Use With Caution: Hand Gestures Mean Very Different Things Outside the U.S.

I am not the most graceful of human beings.

In high school, I broke my foot after I tripped over … nothing.

And that’s just my physical clumsiness. Show me an awkward situation, and I’ll innocently find a way to make it worse.

Just imagine my qualms – along with excitement, of course – when I landed in Israel.

Other than my irrational fear of breaking the Western Wall (it’s old, you know), my No. 1 fear was to insult somebody. Israel is a cultural melting pot, one of the few places where all of the world’s major religions have a large presence and where people from every corner of the globe come together.

I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, I would accidentally touch an Orthodox rabbi. Oy vey!

But, that brought me to an interesting thought — something so harmless in one circle can be so offensive in another.

It’s important to acknowledge, and respect, that what might be innocuous in America (for example, the “rock on” symbol) might suggest your wife is cheating on you in another (ahem, looking at you, Brazil).

With more than 190 office locations and many virtual offices, Avaya is a hodgepodge of cultures, communities and colleagues. The Power of We™ comes from all corners of the world. Avaya’s solutions reduce the need for travel, cut costs and help the environment; still, for most technology companies, there is the rare occasion when travel is a necessity.

So, before you flag down your waiter, pantomime your way to the nearest bathroom or flash a thumbs up at the taxi driver, check out this infographic for six gestures to use with caution outside the U.S.

Have you ever made a faux pas in a foreign country? What are the cultural norms in your region? Comment below, and join the conversation.

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2017 Avaya Customer Innovation Awards Honor Five Companies Leading the Way in Digital Transformation

Every year, Avaya and IAUG recognize a handful of customers who are innovators. These customers are recognized with Customer Innovation Awards. Last year’s award winners included a number of technology firms. This year’s five award winners, recognized on stage at Avaya Engage in Las Vegas, include three customers in the financial services sector, a leading global retailer, and a leader in the film production industry.

Each of these customers is benefiting from the latest Avaya solutions to meet business goals—whether the goals are growth, customer experience, cost management, or risk mitigation.

BECU

BECU, which began life 80 years ago as the Boeing Employee Credit Union, today is the fourth largest credit union in the US, with over $12 billion in assets and over a million credit union members. In 2016, BECU embarked on a digital transformation journey focused on the customer experience. BECU relies on Avaya Elite Multichannel running on an Avaya Pod Fx™ infrastructure.

BECU engineer Rick Webb says, “BECU is rapidly expanding and needed a technology partner that could support that expansion and keep our members happy. The Avaya Elite Multichannel infrastructure does just that, while providing increased flexibility and allowing BECU to better meet the expectations of our more than 1 million members.”

Green Shield Canada (GSC)

Green Shield Canada (GSC) is a one of the leading health and dental benefit carriers in Canada, with over 850 employees across seven locations. Starting last year, GSC is deploying the Avaya Equinox™ Experience and seeing strong results. Competing with larger players in its industry, GSC sees strong collaboration among its workforce as a key ingredient for success.

Jim Mastronardi, GSC Director for Enterprise Infrastructure says, “Green Shield Canada has over 850 employees across seven offices in Canada—from Montreal to Vancouver. We saw an opportunity to explore technology upgrades that would enhance company-wide communications and bring our teams across Canada closer together. With just a single training session, employees have hit the ground running with the Avaya Equinox tools. The video conferencing option has provided a solution to overbooked meeting rooms, and the instant messaging feature is already cutting down on the number of emails being sent.”

Scotiabank

Scotiabank prides itself on “being a technology company providing financial services.” As a long-time Avaya customer—and a beta customer for Avaya Oceana™ and Avaya Oceanalytics™—Scotiabank is on a digital transformation journey to better serve bank customers worldwide. Scotiabank contact centers located in Canada and the Caribbean & Latin America region have benefited from a next-gen centralized architecture leveraging the latest Avaya solutions to better serve customers.

Scotiabank has already developed and deployed Avaya Oceana and Avaya Breeze™ apps, and continues to innovate in an ongoing drive to improve customer service and meet customer needs in a competitive market. The success of Scotiabank’s transformation program has enabled the bank to move with greater agility, improved reliability, and speed to market. This has changed the framework for deployment from months/years to days/weeks while improving the overall ROI/TCO.

