.
 
While the above guidelines can serve as a good general rule, take the time to determine if it really describes the needs and interests of each group in your organization. Make a point of visiting with each defined group and take time to observe their work flows, in addition to asking about and listening to their pain points, including things about their jobs which they feel could be improved. Armed with the knowledge and understanding of what UC can and cannot do, set out to solve those pain points. Ensure your training plan focuses on solving problems, and not just on using the new technology. And then implement it.
 
Only after your detailed training plan has been implemented will you be ready to begin deployment of your UC infrastructure. It is during this stage that your user community will receive their new phones and begin to use the UC features and functionality that were promised to them.
As you have likely guessed by now, you will not just simply put the phones out and leave, but instead, as you do, you will once again tell them what you’ve already told them.
 
Tell Them What You Told Them
During this final stage of deployment, offer refresher courses and continue delivering frequent and targeted communications. I have found that having trainers and technical staff roam the floors to offer guidance and answer questions on the fly is very well received – especially visits to each nursing station. It is important to continue showing each group of users how the technology being deployed will help them to better achieve the overarching goal of the organization: improved patient care.
This article excerpt, by Michelle Kay, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/1Lo2jqF

Enterprise Connect Day 2

Zig Serafin, corporate vice president of Skype for Business, showed during this mornings keynote the capabilities of Microsoft’s new Surface Hub which includes Skype for Business integration.  Serafin showed the audience just how easy it is to share and collaborate on content.

In a flash, he pulled up an aerial view of Orlando, zoomed into the Gaylord Hotel, rotated the image showing it in a front-on 3-D view even then marked up the image, pulled it into a digital whiteboard and inked it up to ask team members to zero in on a specific location. And then he ended the session, sending off his “meeting” notes, including the image and everything else he’d scribbled on the whiteboard, to live in a OneNote folder for later recall.

Cool stuff, to be sure, but this was not the real meat of Serafin’s keynote messaging today. That would be the news that Skype for Business is now here, as is clearly evident from branding you can see any which way you turn at Enterprise Connect. Skype for Business brings together the best of Lync with the best of Skype in a newly evolved client, Serafin said. That client is downloadable now for technical review, with general availability planned for next month.

Skype for Business includes the full Lync feature set, plus some enhancements, he said. But Lync now features a more adaptive, responsive, and familiar Skype experience, is part of the Office 365 cloud architecture, and has enterprise-grade high availability and disaster recovery for secure, compliant communications. And, of course, Microsoft has tapped into its Skype expertise to amp up the video calling experience from within Lync, Serafin said. The goal is to ease the ability for users to quickly and easily launch audio and video calls without losing any functionality of Lync.

The moves that Microsoft is making with Skype for Business boils down to the company’s goal of creating a “comprehensive productivity experience.” Toward that end, Serafin announced that the company is offering enterprise voice services, including audio conferencing in Office 365 and enterprise-grade PSTN connectivity.  And Serafin announced a slew of new or enhanced partnerships, including global carriers and Polycom for SMB video.

Content first appeared on No Jitter.

Enterprise Connect 2015 Update Day 1

Get seven big vendors on the stage, and the talk is always going to get around to interoperability pretty quickly. That’s generally been the case with the Monday Unified Communications Summit at Enterprise Connect, and this year was no exception-though the conversation took a markedly new shape.

With a standing-room-only crowd, this UC Summit was the first general session of a show that started out with jam-packed breakout sessions on Contact Centers, UC user adoption, WebRTC, and desk phones among others. The diversity of popular sessions suggests the breadth of challenges facing enterprise decision-makers-from that chunk of plastic on the desk to the standard that puts everything in a Web browser that the old workhorse deskphone used to provide.

When it comes to the topic that dominated the UC Summit, interoperability used to be about make Vendor A’s stuff talk to Vendor C’s stuff and then Vendor M’s stuff. But people are increasingly consuming communications applications in new ways, and some panelists suggested that this may make the solution to the interoperability challenge different-or maybe eliminate the challenge altogether.

Rowan Trollope, GM of Cisco’s Collaboration business unit, quoted his CTO, Jonathan Rosenberg, who said: “Virality is the new interoperability.” By which he means that if you need to collaborate with someone and you don’t use compatible tools, you just agree to both get onto the same tool-presumably one that’s gone viral and acquired some level of credibility as a result. What this leaves you with is a situation like Rowan Trollope said he has-179 apps on his smartphone, 15 of which are messaging apps, some of those having only 1 or 2 people he regularly communicates with. And that’s just how things are in the new world.

