WebRTC & Skype will shape the future of UC

WebRTC and other real time protocols including Object Real Time Communications (ORTC) that eliminate the need for plug-in software to function (but work natively in a browser) will have a lasting effect on communications. As noted in the 2015 WebRTC State of the Market Report, over half of businesses are already using WebRTC in some form or plan to use it in 2015, and over three-quarters of respondents will use it next years and beyond.  However, these protocols won’t replace Unified Communications platforms; rather they will complement the solutions that are already available today.  What they do mean however is the final nail in the coffin for legacy voice only PBXs in business as you just won’t be able to compete if you can’t communicate.

The effect of Microsoft’s Skype for Business strategy on Unified Communications cannot be underestimated. Lync (now Skype for Business) integration was already table stakes for others’ UC elements and platforms, and the move to evolve Lync with Skype features and integrate users is profound. Microsoft’s latest release of APIs for its Edge browser to enable ORTC is also significant here.

Unified communications has enabled collaboration, and collaboration features such as screen sharing have brought people (not just employees) together to work in ways are increasingly efficient and effective. Collaboration has also moved helped contact center agents become engaged with customers in a way that builds the kind of relationships needed to engender loyalty and grow business revenues.  The integration and alignment of platforms like contact centre and UC is significant for consumers and business alike and will drive new business models enabling customer engagement when, where and how they like.  Be ready for the anywhere, anytime business!

55% Of Enterprises Predict Cloud Computing Will Enable New Business Models In Three Years

55% Of Enterprises Predict Cloud Computing Will Enable New Business Models In Three Years

  • 69% of enterprises expect to make moderate-to-heavy cloud investments over the next three years as they migrate core business functions to the cloud.
  • 44% of businesses are relying on cloud computing to launch new business models today, predicting this will increase to 55% in three years.
  • 32% are using cloud computing to streamline their supply chains today. Senior executives predict this figure will rise to 56% in three years, a 24% increase.
  • 59% say they use cloud-based applications and platforms to better manage and analyze data today, reflecting the increasing importance of analytics and big data enterprise-wide.

These and other insights are from a recent Oxford Economics and SAP study of cloud computing adoption, The Cloud Grows Up. You can find the study here (no opt-in). In late 2014, Oxford Economics and SAP collaborated on a survey of 200 senior business and IT executives globally regarding the adoption and use of cloud technology. Oxford Economics’ analysts compared the latest survey with one completed in 2012 looking for leading indicators of cloud adoption in enterprises. They found many C- and VP-level executives are taking a more pragmatic, realistic view of what cloud technologies can contribute. Enterprises are moving beyond the hype of cloud computing, putting in the hard work of launching new business models while driving top-line revenue growth.

Key takeaways from the study include the following:

  • Top–line growth (58%), collaboration among employees (58%), and supply chain (56%) are the three areas enterprises expect cloud computing to impact most in three years. The greatest gains will be in the areas of supply chain (a 24% jump), collaboration among employees (20%) and increased agility and responsiveness to customers (17%).
  • Developing new products & services (61%), new lines of business (51%) and entering new markets (40%) are three key areas cloud computing is transforming enterprises. With a 35% increase, developing new products and services is the most dominant strategy enterprises are relying on to grow their businesses.
  • 58% of enterprises predict their use of cloud computing will increase top-line revenue growth in three years. 67% see the cloud changing skill sets and transforming the role of HR.
  • 74% of enterprises say innovation and R&D are somewhat or mostly cloud-based. 61% say they will have developed new products and services in three years as a result of adopting cloud technologies.
  • Enterprise cloud security strategies are maturing rapidly. From 2012 to 2014, strategies for ensuring the security of API and interfaces increased 24%, from 20% to 44%. Additional concerns that increased include virus attacks (up 19%), and identity theft (up 16%).
  • 31% of respondents say the cloud computing has had a transformative impact on their business. 48%, nearly half, state that cloud computing has had a moderate impact on business performance. The majority believe cloud computing will have a significant impact on top-line revenue growth in three years.
  • 67% of enterprises say that marketing, purchasing, and supply chain are somewhat and mostly cloud-based as of today. Cloud-based adoption has reached an inflection point in enterprises, with functional areas having the largest percentage of workloads running on cloud-based apps. Enterprise senior executives see the potential to improve innovation, R&D, and time-to-market via greater collaboration using cloud technologies.

