Interop 2015: It’s Time for the Internet of Business Things

Is the Internet of Things ready for the enterprise? It’s a question that’s front-and-center in my mind as Avaya gears up for this year’s Interop conference in Las Vegas.

To help frame the question, consider the parallels between what’s currently happening with the Internet of Things and what has already occurred in the Application Service Provider model.

Not too long ago, Application Service Delivery dominated the headlines of trade publications and thought leadership articles. The concept–that enterprises wanted to host their software applications externally–was sound. ASP launched with great promise, but never managed to gain widespread adoption.

Later, Salesforce.com launched, introducing Software-as-a-Service into the enterprise vernacular.

Instead of a vendor hosting lots of instances of unique software applications, the vendor hosted its own application, and delivered the entire solution over the Web in a multi-tenant model.

SaaS was more economical, faster to deploy and more scalable than ASP. SaaS took the core concept of ASP (that enterprises wanted to host their software applications externally) but refined the model, finally making it viable for business.

Parallels with IoT

Similarly, there’s a lot of hype around the Internet of Things.

Experts envision a world where each of us will own or interact with dozens of Internet-connected devices each day–turning on Internet–connected lightbulbs on our way to our Internet-connected refrigerators, our smartphones gathering biometric data from our Internet-connected wristwatches, getting into our Internet-connected cars to commute to work. Once we get to work, our Internet-connected devices will interact with the enterprise, giving us access to the network and federated business applications.

The concept behind enterprise IoT–that mobility will permanently and positively impact business–is sound.

But like the ASP-to-SaaS trend, it seems that practical models have yet to emerge to cause IoT to go mainstream in the enterprise. In a very focused way, Avaya has introduced the beginning of what will likely be a practical implementation of IoT for business.

The Internet of Business Things

Look around any large office–there are hundreds, if not thousands–of Internet-connected devices. These devices are critical for business and can consume an enormous amount of IT time to configure, secure and maintain.

Last year, Avaya introduced the capability for IT staff to simply plug a known device (such as a network switch, wireless access point or video surveillance camera) into an Ethernet port, and automatically be recognized by an enterprise-wide networking fabric, which provisions a secure virtual network instance and maintain that configuration dynamically. The benefits to the enterprise are immense–IT staff can now focus on strategic projects rather than rote device configuration.

SDN Fx

What about unknown devices? Most companies have thousands of Internet-connected devices they’d like to get on the network in a secure manner.

Avaya recently announced its software-defined networking architecture, SDN Fx. One of the key features is the Open Networking Adapter. Simply plug unknown devices into the Open Networking Adapter, a device that’s about the size of a deck of cards.

An Open Daylight-powered controller associates the Open Networking Adapter to the device, now making it a known device. Once associated, all services and security policies follow the device. Those permissions get reset and disabled if the device is removed from the networking environment.

Workers simply connect the adapters themselves, allowing the automated process to fully configure the device. This reduces operational costs and frees up IT staff for more strategic tasks.

For the Internet of Business Things to become a reality, we need to improve the delivery model for the concept–much like SaaS did with the concept behind ASP. Avaya’s SDN Fx is the delivery model that will make the Internet of Business Things practical and widespread.

We’ll be demonstrating this capability (and showing off the Open Networking Adapter) at Interop booth #2033. Join us to see what the future of IoT in the enterprise looks like.

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Avaya Advanced Solutions for Today Dispel a “Legacy” Label

Having been with Avaya since 2003, I thought I had seen every tactic our competitors could employ against us. However, now that we have been through the toughest of times and are ready to emerge, stronger than ever, I realize I was wrong. The level of FUD our competition is trying to spread, and the lengths they are prepared to go to are a testimony to our strengths. And it tells me one thing: the competition is preparing for the day we exit from Chapter 11. But we already prepared—in fact, we are ready to emerge stronger than ever, together with our ecosystem of people.

There are obvious reasons why Avaya is such a threat to other UC and CC vendors in the market, cloud or not. While a large proportion of our installed base—a loyal installed base that is the envy of the industry—runs what could be called “legacy” solutions, we show up as a totally different company with a different value proposition than the PBX box shifter that the legacy label implies.

