Escaping Vendor Silos in Three Clicks

It seems like every UC vendor has jockeyed for ownership of the desktop, each pushing visions of an all-encompassing client that seamlessly blends all modes of communication and makes them available on any device. The requirement from customers to achieve this Holy Grail is an exclusive relationship with the vendor. Of course, the customer will need to give up something in meantime until the vendor gets it right: quality, flexibility, a missing mode. And what company lives in a completely homogeneous environment anyway?

At Enterprise Connect, I spoke about convergence as the driver of next-generation engagement. Convergence itself isn’t a new idea: Convergence drove the unification of voice and data networks nearly two decades ago, reduced hardware to software and inspired the concept of merging multiple disparate forms of communication into a single platform–a concept that is still largely unrealized.

For all the industry’s talk about increasing simplicity, gains have been moderate at best. End users still need to fumble through too many clients and applications to communicate, often taking them away from the work they’re actually doing and the applications they work in most frequently.

The kinds of applications that people are using continue to evolve, particularly as companies increasingly move away from desktop incumbents toward cloud-based services. Google for Work, along with alternative collaboration apps like Evernote, Box and Dropbox continue to rise as viable, browser-based enterprise alternatives.

While Avaya and others have done well closing the gap between desktop and mobile, we still need to bridge the divide between applications–not only communications applications, but business and communications applications. This is the opportunity that takes us to the next phase of convergence: Engagement.

Engagement is about business outcomes. More than collaboration, which is something people do, engagement is the result of a rich, seamless experience.

Contrary to popular belief, the battle for the desktop that most UC vendors are waging actually leaves end users in a kind of no man’s land. A standalone client–no matter how pretty and how unified–still means that the end user must exit whatever application(s) he or she is using to communicate.

It takes roughly seven clicks to move from the business application to communicate as desired, and there’s likely at least one mode that is mediocre or missing altogether. It’s disruptive to collaboration, stifles engagement and impedes progress.

This brings us to the acquisition of Esna. Avaya has a long-held belief in the value of communications-enabling business applications. The acquisition of Esna accelerates the true integration of communications into business applications and provides an easy user experience from within the applications people use on the device du jour.

As a member of Avaya’s DevConnect Select Product Program for several years, Esna’s iLink may be familiar to Avaya Scopia users as the capability that allows end users to embed a link to a Scopia virtual meeting room in an Outlook meeting notice. Scopia provides HD video and voice conferencing, document sharing, presence/IM, presentation, recording and more. With Esna, it’s just few clicks from your email client to a rich, seamless experience, from nearly any device.

That’s not all. Esna allows customers to choose the communications experiences they want on the back end. In a world where many vendors would rather provide a poor man’s version of an application rather than give up that space to a potential competitor, isn’t it nice that one company has the best interests of the customer at heart? Avaya encourages a best-of-breed approach, while endeavoring to take out the associated complexity of management for both IT and the end user.

While others focus on providing “THE CLIENT” that will populate the desktop, in reality, this approach is a throwback to how we did things in the last decade. The failure of UC is right there. Look for the company that’s focused on solving your business issues and use cases and increasing your profitability through a more open, flexible, employee and IT-friendly approach.

That’s Avaya, with Esna.

Esna with Avaya’s engagement solutions will allow customers to embed messaging, voice, video and conferencing capabilities or “click-to-X” from within any browser or mobile application, including Google for Work, Jive, Salesforce.com and other popular Web apps.

This experience will be generally available for both midmarket and enterprise customers in June 2015 with subsequent releases in 2015 to further integrate Esna into future Avaya solutions.

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Embedded Communications Key to Changing the Way We Work (and Live)

Employees need to get their work done by the best means possible for optimal productivity, which requires access to the most effective tools available to do so.

In my opinion, this toolset must include an embedded communications solution. Such a solution, like Avaya Communicator for Web, enables users to tap into information that is readily available across multiple disparate sources—sources that are individually helpful but collectively transformative—to work faster, more efficiently and smarter.

Embedded communication isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have–both inside and outside of the enterprise. Why? At the end of the day, the way we live relies on the availability and integration of information and data around us. It’s everywhere we are and in everything we do.

Imagine you’re planning a road trip for next month. You own an electric car, and so it would be especially convenient if you could pinpoint the locations of charging stations along your way, to ensure as seamless and efficient a trip as possible (no one likes to back track). Picture your smartphone automatically creating a best-case route for your trip by leveraging the data available on your device, including places to sleep, eat, charge up and more.

