How Ahead of the Curve is Your Network Provider?

Think about your smart device. Think of all of the apps and all of the tasks you can do on it. Now think about how a company would communicate fifteen years ago.

It’s amazing to consider the differences in an employee’s work life not too long ago. You were tethered to a desk phone to take your calls, and in the early 2000s  the hottest new option incorporated into Apple iBooks (iBooks!) was a slot for a new thing called WiFi that had yet to explode and become a free service you could find anywhere including your neighborhood coffee shop and restaurant.

Nowadays? Communications is changing rapidly. In the era of the global business world, you’re taking a video conference call from your hotel and responding to emails while you’re in line at the grocery store. The way we consume our communications is evolving faster and faster with each new app and portable device. In this Unified Communications day and age, you have the ability to be incredibly agile because of all of the options IT can now provide.

How agile is your IT though? While IT leaders have spent billions on tech that improves flexibility within computing and application tiers, they often falter when it comes to simplifying existing communication and networking tiers. Today’s network lacks in agility, and more  often than not, it is older and costing you. In 2013, the ZK Network Purchasing study revealed that 83 percent of IT budgets are used to maintain existing networks, nearly an 11 percent increase in five years. And they don’t necessarily play well with today’s hottest solutions, slowing employees and your business down.

It’s hard to simply replace an existing legacy network though. As complex as old technology may be, a company may not be in the market to completely overhaul their hardware. A recent white paper by ZK Research points to Avaya as being aware of this change in the needs of a company. Instead of looking to sell a product to replace network infrastructure, Avaya sells  solutions to help streamline legacy networks so they can be tapped to take full advantage of the wide range of unified communications options available. For every one hardware endpoint sold, Avaya sells five to eight of their software solutions — tapping into a market that few IT leaders have invested in.

Avaya’s transformation, including  its restructured approach to selling networking solutions, has positioned the company to put it ahead of the curve with market transitions. Research shows that Avaya’s midmarket revenue could potentially double due to an estimated increase in deal size paired with even a small market share gain. Other standout predictions suggest immense promise in Asia and overall growth.

Now think about your smart device again. Think about the fifteen years before and those chunky cell phones that couldn’t sync to your desk phone. How WiFi wasn’t there to connect you to the rest of the world that was beyond your cubicle and high-speed internet was something that was bits instead of megabits. Now think about fifteen years into the future. Because Avaya already is.

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Writing Avaya Breeze Snap-Ins Using Engagement Designer — Part One

If a picture tells a thousand words, a video must be the equivalent of a novel. With that in mind, I’ve decided to forgo the 1,500 written words I would typically use to describe building an Avaya Breeze™ application and take 16 minutes to show you.

Welcome to “An Introduction to Avaya Breeze – The Basics,” the first in a series of videos that explore writing Breeze applications—or Snap-ins as they are more properly known. Each video will build upon the previous to take you from the fundamentals of Breeze to its most powerful tools for developing scalable and highly flexible communications solutions.

If your company is looking for ways to optimize its communications platform, increase employee productivity, drive up customer satisfaction, and find ways to differentiate its offerings from those of your competitors, you need to understand Avaya Breeze.

 

Andrew Prokop is the Director of Vertical Industries at Arrow Systems Integration. Andrew is an active blogger and his widely-read blog, SIP Adventures, discusses every imaginable topic in the world of unified communications. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @ajprokop, and read his blog, SIP Adventures.

STEM: It Does a Brain Good!

Growing up, I was the kid who aced every English paper. I was “fluent” in grammar and punctuation, and I could recite all my prepositions to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy. (Still can!) Teachers would applaud my “gift of gab” and tout my ability to create dynamic story leads and transition seamlessly between thoughts.

What I couldn’t do was Algebra.

I struggled with geometry.

The thought of sitting through a calculus class sent shivers down my spine.

And every science class either confused me or bored me to tears.

I was told repeatedly by teachers and just about every adult in my life that I was a “right brain” so I shouldn’t stress that I couldn’t solve for X or that STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects weren’t “my thing.” I’d never need this knowledge for the types of careers I’d pursue and eventually settle into.

They were completely wrong.

Nurture Versus Nature
Today, I lead Employee Engagement at Avaya, which is a fancy way of saying I communicate with employees. I write, edit and consult (my strengths!), and I’m never asked about square roots, the Periodic Table or the Pythagorean Theorem (my weaknesses). Even simple arithmetic isn’t part of my daily job (and if by chance it is, my laptop and smartphone are equipped with a calculator).

What I didn’t know back then was that STEM subjects teach us how to think … critically. We learn to look at complex problems from all angles and then put forth innovative and thoughtful solutions. This isn’t to say that I’m not thoughtful or rational, but when it comes to really understanding the financial and technical complexities of business and technology, I struggle…and in that way it does impact my career. Writing a communication from my CFO is much more difficult for me then writing for my CMO. In fact, translating earnings for employees is how I imagine that calc class to be—painful.

Settling into my comfort zone rather than forcing myself to really tackle and learn STEM subjects hinders me today, and because of that I made a commitment early on that my children wouldn’t repeat my mistakes.

Raising Whole Brain Children
Most of us have a dominant side, but that doesn’t mean the other side can’t be nurtured. In fact, it’s important that it is. To that end, my husband and I make sure we provide opportunities to all three of our children that play to their strengths but also develop their less dominant sides.

