Winning Business Strategies from the Six Nations Championship

After six weeks, 15 games and 1,200 minutes of unflinching action, the 2015 Six Nations Champions have finally been crowned, following the most dramatic and exhilarating of finishes.

While (to my bitter disappointment) Wales didn’t win, at least the team figures in the match of the tournament. Who can forget their amazing fourth-round game where they dashed Ireland’s dream of a grand slam with a wave of superhuman physical effort that just kept coming?

For me, the top moment of that match–in fact, probably of the whole tournament–was the absolutely deafening roar that greeted referee Wayne Barnes’ decision to award a penalty for Jonathan Sexton going over the top.

The wall of sound got me thinking. In that moment, with all the raucousness, how does a coach–meters away from his players–get his team to focus and pull together? As a schoolboy rugby player and competitive sportsman myself, I can assure you that a team’s behavior and psyche in those vital seconds between a penalty being awarded and taken, are completely dependent on the preparation, collaboration and communication between the players and their support staff.

This observation rings true in the business world, too. A truly successful team, on or off the pitch, combines both communication and collaboration to become fully engaged. Let me explain.

While communication is necessary if players are to be effectively instructed and inspired, we should remember that it’s not a one-way street. A coach who doesn’t listen to his players can’t keep in touch with morale or feedback with solutions to problems affecting the team. It’s the same in business. Collaboration is about enabling colleagues and peers to work together.

The engagement part is important, as it’s all about creating value from that collaboration.

It requires leaders to encourage all team members to take an active role in working toward their shared goal.

It also requires consistent, reliable communication that can support innovation and problem solving. Engagement is the result of strong communication and collaboration, combined with shared experience across the whole team, and external stakeholders too.

In the Six Nations Championship, this involved physiotherapists, coaches, fans, even sponsors. In a business context, think customers, colleagues external to your team or even suppliers.

Statistics that quantify the impact of team engagement on the rugby pitch are hard to come by, but according to PWC, the most engaged workplaces experience 2x higher productivity and customer loyalty, enabling them to grow 3x faster than their competitors. Gallup has also found that 59 percent of more engaged employees say that work brings out their most creative ideas, against 3 percent of less engaged ones.

At the beginning of the Championship, I said that regardless of who triumphed in this year’s tournament, the team’s collective engagement was certain to be one of the keys to their victory.

Watching Ireland play on Saturday, I felt vindicated in my comment. There is no doubt that their focus and commitment was due to an incredibly high level of team engagement. Engagement enabled the team to be greater than the sum of its parts: delivering on set pieces, yet showing creativity and flair–all with a hearty dose of determination.

Much to my chagrin as a Welshman, I find myself thinking that leaders in all fields should be taking a leaf from the Irish playbook.

For more business insights and examples of how to grow an engaged business, follow our dedicated midmarket page on LinkedIn.

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Transforming Online Meetings for Team Collaboration

I find it interesting how companies choose to measure team collaboration. Most use surveys, some productivity data, and others standard review processes. Yet team collaboration is about so much more than all of this. If you ask us, it’s about putting people first.

We mean this quite literally. It’s important to provide employees with a suite of face-to-face collaboration capabilities that enable dynamic, real-time team collaboration. Communication staples like voice and chat are surely important, along with the endless other tools teams use to connect and share information. Meeting via video, however, is arguably the best way to collaborate, build relationships, create momentum and build morale. Face-to-face collaboration may not always be needed, but companies will want to make sure they have the best tools in place for when it is.

When done right, online meetings enhance team collaboration in several ways. Consider the most basic of them all: a good part of communication is non-verbal. Being able to observe team members’ body language can help prevent miscommunication and connect across languages and cultures. The technology has also evolved to the point where teams can flexibly share data, documents and other project details via screen sharing or virtual whiteboards. All the while, there’s the opportunity to initiate private chat sessions between team members to discuss simultaneously.

The bottom line: online meetings enable authentic human interaction that delivers real value, time and cost savings, and better business outcomes.

