The Future of Intelligent Headsets: Avaya, Plantronics Expand Strategic Partnership

 

In the age of the Internet of Things (IOT), it’s all about intelligence: smartphones, smart watches … and, thanks to Avaya and Plantronics, smarter headsets.

The companies recently announced a co-development initiative that will accelerate intelligent interoperability. Though the pair has worked together for more than two decades, with this expanded, strategic partnership, they’ll focus on: 1) tightening integration between Plantronics headsets and Avaya software and apps, and 2) improving contextual intelligence to drive value for the customer.

The goal is simple: address the growing need for simplified communications in contact center and unified communications environments. Here’s how they’ll do it.

It Just Works

The first part of the equation is what Chris Brady, Plantronics’ senior director of strategic alliances, calls the “table stakes.”

When customers plug in Plantronics headsets, they expect them to work seamlessly and simply with Avaya technology. This partnership is a commitment to meeting and exceeding customers’ expectations for solutions that just work.

In a way, the announcement formalizes something Avaya and Plantronics have worked on since the start. The companies have collaborated to create compatible products for decades now. Historically, this started out as interoperability between Avaya desk phones and Plantronics headsets, then soft clients and headsets, and, now, web-based applications and headsets are at the forefront.

Case-in-point: one of the projects under their expanded partnership will ensure integration between select Plantronics headsets and Avaya’s Chrome-based contact center apps, including Avaya Agent for Chrome and Customer Engagement OnAvaya™ –Google Cloud Platform.

The most exciting part of the companies’ formal commitment to compatibility and integration is what it will enable … Avaya and Plantronics are teaming up to create another layer of contact center and unified communications intelligence, one in which new features and functionalities drive customer value. Brady hints at “unique, exciting and compelling things to come.”

In short, smart headsets are about to get even smarter.

Cue Contextual Intelligence

According to a 2014 market report from Futuresource Consulting, the global headphones market is rapidly increasing, and not expected to peak until 2017. This has a particularly significant impact on the enterprise.

“There’s a growing opportunity for businesses to leverage contextual intelligence in the enterprise,” Brady explained.

He points to a recent collaboration with Avaya – the Seamless Transfer Snap-In, part of the Avaya Engagement Assistant.

The solution combines Plantronics’ on-board sensor technology with the Avaya Engagement Development Platform middleware. Plantronics’ sensors can detect the headphones’ “wear state” and tell whether or not a user is wearing the headset and near a connected device. Combined with Avaya apps, this technology opens up “new avenues for workplace efficiency and streamlined workflows,” Brady noted.

Imagine driving into work, using your Plantronics headset for an audio conference. Then, once you’re at your workstation, the headset recognizes your proximity to your PC and automatically transfers the mobile audio call to a full video conference on your PC.

“We’re looking at technology that will provide richer, deeper value to the contact center too, capabilities that will allow for both real-time action and collectable analytics,” Brady added.

And this is just the beginning.

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Why Failure is More Important than Success

Businesses, leaders and entrepreneurs have long been obsessed with success.

Billions of dollars are made from how-to books, speeches and guides–all glorifying a no-fail path. For a long time, failure was considered the worst of F-words to a company, and “failure is not an option” could be heard echoing down the hallways of the enterprise.

That’s what makes the latest business trend all the more fascinating.

The spotlight that used to shine on success has shifted to success’ evil twin sister… failure. Now, not only is failure an option, it’s the option of choice − celebrated, embraced, even encouraged.

Why Fail Now

“Fail often, fail fast” is likely now the second-most repeated mantra in Silicon Valley (just behind Steve Jobs’ “stay hungry, stay foolish”).

Granted, the most astute visionaries have long understood the importance of failure. Take Thomas Edison, who tried more than 9,000 designs before coming up with a working version of the lightbulb, or Dr. Seuss, whose first book was rejected by 27 different publishers.

Nowadays, the stigma around failure has lessened, and the best business leaders are becoming more and more comfortable with failure:

  • Nine out of ten startups fail, according to Forbes.
  • Using agile software development practices, many engineers quite literally “sprint” toward failure.
  • And live events like FailCon and Startup Funeral celebrate tech world failures.

But simply failing frequently is a failure in itself.

In the best fashion of failure, every misstep is considered a learning opportunity, a way to understand how to effectively translate failing into a future success:

  • The 10 percent of startups that succeed do so because they failed behind the scenes many times, in smaller ways, before − not after − launch, and grew better.
  • Agile development is often considered the new essential for Web and mobile app development, precisely because it encourages quick experiments, failure and, most importantly, the adaptations necessary to achieve success. Agile software development “sprints” help the team find out if there are problems at an accelerated pace and make adjustments as needed. The sooner failures are found, the less time – and money – is wasted.
  • Conferences that celebrate failure do so to recast the notion of failure and encourage knowledge sharing. Events like FailCon and Startup Funeral show the tech world that it doesn’t need to bury its failures silently; instead, it should eulogize them, learn from them and fail better next time.

Failing Smarter

The challenge for leaders is just that: failing smart. The best business decision makers will harness failure. They’ll recognize that there is no point in failing (whether it be often, small, fast, forward or any which way), if you fail to learn.

Businesses are steadily moving into a software-only world, and software development kits give companies the tools to quickly write apps to solve fundamental business pain points. Rather than paying a vendor millions of dollars to stand up massive, proprietary software projects, small teams can build apps quickly, test them with users, measure success and iterate on what they’ve learned.

That’s the opportunity inherent in Avaya Engagement Development Platform, the software development kit that embeds business communications in virtually any workflow automation app.

Consider these use cases:

  • A large, nationally-recognized university launched a parking payments app that will send a text message to the student when his or her parking is about to expire. Engagement Development Platform was embedded inside, and powered the text message.
  • A large sales team had a challenge—their salespeople would get calls from numbers they hadn’t saved on their smartphones. The salespeople would pick up the phone cold, and spend the first 15 seconds trying to figure out who was calling them, and why. Engagement Development Platform linked those incoming calls with the company’s cloud-based CRM system, pushing relevant customer information to the salesperson. Now, they could pick up the phone with a warm greeting and the context they needed to be successful.
  • Avaya recently won a Thomas Edison Patent Award for Innovation for an application that permanently eliminates the need to dial long strings of numbers to get into a conference call. That capability is currently available inside Engagement Development Platform as a “Snap-in”—a modular, reusable snippet of code that’s easy to embed in any app.

Engagement Development Platform is simple, powerful and automatically preconfigured for scalability, enabling faster, more flexible development cycles.

That flexibility empowers our customers — from universities to approximately 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies — to fail forward quickly. Engagement Development Platform shortens time-to-innovation and time-to-business, allowing Avaya to act as a catalyst to its customers’ success.