Looking Back at Enterprise Connect

Last month’s Enterprise Connect, the communication and collaboration industry’s leading conference, is a beast – in the greatest sense. Between show floor activities, keynotes and presentations, meetings with customers and connecting with partners, the week keeps you busy!

For Avaya, it is also our chance to connect with those that share our passion and, this year, several members of the Avaya team had the opportunity to share with the Enterprise Connect audience what we are doing at Avaya to move the needle of collaboration forward. With that in mind, I wanted to share a few of my favorite highlights from the show.

First and foremost, Avaya CEO, Kevin Kennedy delivered an exciting keynote that drew a standing room only crowd– and we were of course thrilled to see how interested the audience was. Kevin touched on consumerization, application driven networks, emerging forces in communications, and Avaya’s opportunity. He was also able to get into WebRTC during the Q&A portion of the keynote and, as you may have expected, WebRTC was one of the hottest topics at the show.

We actually heard all around that the interest in WebRTC really took people by surprise – and it spanned several forums and conversations. Avaya’s Val Matula, Senior Director of Multimedia Research at Avaya was also able to represent Avaya on the topic in a panel discussion that brought out some points. His panel focused on where WebRTC stands in the real world of the enterprise today and what it means for the future.

Shifting beyond presentations and panels, particularly fun for me during Enterprise Connect was the mock Request for Proposal (RFP) sessions. I have seen these discussed in detail, so not worth going too far in depth, other than to note that I was proud to see what a great showing Avaya put forward. We participated and showed well in several of the sessions, but I want to particularly call out our work for “Unified Communications without buying a new PBX.” Represented by marketing director Allan Mendelsohn, we submitted a bid running our Unified Communications and Collaboration solution on top of a legacy Cisco CUCM 4.x telephony switch, and outscored Cisco 86.06 to 82.99. It was an impressive performance by the teams involved and just shows what a strong player we are in Unified Communications.

I was also impressed with how well our cloud announcements were received. Analysts and media alike – as well as customers, applauded the Avaya Collaborative Cloud announcement whereby we announced several offers for Cloud Service Providers to use Avaya solutions and extend them to their customers.

All around, Enterprise Connect was an incredibly enlightening week in the communications and collaboration industry. Thinking to last year, where I was lucky enough to also deliver a keynote, there are so many technologies available to us that are all meant to help us work together and be more productive. Enterprise Connect 2013 made it clear that the industry is continuing to follow this message and move to address the needs of users with innovative collaboration solutions. On a personal level, I am thrilled to see Avaya continues to lead in making this progress a reality – as we focus on what will help you collaborate with those you work with.

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Feds Want 21st Century Collaboration Tools Despite Legacy System Limits

Newly released survey results may mean big changes are on the horizon for government agencies. The survey, conducted by the Government Business Council and underwritten by Black Box and Avaya, shows that the federal government’s outdated IT infrastructure is struggling to keep up with modern mobility and collaboration demands, and is even impeding the adoption of 21st century unified communication and collaboration tools. And, despite efforts by the White House to push agencies to modernize IT, the momentum does not seem to be translating into improved collaboration yet.

In the survey, 38% of federal employees said they had little or no confidence that their agency’s existing infrastructure can support the latest advancements in collaborative technology. This low level of confidence is strongly at odds with the clear need for collaboration technology.

Nearly half (47%) said that they need to collaborate with colleagues working from different locations on a daily basis, while 72% said they need to do so on a weekly basis. Over half (52%) said that they personally have a need to work outside their office at least once a week, and 27% said they need to do so on a daily basis. Overall survey results suggest that telework in the federal workplace is evolving into a vision for a unified office that bridges traditional and remote work environments.

These results are hardly surprising: telework has been a rising trend for years—and undoubtedly is here to stay. However, despite the high demand for mobile collaboration, the flow of new collaborative technology into federal agencies seems to be lagging. Only 37% feel that their agency is prioritizing collaboration technology. And 40% are disappointed with their agency’s current level of mobility: 27% are dissatisfied, and 13% are very dissatisfied, with the ability to conduct work seamlessly across multiple devices and locations.

As the concept of the modern office continues to evolve, agencies must make sure that they are scaling with the expectations of their employees. With federal telework trends on the rise according to the latest OPM reporting, agencies need to be considering their plans for establishing a unified office sooner, rather than later. The need for unified communications is clearly already present, as seen in the survey results, so agencies that don’t have a plan to implement UC will only be postponing the benefits of bridging traditional and remote work environments.