Similar to how such a data-driven plan would enable you to travel most efficiently, an embedded communications solution can help employees get their work done as proficiently as possible. Such technology dramatically increases the time that people have to devote to work, as well as the quality of work that is produced, by streamlining various meetings, activities, tasks and more.

For instance, as GM and VP for UC Applications at Avaya, I spend the majority of my day in meeting and phone calls, processing a high volume of information–some of which can be difficult to recall after the fact. This is a massive problem within the enterprise today. Employees must be able to follow up on meetings and keep track of what was said; otherwise, similar to our road trip scenario, they will feel like they are backtracking.

Envision instead that you could integrate the various types of communication solutions your team uses (e.g., instant messaging, video, office suites) so that meeting notes can be added in real-time for employees to get caught up on. With employees being better equipped and prepared for meetings (something that can consume a hefty portion of meetings today) a traditional one-hour meeting can easily become a 30-minute meeting, and a 30-minute meeting might just become a quick IM or phone call.

Hopefully, more organizations will understand the power and value that embedded communications offer both inside and outside of the enterprise today—enough to not only change the way we work, but the way we live.

Dreamforce 2015 Preview: Key Trends to Watch For

Dreamforce 2015 starts Tuesday, and there’s so much to discuss about this highly-anticipated event. This year’s show looks bigger and better than ever, with a notably impressive lineup of keynote speakers that includes Jessica Alba, actress and founder of The Honest Company; Goldie Hawn, actress and founder of The Hawn Foundation; and Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s recently appointed CEO, who I’m personally very interested to hear from, as he has been leading innovation at the company since taking over in early 2014.

As we count down the days to Dreamforce 2015, taking place September 15-18 in San Francisco, I become all the more eager to see the impact of  two huge trends that I expect to dominate breakout sessions, keynotes and conversations during downtime:

Integrating multiple applications into one: By enabling connectors among multiple different applications, users seamlessly acquire content from disparate applications through a single, easily-accessible interface. The goal here is to significantly enhance the day-to-day user experience by making it that much more immersive. We are seeing more organizations coming to the forefront with efforts to strengthen connectivity among the various environments where their employees live and work. This has been very exciting to see, and I look forward to the impact of the topic at this year’s event.

Multi-vendor/vendor-agnostic collaboration: This seems to be a trend that is rapidly growing within the enterprise, one which I am certainly pleased to witness. Empowering various working teams with real-time communications—regardless of the vendor that supports the equipment or infrastructure they use—is not only unbelievably useful, but truly transformative. This ability to connect in real-time across virtually every vendor environment is what we at Avaya believe to be the next generation of connectivity, enabling enterprise users to spark new connections, initiatives and deals immediately, in order to improve and sustain business like never before.

Salesforce has been working to make headway in this arena. For instance, Salesforce Chatter, the company’s free enterprise social network platform, enables employees to create Chatter sessions to begin communicating about projects and opportunities in real time, regardless of what infrastructure or other tools they may be using. I’m curious to see what other moves Salesforce intends to make to strengthen multi-vendor enterprise collaboration.

Whether you’re looking to hear key insights from disruptive industry leaders or hear tunes from this year’s featured band, the Foo Fighters, I hope to see you at this year’s Dreamforce 2015 event. If you’re on the show floor, visit us at booth #W841, Moscone West.

Avaya Communicator for Web Communication-Enables Your Cloud-Based Business Applications

At this week’s International Avaya User Group CONVERGE2015 conference, we’re excited to debut Avaya Communicator for Web. Avaya Communicator for Web embeds real-time communication and collaboration tools inside the cloud-based business applications that people use every day.

With it, users are able to communicate with others without having to leave the application they’re working in. It embeds voice, video, IM/presence, and conferencing within cloud applications such as Salesforce.com, Google Apps, Office 365 and others using either Chrome or Internet Explorer browsers.

Avaya Communicator for Web

We know that today’s busy professionals live and work in the browser. And increasingly, companies are moving their core business applications to the cloud. This gives us an opportunity to make these cloud-based apps even more valuable by embedding communication functions inside them.

According to industry analyst Marty Parker, of UniComm Consulting, this is a clear and growing trend. He notes that, “Users want their communications to be build right into the applications they are using.”

So that’s what we’ve done. With Avaya Communicator for Web, we make it easy to collaborate with individuals or groups of people over video, IM, or calls, from right where you are working, and it keeps your conversation going through persistent communications capability.

This new, modern communications experience puts the needs of the user first. The Avaya Communicator for Web user experience is clean, simple and easy to use, and it makes the product’s extensive functions intuitive for users.

Avaya Communicator for Web will initially be available with Avaya IP Office. You can find more information on Avaya Communicator for Web here.