This article excerpt, by Louis Columbus, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/1gCW7he

Questions You Should Be Asking Any Prospective VoIP Provider

Too many times, we are pulling people out of bad provider situations that could have been avoided with either proper consultation in conjunction with a neutral VoIP expert. Or, due diligence could have been accomplished just by pegging a prospective VoIP provider with some simple questions that put providers’ feet to the fire.
Before signing on the dotted line, here are the items you NEED to get answered:
What kind of support do they offer? Any cloud VoIP company worth their weight should have 24/7/365 support. A bonus is if the support is all American based, but this comes at a premium, mind you. CallTower, the company we use for our own hosted Skype for Business VoIP needs, offers this.
What large customers do they service? Quality VoIP providers all have larger enterprise “wins” which they should be able to brag about. The actual names don’t matter as much as them being able to attest to owning such accounts. If the company stutters on its enterprise client list, be wary. Enterprises are definitely moving to cloud hosted VoIP, and you want reassurance that this provider is handling some large accounts that have their own reputations on the line.
Do I need any special equipment onsite? Some providers like to sneak in equipment requirements, like the need for session border controllers (SBCs), specialized servers, or other pricey gear which may not be discussed on sales calls. Be blunt on initial conversations and ensure that no specialized gear is needed beyond the core basics of what a VoIP-grade network needs anyway like a good firewall, switch(es), and desk phones. Specialized equipment usually leads into talk about pricey maintenance plans which are money makers for some sly VoIP companies.
Can their desk phones/soft phones work anywhere? This is hitting at the heart of the viability of their service as being accessible and usable anywhere with a data/internet connection. The best cloud-hosted VoIP providers all promise usability anywhere there is internet. But be precise on this question. While the likes of CallTower, RingCentral, and 8×8 allow you to truly take your desk phone anywhere you go, some VoIP providers qualify their statement by saying you need to be on your “home base” internet line aka your office.
What is the contract term? Cancellation fees? This varies by provider, of course, but you need to ensure you know your term details and what it will take to back out of an agreement. Cancellation fees are the last item any salesperson would ever choose to discuss without being asked.
Is pricing promotional or locked in? Many providers out there will use crafty promotional pricing to lure you in. Many of the cable providers are very guilty of this on their hosted phone systems (which I DO NOT recommend by the way). Get your pricing details in writing, and ensure you know how long a promotion is lasting, how many desk phone lines it affects, and what the new pricing will be post-promotion.
How many toll free minutes are included? Almost all providers advertise fancy toll free capabilities. But toll free minutes usually come at a premium in the industry. As such, get these details in writing and ensure you are getting the package you need if you are going to rely on toll free incoming calls.
How many fax pages are included? Faxing, either via ATA adapters to physical fax machines, or eFaxing, comes with limits on incoming/outgoing pages. Find out up front how much faxing you can do and across how many users/adapters. Many providers gloss over these details during discussions as people usually don’t ask for clarification here.
Do I get my own web-based administration portal? How easy is it? The best providers out there have rock solid web based admin portals you can use to configure your service. The not-so-great ones advertise portals, but they are buggy, messy, and usually require calls to support to fix issues caused by the cruddy interfaces. I’ve got a few providers I could name, but I’ll refrain here. Get a test drive on the web portal to see if it meets your needs. RingCentral and 8×8, two providers we love, have awesome web portals which allow clients to make any adjustments they wish.
How fast do they implement new technologies? This is key in distinguishing if the company is a market leader, or just one playing constant catch up. Many lesser hosted PBX providers are slow as molasses to implement software updates or make evolutionary leaps on their systems. This was one of the biggest factors which pushed us to go with CallTower for our hosted Skype for Business service, as other players we checked out were lagging far behind the curve in the software they were using.
Do they have a trial period? Don’t be afraid to take a test drive. All the best players in cloud VoIP have trial periods you can take advantage of. If a provider claims they don’t offer trials because their other clients don’t ask about them, or that they don’t have the ability to, steer clear. The major players we recommend to clients like CallTower, RingCentral, and 8×8 all have industry standard trials which allow any client to play with the system they are buying into before jumping two feet forward. You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it; don’t treat your VoIP system any differently.
What does your SLA look like? While Service Level Agreements (SLA) aren’t rubber stamps for the uptime you will see from a provider, they do outline the kind of reimbursements/credits you are owed in situations of non-delivery or outages. A level of four 9′s (99.99% uptime) is the very least you should be seeking from a provider. This equates to about 52 minutes of downtime per year which is quite acceptable for most companies. Obviously, the more 9′s you can garner, the better, but be realistic and don’t pay hefty premiums to get a 100% out of a provider. It’s a baseline to use for comparison among providers for the most part.
Be sure to get input from key stakeholders in your organization BEFORE calling a sales rep, as you will likely build a question list with items that are custom to your needs. Fact finding up front is critical to avoid wasting time on providers who can’t match your requirements list.

