Elka Popova's Blog


Interactive Intelligence and ShoreTel Boast Impressive Performance in 2013

31 Jan 2014

Both ShoreTel and Interactive Intelligence reported their CY Q4 results this week and both have a lot to brag about, especially compared to some of the larger vendors in the enterprise communications space.

ShoreTel reported 9% y/y growth in premises revenues and 27% y/y growth in hosted IP telephony revenues. Some other success metrics included strong balance sheet and positive cash flow: 

• $57.3 million in cash and investments
• net cash position up 117% since fiscal year start in July
• cash flow from operations of $13.5 million

ShoreTel Sky reported a 40% y/y increase in the installed customer base, the addition of more than 200 new businesses, as well as an increase in average customer size. ShoreTel’s on-premises division added 1,100 new businesses in the last quarter of 2013 and saw an increase in international business.

Interactive Intelligence also reported impressive results as follows:

• 2013 total orders up 30 percent year-over-year
• cloud-based orders for 2013 up 87 percent year-over-year
• cloud-based orders in 2013 were 50 percent of total orders, up from 35 percent in 2012
• total 2013 revenues up 34 percent year-over-year to $318.2 million

Interactive Intelligence also reported a strong cash position and an increase in GAAP operating income.

Both companies have experienced significant growth over the past few years and have reported better 2013 results than many of their competitors in the enterprise communications market. It is hard to tell what exactly is driving their success, but a couple of factors come to mind:

- Both are small and nimble and have the ability to more easily adapt to evolving industry trends and broader macro-economic realities. They have been quick to introduce new products and solutions and have also excelled in execution, where some of their competitors have failed.

- Both vendors have also chosen to focus heavily on cloud communications as a growth opportunity acknowledging increasing demand for hosted IP communications solutions among business customers, especially among SMBs.

As growth rates in the premises-based communications market slow down and the market consolidates, ShoreTel and Interactive Intelligence appear well positioned to compete with their strong financials. The SMB customer segment presents particularly favorable growth opportunities for the two vendors, both because they have been successful in that segment with their premises solutions and because they can cater to growing demand for hosted solutions in that segment.

It is interesting to see how the enterprise communications landscape evolves in 2014 and the next 2 to 3 years. Some industry pundits expect Cisco and Microsoft to eventually dominate the premises-based market, but I strongly believe that customers like to have to more choices. The hosted market, on the other hand, is still very fragmented and stronger market participants such as ShoreTel and Interactive Intelligence can quickly gain a competitive edge against the numerous small providers that are lacking both brand recognition and resources to grow rapidly and serve their customers effectively.

What do you think about the future of the enterprise communications landscape?
 

Mitel and Aastra Merger: Market Impact and Implications

11 Nov 2013

Today, November 11th, 2013, Mitel and Aastra announced plans to merge. Details of the transaction are available in this press release. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Aastra shareholders receive 3.6 Mitel shares and US$6.52 in cash for every Aastra share.
  • The cash and stock transaction has been valued on closing at approximately CAD$392M. Using the Mitel closing common share price on November 8, 2013, this amounts to CAD$31.96 per Aastra common share.
  • Proforma company ownership will be as follows: 57% Mitel shareholders, 43% Aastra shareholders.
  • The new entity will retain the Mitel name.
  • The combined revenue of the two companies is currently about $1.1 billion. The combined installed base is estimated at 60 million end users.

Why it Makes Sense

Increased Market Power

The company expects to generate cumulative synergies of about $50 million over the course of the next three years. The merger will also make the new Mitel a much more powerful global vendor with leadership in the following areas:

  • the largest provider of enterprise communications platforms in Western Europe
  • the third largest communications platform vendor in terms of installed users after Avaya and Unify
  • the third largest vendor in terms of IP PBX licenses shipped
  • the third largest vendor in terms of IP phones shipped
  • one of the top two vendors in the Canadian market

Greater Ability to Address Industry Challenges

Overall, the merger is a logical and somewhat anticipated move in view of the current state of the industry. Growth rates in the mature enterprise telephony systems market have declined. The weak global economy of the past five years combined with a profound transformation of the communications industry are presenting major challenges to enterprise telephony and UC vendors. With few greenfield opportunities available market participants are turning to each other’s customer bases for growth and market share gains. Vendors must revamp their competitive strategies to ensure long-term survival and growth.

One of the key trends in the telecom industry is the migration to software-based solutions and the resulting proliferation of advanced, IP-based communications tools. Furthermore, previously siloed communications technologies are now becoming much more tightly integrated with productivity and business-process software and are thus becoming ever more critical enablers of operational efficiencies and business agility. As a result, the pace of technology innovation has accelerated and is challenging vendors to continually expand and enhance their portfolios in order to stay competitive. Greater choice and intense competition have given customers more power in the purchasing process, forcing vendors to be more creative with how they position and price their solutions. This has put considerable pressure on vendor resources and many have struggled to maintain profitable growth.