Now, imagine being able to quickly implement an easy-to-use, cost-effective service that skips the capital investment and technical hassle of a traditional video solution. This is exactly what Avaya Equinox Meetings Online offers: a cloud-delivered application that allows users—both employees and outside contacts—to connect with their browsers (no plug-ins required) or mobile apps to effortlessly initiate and/or participate in online meetings. The service places priority back on people, which is where it belongs. Simple as that.

Don’t believe us? Read Nemertes Q4 2017 Enterprise Business Value Matrix for Unified Communications and Collaboration to see what they had to say. If you like what you see, or if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to our team for more information via our webchat.

News & Solutions at ENGAGE 2018 Show Avaya is Back in the Fight!

Now back from last week’s Avaya ENGAGE 2018, our annual customer and partner event, we’re finding the energy of the conference continues to drive the cadence at Avaya. What a show! In my last blog I wrote about taking time for a bit of introspection—thoughts echoed by our CEO Jim Chirico during his ENGAGE keynote. One of his points really resonated with me: how you get up off the mat. All of us face challenges everyday—most of them are manageable but occasionally an event comes along that can really take the wind out of your sails. Jim pointed out that while we all get knocked down from time to time, what really matters is how you get up. How you carry yourself and how you get ready for the next challenge.

In 2018 Avaya is back up. We’ve got our gloves on and we’ve come out swinging! ENGAGE 2018 was a great opportunity for us to thank our customers and partners for their outstanding support over the past year and give them a taste of the new Avaya: poised, fit, and ready to win.

Our commitment to win was reflected in a number of key announcements from last week, but the headliner was the acquisition of Spoken Communications, a leading innovator in the Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) market. The Spoken platform is based on the Avaya Aura® Platform and Avaya Aura® Call Center Elite, making it a perfect architecture for both Avaya omnichannel offerings, such as Avaya Oceana®, and its Unified Communications as a Service solution. But Spoken brings much more than a proven xCaaS capability to Avaya—the really exciting news is Spoken’s transformative real-time customer experience management applications built on conversational artificial intelligence (AI). A true innovator in AI, Spoken will be accelerating our “Think Avaya, Think Cloud” strategy with solutions that not only provide a clear path for customer migration, but offer improved efficiency, drive more intelligent responses, and gain deeper insight into customer sentiment and experience.

And there was more news at Avaya ENGAGE on the AI front: Avaya introduced Avaya AvaTM , a cloud, messaging-agnostic solution that offers new AI capabilities for social messaging integration and automation of digital interactions. An evolution from our Ava technologies offered for over eight years, Avaya AvaTM delivers AI 2.0 architecture including natural language processing and machine learning. And innovative analytics enables effortless customer engagement through social media and messaging platforms.

Last year we introduced the Avaya Oceana® Solution—our omnichannel context-driven contact center solution. Now we are thrilled to bring the Workspaces environment to our existing customers later this year. This modern agent desktop will take advantage of key elements such as context and customer journey and be made available to our existing customer base, enabling them to transform their CXs.

Avaya also unveiled compelling enhancements to its signature unified communications user experience, Avaya Equinox®. These include:

  • Enhancements to Avaya Equinox Meetings Online, a cloud-based meeting and conferencing service that can be deployed with or without an Avaya infrastructure. The economical, pay-as-you-go cloud model offers the same capabilities as an on-premises deployment, making it easy to take a hybrid approach and mix and match between the two.
  • The new Avaya Equinox Attendant, which enhances customer service and brings the power of unified communications to front-desk operators. We will extend Avaya Equinox to the IP Office platform—providing a single UC platform for all our customers.

Devices remain a key part of Avaya’s strategy to deliver a unique UC Experience Everywhere. Avaya has shipped over 100M phones to date and currently ships almost 10,000 new devices every day. For 2018, Avaya is expanding customer options for UC devices like never before. The Avaya Experience has evolved to be more modern, connected and personalized, and tailored to vertical specific needs such as hospitality and retail. Key additions include:

  • Launching Avaya’s new Essential Experience portfolio of industry leading phones for a state-of-the-art user experience that includes Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity.
  • Extending the Avaya Vantage Experience to include support for IP Office.
  • Announcing the new Avaya CU-360 Collaboration Unit, which provides easy set up and collaboration in huddle room spaces.