This article excerpt, by Derrick Wlodarz, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/1CLbzC4

What You Need to Know About Microsoft Skype for Business

First there was Skype, a well-liked app for instant messaging, video chat, and voice calls. Then Microsoft bought the company in 2011, continuing to offer it as a consumer product along with Lync as a business application. But last year Microsoft announced it would drop Lync in favor of Skype for Business, which would combine features of both Lync and Skype.
Today, many people are confused with what is actually available and how it works. After all, there are two Skype services (the free consumer version and the paid-for online or on-premises version). There are two client types available as well.
Let’s break them down:
Skype for Business Server 2015: This on-premises server provides IM, presence, peer-to-peer VoIP and video, conferencing, enterprise voice, and telephone-system (PSTN) connectivity.
Skype for Business Online: This service in Microsoft Cloud or Office 365 provides IM, presence, peer-to-peer VoIP and video, and conferencing. It does not provide enterprise voice or PSTN connectivity, but Microsoft says these features are in development.
Skype for Business: This client replaces the Lync client as part of the Office suite. It works with Skype for Business Server or Skype for Business Online. Clients are available for Windows and Windows Phone; clients for OS X, iOS, and Android are planned, but in the meantime you can use the current Lync clients on these platforms with Skype for Business as long as you enable client access in your global policy.
Skype: This client is available for consumer download, providing free service for personal use. Its features are similar to those of Skype for Business but usually are more limited in scope; for example, consumer Skype supports 25 people on a conference call versus 250 in Skype for Business. There are Skype clients for Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Fire OS; they do not work with the Skype for Business servers.
Because Skype for Business Online doesn’t support enterprise voice and PSTN features, IT organizations moving their Exchange and SharePoint deployments to the cloud must continue to use a third-party telephony platform or the on-premises Skype for Business Server.
For now, Skype for Business Server offers several key advantages over its cloud version:
Skype Meeting Broadcast: This feature allows as many as 10,000 people in a meeting broadcast, such as for webinars.
PSTN Conferencing: This feature lets people dial into a call from a landline or mobile phone if they don’t want to (or cannot) join in through their PC, mobile device, or browser.
Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling: This feature lets people make traditional phone calls through their Skype for Business client without having a traditional on-premises PBX. You’re given blocks of numbers to choose from based on your region, and you can assign these numbers to your users. (Microsoft plans to eventually offer a configuration option where you can use existing on-premises phone lines.)
The good news is that all three of these on-premises-only features are now available for testing in preview editions of Skype for Business Online. Microsoft says they should be available in the production version of Skype for Business Online by year’s end.
You might criticize Microsoft for being late on delivering these core enterprise communications features in Skype for Business Online. But I’d prefer it do them right rather than rush the work. Initial reviews from IT folks in the field on the beta features praise the quality of service, with only minor complaints that the technical preview is missing a few important features (like voicemail) that will no doubt be coming in the production version.
This article excerpt, by J. Peter Bruzzese, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/1ImEpFH