An important facet of the larger industry shift to software-based solutions is the growing migration to cloud communications. Customers have gained considerable awareness of the benefits of cloud business models and are actively exploring hosted IP communications as a viable alternative to existing premises-based implementations. Vendors in the stagnant premises-based telephony market are compelled to explore growth opportunities with the cloud delivery model and have launched multi-tenant and multi-instance solutions for customers that wish to outsource their communications infrastructure. Going forward, the cloud communications market will represent the new battleground for communications vendors.

The new entity will have greater market power to address industry challenges. The combined solutions portfolio will offer business customers a larger choice of communications capabilities including telephony, messaging, mobility, contact center and video. In spite of a certain overlap in core telephony offerings, each company also offers some unique capabilities. In the mobility space, for example, Mitel provides some advanced and differentiated hotdesking and mobile UC capabilities, whereas Aastra brings a strong DECT phone portfolio to the table. Mitel offers advanced desktop UC capabilities, whereas Aastra has focused on video. Mitel is also particularly strong in UC server virtualization and has some unique desktop virtualization capabilities. Both companies have compelling contact center solutions, which are likely to provide them with new growth opportunities.

The combined installed base offers considerable opportunities for customer migration to IP telephony and adoption of advanced UC applications such as presence, mobility, video and so on. An expanded channel network of about 2,600 partners is likely to enable the company to more effectively upsell and cross-sell the installed base and reach out to new customers.

Mitel’s growing cloud business and Aastra’s emerging cloud partnerships are also likely to boost the new entity’s competitive positioning. Enterprise communications vendors are using their multi-tenant and multi-instance solutions to both defend their installed base and attract competitors’ customers that are looking to outsource their communications capabilities. Mitel has been quick to capitalize on this opportunity with the MICD and vMCD offerings and a range of delivery models including retail sales through NetSolutions and various partnerships with third-party service providers and resellers. Higher growth rates in Mitel’s cloud business can help compensate for declining growth rates on the premises side.

Financial strength and fiscal discipline are critical for communications vendors’ survival and growth in the present market environment. The new entity expects to be able to de-leverage its balance sheet, which is likely to free up resources for R&D, marketing and sales and improve the vendor’s overall health. Both companies have also focused on margin expansion and cash-flow generation through product cost reductions, operational efficiencies, shifting to higher-margin products, improved service gross margins and headcount reductions.

Potential Challenges

As with any merger, the new entity will have to address a number of internal challenges including portfolio redundancies, business process optimization, cultural differences, etc. Typically, such mergers and acquisitions take away from the company’s focus in other areas—such as R&D, sales and marketing—and slow down growth for a certain period of time even with the best of execution. This may leave the company vulnerable to attacks from other market participants, who are likely to seek to take advantage of Mitel’s temporary weakness.

In the long run, the vendor will have to address some external challenges as well. Other vendors have focused significant resources in potentially highly competitive areas such as collaboration, social networking and communications-enabled business processes (CEBP). Furthermore, some of Mitel’s competitors, such as Cisco, for example, have already gained considerable traction with their cloud solutions and others are ramping up quickly making the cloud space a more level-playing field for everyone. Finally, Microsoft Lync is having a disruptive effect on the market due to its compelling desktop UC capabilities, including tight integration with other Microsoft solutions, and the company’s sheer market clout. Mitel’s long-term success will depend on how it manages to further enhance its communications portfolio and offer a unique value proposition in both the premises-based and cloud markets.

Conclusion

The Mitel-Aastra merger is likely to help improve the new entity’s competitive positioning and have a positive impact on the overall industry health and viability. However, the company’s ability to leverage this strategic move for long term competitive advantage will require effective internal restructuring and a creative market-facing approach.

 

                              

Project Ansible: Looking Beyond UC into the Future of Enterprise Communications

16 Jul 2013

On July 16th, Siemens Enterprise Communications (SEN) announced Project Ansible—SEN’s vision and technology evolution roadmap for the future of enterprise communications. My colleague Mike Brandenburg who attended Siemens Enterprise Communications’ analyst event already wrote about this initiative in as much detail as he was allowed to provide at the time. As he stated, Project Ansible is very much about what we all envisioned unified communications (UC) was supposed to be: seamless, contextual, personalized, social, extensible, adaptable communications, tightly integrated with business-process applications.

The really interesting part about Project Ansible is that it is mostly about the user interface. I strongly believe that this is where most of the innovation in enterprise communications is going to take place over the next few years. Not that we have reached a dead end in terms of back-end infrastructure; don’t get me wrong. Roughly speaking, half of the world is still using TDM technology either on the system or end-user device level, which creates significant opportunities for migration and upgrades. But the roadmap seems to be clearer as far as the back-end infrastructure is concerned—IP telephony, virtualization, maybe cloud (on the premises or hosted), etc. On the other hand, the user interface is where developers can truly innovate and differentiate and deliver unique value to customers.

