May the PBX rest in peace

While attending Enterprise Connect in Orlando last week, I was struck by how often I still hear the use of the term “PBX.” The PBX as we once knew it is long gone. Enterprise Communications today is all software. But let’s be honest, the only way software has any utility is when it is running on hardware. What’s different from the old days of the PBX is that the software now runs on commercial off the shelf hardware. A vendor may sell the communication solution as a hardened, turnkey package of hardware and software in some cases, or alternatively, as software-only to run on customer-provided servers that meet the vendor’s specifications.

This move to software is precisely what Avaya did in 2002 when it moved from Definity to Communication Manager. This software approach led the way to Avaya introducing the first enterprise class communication solution in a 3-tiered architecture based on IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) principles in 2009.

It is this software approach that made it possible to virtualize communication services. Beginning in 2006, Avaya introduced virtualized solutions in an appliance based package. These early pursuits allowed Avaya to deliver a virtualized solution for real time communications while the virtualization platforms used for non-real-time applications were still maturing. More recently, Avaya applications are now supported on VMware — which has become the common operating environment for data centers run by many enterprises and service providers.

The other signal that shows that we’ve moved far beyond the PBX is the expanse of collaboration applications and enterprise use cases that are now supported. Avaya’s recently launched Suite packaging and pricing is a fitting example. Avaya Aura Foundation Suite is now the base level software package that meets entry level communication needs. Avaya Aura Foundation Suite includes the voice services that one typically associates with a PBX, but riding on a more flexible, SIP-based session management based platform, along with video services, instant messaging, presence, voice mail and the PC client for typical deskphone functionality.

The next option up, the Avaya Aura Mobility Suite offers all of above, and provides the empowerment to work from anywhere. It has the software for fixed mobile convergence that provides users with a single number and single mailbox to support campus roamers, teleworkers, and road warriors to securely connect to the enterprise from anywhere. This includes software for a variety of smartphones and tablets such as the Apple iPad — be they company provided or in support of BYOD initiatives — that keeps people connected, available, and responsive. The Mobility Suite also includes Unified Messaging and a speech recognition-based personal assistant to drive employee productivity.

Building on the Foundational and Mobility suites, the Avaya Aura Collaboration suite provides users with virtual meeting rooms for audio, web, and video conferencing facilitating both ad hoc or scheduled collaboration sessions. Not only does this collaboration software help organizations reduce travel costs and the expense of using independent third party over the top services, but the user experiences and management are integrated with the experiences provided with the Foundation and Mobility suites. The virtual meeting room concept is one that we’ve been using for audio and web conferencing for years, now applies to video conferencing. Users can now be assigned a video “virtual” room and it is there for their use any time they need it. All of these suites are integrated with each other, meaning enterprises can segment their employees by their typical collaboration needs and still have shared user experiences and common management across the suites.

The same Avaya Aura platform that supports all these collaboration applications also supports a range of multi-channel contact center applications designed to help the enterprise manage the customer experience and improve key metrics such as net promoter score. The suite includes multi-modal automated and assisted service with experience orchestration tools, performance, reporting, workforce optimization, and open integrations.

So, considering the software-based approach to today’s communication systems and factor in the breadth of functionality enabled by the software, how could we possibly refer to it as a PBX? While old habits die hard, if you must call it a “PBX”, at least do so knowing that it is not your grandfather’s PBX. Rather, we have moved into the age of “Collaboration Platform” … may the PBX rest in peace.

Related Articles:

Avaya Named a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure

Avaya is honored to be recognized as a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure worldwide. Avaya has been the only vendor having the distinction of being named a Leader for 16 consecutive years. Each year the research organization creates a market view of key players for business users, reflecting business goals, needs, and priorities.

Contact centers have gone beyond phone calls with customers now expecting to communicate on their terms via text, IM, email, chat or video. For the past 16 years Avaya has created seamless and highly personalized experiences, building brand loyalty for companies all around the world.

According to Deloitte, 85% of organizations view customer experience provided through contact centers as a competitive differentiator. Todays companies must remain relevant by creating a single interface to connect customers with the correct resource each time, supporting their preferences. Supervisors and managers need real-time performance information to adapt immediately to situations to ensure optimized customer experience.

Avaya has focused its efforts on creating next-generation contact center solutions, creating communication strategies enabling a continuous transition between channels during customer interactions.

Please visit Gartner’s page to read the full report and see how Avaya’s Contact Center infrastructure continues to deliver best-of-breed Contact Center applications. We look forward to continuing innovation and leading business communications for the digital age.

 

Seeing into the Office of the Future

Dubai is heavily focused on delivering on its Smart City goals, with the goal of being among the smartest—and happiest—cities in the world. The drive toward smart cities is part of a wider shift, with countries around the globe seeing a migration from rural areas to urban. With more than half the world’s population now living in cities, organizations in the Middle East are facing increasingly difficult decisions about how they allocate resources and manage their workforce.

For a city like Dubai, that can be challenging. Finding the right real-estate location for office space, managing energy usage and providing physical workspaces for employees working different shifts in a modern, 24X7 city creates its fair share of headaches. Enterprises also have to cope with an increasing Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) culture, with smartphone and device penetration especially high in the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries.

