Can Cisco Try, Try, Try Again in Software-Based Collaboration and Communications?

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • Failure to act, execute, innovate, or differentiate in a mature market creates a crisis.
  • Cisco must clearly and confidently communicate its collaboration strategy to reassure its customers, partners, and industry pundits.

Following a 2007 restructure, Cisco emerged with a new model focused on placing software at the heart of its technology groups, having previously focused specifically on hardware. Indeed, the vendor correctly recognized and reacted to the upcoming changes affecting the technology industry ably demonstrated by its Voice Technology Group (now called the Collaboration Technology Group, or CTG), implementing agile software development practices in a far more software and services-oriented market. Continue reading “Can Cisco Try, Try, Try Again in Software-Based Collaboration and Communications?”

The AI Arms Race: Microsoft Brings Its Cognitive Assets to Benefit Office 365 Users

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • Microsoft is adding significant business value across its portfolio by leveraging Azure’s cognitive services and providing benefits to those customers with top-tier Office 365 plans.
  • Without integrating ‘machine learning-as-a-service’ (MLaaS) offerings within business applications and relying on developers to do the heavy lifting, competitors will soon find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

Last week, Microsoft announced upcoming capabilities that leverage its MLaaS to provide video and audio transcription of content stored in OneDrive for Business and SharePoint. Microsoft also previously announced the capability to use its Azure cognitive services to determine where photos were taken, recognize objects, and extract text from photos. Continue reading “The AI Arms Race: Microsoft Brings Its Cognitive Assets to Benefit Office 365 Users”

Is the Writing on the Wall for Digital Whiteboards?

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • Without significant development, interactive whiteboards (IWBs) are unlikely to gain traction, as the ability to replicate (albeit digitally) a physical whiteboard lacks business value.
  • IWBs will struggle to gain traction, as app sharing, touch-screen devices, and styluses are more likely to be utilized by many.

In previous articles, we observed that the interactive whiteboard (IWB) market appeared to be dividing into three distinct segments:

  1. High-end video endpoints with multi-touch screens (e.g., Cisco Webex Board);
  2. High-end computing devices augmented with AV hardware (e.g., Microsoft Surface Hub, Windows Collaboration Displays, and Google Jamboard);
  3. All-in-one devices leveraging existing physical whiteboards (e.g., Highfive in partnership with Dolby).

Last Thursday, Microsoft announced the general availability of its Whiteboard app for Windows 10 after its prior preview in December 2017. With the ability to draw, type, add and manipulate images, annotate, recognize shapes and tables, and add sticky notes, Whiteboard can run on numerous stylus-based devices such as Surface Hubs and laptops today, with iOS support planned in the future. Continue reading “Is the Writing on the Wall for Digital Whiteboards?”

Consumerization of IT: Channel Partners Need to Adapt or Die

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• Public cloud services threaten traditional channels that have hitherto made their revenue through hardware and the service costs to design, install and maintain premises-based solutions.

• Integrators now need AV experience, networking and security expertise, plus the ability to code and customize apps to suit a customer’s workflow.

A persons’ consumer experience with technology continues to impact their expectations regarding the technology they use at work. This consumerization of IT (or CoIT) trend radically affects the collaboration and communications market, as vendors rapidly adapt to the new reality of a mobile-first, user-focused, and as-a-Service world. This highly influential trend predominated the recent InfoComm 2018 event in Las Vegas earlier this month, where over 200 collaboration and communications vendors exhibited and participated in educational sessions and panels. Partners that can’t adapt will be left behind and face irrelevance; consequently, this creates turbulence and opportunity for the industry and its ecosystem of suppliers.
Continue reading “Consumerization of IT: Channel Partners Need to Adapt or Die”

The End of the Best-of-Suite Approach in Collaboration and Communications?

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• With best-of-suite vendors offering adequate capabilities for the average collaboration and communications user, a best-of-breed strategy may be superfluous.

• Modern software suites still offer organizations the capability to choose best-of-breed components if the suite does not fit the specific needs of the business.

A favored and common IT strategy has been adopting a “best-of-breed” approach; in other words, purchasing and integrating several products from multiple vendors to achieve the ideal architecture. However, with the likes of Google G Suite, Microsoft Office 365, and other cloud vendors offering software bundles with mature, compelling product features from top to bottom, a “best-of-suite” approach is becoming an attractive substitute. The software industry has witnessed such shifts before. WordPerfect, widely loved and adopted as a standard word-processing application in the 1980s, lost out to the aggressive bundling of Microsoft Office in the 1990s. As good and comprehensive as WordPerfect was, its interoperability with other software products was limited; companies couldn’t make it work with the other products they needed. Could history repeat itself with today’s collaboration and communications solutions? Fortunately, few vendors offer all-encompassing, yet proprietary and closed suites today. Software suites now offer numerous advantages for IT departments, such as per-month, per-user pricing; vastly reduced management, administrative and security overhead; plus the foundation for future development of new capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI)-powered features. Continue reading “The End of the Best-of-Suite Approach in Collaboration and Communications?”