SEN’s Project Ansible takes enterprise communications beyond what we commonly associate with UC. UC was all about the integration of various communications applications through shared presence and a single point of access (the UC app itself). Over the past few years, vendors started gradually migrating away from the UC marketing pitch toward a message around “collaboration”, switching the focus from the more technical to the more personal aspects of business communications. Lately, social technologies have captured the market’s attention and vendors and customers are looking at integrating a social element into UC and collaboration solutions.

Project Ansible layers such collaboration and social elements on top of the more common enterprise communications technologies. Furthermore, through advanced analytics, “thought trails”, and the so-called Ansible Spaces (persistent, shared repositories of conversation transcripts, files, etc.), the platform creates rich context around new interactions. It does so both automatically, by “predicting” user needs, and through user-driven search, thus enabling greater personalization and improved efficiency.

As always, Siemens Enterprise Communications is betting on open, standards-based technologies. This new platform can be layered on top of any-vendor underlying infrastructure. Through open APIs and SDKs, third-party developers can integrate new capabilities into Ansible, integrate Ansible into other solutions, and thus further enhance and/or personalize the solution. Built-in Connectors enable the integration of this platform with various types of business-process applications such as salesforce.com or Google.

Ansible will be rolled out over the course of at least a year and a half with scheduled releases until the end of 2014. However, the solution has been developed based on extensive research with customers and partners. Siemens Enterprise Communications is once again ahead of the curve in terms of technology development. What they need now is a sustainable execution strategy.

As Rick Puskar, VP of Sales, Unified Communications, said, “seeing is believing”. My brief write-up and the press releases hardly do enough justice to this exciting new technology. So if your interest has been piqued, check out the Project Ansible website or try to obtain a demo from the SEN team.

 

Does UCC Need a Social Facelift?

28 May 2013

Social networks and social media have rapidly become a key element of our daily interactions with family, friends, and business associates. Capitalizing on the ubiquity and improving quality of the public Internet, growing computer and Internet literacy among younger generations, and demand for maintaining relationships in an increasingly dynamic social environment, social networks provide both a convenient source of relevant information and a more flexible way to stay connected with people in spite of geographic boundaries.

As consumers become increasingly familiar with social software and aware of its various benefits, they demand access to similar tools at their workplace. Vendors are responding to growing demand for social capabilities in the enterprise by developing business-grade social solutions that offer greater security as well as features and functionality that best suit the business environment.

Businesses adopting social technologies must consider the advantages and disadvantages of integrating the social element with the rest of the unified communications and collaboration (UCC) stack. While consumer social tools are likely to remain siloed for security and control reasons, business-grade social tools deployed behind the firewall can deliver greater benefits when integrated with the other UCC technologies used within the organization. The social tools can help enrich communications by providing valuable context in terms of user profiles, shared files and messages, activity logs, and so on. And, through integration with real-time communications, a social interaction can be escalated to a voice or video call or a conference meeting.

However, without proper training and a cultural shift within the organization, social tools may easily become a distraction or remain underutilized. While the availability of a broad set of communications and collaboration applications creates opportunities for richer and timelier interactions among employees and across organizations, it is also becoming overwhelming and confusing for the individual users to manage and properly use the different tools. Multiple devices, interfaces, passwords, and user directories sometimes delay and complicate rather than accelerate and improve communications. Furthermore, the integration process as well as the ongoing support of integrated solutions may involve an additional upfront cost and may place an additional burden on IT resources.

Some businesses are, therefore, likely to see social tools as a distraction that only aggravates an already challenging situation. They may question the value of adding social tools to the already rich palette of communications and collaborations tools available to their employees.

Overall, Frost & Sullivan finds that there is a compelling business case for integrating social tools into the UCC fabric. But businesses that choose to do so need to decide whether to deploy a single-vendor or a multi-vendor integrated social-and-UCC infrastructure. Then they need to apply a structured approach to the selection of a specific solution to ensure that their IT and broader business objectives are properly addressed.

UCC vendors Cisco, IBM, and Microsoft have opted to provide their own social solutions and have integrated them with their broader UCC portfolios. A recent Frost & Sullivan study (Weaving Social into Your UCC Fabric) examines in detail these three vendors’ social UCC portfolios and strategies.

Once a decision is made to deploy social technology as part of a broader UCC portfolio, customers need to consider a number of factors in order to select the vendor and solution that best address their specific needs. In addition to features and functionality, various other factors—such as existing technology investments, available IT skill sets, and the vendor’s vision for future UCC and social infrastructure evolution—can determine social vendor and product choices. Businesses must carefully assess their business objectives and technology investments before making a final decision.

