Enterprise Connect 2016: It’s All About the PaaS, Stupid

B. Shimmin

B. Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

• At Enterprise Connect, the unified communications (UC) market’s slow and painful transition from hardware to software and services took an interesting and sudden toward platform-as-a-service offerings.

• It’s unclear if this “platformification” of communications heralds a new wave of investment and innovation, or is it yet another attempt to sell collaboration-enabled business processes (CEBP).

Toss a pebble into a still, small pond, and the ripples left behind will spread outward, eventually touching upon each and every inch of the shore. An idea is the same – and sometimes, when there’s more than one idea or pebble, they interact and interfere with one another, creating beautifully complex patterns of interference. Read more of this post

Microsoft’s UC Commander Acquisition Boosts Skype for Business and Increases the Squeeze on Service Providers

G. Barton

G. Barton

Summary Bullets:

• Microsoft’s acquisition of Event Zero’s ‘UC Commander’ analytics platform strengthens its UC solutions.

• The decision of who to work with for UC solutions is not easy and there are many good options – but integration is key and end users should consider who is best placed to work with their telecoms and IT estate.

Microsoft recently announced the acquisition of the ‘technology assets’ underlying Event Zero’s ‘UC Commander’ product suite. The UC Commander suite provides a series of management and analytics tools specifically for Microsoft Skype for Business (Skype). Presently, Skype users can already use the Office 365 administration centre to assign phone numbers, view usage reporting for audio and video calls/conferences, and to monitor call quality. The new acquisition will add further diagnostic and troubleshooting tools within a single new portal. Microsoft also envisages that its SP partners will be able to more easily connect on-premise Skype deployments with Office 365 and hybrid environments in general. Read more of this post

As 2016 Beckons, What Should Telecoms Buyers Look for from UC Solutions?

G. Barton

G. Barton

Summary Bullets:

• Enterprises should look at vendor platforms beyond Microsoft and Cisco and demand interoperability between platforms and applications.

• Unified communications (UC) and mobility are now intrinsically linked.

2015 has been the year that UC solutions have really started to achieve market traction. Take-up is far from universal, but for most UC features CA’s own research suggests that usage amongst enterprises is above 50%. The uptick in usage is down to a number of factors–for example, falling prices and the maturity of the technology–however, it is the improvement of the business case for UC that seems to have had the biggest impact. Vodafone, for example, has reported a strong response from customers following the development of new proof of concept demonstrations and a new approach to training and educating its workforce. So the initial message for enterprise users is that a conversation with your provider concerning unified communications is likely to be more centred on achieving better business outcomes, and therefore a more worthwhile experience. Read more of this post

Unify’s Free UC Offer Is Good and True, but It May Be Better to Pay

Gary Barton

Gary Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • Unify’s free service offers a valuable taster of UC, but there are other ‘try before you buy’ options.
  • Buyers and providers should both be aware that limitations on a service (e.g., limited integration) may hide the real value of a UC solution.

Unify (newly acquired by Atos) has moved to gain market attention and traction with the offer of free UC services. The free service is limited to only 100 users and provides only 1 gigabyte of storage (for further details, see: Unify Stakes Claim to SME Market, but Might Find Only Fool’s Gold, November 20, 2015). Although it is not without risks, this is a smart move by Unify. It offers a very competitive UC solution via its Circuit platform. However, overshadowed by Cisco and Microsoft and facing the growing popularity of rivals such as BroadSoft and Google Apps, Unify has a significant challenge to gain market attention and traction. Read more of this post

Application Integration Is Key to Delivering Effective Collaboration

Gary Barton

Gary Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • Integration with a range of business applications and the ability for solutions to work outside the organisation are key features for valuable UCC solutions.
  • Enterprises should tell vendors what they want from systems integration offers.

This week, BroadSoft announced its plans for its new Project Tempo initiative to deliver integrated unified communications and collaboration (UCC) services based on the vendor’s UC-One platform. The initiative will begin in January 2016 with beta trials of ‘UC-One Hub,’ a cloud service designed to integrate real-time communication services (e.g., IP voice, IM and e-mail) with third-party hosted/cloud-based applications. BroadSoft states that UC-One Hub will also provide ‘contextual intelligence’ for users. Read more of this post

Why Should Enterprises Pay for UC?

Gary Barton

Gary Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • Enterprises should look beyond quality of service factors to the broader working practices guidance available with the new generations of unified communications and collaboration services.
  • New features such as WebRTC can only successfully be delivered as part of an advanced UC suite, but will deliver a genuine competitive advantage.