Today, we are helping customers achieve their digital transformation objectives, we are creating customer experiences that go beyond digital, and our open platforms are unleashing the creativity of our customers, partners, and teams to drive innovation.

The company that competitors are trying to dismiss as “legacy” is the same company that just presented at GITEX a use case for bringing blockchain into the customer experience. Avaya is leveraging AI capabilities to enhance experiences for our banking and emergency services customers. We are working with fintechs in the Asia-Pacific region to create solutions for their mobile and web customer interactions. Avaya is working with Bosch, a global leader in technology and services, to build the workplace of the future. I am proud to say that the Emirates group recently referenced the work we are doing with dnata as making a positive contribution to their financial results. This is hardly the mark of a legacy vendor.

While our competitors are losing credibility by sticking with the “legacy” tag, the reality is that we are ready to equip our customers, partners, and teams with the tools they need to be more relevant than ever. We’ve re-engineered our platforms and are uniquely positioned to allow our customers and partners to build, test, and deploy their own solutions quickly and securely. This is our commitment to openness coming to life and bringing value to the communities we touch and work with. Once we are free of our debt burden, we will be free to invest in R&D, which will consign the “legacy” tag to the dustbin.

Our competition is dreading the day we emerge from Chapter 11 because they know the real legacy that we bring to the market: an installed base of loyal customers who love and trust our brand and technology, partners who have committed their growth and future to working with Avaya, and a team that is destined to grow and win.

Avaya’s Future Rests on Customers, Partners, and Our People

As Avaya begins a new fiscal year and prepares to emerge from our debt restructuring as a public company, we are thinking a lot about Avaya’s future. We’re on a journey to create a future that includes new value for our customers and new opportunities for our partners. My confidence in the path ahead is based on the expertise, dedication and passion of our people around the world—a team I am honored to lead as the new CEO of Avaya.

Why am I so confident? It’s pretty simple, really:

  • We know how to listen: We have a unique approach in which we work collaboratively with customers to understand their real business requirements. We identify their pain points and help them realize new opportunities—something our competitors seldom do.
  • We deliver: Our teams take ownership and commit to delivering solutions to customers that improve their organizations. We’re not in the business of just selling customers the latest new tech product. We’re in the business of advising customers how to communicate better and create outstanding experiences, so they can achieve their goals.
  • We have the right partners: Our partner community is a key differentiator that enhances the value we deliver to organizations around the world and extends our reach to new customers and markets. We will expand this global ecosystem of channel and technology partners in the future, which is going to enable us to more easily integrate emerging and disruptive technologies into our solutions.

Our people understand more than anyone that everything we do is about our customers. Our installed base of more than 130,000 customers in 220,000 locations is the envy of our industry. This is our “unfair advantage” and the foundation on which we will build Avaya’s future. I also learned as global sales leader this past year that our customers love our technology. Through thick and thin, they’ve continued to embrace our unparalleled solutions. 

Our open architecture not only enables our customers to integrate new technologies while preserving the investments they’ve already made; it also simplifies their adoption of emerging technologies—such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and blockchain. In addition, we are using open interfaces to give developers, partners, and employees the flexibility to bring innovation to market faster than our competitors, and ultimately transform the customer experience.

I believe Avaya is in a leading position to help customers compete today and prepare for the competitive environment of the future. By enabling people to communicate and interact in new and compelling ways, we are providing the power to change, influence and impact others around us, and experience the world in new and meaningful ways. We’re looking forward to working with our customers, partners and people to achieve great things together.

Only 13% of Companies Succeed with CX: Here’s What They’re Getting Right

Over the last few weeks in my blogs, I’ve been doubling down on several key areas of a next-gen platform that organizations must consider. For example, I simplified the concept of next-gen IT for keeping up with the speed of digital change. I broke down the top barriers preventing brands from capitalizing on AI/automation. I discussed how to successfully bring legacy into a new world of IoT. Most recently, I explored the limitless possibility of a fully open, extensible, multi-vendor ecosystem.