Aastra Bets on Hosted Communications for Future Growth

14 May 2013

Aastra hosted its annual Aastra Analyst Conference last week (May 8 through May 10) which provided analysts with an update on the vendor’s portfolio roadmap and strategy for the global communications market. Not surprising, its research and development (R&D) efforts are focused on mobility, video, cloud/hosted, and social media for the contact center. A lot of the more interesting developments are still under non-disclosure agreements, so I am not going to provide an in-depth overview of Aastra’s entire product portfolio. I will only provide a brief perspective on its strategy for the hosted communications market.

As I noted in my blog post based on Enterprise Connect meetings and announcements, most private branch exchange (PBX)/unified communications and collaboration (UCC) vendors have launched hosted/cloud communications solutions. Some are using multi-tenant, others—multi-instance technologies. Business models vary widely in terms of how the infrastructure is deployed and managed and how the channel is involved in services sales, implementation, and management.

Aastra has had a multi-tenant solution probably longer than most other PBX/UCC vendors, but has mostly used it for large, on-premises enterprise deployments. The Clearspan platform is based on BroadSoft technology, but Aastra has wrapped around it other infrastructure elements such as operational support systems (OSS), session border controllers (SBCs), media gateways, and endpoints that make it a turn-key solution for service providers. For many carriers, managing constantly evolving technologies by third-party vendors can be a daunting task. It is becoming even more challenging as hosted communications platforms proliferate and providers look to hedge their bets by deploying several platforms and offering different options to their customer base. By offering a turn-key solution, Aastra positions Clearspan as an appealing option for service providers looking to reduce costs and risks associated with the deployment of hosted communications solutions.

As a multi-tenant platform developed specifically for service provider networks, Clearspan offers cost-effective scalability, enabling providers to target the entire spectrum of business sizes. It also offers an advanced feature set developed over the past decade and continually enhanced by BroadSoft. Clearspan delivers PBX; audio, web, and video conferencing; fixed-mobile convergence (FMC); contact center; presence; and instant messaging (IM) functionality on desktop phones, personal computers (PC)/laptops, and mobile devices. It also natively supports session initiation protocol (SIP) trunking. As it is based on open standards it enables flexible integrations with third-party platforms and solutions (such as Microsoft Outlook and Lync and GoogleTalk).

For many years, Aastra has provided endpoints to BroadSoft’s customer base and is, therefore, able to deploy a broad range of phone terminals with the Clearspan platform. In addition to multiple desktop phone models, customers using a service based on the Clearspan platform can use video on the BluStar 8000i or access their communications capabilities (including call control, soft phone, call logs, and federated services such as GoogleTalk) on their PCs, laptops, and mobile devices using the Clearspan Communicator UC client application. For indoor mobility, customers also have a choice of SIP DECT phones.

One of the biggest challenges for service providers, however, is the deployment of an OSS that eases the service provisioning and management burden.  While many BroadSoft partners start with solutions such as Loki from Leonid or Revchain, each provider’s business and operations processes require some degree of customization. Therefore, such off-the-shelf solution frameworks are configured to interface with the specific OSS/BSS within each provider’s operations environment in order to satisfy their specific business needs.

Aastra packages the Clearspan platform with its OpEasy operations, administration, maintenance and provisioning (OAM&P) tool, which enables a single sign-on as well as flexible system and endpoints provisioning. It simplifies ongoing platform management for service providers and delivers extensive reporting. Furthermore, OpEasy is used by end customers to quickly and easily provision new users and to do their own moves, adds, and changes (MACs).

Aastra delivers professional services to further facilitate implementation. In addition, Aastra can provide a fully managed service whereby the infrastructure resides at the service provider network but Aastra assumes all responsibility for managing the solution.

Aastra has seen some early success in the education vertical with specialized service provider Internet2. Internet2 delivers IT and communications services to multiple education and research organizations in the United States and globally. Aastra and Internet2 entered into a partnership a year ago and the service went live in January 2013. Since then the provider has deployed services with 5 end-customer organizations (including Texas A&M University and Tulane University), has received commitments from 4 other organizations, and is running pilots with 6 more. The majority of its customers are currently deploying hosted PBX functionality, but there is interest in deploying additional UCC capabilities in the future. Internet2 offers its customers compelling pricing and all the benefits of outsourced, cloud-based communications: flexibility, faster access to advanced capabilities, and reduced risk of technology obsolescence. Internet2 packages the Aastra hosted PBX solution with SIP trunking services from Level 3 Communications. Internet2 is very pleased with its relationship with Aastra and the demand for the hosted solution it is seeing from customer organizations.