UC Consolidation Accelerates

Nemertes’ 2015-16 UC&C Benchmark shows continued consolidation toward Cisco and Microsoft in large end-user organizations for a variety of reasons.
Nemertes Research recently released the results of its 2015-16 benchmark on unified communications and collaboration. Based on data gathered from 50 participants representing 45 end-user organizations, largely with 2,500 employees or more, this research provides a snapshot of enterprise plans around UC technologies including IP telephony, video conferencing, team chat, SIP trunking, video conferencing, and more.
This year’s results show an increasing trend toward consolidation of UC applications onto a single-vendor platform. In 2014, approximately 26% of participants had plans to consolidate. That number jumps to 38% in 2015, with another 7% planning to begin a consolidation in 2016. 
This means that, fast-forwarding a year and a half, nearly half of companies participating in our research will have either completed or begun a move toward single-vendor UC. Additional factors driving consolidation include the need to have a single mobile client for all UC apps, the desire to simplify licensing, and the challenges related to interoperability among disparate vendors.
Among those who have selected a consolidated vendor, Microsoft dominates: Fifty-three percent are moving to Microsoft, up from 41% in 2014. Cisco takes second-place honors at 35%, up from 29% in 2014. Other vendors receiving mention include IBM and ShoreTel.
End-user organizations that are consolidating are moving most every UC application. All start with IM/presence, 94% add in desktop video and Web conferencing, leveraging integrated UC suites like Cisco Jabber and Microsoft Lync/Skype for Business. Seventy-five percent are migrating telephony to the consolidated platform, while another 35% are including additional apps like file sharing.
A big driver for consolidation is the desire to improve the user experience, particularly around providing a one-click capability to launch meetings that include voice, video, and screen sharing. More than half of participants either already have this capability, or plan to deliver it by the end of 2016.
Two vendors are notably missing from these results: Avaya, cited by 16% as their primary telephony provider, and Google, cited by 6% as their primary provider for email/calendar. Each of these vendors will need to figure out how to stem the tide of migration to competing platforms.
Of those respondents who said their organizations are using Lync/Skype for Business for IM/presence, Web conferencing, and perhaps voice/video chat, but who have no consolidation plans, just 19% are integrating Lync/Skype for Business with their IP telephony platforms. They are doing so either using plug-ins like Avaya Client Applications or Cisco UC Integration for Lync (CUCI-Lync), or via third-party integration clients like those from Damaka.
Interestingly, Microsoft’s recent rebranding of Lync to Skype for Business doesn’t seem to be having an impact on migration to the platform, but nearly 41% of those we interviewed had a negative view of the name change, noting that they are now dealing with confusion between the consumer and business versions of Skype. This is especially problematic in regulated industries where use of consumer Skype is prohibited. Another 26% rated the name change positive, noting that employees will like the familiar user interface as well as added integration with consumer Skype, while 34% had no opinion or were neutral.
Those who are developing their own UC roadmap and strategy should look from the end-user backwards. If maintaining separate platforms, think about how that impacts usability, manageability, and cost. If moving to a consolidated single vendor, think about how you will make the switch, and how you will address licensing, depreciation of existing assets, training, and integration between UC and other applications like contact center to guide your decision-making.

This article excerpt, by Irwin Lazar, originally appeared here: http://ubm.io/1KO1TcN

Train in Vain?

Children of the Eighties remember that “Train in Vain” was the hidden track on the Clash’s “London Calling” double album. When it comes to enterprise communications, user training may not just be hidden, but absent altogether. And whether it’s in vain may depend on the enterprise.
This is a subject of ongoing debate in No Jitter columns and at Enterprise Connect (user training, not the Clash, about which there can’t really be any debate.) In talking about Microsoft Lync/Skype for Business, Kevin Kieller of enableUC often returns to the refrain that you can’t just give communications tools to end users and expect them to pick them up and use them efficiently. Apple may have trained us to think that way about our consumer devices, but enterprise communications isn’t that simple, and shouldn’t be, Kevin argues.
Andrew Prokop of Arrow SI makes this point as well. In a recent No Jitter post, Andrew writes that, while a product like Skype for Business may have easy-to-use aspects, “You don’t make a major investment in a unified communications product [only] for presence jellybeans. You do it because you expect workforce efficiency, ongoing expense reductions, employee productivity, customer retention, and improved teamwork.” That does seem like a lot to expect any product to deliver without requiring any training.
But it’s not just a matter of teaching people where to find the functions within their tools. They need to know what the tools are really doing. And in this regard, there’s a big difference between consumer- and enterprise-grade products. This came home to me in a conversation via Skype I had earlier this week with Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research.
Skype — the consumer version, which is where I’m connected with Zeus — is an example of where the challenge comes in. For the most part, consumer Skype is where, for example, my wife and I exchange quick notes throughout the day about necessary errands, household reminders, and so forth. It’s mostly my personal-life IM tool of choice.
But it also happened to be the most practical place for Zeus and me to connect, and it’s where I’ve had many late-night debates and joke-swapping sessions with Dave Michels, another one of our No Jitter/EC tribe of contributors. Sometimes Dave and I talk business on Skype, sometimes not. And sometimes Dave finds out what my family is having for dinner before my wife does, if I’ve got his chat window open but think I’m talking to her — another one of the hazards of mixing business and personal communications in one tool.
So Zeus, in our Skype chat, mentioned that one difference between consumer-grade UC/collaboration tools like Skype and the new grade of enterprise tools like Cisco’s Spark, is that Spark records everything that you do with it. That feature is important for enterprise management, but it’s not a feature that enterprise users might necessarily expect to be in place when they use such tools. And it’s certainly something that you wouldn’t expect or want when you’re in “personal” mode.
So user training doesn’t just mean showing people all of the cool features and functionality of the Spark application or a similar such product. It means making people understand what their enterprise tools of choice do, and how their performance will affect their work lives. I don’t think that’s the kind of thing people are ever likely to be able to just discover on their own. Training isn’t just about the how; it’s about the why.
This article excerpt, by Eric Kapf, originally appeared here: http://ubm.io/1f3oYK3