Why Company Culture Is Critical to Successful Collaboration Technology Deployments

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • Company culture is pivotal to the successful adoption of collaboration solutions.
  • Task cultures are more likely to succeed in reacting to change and adapting to the organizational challenges required to transform a business using collaborative solutions.

Technology alone does not allow a business to change and transform. It won’t make organizations more efficient, productive, creative, or innovative unless businesses are able to assimilate the technology into their culture. Company culture is pivotal to the successful adoption of collaboration solutions; indeed, oftentimes there is too much focus on technology rather than addressing change and rethinking how employees, partners, and customers work together. Continue reading “Why Company Culture Is Critical to Successful Collaboration Technology Deployments”

Apple Business Chat: The Next Big Disruptive Force in Customer Service?

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• Apple Business Chat will launch in 2018; it will allow businesses to add live support features that enable customers to communicate, utilize Apple Pay and more.

• Any iOS 11 user will be able to start a chat thread with businesses they find through Siri, Maps, Safari, and Spotlight search.

The Internet revolution has transformed the way customers shop, share their experiences and look for support. Websites, mobile apps, and social platforms shape the way customers do business. Different customers have different communication preferences and in today’s digital environment, many companies are recognizing this shift in customer preference and are implementing new technology to foster greater customer engagement.
Continue reading “Apple Business Chat: The Next Big Disruptive Force in Customer Service?”

Facebook Grows up and Goes to Work, but Will It Win Over Businesses?

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• As Facebook is nearing the limit of consumer advertising, the company is turning its focus on the business market as an alternative revenue stream.

• Facebook’s Workplace and WhatsApp Business are likely to become a disruptive force to the communications and collaboration, and contact center markets.

According to Facebook, the average person spends 50 minutes a day on its Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger platforms. There’s no question that the rise of platforms like Facebook has a transformative effect on the way we interact socially; however, it is nearing the limit of consumer advertising as a source of revenue, Facebook is turning its focus on the business market as an alternative revenue stream. In October 2016, Facebook introduced Workplace by Facebook, a mobile and web-based service offering the best of Facebook for the business world. Incorporating News Feeds, Groups, Events; audio, video and messaging plus live streaming; the company has mustered a prodigious toolset to offer prospective customers. The company has amassed a large number of household names as customers: Booking.com, Columbia Sportswear, Danone, and Starbucks are all using Workplace by Facebook to connect, share ideas, and collaborate. Furthermore, Facebook has revealed it is working on an enterprise messaging service (known as WhatsApp Business), and trialing with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Yoox Net-a-Porter Group. When brought to market, WhatsApp Business could be considered a prime channel for customer service, sales and marketing, and support given the apps 1 billion daily active users. Consequently, Facebook is likely to be an increasingly disruptive force to not only traditional communications and team collaboration vendors (Atlassian, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, Slack, Unify and others), plus the contact center market. Continue reading “Facebook Grows up and Goes to Work, but Will It Win Over Businesses?”

What Does Microsoft Need to Do to Win in Collaboration and Communications?

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• Microsoft needs to consolidate and rationalize Office 365’s overlapping functionality to avoid the potential chaos associated with having too much choice in its portfolio.

• Microsoft should decouple telephony from Skype for Business, add PSTN calling to Teams and end-of-life Skype for Business online to differentiate in the team collaboration platform market.

With Microsoft Ignite about to start in Florida (25th September), it’s interesting to try to read behind the lines of some of the sessions and speculate as to how Microsoft really will start ‘to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more’. At the moment, it’s hard to achieve more when Office 365 contains so much feature and functionality overlap between products such as Office 365 Groups, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams and Yammer. Continue reading “What Does Microsoft Need to Do to Win in Collaboration and Communications?”

I Can’t Hear Myself Think! – The Cost of Lost Productivity in Open Offices

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • A 2014 study by Steelcase and Ipsos found that workers lost as much as 86 minutes per day due to noise distractions.
  • Companies should carefully consider sound masking and headsets with active noise cancellation (ANC) to maximize productivity for the various environments and work styles of their employees.

In open office environments today, many workers try to screen out distractions by immersing themselves in music underneath their personal headphones in an attempt to concentrate. Office acoustics definitely influence an organization’s efficiency; a 2014 study by Steelcase and Ipsos found that workers lost as much as 86 minutes per day due to noise distractions. Unfortunately, many companies adopt open office environments, as many as 70% of U.S. offices according to the International Facilities Management Association. That equates to days of lost productivity. Why then do we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars designing offices and equipping employees with the latest and greatest productivity tools only to ignore the working environment our employees have to endure? Continue reading “I Can’t Hear Myself Think! – The Cost of Lost Productivity in Open Offices”