The concept of a unified office where employees can work seamlessly across multiple devices and locations—not just through e-mail, but with teleconferencing, chatting, and screen sharing—helps to increase the rate, quality, and ease of work for federal employees. This is strongly backed by the study, with respondents reporting that the concept of a unified office increases productivity (46%), accelerates mission results (34.5%), and improves overall employee morale (35%).

As agencies assess how to best translate their modernization funds into effective, visible efficiency gains, investing in UC should be top of mind. Not only is the technology clearly in demand by federal employees, but the efficiency gains realized from investing in UC means that the technology pays for itself quickly, which helps to ease budget concerns. By implementing UC, agencies will be better positioned to meet not only future employee needs, but to achieve their missions in the 21st century.

If Getting Work Done Takes Too Much Work—Take the Team to Zang Spaces

Fast Company recently published a survey finding that the average tech CEO works 300 days a year, 14 hours a day. One third of that time is spent managing email, while another third is spent in meetings. Two thirds of a tech CEO’s time is spent communicating and collaborating, and this issue touches everyone in an enterprise, even Bob in Accounts Payable. It turns out getting work done just takes too much work, primarily due to the number of redundant tools users are given to accomplish tasks. Our application Zang Spaces™ addresses the enterprise communication problem in a big way.

What We Have Today

Desk phones and cell phones are great for communicating, but you can hold only one voice conversation at a time, which is nowhere near enough in our multi-tasking world. Digital transformation may seems like a new trend but enterprises digitally transformed communications years ago with tools like email, instant messaging, and web conferencing. While it’s ubiquitous, email is a horrible tool for collaboration. IM lets you participate in multiple conversations at the same time, but everyone has to be logged in at the same time to communicate, which is just dumb. Online meeting tools bridge the challenges of distance, but once a session is complete it’s usually gone forever. Newer collaboration tools such as on-line storage lockers are great for working on documents, but they’re “unitaskers” which only add to the tool overload.

How to Make Work, Well, Less Work

Cloud-based Zang Spaces doesn’t require anything to be installed in your data centers, or on your PC. You can use Zang Spaces to communicate, collaborate, and manage tasks in a single, easy application.

From One to Many

Zang Spaces can be used to communicate and collaborate with individual users via audio, video, and messaging. Since anyone can use Zang Spaces, you can invite resources from outside of your organization to collaborate. Zang Spaces can also be used to communicate and collaborate with groups of people. Simply create a virtual meeting room, called a “Space,” and invite the members of the team to participate by entering their email address.

Smart Messaging

When you first enter a Space, you see the group’s chat stream. Unlike IM, which requires users to be online to receive messages, Zang Spaces uses Smart Messaging. Unlike plain ol’ IM, you can catch up to the conversation that has happened while you were away, and then add your comments for others to read. The chat stream is synchronized across all of your devices, so you can add quick responses from your phone, and then elaborate when you’re back in front of a PC.

Order from Chaos

One of biggest problems with group chat is multiple conversations happening in one thread. Users lose track of what they’re trying to discuss, and it becomes a mess. Zang Spaces delivers order from this chaos with a tool called Posts. On a single form, your team can have topi- based, threaded discussions, which makes it super easy to stay focused. With Posts, you can even upload files that are relevant to the discussion.

Stay on Task

When you have a team working together, many times there are multiple tasks that must be managed to deliver results. Instead of adding another unitasker to your users’ crowded toolboxes, they can manage multiple tasks in Zang Spaces. Users can create tasks in a Space and assign them to one or more team members. Team members can discuss the task, update progress, and upload files relevant to the task on a single form that makes it a breeze to reference later.

Real Time, Not Real Complicated

When you need to get the team together in real time, thanks to the magic of WebRTC, with a single click in your browser, you’ve created an audio/video conference with team members. No plugins to download or software to install, simply share your desktop with team members, and even offer a dial-in phone number for audio-only access.

Start Now

Zang Spaces is absolutely free to use! Simply visit zang.io, sign up for an account, and you’re set. You can send and receive as many messages as you’d like, you can hold audio and video calls with individual users, create as many Spaces as you need, and even host five-party audio conferences … at no cost. If you need additional capacities, Zang Spaces Plus and Zang Spaces Pro offer huge capacities for a great price.

Want to learn more? Get your free account and then send me a message in Zang Spaces at forcum@avaya.com.

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.