With its turn-key solution Aastra delivers choices and thus greater value to existing and future customers. It is well positioned to defend its customer base against other vendors and service providers offering hosted/cloud communications and to also expand its reach among businesses currently deploying Centrex or other vendors’ PBXs. Clearspan can also be integrated with other platforms already deployed on the premises where hybrid environments can provide greater benefits to the customer organization.

Is Cloud UCC Ready for Prime Time?

28 Mar 2013

It’s been a week since I came back from Enterprise Connect in Orlando and I finally found the time to sit down and share my thoughts on some of the key announcements made at the event. Better late than never, right?

I may be biased because of my personal interest in cloud/hosted communications, but it seemed that there was a lot of buzz around cloud (déjà vu?) at Enterprise Connect. More specifically, quite a few announcements focused on cloud unified communications and collaboration (UCC). I am using the term cloud UCC loosely to refer to a broad spectrum of new offerings including hosted IP PBX, contact center, video and more—some delivered as standalone applications, others as more comprehensive UCC suites. In addition to the Enterprise Connect announcements, there were some other cloud UCC launches earlier this year, which made me wonder if cloud UCC may finally be ripe for prime time.

Hosted voice and cloud UCC have been around for awhile. BroadSoft and Metaswitch platforms as well as home-grown (i.e., service provider-developed) solutions have powered cloud UCC services for over a decade. But what’s exciting today is the entry of PBX and carrier platform vendors into the cloud UCC space—either as the providers of multi-tenant/multi-instance platforms deployed by partners or as service providers themselves. 

I talked about this trend in a blog post last year. Here follows a brief account of some more recent developments.

At Enterprise Connect, Avaya announced cloud video, UCC, and contact center solutions designed for service provider partners. I discussed the Avaya cloud solutions quite extensively in a previous blog post. In short, Avaya's new Avaya Cloud Enablement for Unified Communications and Customer Experience Management is a multi-tenant service provider platform based on the Avaya Aura technology. A particularly interesting aspect of the new Avaya cloud UCC offering is the utility pricing for service providers—instead of purchasing perpetual licenses, partners pay only for the seats they actually deploy with end-user organizations.

Also at Enterprise Connect, Alcatel-Lucent announced a service provider version of its OpenTouch UC suite and featured its first cloud UCC partner (though long-time solution reseller)—ICON Voice Networks. Similar to Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent is offering its cloud UCC solution under a utility pricing model to its partners. The rich feature set of the OpenTouch suite enables ICON to deliver cloud voice, messaging, presence, conferencing, video, mobility, and contact center capabilities to its customers.

Again at Enterprise Connect, Mitel introduced Sprint as a new partner for its cloud UCC solutions. Mitel was one of the first UCC developers to deliver a variety of cloud solutions, hosted both by its own LEC NetSolutions and other partners. Sprint, which has already invested in other cloud UCC platforms, is going to be reselling Mitel’s cloud portfolio through a white-label arrangement. As a long-time Mitel partner and reseller of Mitel’s premises-based solutions Sprint is leveraging its Mitel technology expertise to address increasing customer demand to deploy Mitel’s UCC stack in the cloud.

Cisco did not make any major cloud announcements at the event, but held several “whisper sessions” with the analysts to discuss its cloud UCC roadmap. Since most details are under NDA, I can only say that Cisco remains committed to the cloud space. Cisco has publicly shared that it has signed up about 40 HCS service provider partners globally, 27 of which have commercially available cloud UCC offerings today. Cisco continues to enhance and aggressively promote both its partner-hosted HCS and its Cisco-hosted WebEx cloud offerings. Recent enhancements include HCS support for Cisco Customer Care and Cisco Telepresence, as well as enhanced mobility with native mobility features such as single-number reach and clientless, network-based fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) options.

I also managed to catch up with NEC, which announced a cloud UCC solution a couple of months ago. NEC is offering its complete UCC stack—telephony, messaging, presence, conferencing, mobility, and contact center through a cloud model. NEC is hosting the platforms in CenturyLink data centers and is reaching customers through its established dealer network. Similar to Toshiba (which announced its cloud offering last year) and some of Mitel's deployment options, but unlike Avaya and Cisco, NEC has chosen to maintain ownership and control of its platform and to leverage its large reseller channel to market and deploy the solution and manage customer relationships.

I also connected with GENBAND, which launched a series of cloud offerings a few weeks ago. It is offering service providers a choice to either deploy the cloud UCC platform on their network or to resell a cloud UCC service hosted by GENBAND. The GENBAND-hosted NUViA platform allows providers to quickly launch a cloud UCC service without the risk and cost of deploying and managing a carrier-grade UCC platform on their own network. At Enterprise Connect, GENBAND announced its first NUViA partner—Arrow S3—which will be offering HD voice, video, multimedia messaging, mobility, conferencing, web collaboration, desktop clients, and fixed mobile convergence as a service to small, medium, and large enterprise customers. Arrow S3 will market the GENBAND cloud service under the SynapS3 ucCLOUD brand. GENBAND has some early deployments under way with other partners as well.

