Five Unique Ways that Midsize Firms Deploy Unified Communications

Small businesses are easy to picture: a mom ‘n pop retailer, for instance, or a scrappy startup. Large enterprises are easy, too: smart workers in business-casual garb striding around in an chic office tower. But mid-market firms? They’re harder to pin down, in part because of disagreement of how to define them. One group, the National Center for the Middle Market, defines the mid-market as being firms with annual revenues between $10 million and $1 billion. According to that group, there would be almost 200,000 such firms in the U.S. alone.

For our purpose, which is looking at how companies operate, employee size may be a better metric. We’ll go with Forrester Research’s definition of a midsized firm, which includes firms with between 1,000 and 5,000 employees. According to Census data (2008), there are 7,415 firms of that size in the United States. While their numbers are few (comprising just 0.13% of the nearly 6 million businesses in the U.S.) their influence is disproportionately large. Midsize firms on Inc. Magazine’s Top 5000 list range from fast-growing tech firms such as daily deal provider LivingSocial (12,333% revenue growth between 2010-12, 15th on Inc.’s list) and business cloud vendor Workday to $7.4 million-a-year construction worker agency CCS Construction Staffing to $4.5 billion-a-year food redistributor, Dot Foods.

Nevertheless, midsize firms get overlooked, both by the general public, as well as tech vendors, who try to throw barely-above-consumer-grade solutions or over-engineered enterprise ones at them, with predictably poor results. That’s too bad. Having graduated from the struggles of startup-hood and not yet weighed down by the gravity that afflicts bigger companies, many mid-market firms enjoy explosive growth. During the last recession, mid-market firms were the only group adding substantial jobs, leading The Economist magazine to call them “the unsung heroes of economic growth.”

As future large enterprises, they can make ideal customers. At Avaya, we’ve been investing in solutions tailored specifically at midsize firms. Avaya IP Office 9.0, the latest version of our popular UC solution for SMBs, has been upgraded to handle up to 2,000 employees in multiple offices and be run on VMware server virtualization for maximum efficiency.

Avaya Video Collaboration for IP Office brings enterprise-grade video conferencing to small and medium-sized companies. While Avaya Outbound Contact Express delivers a near-contact-center-in-a-box solution for midsized companies.

In focusing on the mid-market, we’ve also learned a few things about what they prefer, which I thought I would share:

1) When it comes to UC, midsize firms are ahead of the curve. 40% of midsize firms in North America and Europe have deployed or are piloting unified communications, versus 29% of all firms, according to Forrester.

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2) Midsize firms tend to roll out UC on a smaller scale.
Less than a quarter (24%) of midsize firms deploy UC on a global basis, compared to 32% of all firms. 45% of midsize firms roll out UC at a divisional level or below, compared with 40% of all companies, according to Forrester.

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3) Better team collaboration, improved project management and faster resolution of problems are the biggest benefits of UC.
90%, 87% and 84% of midsize firms, respectively, were satisfied with their gains here, according to Forrester. The next most important benefits, in order, for midsize firms were faster decisionmaking (81%), better business relationships with partners and suppliers (80%), improved customer experience (79%) and better user experience from social media collaboration (72%).

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4) Ignorant employees are the biggest problem with UC deployments. 37% of midsize firms cited employees unaware of productivity-enhancing UC features as an issue. Second was the lack of employees actually on UC yet. Third was an inability to measure the benefits of UC. These problems, however, are not unique to midsize firms.

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5) The smallest problem with midsize UC deployments is unprepared business units. That was cited just 11% of the time. Tied at second-least important problems were implementation problems and un-integrated technologies, at 17%.

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Younified Communications—it Really is All About YOU!

One of my favorite things about working for Avaya is that we’re marketing the same collaboration tools we use to do our jobs. Best of all, we have access to beta versions of our solutions, providing R&D teams with first-hand unedited feedback. Yep, we are drinking our own champagne!

Based on my interactions with customers across the world, I know that many of you work just like we do. Meeting after meeting, virtual, mobile and in-person. It’s not just about the quantity of meetings we all participate in, but the quality of our experience to drive productivity and engagement. As you know, there are many different types of meetings. Let me give you a few examples just from my last week:

  • A group text chat with a few colleagues—getting a quick answer in a sidebar or multi-tasking activity
  • A one-on-one video meeting to review a spreadsheet with one of my staff members
  • A team meeting over desktop or mobile video where we collaborated about an upcoming quarterly plan—many IMs were going on behind the scenes that aligned with meeting topic discussions
  • Remote participation in a customer executive briefing, where the customer’s team was using a video room system in HD
  • A global all-employee meeting broadcast to every person in the company—that’s thousands of people across the world
  • A sales webinar to several hundred participants where we shared a presentation and responded to questions via integrated chat
  • A detailed technical training session on a product with full application sharing for a demonstration of the new user interface
  • Last but not least, a quick impromptu meeting on the phone with one of my team members

Historically, these different meeting types were hosted on multiple different systems or services. This required users to learn different interfaces, which required different logins, passwords, technical requirements, and delayed starts. At times, major compromises resulted based on the meeting scale required, bringing everyone’s level down to the lowest common denominator. The result? The least engaging experience for the audience, and therefore the lowest amount of attention and engagement, and consequently sub-optimal productivity.

Sound familiar? Do you have one solution for IM, another for telephony, perhaps a web conferencing service, a separate audio conferencing solution, another solution for room video conferencing and yet something else for large scale events? All of which fit under the term “unified” communications, but how much of it provides YOU with an engaging and collaborative experience?