Providing our customers a bridge to the future is a key focus for Avaya this year—and this goal will drive a great deal of our activity. To start, Avaya has launched a number of new promotions:

  • Loyalty2gether: This exciting and bold offer provides all our loyal Communication Server 1000 customers with a path forward to either IP Office or Avaya Aura with full support for the surrounding applications like customer contact and messaging. It’s an opportunity to reinvent what communications, customer experience, and collaboration can mean to your business and to do so with an unprecedented level of experience and investment protection.
  • Oceana NOW: This program focuses on helping organizations evolve and transform their CXs.
  • Automate CC NOW: Through the use of automation capabilities, Avaya is helping organizations modernize for less.

These programs are a prime example of our focus to ensure no customer gets left behind.

ENGAGE 2018 was a very busy week of announcements, meetings and demonstrations, and the energy and enthusiasm of our customers kept us going and underlined our confidence that Avaya is back and ready to do battle. Continue to watch for updates and details on and let us know how the new Avaya can support your plans in 2018.

Avaya ENGAGE 2018: Spotlight on Unified Communications

Busy days at Avaya! Emergence from Chapter 11 and our listing on the New York Stock Exchange are keeping us on our toes. And while the new Avaya balance sheet is of obvious interest to our customers, what really matters is the reinvigorated Avaya spirit of innovation. 2017 had its challenges, but staying busy wasn’t one of them, and we’re now in the process of announcing a host of new unified communications solutions at Avaya ENGAGE 2018, our annual International Avaya Users Group Conference. The timing couldn’t be better, as the market for unified communications solutions continues to accelerate. For example:

So what’s new?

Let’s start with Avaya Equinox. Twelve months after its introduction, deployments continue to accelerate and this intuitive app is finding its way on to more and more desktop and mobile devices. The next release, due out in early 2018, will extend Avaya Equinox to Avaya IP Office, ensuring all our customers get the same great Equinox unified communications experience, regardless of platform.

Avaya Equinox Meetings Online, which is available now, provides a cloud meeting and conferencing solution deployable on a standalone basis or integrated into Avaya on-premise infrastructure for a hybrid solution. It’s supported on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS with the option for zero download connectivity with WebRTC via browser, which is great for guests. Now available in 29 countries, it offers enhanced web collaboration, including an interactive white board, true application sharing, support for 50 fully interactive participants or 500 views via streaming, full HD 1080p, and a unique slider capability that lets participants go back and review previously presented content without interrupting presentation flow, while a meeting is in progress.

Avaya is also announcing the introduction of Avaya Equinox® Attendant, a PC-based software application that helps attendants and receptionists efficiently manage inbound calls. It enhances customer service and brings the power of unified communications to front-desk operators with capabilities like “Look Ahead” with presence services, a favorites list for quick access to the most common destinations, and suggested call routing based on previous call patterns and contextual information that allows the operator to provide a more personalized touch.

While soft clients are becoming more and more popular, Avaya doesn’t see desktop phones going away any time soon. A recent IDC survey of IT decision makers found that 57% of respondents thought that future desk phone usage would increase, 28% said stay the same, and only 15% said decrease. To support this ongoing need, the Avaya Desktop Experience is being enhanced to be more modern, connected and personalized, and tailored to meet specific industry needs such as hospitality and retail. Avaya ENGAGE 2018 attendees are getting the first view of the new Essential Experience J139, J169 and J179 phones as well as learning about enhancements to Avaya Vantage and new conferencing devices including the CU-360, a new collaboration device that reflects the move toward more informal, small group huddle rooms.

Avaya is making it easier than ever to deploy and manage desktops, in either premise or cloud deployments. Plug and play with auto configuration is being delivered via Avaya’s new Endpoint Management Services. In addition Avaya will be showcasing Open SIP devices that extend the unique values of Avaya’s J-Series and Avaya Vantage devices (including customization) to third-party platforms.

If the reaction of our customers at Avaya ENGAGe is anything to go by, the doubling down on innovation that our unified communications R&D teams drove in 2017 is paying off. Welcome to a new year. Welcome to the new Avaya!