The utility pricing model is an appealing alternative for service providers. BroadSoft has addressed this opportunity with its BroadCloud offering, which allows partners to deliver voice, video, messaging, and other services without the costly investment in service provider infrastructure. A couple of service providers are delivering hosted voice and UCC services today using BroadSoft's utility pricing model.

BroadSoft's newly launched UC-One IMS offering focuses on mobile operators. It leverages BroadSoft's UC-One platform to enable mobile carriers to deliver a comprehensive suite of UCC applications along with fixed-mobile convergence for 2G, 3G, and 4G mobile networks services to their business customers. This offering creates new revenue opportunities for mobile operators and enables businesses to consolidate their carrier relationships. Due to various regional market differences, this solution is likely to be more effective in Europe than in North America.

My conversations with service providers AT&T and Level 3 had a slightly different flavor. AT&T announced a SIP trunking offering for Office 365 with Lync online. With AT&T’s SIP trunking capability, which connects Lync Online with the PSTN, Lync Online can be used as a relatively complete UCC solution by a customer organization.

At present, Level 3 is offering hosted UCC services in Europe and Latin America, but is focusing on SIP trunking in North America.  Level 3 reported 100 percent growth rate in its SIP trunking service and intentions to launch a cloud UCC offering based on Lync.

Speaking of Lync, there seems to be a lot of interest among service providers to offer hosted services based on Lync. However, both Lync Online and the Hosters Pack lack many of the key features of Lync Enterprise. Furthermore, Lync Online does not provide PSTN connectivity. Some providers are using Lync vDedicated or re-engineered versions of Lync Enterprise to deliver cloud UCC services today. Future Lync versions are expected to provide a more compelling cloud UCC alternative and pose a bigger threat to existing market participants.

Sadly, Siemens Enterprise Communications does not have much to share in the cloud UCC area today in spite of being one of the early market entrants with its OpenScape Cloud solution a couple of years ago. Once Siemens revamps its cloud UCC offering (not so much the technology, but the business model), we will have a pretty full gamut of UCC developers delivering their own cloud platforms and/or services. For most of them, cloud UCC is currently a defense move. In a few years, that may be their only offense alternative.

The cloud UCC market will be very interesting to watch going forward. So far, it has grown steadily at about 30 to 40 percent annually, but there has been no major inflection point. Could these new platforms and delivery models spur more explosive growth? I guess we will find out …

I am in the process of wrapping up my North American hosted IP telephony and UC services market study. I will make some market growth projections and will also provide a deeper analysis of the emerging solutions and business models.

Cloud UC with an Avaya Flavor

18 Mar 2013

Today, March 18th, 2013, at Enterprise Connect, Avaya introduced several new offerings as part of its Avaya Collaborative Cloud portfolio. The announcements included cloud video conferencing, a managed private contact center solution, and a cloud unified communications (UC) and customer experience solution. In this article I’d like to provide my perspective on the cloud UC offering.

Last year, at Enterprise Connect again, Avaya presented its broader vision for Avaya Collaborative Cloud and launched its AvayaLive Connect offering. Since then, we have been waiting for Avaya to make a strong(er) statement in the cloud UC space.

I talked about AvayaLive Connect in this blog post, so I will not discuss it in much detail here.  In short, it is a public cloud solution targeted at very small businesses of up to 20 users. The solution is available for purchase through a Web portal. At the back end, the solution is powered by the former Nortel SCS technology. AvayaLive Connect features basic PBX functionality, voice conferencing, voice/unified messaging, video, mobility, presence, and instant messaging (IM)/chat. It supports PC, Apple Mac, iOS and Android devices.

The new Avaya cloud UC solution is labeled Avaya Cloud Enablement for Unified Communications and Customer Experience Management.  At the foundation are multi-tenant versions of the Avaya Aura platforms. Key UC capabilities include:

  • SIP-based voice (PBX functionality through Avaya Communication Manager and Session Manager)
  • UC application (audio, video, web conferencing, mobility, etc.)
  • Presence
  • Unified messaging
  • Video
  • Desktop and mobile clients and devices: Flare, ADVD, One-X Portfolio, Avaya phones

The contact center solution includes:

  • SIP voice and multichannel capabilities (Elite & Elite MC)
  • Reporting (through CMS)
  • Self-service (Experience Portal)
  • Workforce optimization
  • Avaya one-X Agent
  • Avaya 96xx phones

With the new cloud UC solution, Avaya is joining an already crowded, though rapidly growing space. In addition to platforms provided by the traditional hosted IP PBX vendors such as BroadSoft and Metaswitch and home-grown solutions such as those of 8x8, Thinking Phone Networks and others, cloud UC solutions are now available from a slew of PBX vendors such as Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Microsoft, Mitel, NEC, ShoreTel, Siemens Enterprise Communications, and Toshiba. While the value proposition of hosted/cloud UC is similar across platforms and service provider offerings (e.g., flexibility, reduced CAPEX, faster access to advanced functionality, and ability to outsource UC management from a skilled third party), architectures and business models vary.