Adam Swidler, Technology Evangelist at Google for Work, echoed this point, describing the “disintermediation of services” that’s happening, driven by mobile usage patterns. He pointed out that Facebook responded to user demand by splitting out its Messenger app, and said Google was following the same pattern in splitting Hangouts from Google Plus.

“The users have spoken, and what they want is very simple, very purpose-built apps,” said Swidler, whose appearance marks Google’s debut on the Enterprise Connect main stage-itself a statement of how things are changing.

Josh Haslett, VP of Systems Engineering at Mitel, said the game is changing for traditional vendors who have wanted to control the endpoint since the days of proprietary telephone signaling protocols. “I don’t think taking desktop real estate and branding it is going to be the answer,” Haslett said. “It’s not about branding, it’s about enabling.”

Gary Barnett, Senior VP and GM, Engagement Solutions at Avaya, agreed that, “The user interface is not what to us will be relevant. Instead, Barnett stressed that the role of platforms like Avaya’s will be to tie together various elements on the back end-a critical aspect that won’t just go away in a viral-app world of the future, for one key reason: Investment protection, aka the installed base.

A case in point came from Zig Serafin, Corporate VP, Skype Business Services at Microsoft, who pointed out that he and Cisco’s Rowan Trollope were meeting this week and had already reached agreements between the two companies to allow video from Cisco Telepresence endpoints to be dropped into Skype for Business (formerly Lync) video conferences. So if Cisco and Microsoft are talking interoperability-at all-it could be a sign that things are changing.

So whether you need interoperability among different vendors or different generations of products from the same vendor-and let’s face it, enterprises today still do-the UC vendors you’ve been used to dealing with are prepared to at least make some of the right promises and recognize that these challenges haven’t gone away even in the new world.

But Google’s Adam Swidler offered a harsh assessment of the pursuit of interoperability.  “The more you invest in interoperability today,” Swidler said,” the longer you’re going to be stuck with that legacy platform.”

This content first appeared on http://www.nojitter.com/enterprise-connect 

Australian Skype for Business Launch & Conference

I am pleased to announce the Australian Skype for Business Launch and Conference will be held in Sydney in May 2015.  Generation-e, as AsiaPac’s largest Microsoft UC integrator is driving this event with Microsoft as the Platinum sponsor and Keynote speaker.

The conference will deliver compelling content in both commercial and technical streams.  Commercial sessions will focus on taking advantage of the technology and the technical stream will focus on implementation, integration and migration.

The keynote will set the scene, then experts and customers will share their experience and knowledge.  You will leave the day educated, entertained, enthusiastic and enlightened.

Between conference sessions the vendors that support Skype for Business will provide live demonstrations of their solutions, allowing you to understand the end-to-end ecosystem.

Follow @AUSkypeBusiness on Twitter for real-time updates and don’t forget to register your interest at www.skypeforbusinessconference.com.au.

 