When enterprises can use Skype as an internal messaging and conference service for free, is it any surprise that they question why they should pay for Microsoft Lync or Cisco HCS-based services?Apps such as ‘What’s App’ essentially offer unified messaging, whilst almost every tablet now comes with some kind of video chat software. What’s more, consumer apps are developed and released much more quickly than business grade apps. When being cutting edge matters, why not go with the most agile source of new technology? The quality of service argument still holds strong and enterprises should bear in mind that most UC solutions are provided with a 99.9% availability guarantee as a standard. The advent of HD voice is another factor that enterprises should consider. HD voice offers a genuinely enhanced end user experience and is often not available on consumer grade solutions – especially if they are free.   Read more of this post

UC’s Advent is Welcome, But Should Not Distract Enterprises from Their Core Fixed Services

Gary Barton

Gary Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • Enterprises should be excited about the potential benefits of UC – including BYOD and mobile device management (MDM).
  • Enterprises should also remember that traditional IP telephony and networking services remain business critical.

I wrote in my last blog that unified communications (UC) services are now finally achieving critical mass, and that widespread adoption is expected in 2014. In response to this positive surge, the marketing teams at every major ICT provider will be in over drive to proclaim the most unified, most mobility-driven, and cloud-based proposition. And, as I write on Christmas Eve, there are reasons for enterprises to celebrate this advent. BYOD, as I have previously written, is both a security concern and a potential efficiency driver if handled correctly. MDM packaged with single number dialling and unified email and messaging and (probably) presence functionality is something that enterprises should now be looking to roll out to all mobile workers. MDM on its own should be applied to every worker within an organisation, and cloud/network-hosted delivery is the only way for most enterprises to achieve this.       Read more of this post

Microsoft Isn’t Just Connecting Lync with Skype, it’s Re-humanizing Communications

Brad Shimmin

Brad Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

• Microsoft has begun to pull together its consumer and enterprise communications platforms with direct points of integration for presence, chat and audio.

• Such interactivity, however, requires the use of Microsoft’s historically consumer-oriented ID system (formerly branded Windows Live ID), blurring the lines between corporate and consumer personas.

Rome was not built in a day (or so I’ve been told). So too, Microsoft’s planned work to fully unify Lync and Skype will take some time before it reaches fruition – sometime in 2014 to be a tad more specific. That’s when these two products will at last allow users from both sides to share video conferencing services. Microsoft’s first step along this path began a few weeks ago with address book integration. Skype users can now add Lync users (via invitation, mind you) to their address books and vice-versa. This allows both parties to share presence and initiate audio and chat sessions with one another. Certainly, there’s a long way to go from this to a fully unified experience for both users and administrators alike. But as with so many things, including most Microsoft engineering efforts, if you wait at the bus stop long enough, soon enough your bus will arrive. Read more of this post

Mobile HD Voice Better for Business, but International Mobile HD Voice in Early Stages of Development

Joel Stradling

Joel Stradling

Summary Bullets:

  • Mobile HD voice is likely to benefit your business: both parties can hear each other more clearly and experiments prove call length increases with HD voice
  • HD voice codecs will be the norm in voice-over-LTE deployments
  • Your mobile device must support Wideband Adaptive Multi Rate (W-AMR) technology  to conduct HD voice calls

HD voice is delivered using wide-band audio, which results in far more natural sounding conversation. Consider a multi-lingual global business environment, with wheeling and dealing taking place over traditional crackly narrow-band, and it’s reasonable to assume that your sales force, technical support teams, and customer support would benefit from more articulate conversations with customers that are on their mobile handsets. Enterprise users that have IP telephony solutions in place are familiar with landline HD voice for internal or branch-to-branch calls, with multiple vendors supporting wide-band voice plus better audio components in their handsets, including for example Cisco, Avaya and Polycom; while UC hubs such as MS Lync also support HD voice. However, the reach of HD voice is limited to what’s going on the other end – namely if the call terminates on a traditional PSTN and regular handset, the call is not going to be in full HD! Read more of this post

2013 to Be the Year of BYOD and MDM

Gary Barton

Gary Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • BYOD should be seen as an opportunity to boost worker efficiency.
  • BYOD creates security challenges, but there are effective MDM solutions available.

2013 should be the year when the cloud stops being a buzz word and starts to gain real traction, particularly for IP voice and unified communications (UC) services.  The ‘cloud’ is an amorphous and much abused term, but despite its presence on the homepage of every telecoms provider in Europe, take-up of fully hosted voice and UC solutions has been slower than the hype would suggest.  Persuading enterprises to part with their PBX is challenging.  However, as fully hosted MS Lync solutions start to be offered by the majority of major telcos across Europe, alongside hosted Cisco, Avaya and Mitel-based solutions, and the case studies begin to emerge, enterprises should now have enough confidence to consider ‘taking the plunge.’  A hosted solution will not suit all businesses and virtualisation will be preferable for many over a truly cloud solution, but the overall need for a CPE-based PBX has all but been eliminated for the majority of business customers. Read more of this post