An in-depth analysis of the various offerings is available through Frost & Sullivan proprietary research. Here follows a brief summary of the key differentiators of the new Avaya cloud UC offering:

Multi-tenant UC: Similar to BroadSoft and Metaswitch, but unlike Cisco or Mitel, Avaya chose a multi-tenant rather than a multi-instance architecture. The main difference is in how the hardware and software are partitioned for service delivery. In a multi-tenant architecture, both the hardware and software are shared across multiple end-user organizations, which is relatively easier and more cost-effective for service providers to deploy, provision to end users, upgrade, and manage. In a multi-instance architecture, the hardware is shared through virtualization technology, but each customer receives a separate instance of the software, which typically appeals to businesses with greater security and customization demands.

Software technology: The cloud UC solution uses the same Aura Communication Manager and Session Manager technology that forms the foundation of Avaya’s premises-based solutions. This reduces training costs for partners, internal IT staff, and end users already familiar with the Avaya software stack. It also reduces switching costs for customers that might move to cloud and then choose to go back to a premises-based infrastructure. Furthermore, it provides customers with the same rich PBX functionality of Avaya premises-based solutions (unlike some other multi-tenant platforms which only provide a much more simplified feature set). Finally, open standards and APIs for custom applications and third-party integration enable providers and customers to further enhance and customize their cloud deployments.

Features and functionality: Avaya delivers an extensive set of UC functionality on the cloud platform including PBX, messaging, conferencing, presence, video, and mobility.  Most hosted IP PBX/UC platforms deliver a broad set of capabilities, but few support a full UC stack at this stage. The contact center capabilities also represent a very important differentiator in the hosted/ cloud UC space. Many of the hosted UC offerings either fully lack or support only rudimentary contact center capabilities. SMBs do not typically have formal contact centers but need some key contact center functionality (call queuing, intelligent call routing, analytics, etc.) to provide competitive customer service. The ability to outsource the UC and customer care functionality from the same provider using the same vendor technology is a key benefit to such businesses and thus a compelling value proposition for the service providers.

Devices and soft clients: One of the biggest challenges in the hosted space over the past decade has been the limited number of desktop phones supported by the traditional multi-tenant platforms. Avaya’s cloud UC offering supports all Avaya desktop phones, which provides existing Avaya customers with investment protection and both new and existing Avaya customers with a large selection of devices to choose from. Furthermore, the solution is available with the full Avaya one-X portfolio of soft clients.

Business model: Avaya is  delivering its cloud UC solution only through partners, which helps avoid conflicts of interest. The utility pricing for service providers is a strong differentiator and another very compelling value proposition for partners. Most platform vendors charge one-time license fees and offer volume discounts which forces providers to make large investments upfront. Avaya’s model, which charges providers only for capacity used on a monthly basis, provides partners with greater flexibility and a more predictable return on investment (ROI). Avaya is also providing extensive support through professional and managed services which is critical for both service providers and end-user organizations at this early stage of cloud adoption.

What does this new offering mean for the market?

Avaya: Avaya can now leverage partners offering hosted/cloud services to keep businesses looking to outsource their communications capabilities in the Avaya fold. Avaya cloud UC also provides a competitive alternative to cloud solutions launched by other PBX vendors. Furthermore, cloud UC may enable Avaya to penetrate smaller businesses that would have otherwise chosen a different PBX vendor or opted for hosted services from non-Avaya partners.

Avaya partners: A cloud/hosted solution is a source of recurring revenue. For Avaya partners already familiar with Avaya technology, Avaya cloud UC is a relatively easy transition and a means to retain existing customers and attract new ones. Utility pricing to service providers (versus one-time license purchases) reduces risks and improves the ROI for partners looking to test a novel technology and/or business model.

End-user organizations: Businesses with existing Avaya investments can migrate to cloud-only or hybrid environments without the need for extensive IT staff and end-user re-training. They can also retain existing phones, which reduces switching costs and protects existing investments. Non-Avaya customers, especially SMBs that may find Avaya premises-based solutions out of reach due to limited CAPEX budgets can now deploy Avaya technology in a more flexible, on-demand model.

Competitors: Almost all UC developers have launched or are looking to launch cloud solutions as both an offense and a defense strategy. The Avaya offering poses a competitive threat and levels the playing field across the premises-based and cloud UC markets.