The Crossing Studios

The Crossing Studios is one of Vancouver’s largest and fastest growing full-service studios and production facilities for film. The firm caters to companies like Fox, Nickelodeon, Showtime, and Netflix. The Crossing Studios were unhappy with the stability and quality of the disparate systems previously in place across their seven studio locations. In 2016, The Crossing Studios deployed a Powered by Avaya IP Office solution offered by local provider Unity Connected Solutions.

Powered by Avaya IP Office has improved stability, reduced TCO and provided the advanced features that the business needs to serve a very demanding film industry client base, including high scale audio conferencing, extensive web collaboration, and rich multi-vendor HD video conferencing. CTO Mark Herrman says, “We needed something that would support our rapid growth, support our clients, and support our bottom line. Thanks to IP Office and the hosted cloud model, we’re able to keep pace with dynamic, fast-moving film productions, staying as flexible as our clients need us to be.” Estimated savings are in the six figures for the first year alone.

Walgreens

Walgreens is using custom Avaya Snap-ins to bring centralized contact center reporting capabilities to local branch sites, for compliance purposes and to help improve the overall customer experience. Avaya Professional Services were instrumental with the deployment, which relies on an Avaya Pod Fx infrastructure.

These companies are each leaders in their respective industries. As part of their digital transformation journeys, they recognize that when it comes to selecting a trusted technology advisor, “experience is everything.” #ExperienceAvaya.

3 Trends Defining the Future of Employee Experience

As a marketing professional, I’m often asked what I do for a living. When I reply that I’m a “marketer,” my family, friends, and even colleagues usually follow up with: “Yes, but what is it that you DO?”

I used to frame my answer around the Four Ps of marketing: product, price, place and promotion. Depending on who I was talking to, I could illustrate with examples ranging from pretty simplistic to more complex and in-depth.

As my career has progressed, however, I’ve come to see that HOW I do my job is as important as what I DO. Yes the Four Ps are still relevant, but in a distributed, hyper-connected world bringing together the right resources with the right information at the right time has become the cornerstone of my daily success. This change has been driven by three trends that I find are relevant for most employees today:

  1. Mobility.

    I, like millions of other employees, no longer sit in an office all day every day. As a marketing executive, wife and mother of young kids, my schedule demands that I be both flexible and available in many different places. So mobile devices and apps have become an indispensable part of my work and home life. Marketing is a high-touch profession involving lots of other people up and down the organization. Whether I’m traveling to a conference, meeting with an executive, taking a child (or children) to the doctor, attending a parent-teacher meeting, or watching a baseball game, I need to be connected anywhere I go. Today I am. Mobile everything (calls, messaging, web, video, email, even conferencing) keeps me connected, and it’s all available now with a single touch, one login, and one easy-to-learn solution.

  2. Globalization.

    As a global business, Avaya’s people, resources and intellectual property are virtually everywhere. Years ago, that meant I had to rely on long-distance landlines and plane travel to meet with company executives, product managers, vendors, customers and my team. Now they are all within easy reach, whether I’m in my office, at home or on the road. I, like many other professionals, DO much more—am responsible for much more—than ever before, because I’m more responsive and productive. I don’t have to travel unless truly necessary, yet I still get the face time I need with all of those other people, even if they are halfway around the world. Today’s digital technology and unified communications keep me in touch.

  3. Collaboration.

    Our marketing team is global, scattered around North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, etc. I typically only get to see people once or twice a year in person. Yet it’s vital that we interact and collaborate regularly on a range of initiatives, from market research and new product introductions to advertising, promotions, web presence and social media. As a result, I’m in back-to-back meetings most days with associates across various organizations at Avaya. We rely on smart digital technology to keep track of and manage all of that, from scheduling meetings, to sharing digital, video and audio content, to recording meetings and sharing notes afterward. If we need to bring in another colleague, it’s a simple click. A voice call comes in while I’m in a meeting? I schedule a callback with a simple click or tap. Meeting runs late? No problem—I switch seamlessly from desktop to smartphone and keep going even as I walk to the car for my next appointment. Every day is full like this, yet across locations, devices and time zones my colleagues and I are able to stay up to date, engaged, and in action. Having the tools to manage this pace of activity makes a big difference in our teams’ ability to be effective.

Employee experience has been and will continue to be undergoing enormous change. Mobility, globalization, collaboration increasingly influence how people live, work and play. Whether we’re marketers, bankers, doctors or other professionals, what we DO is increasingly defined by HOW easy it is for us to connect, interact and collaborate with others in a smart digital world. Would simplified communications and collaboration accelerate your enterprise? I’d love to hear from you—send a note to innovations@avaya.com.

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.