We have reached an inflection point where the number of devices connected and generating data is accelerating at an exponential level. Our work environments are beginning to blur, as workspaces are no longer physical but virtual. Organizations need to deliver a consistent work experience whether in an office or on the road, or at home. The key driver is to intuitively connect not only communications devices, but interact with the ambient technologies that surround us, like lighting, BMS and signage.

At Avaya, we believe that the Smart Enterprise is one of the key building blocks for smart cities—and one of the foundations of true Smart Enterprise development will be what we term the Office of the Future. This is about more than just technology; the Office of the Future involves automating work processes within the enterprise to deliver a more intuitive employee experience. As with any “smart” solution, the Office of the Future is only smart if it resolves the challenges it aims to address.

So what do we mean by Office of the Future? Imagine walking into a new office you’ve never visited before and your work station is ready before you sit down, configured to your preferences, right down to the air conditioning settings and digital signage displayed with your identity. When a client arrives to meet you at the office, they can be sent to a meeting room automatically, and you can talk to them on their mobile as you walk to greet them.

With Avaya solutions, the act of an employee booking a workspace would kick start a workflow that immediately sets up that space with all communication devices enabled and connected securely, while interacting with the building management system to ensure the environment was set to the employee’s requirements, everything from lighting to temperature to digital signage. The employee could be identified by their phone or a card ID. When they leave, the workspace can be reset for the next employee that reserves it.

Such Smart workspaces will help enterprises manage their resources more effectively, better leverage their real estate investments, and improve employee well-being and productivity. Here in Dubai, the Office of the Future starts now.

89% of Employees Apparently Don’t Care About Mobile Security

Mobile Security Avaya

IT security has a big job: keep corporate data safe in the face of motivated hackers and unaware employees. Today that job is harder than ever — employees are bringing their own devices and applications into the office every morning, and walking out the door with corporate data every night.

The intention behind Bring Your Own Device and Bring Your Own Apps is good: Employees want to be productive away from the office. No one wants to carry around two smartphones, or truck around two laptops while they’re on the road. Cloud-based work apps excel at document version control, are accessible everywhere, and help teams cut down on email as a collaboration tool.

The reality of BYOD and BYOA is more troublesome: If your company is one of the estimated 26 percent with no official BYOD policy in place, employees will load work email and work documents on their personal mobile devices anyway. If a company fails to give their employees the cloud-based apps they want, they’ll simply use the app’s consumer-grade version. Thousands of unsecured laptops and smartphones get lost or stolen every week. It’s estimated that 43 percent of U.S. companies have experienced a data breach in the last year alone.

Troubling numbers

Given that backdrop, ask yourself — how many mobile devices are out there with your company’s data on them? The answer might surprise you.

In a recent survey of more than 12,000 people, security software maker Kaspersky Lab found roughly half used personal smartphones, tablets or laptops for work, 36 percent kept work files on their personal devices, 34 percent accessed work-related email from personal devices, and somewhere between 11 to 18 percent carried around corporate passwords.

Asked about it, just 11 percent said they were seriously concerned about keeping work-related information secure on their personal mobile devices.

If your company doesn’t have formal policies in place around personal mobile devices, chances are, your corporate data is already heading home with employees each night. BYOD and BYOA are just the start— Bring Your Own Everything is on the horizon.

Embracing the present

The first step is to either build a BYOD and BYOA policy, or review your existing policies to keep them up-to-date.

Employees are already using their own devices and apps inside the workplace — in an April 2015 report, Netskope found the average organization is now using 730 cloud-based applications. If that number seems high, it may be time to audit the software your teams are using, and determine if sensitive corporate information is at risk of being lost in the cloud.

Next, give employees the secure tools they need to use the devices and apps they choose. Different teams may choose different engagement software based on their individual needs. Mandating the entire company standardize on a single, monolithic software platform or official device is unrealistic, and may encourage “shadow IT,” where teams ignore official channels and adopt the tools that work for them.

Information silos are dangerous. At best, silos hinder company engagement by preventing teams from getting the information they need to make informed decisions easily. At worst, silos force employees to kluge together a solution — for example, emailing data across the company in spreadsheets.

Breaking information silos apart is possible with software like the Avaya Engagement Development Platform, which allows companies to write custom code that either communication-enables their existing apps, or builds new apps to share data between silos.

Lastly, smart companies adopt multiple layers of security, knowing that data breaches are just as likely to come from within the company than without.  Firewalls are not enough — network access must be segmented and role-based.

In a widely-publicized data breach last year, a major U.S. retailer admitted it had lost millions of consumer credit card numbers after it gave its HVAC vendor access to wide swaths of the company’s corporate network. Hackers breached the vendor, and used their network credentials to raid the retailer’s credit card database, which was sitting in a section of the network that an HVAC company should not have been able to access.

Virtualized, software-defined networking makes role-based network access easy, reduces the size of the network’s footprint of endpoints and obscures portions of the network from hackers. Individual devices, applications and endpoints are provisioned dynamically, with network access extending and retracting as needed.

BYOD and BYOA represent the new reality for enterprises. Take proactive steps to review your company’s BYOD and BYOA policies, give employees the tools to allow this trend, share information securely between applications and gain more control over the corporate network.

Want more? Download the new Avaya white paper, “The New Rules of Engagement.”