A Single, Truly Unified Solution

While the vision of Unified Communications was to merge methods and tools and simplify access, vendors today struggle to fully consolidate all of the communication application infrastructure and cloud-based services into a single platform—at least until now. The Avaya Equinox™ Experience, announced at GITEX in October, is our new platform for business communications, and fulfills the long-sought promise of UC. It is finally all about YOU! One of the key capabilities of Avaya Equinox is that it supports all the different modes of meetings, conferencing and collaboration in one platform. That’s right—one tool that really does it all. There is robust mobility so it works wherever you have a network connection, high scale audio conferencing, extensive web collaboration, multi-media messaging, rich multi-vendor HD video, even event streaming to 100,000 users—and that’s just for starters.

As you would expect, there are many benefits of one platform covering all UC use cases and requirements versus separate platforms or services for messaging, telephony, audio, web, video, and event conferencing. For users, one login and one easy-to-learn solution. For IT, one solution to support with one set of statistics, single provisioning, and a smaller footprint with higher efficiency and lower costs.

I like to call Avaya Equinox the “uber” all calling-conferencing-collaboration solution, where Avaya puts the YOU in unified. But check out Avaya Equinox for yourself at this First Look video.

How many different communication and conferencing applications do you use? Tell me about your experiences—send a note to innovations@avaya.com.

The Value of Enterprise Mobility—Spread the Love

In a recent blog, I mentioned my sister-in-law’s frustration at not being able to use her smart phone for work purposes and how many businesses are struggling with the mindset change required for real digital transformation. That’s not to say that there aren’t valid business concerns about bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and mobility generally. Failure to secure mobile telephony and collaboration can open enterprises to significant risks.

A good example of those concerns came up at a recent conference while talking to an Avaya customer about BYOD. The customer’s perspective was that companies should just let their employees use personal mobile devices, with no need for an enterprise-grade software client to tie the device to the company network, databases, apps or governance. (Enterprise grade in this context means having call logs, directories, presence capabilities and access to enterprise collaboration tools like video and web conferencing, no matter where or how you work, or on what.) The approach of not having such a software client would fulfill employees’ desire to use their own phones, as well as the familiar tools and apps on them, without the need for the comprehensive security required by an integrated BYOD strategy.

We explained that just an hour earlier another Avaya customer had approached with a concerning story:

The customer’s company allowed its salespeople to use their personal cell phones without connecting directly to the company network. The problem: when one sales person recently left the company, all of the intellectual property of the company (contacts, pipeline information) went with them. Our customer wanted to know how to solve for this.

Avaya enterprise-grade solutions for mobile devices directly address the concerns that customers and others often express: a significant amount of flexibility for employees, security and privacy for everyone involved, and a measure of control over processes, policies, and data. Avaya mobility solutions are open, so they are adaptable to different devices and platforms. They capture important information that can lead to faster, more informed decisions and, ultimately, better outcomes. In short, they enable companies to operate at the speed of their customers.

The point is consumers and employees today are increasingly mobile. Gartner predicts that 80% of key business processes will include exchange of real-time information involving mobile workers. Not being able to use employee-owned devices slows business down. So the business case for mobility solutions—the flexibility they offer customers and employees, the improved outcomes, and the support of intelligent business response and decision-making—points toward value that outweighs the risks. Enterprise-grade mobile communications solutions have reached a level of both maturity and sophistication that they can now meet the needs of all stakeholders in the employer/employee/consumer equation. Everyone can share the love.

How is your organization addressing mobility? I’d love to hear from you.

Also, be sure to check us out at GITEX Technology Week 2016 where we will showcase our latest innovations designed to enable companies to meet customer and employee expectations with true multi-touch communication capabilities.

 

Avaya and IAUG: Better Together at 2017’s Avaya ENGAGE Event

Victor Bohnert Victor Bohnert is the Executive Director of the International Avaya Users Group. He has nearly 20 years of experience in building and managing customer communities in the tech sector and has led several organizational turnarounds and mergers. Before joining IAUG, he was Executive Director of the International Nortel Networks Users Association, and helped guide three independent groups through the merger that resulted in IAUG.

 

The idea of collaboration is much more than a term used to describe the latest communication strategy. It describes the interdependencies of individuals or groups of individuals working together to achieve success … it means 1+1=3.

Collaboration is at the core of IAUG’s mission. We bring together our members in order to give them access to the collective knowledge and experience of the WHOLE Avaya ecosystem—customers, partners, and Avaya experts. This gives those that are active in our community a competitive advantage.

More than a mission, this is a strategy that permeates all that we do. To that end, I am excited about the recent alignment between IAUG’s flagship customer event, Avaya ENGAGEsm, and Avaya’s global corporate event strategy. IAUG has been working closely with Avaya over the past several months to increase the value of Avaya ENGAGE, but also extend the relevance of the event beyond just Avaya customers and partners.

Beginning in 2017, Avaya and IAUG will come together to host their first truly joint event. Avaya ENGAGE will still focus on driving value to Avaya customers and partners. But with other Avaya events coming together under the Avaya ENGAGE banner, customers, partners, analysts and other industry experts will have unparalleled access to industry knowledge and expertise—and of course more opportunities to network with each other.

Additionally, the event will be held in February, earlier in the year than past events—making Avaya ENGAGE 2017 not only one of the largest industry events, but one of the year’s first. Product releases and industry projections will help our members get a jump on the year.

This collaboration is more than an event. It signals the deepening relationship between IAUG and Avaya. Still separate organizations, but strategically aligned at all levels to ensure the greatest return.

Collaboration is just the process … Avaya ENGAGE is the outcome.