Microsoft Releases Trio of Skype for Business Online Previews

With technical previews of three cloud-based Skype for Business telephony- and meeting-related capabilities made available today, Microsoft has moved one step closer to its ultimate goal of delivering a complete enterprise-scale, communications-enabled productivity stack in Office 365.
I got an overview of the technical previews, officially announced in a Microsoft blog post this morning, from BJ Haberkorn, director of Skype for Business product marketing. The previews, available to Office 365 enterprise customers in the U.S., are as follows.
Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling
This capability brings inbound and outbound calling to Skype for Business clients in Office 365, along with typical call-control features such as hold, resume, forward, and transfer, Haberkorn said. Microsoft built out this capability using the voice technology used in Skype for Business Server and its Lync predecessor. It allows enterprises to move their voice capabilities from on-premises servers to Office 365. In the fall, Microsoft will add a configuration option that enables customers to use existing on-premises phone lines to make and receive calls through Skype for Business clients, and will make Cloud PBX available for customers worldwide.
“With Cloud PBX, and PSTN calling, once in GA, enterprises will be able to eliminate separate PBX systems,” Haberkorn said.
As Brian Riggs, an analyst with Ovum Enterprise’s analyst team, wrote in a No Jitter post this spring, this capability is needed to make Skype for Business in Office 365 a “full-fledged hosted UC service.“ 

Not that Microsoft thinks in such restrictive terms. “We don’t think of this as just UC, but about communications being an integral part of the entire productivity stack—and delivering that globally and at enterprise scale,” Haberkorn said. “This is about much more than a communications piece. It’s about the productivity piece.”

PSTN Conferencing
With this capability, invited conference participants will be able to dial in to Skype for Business meetings in Office 365 from landlines or mobile phones. Likewise, organizers can add others to meetings by dialing out over the PSTN. As Haberkorn noted, such capabilities have been available with Skype for Business meetings but from third-party audio conference providers and not directly from Microsoft.

Skype Meeting Broadcast
First showcased at Microsoft Ignite in May as Broadcast Skype for Business Meetings, this capability gives an enterprise the ability to broadcast a Skype for Business meeting on the Internet to as many as 10,000 people. The preview is not just for U.S. customers but available to Office 365 customers worldwide, and it includes two integrations aimed at making meetings interactive even at such large scale, Haberkorn said.

The first integration is with Bing Pulse, which allows for real-time audience polling and sentiment tracking. With the sentiment tracking, attendees can use Bing Pulse to indicate in real time whether they feel positive or negative about what a speaker is saying during a broadcast meeting. And the second is with Yammer, Microsoft’s enterprise social networking tool. With Yammer, meeting organizers will be able to support conversations with audience members during Skype for Business broadcasts.

Anyone who has been following Microsoft’s strategy here will recognize this set of technical previews as an affirmation of the company’s progress with Skype for Business in Office 365, rather than as breaking new ground. If Microsoft continues delivering on pace, each of these capabilities will be generally available this year, Haberkorn said.

Also later this year, as noted in the announcement blog post, Microsoft’s strategic carrier partners will deliver direct connections to Office 365 Skype for Business customers via Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365. ExpressRoute gives enterprises the ability to establish private links between their premises and Microsoft data centers and better determine the availability, performance, reliability, and security of their cloud connections.

Microsoft does not yet have pricing or licensing plans to share for any of these capabilities, Haberkorn said. Still, the company expects interest in the previews to be high. Toward that end, it anticipates a rolling onboarding of preview participants. Office 365 enterprise customers can find more information here.

This article, by Beth Schultz, originally appeared here: http://ubm.io/1Ie0UzO

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!