Why UC Will Go Mainstream In 2015

Last year around this time I posted an article on UCStrategies “Why 2014 Is the “Perfect Storm” For UCC Adoption.” I believe that in this past year UC has been recognized as that next step progression and now drive Unified Communications to the next level. UC has been available to the enterprise marketplace for over eight years. In my experience it takes up to 10 years for a new technology to go mainstream, and in 2015 we will move well beyond the “hype cycle” for UC and, in my opinion, UC will go mainstream.
This past year we have seen a migration of emphasis from Telephony to UC. In fact, the conversation with any enterprise user we have had discussion with, including all clients and projects we serve, has been centered on Unified Communications, the game-changing elements of UC, and how it impacts the user communities they serve. The conversation around Telephony has virtually gone “extinct” and has completely been missing from the discussion. Telephony is a required component, yes, but any value statements and perceived value associated with Telephony-only are simply no longer there.
As mobility continues to gain ground (just look at Apple’s recent announcement around worldwide iPhone sales and associated profitability), elements of UC are also growing in the consumer space. Consumer elements of UC have been around for some time, including ad-hoc video conferencing (Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts), IM/chat (texting), and presence (aka friends lists and availability on Facebook). UC clients are available on mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) with all of the tools available in a desktop UC client.
Now it’s the enterprise’s turn. All of our clients are embracing UC and its entire suite of tools. They want a more robust environment; they want the ability to work from home and remotely from anywhere; they want one number reach to any device; they want desktop mobility (working from anywhere as though working from your desk); they want to collaborate and share documents and get consensus on a topic together; they want to get all email, voice mail, and faxes in a single InBox (Unified Messaging); they want to call one another by name and not by number any longer (corporate directory); and they are beginning to show great interest in having video conversations one-on-one and in groups.
Drivers for UC Adoption in 2015
So why will UC go mainstream in 2015? In my opinion they include:
1. The Hype Cycle Is Over – The hype cycle for UC is over, period, and interest in UC and UC adoption will be at the forefront of the real time communications conversation
2. Consumer Components of UC Here - Consumer components of UC are already here (as noted earlier)
3. Millennials Want It - Millennials will make up a full 50% of the workforce in less than five years and recently have surpassed baby boomers as the largest segment of the domestic US population. Millennials embrace all of the elements of UC and not just tolerate it – in a word, they want it (see my December 5, 2014 post “Planning for the Best UC Experience? Follow the Millennials”).
4. Telephony Is Dying – Telephony, and the interest in it, is for all intents and purposes, “dying” or even “dead.” Of course TDM has been dead at the enterprise level for over 60 months, and that part is obvious. The less obvious is that, although Telephony is not actually dead, the interest in it as a necessary component of real time communications is more than just irrelevant, it no longer carries any perceived value. The emphasis and conversation is now on UC and how UC and collaboration can connect everyone in real-time. The UC suite of tools brings so much more to the user experience than Telephony alone could ever bring by itself.
5. Enterprise’s Interest in UC Is Greater Than Ever - Enterprises have shifted and are now showing more interest in UC than at any other time. And they want to be creative with it. One of our clients is interested in adding UC clients for all Board members, providing them their own DID number, and holding a virtual Board call that can be recorded, in the event that a critical decision is necessary quickly or in the event of inclement weather. Another client is interested in providing all students with a tablet and adding a UC mobility client for each. This will provide faculty members the ability to notify students of a change in class venue, or hold a class “virtually” via collaboration or videoconferencing or both in the event of inclement weather. This will provide a richer, more connected student experience on or off campus.
6. Front Line Business Units Are Asking for UC Components – Many Contact Center leaders are now requesting multi-channel components, including IM/chat functions, responding to emails, phone calls, social media integration, and even video calls (Amazon Kindle Fire has been doing so over 15 months now). Some customers are planning on video kiosks for virtual specialists to work “across” multiple branch sites in any given day, a feat virtually unattainable if that specialist were physically required at all sites in a single day.
7. The Cost of UC Continues to Plummet - Pricing alone per UC license / end point has dropped close to 20% in the last 24 months, in our experience. Price consistently drives adoption in any industry, in this case UC. And UC offers huge ROI opportunities, from SIP trunking, working from anywhere (reduced real estate), reduced maintenance costs, and reduced end points (as desired), among others.
8. Next-Gen UC and Collaboration Is Here – New entrees are offering (some or all) feature and functionality including ease of use tools, “like” interfaces across multiple devices (desktop, tablet, smartphone), moving a single “conversation” among multiple devices, adding device awareness, geo-location presence for location-based identification, and powerful search functions for referencing multiple discussions. These new features and functions are creating new “buzz” surrounding UC. A single “like” user interface across multiple devices minimizes any extensive learning curve (in some cases nearly zero) and will be another key enabler to driving UC adoption this year.
Summary and Conclusions
So if you are a channel partner, gear up with appropriate manufacturer certifications to successfully implement UC day one for your enterprise customers.
If you are an end user organization, embrace UC as a core, key component of real time communications for your community going forward.
Note that the acceptance of UC in your organization relies heavily on a strategic deployment of UC, carefully constructed and rolled out for a high user acceptance rate. Without such an approach, your organization’s acceptance level will be less than stellar and even a possible failure.
So to be prepared, in my opinion this is the year for UC to go mainstream. If you don’t place UC into the pipeline as one of your next major projects for 2015/16, the level of adoption by competitors will begin to surface. The clock is ticking and you have 12-24 months before you will have to catch up to your competitors; now is the time to embrace the full UC suite of tools for your organization.
This article excerpt, by Stephen Leaden, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/1L5MktO