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Our older son, Dylan, is a perfect mix of right (he’s a talented artist and can learn on his own any string instrument) and left (he excels in STEM), but when we noticed his writing wasn’t where it should be, he spent last summer with a tutor. Guess what? His lowest grade in Honors English this past school year was a 96, and he was placed in AP Lit for the upcoming year! Strong writing skills are something that can and should be developed. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s a gift with which you’re born. It’s learned and it’s necessary. And if you love the written word, it can become a passion, career or even just mental exercise!

Ryan, our middle, is a full-on science guy so in addition to STEM camps, he takes private art and guitar lessons, and is a contributor to the school newspaper. Writing comes easy to him but he doesn’t like it. His articles are about draft picks, fantasy football and the NY Jets. But he’s writing!

Our youngest—little Miss Sienna—well, she’s a right brain if ever there were one. A voracious reader since the age of five, she’s also part of a Youth Writer’s Group in Maplewood, NJ. She gets lost for hours on end in her art, books and words. It’s amazing—all that creativity at just 10 years of age. And this week, she’s in her third STEM camp, analyzing and creatively solving real-world problems through science, technology, engineering, and math concepts. Brilliant!

What we’ve found is that all three enjoy the change of pace. They genuinely like exploring different areas and challenging themselves to think differently. Best of all, they’re racking up new and diverse experiences, which helps broaden their view of the world…wins across the board.

What do you think? Do you think STEM education is important for everyone? What about art, music and writing? Is it important to expose ourselves to areas that challenge our thinking? Would you agree that our greatest lessons and most rewarding wins come from doing so?

 

Out of the House and into the Stadium: The De-Couching Dilemma

I recently attended the Sports and Entertainment Alliance in Technology Conference in Las Vegas. As a panelist, I was honored to participate in a group discussion on the “Smart Journey to Fanalytics” in association with some of the best figures in sports organizations across the US: moderator Charlie Shin, Senior Director of Strategic Planning and Customer Relationship Management Strategy for MLS; panelist Andrew Eiden, Business Intelligence Analyst for the San Jose Earthquakes; and panelist David Burke, SVP, Chief Ticketing Officer for Kroenke Sports & Entertainment.

Betting Against the House
The peer-to-peer consortium brought together over 700 sports clubs, stadium operators, vendors, and top-tier technology providers to discuss and share knowledge, lessons learned, best practices and strategies for the future. I wanted to take a moment to share with you a few of the trends that were circulating the convention floor, however all of the trends and topics pointed to one common denominator: getting fans off the couch, out of the house, and into the stadium. The competition isn’t team vs. team, or stadium vs. stadium. Rather all of the focus and dollars are going into solving the de-couching dilemma, stadium vs. couch. In this version of stadium roulette, we’re betting against the house.

Getting fans into the stadium/venue is an all-encompassing digital experience. What is the primary driver for this all-encompassing digital experience to work and succeed? Connectivity. At the beginning of the year, digital consumers owned on average 3.64 devices (Global Web Index) which is rapidly growing to 5 devices per person, in a world where nearly 60% don’t go more than an hour without checking their mobile devices. That’s a lot of demand for up-time.

Creating the Technology Trifecta
Stadium operators are struggling with identifying the right mix of cellular and Wi-Fi to support their venue’s technology trifecta. Cellular can be problematic because DAS systems (Distributed Antenna Systems) are difficult to install and manage and ultimately may not produce the required levels of connectivity in certain dense environments. DAS however is a good resource to increase connectivity in spots of poor cell range and inside large buildings.

Wi-Fi, on the other hand, poses cost issues for some stadiums because it can be expensive to install and requires more maintenance than DAS. Wi-Fi, however, provides good bandwidth and connectivity when designed and deployed efficiently and optimally for engagement activity.

Another concern for stadiums as they look into the future is 5G. While 5G may be too far out to worry about—estimated commercial availability is 2020—it does drive new use cases for stadium operators to be future-proofing.

Is Connectivity the Jackpot?
All this connectivity yields the ability to have great fan engagement experiences along with team applications within a venue. If part of the drive to get fans off the couch and into the stadium is a reliable, connected experience, then that is where the stadium/technology investment needs to be. Access to email, social media platforms, phone calls, videos, stats, etc. are all simple functions a fan wants to be able to do on their mobile device while watching the game. However, the power of connectivity goes beyond users’ devices. We can parlay connectivity into other stadium activations.

With increased connectivity, we’re also looking at improved business outcomes: an unwired workforce, faster transactions, enhanced mobility, expanded digital touch points, increased business efficiencies and operations, and improved customer and partner engagement. The faster and smarter stadium operations become, the faster and smarter the stadium experience becomes, leading to increased attendance, loyalty, and retention.

Of course other factors come into play—tasty food, great beer, fun activities, and a sense of community. All of these experiences can be enhanced through connectivity: better visibility into wait times and wait lines, access to maps for best traffic and transit routes, special offers via mobile (2 for 1 on beer), exclusive in-stadium content, and faster, reliable, secure transactions with all of the great vendors that make game day…game day. If you can fulfill the social, mobile, digital needs on-site and in-stadium, you’re more likely to get the fan to want to stay longer and come back.

The hope is that with increased mobile, digital touch points stadiums can begin to extract better data on their fans and visitor to assess, predict, and optimize the game day experience and kiss the couch goodbye. The high value endgame here is analytics. Analytics give us knowledge and insights into consumer behavior.

With knowledge comes power. The power to use analytics to elevate the in-person, in-stadium experience. With power comes the responsibility to make the transformation to the digitally all-encompassing experience to get fans off the couch and into the stadium. In the de-couching dilemma of stadium vs. home…it’s time to ante up.