But what does this all boil down to? That would be the fifth and final key area of a next-gen platform, which is undoubtedly most important of all: the customer/citizens experience (CX).

Now the No. 1 indicator of strategic performance is this: more than 80% of companies recognize the CX as a major differentiator. It builds customer trust, reduces costs, and boosts employee engagement levels. But, as we all know, companies are still struggling to execute their strategies. I’m talking about a lot of companies. So much that only 13% rate their CX delivery a nine out of 10 or better.

There’s something seriously wrong with these numbers. It’s encouraging to see such organizational awareness of the CX; however, the number of companies succeeding is worrisome at best. In an age of rapid digital innovation, we’re still seeing far too many disjointed CX strategies. So, just what’s going on here?

The Three-Step Process That Guarantees CX Delivery

It’s time to get down to brass tacks. Here’s a three-step process that, if followed correctly, will substantially improve CX delivery in today’s smart, digital world:

STEP 1: Clearly understand the kind of experience you’re trying to deliver

Big data analytics? Check. Omnichannel? Check. What about Ambient-Context (real-time input from IOTs)? Check. End-to-end network segmentation? Check. What about AI integration for automation? Check.

Now, what kind of experience are you trying to deliver with these technologies? As Steve Jobs once said, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.” CX awareness doesn’t necessarily mean an understanding of what CX really is: a representation of each individual organization’s brand values and personality.

So, what does this mean? Before implementing any new technology, companies should engage in an introspective phase that enables them to understand who they are as a brand and how this translates into the user experience they want to deliver. During this time of reflection, companies should try not to rely on the status quo. As Henry Ford famously said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” In today’s world of seemingly limitless customer and business outcomes, the worst thing a company can do is box itself in. That’s not how digital giants like Apple, Facebook and Amazon forever changed the CX paradigm (not to mention sell billions of dollars of product each year). Before anything else, take time to creatively diversify and reimagine the CX within your industry.

STEP 2: Validate that experience

So, you know the kind of experience you want to deliver. Now, how do you validate it? In other words, how can you know for certain that the experience you want to deliver is what end-users actually get? This is where the explosive amount of data within your organization becomes vital. It’s imperative that brands track, collect and share data across multiple different knowledge sources to validate the CX. This is an understandable pain point considering recent research. Data analytics is listed as one of 2017’s top technology trends, yet:

  • About half of all analytic systems currently don’t meet customer/organizational requirements.
  • More than 60% of companies have no analysis capability that combines data from all channels.
  • Only 41% use analytics to customize the CX.

Lack of sophisticated analytics is largely why 44% of organizations think CX is too difficult. Brands must prioritize data exchange by seamlessly integrating disparate systems in an open, agile ecosystem. At the end of the day, transforming the CX comes down to the data available to help brands continually enhance, validate and push the envelope. It’s time for companies to put their data to work; otherwise, they’re competing blind.

STEP 3: Continually innovate/improve that experience with the right technology

Mobility, cloud, social, omnichannel, Ambient-Context, AI, ML, big data analytics … the list goes on in terms of tech implementation. In the end, the tech used to continually innovate and improve will differ depending on varying company requirements. This means one thing: brands need an open, integrated, future-proof architecture platform that enables them to securely develop services and apps that meet exact customer and vertical needs.

When it comes to the CX, the challenge is not so much tech implementation but rather customization. This is why 42% of organizations say their digital systems fall short of current needs, and why nearly 75% believe their current technologies will fail to meet future needs. A shift to customization is what will enable companies to swiftly overcome two of the top three factors currently hindering CX capabilities: inflexible legacy systems and technology silos.

Less than half of organizations are not fully involved in designing their technology systems. We need more businesses involving themselves in the design stage of their tech ecosystems, keeping customization top of mind.

These five key areas of a next-gen platform—next-gen IT, IoT, AI/automation, open ecosystem, customer/citizens experience—are collectively propelling companies into a new and exciting era. Organizations across every industry will soon see a profound shift in how their services are consumed and how end-users experience their brand. The key is being nimble, innovative and adaptable enough to survive not only this transitional era, but the many that will undoubtedly happen in the future.