The cloud UC space is evolving rapidly and presenting both opportunities and challenges to communications technology vendors and UC developers. But from a customer point of view, while new solutions and business models are causing some confusion and hesitation, the availability of a broader array of UC alternatives, including one with an Avaya flavor, is a net gain.

Vidtel Brings Video Closer to the Mass Market with WebRTC Support

30 Jan 2013

Today, Vidtel, an innovative cloud video telephony and video conferencing provider, announced interoperability of its MeetMe and Gateway services with WebRTC video endpoints. This announcement is significant both for the entrepreneurial provider and the industry as a whole. Vidtel can now serve a new customer segment that is bound to grow exponentially within the next few years.

There is a lot of excitement around WebRTC and the promise it holds to revolutionize communications. There is indeed a large potential for WebRTC applications to provide advanced communications and collaboration capabilities to a much broader customer audience at a  fraction of the cost of today’s hardware- and even software-based telephony and video solutions. However, WebRTC is still a work in progress and most market participants are only now making baby steps in the development of WebRTC applications.

Most likely WebRTC will have a lesser impact on the voice communications space and a greater one on video communications. Voice telephony is already ubiquitous and convenient (thanks to the good old PSTN and flourishing mobile communications) and is getting increasingly inexpensive with IP technologies and growing competition. Certainly, WebRTC will help further reduce costs and customize voice applications, but the solutions we have available today already meet the demands of most users.

In the video space, however, WebRTC can make a big difference. Video is still deployed on a very small scale due to a number of factors including cost, limited interoperability among the different vendors, and the inconvenience of using room-based systems (e.g., the need to reserve the system/room, walk to it and back, etc.). Both new technologies and new business models are promising to help overcome these barriers and bring video to the mass market.  Cloud-based video bridging is already helping deliver cost-effective video conferencing services and alleviate the need for the business customer to install and maintain complex systems. But there still remain cost and interoperability challenges related to the video endpoints.

Vidtel’s video conferencing solutions bring unique benefits to end users. With its Gateway service and any-to-any endpoint capability it is looking to cost-effectively connect the disparate islands of multi-vendor technologies deployed across customer organizations. By adding WebRTC support, it becomes one of the very first video conferencing providers to extend its service to the variety of WebRTC endpoints/applications and users expected to emerge in the near future.

Vidtel’s innovative solutions and partner-centric approach can boost the entire market. Vendors and service providers that choose to partner instead of build new technologies in-house can use Vidtel to gain a foothold in the growing video conferencing market. Companies like Vidtel can become the network behind diverse partner-branded interfaces that enables ubiquitous video connectivity across multiple business organizations as well as between businesses and consumers.

Living in a Flatter World: Benefits and Pitfalls

21 Jan 2013

In a previous blog post, I talked about the role of social media in creating new beliefs and behavioral patterns. Here I’d like to talk about how social media is making our world flatter and what that means for individuals and society.

The “flattening of the world” refers to the gradual disappearing of geographic limitations and the leveling of the playing field in the search for unique talent, job opportunities, and new markets. It also refers to the ability to connect more frequently, easily, and inexpensively with family, friends, and business associates.

Pervasive Internet connectivity, growth of mobile and IP communications, and the rise of social media and social networking have made the world “flatter.” While the flattening of the world is not solely the result of ICT developments, this is one case where technology trends have had a profound impact on society, including both personal lifestyles and business relationships.

Overall, the flattening of the world is driving personal, business, and macro-economic prosperity.

Frost & Sullivan predicts that by 2020, there will be 10 connected devices for every household, five connected devices for every person, five billion Internet users, and 500 devices with unique digital IDs per square kilometer.

This explosion of connected devices has positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, people can more easily access and share information, knowledge, and expertise, thus accelerating innovation; driving economic growth and improving living standards in parts of the globe that were previously unable to benefit from economic advancements in other countries; creating new education opportunities; and contributing to improved international relations.

On a personal level, UCC advancements have enabled individuals to enjoy more flexible working hours and blend personal and work lives, as they are now able to work from anywhere. They have also enabled society to better handle issues such as elderly isolation and the disintegration of the extended family.

However, one negative side effect of ubiquitous connectivity and the proliferation of communications and collaboration tools is over-connectedness and information overload. Greater availability to perform job tasks any time, anywhere, has made it difficult for some to effectively balance work and personal life.

Furthermore, convenient and inexpensive access to abundant information presents new challenges. Users need new tools to sort, analyze, and leverage the various pieces of data that are now available to them. Therefore, data analytics represents the next frontier of technology innovation to help turn informational chaos into well-organized repositories of useful data.

Abundant data, faster communications, and easier information exchange can arguably hurt opportunities for profit generation as well. Markets are becoming more efficient, which typically shrinks profit margins.

However, human ability to process information is relatively limited. Also, in spite of continued advancements in data analytics, there are no tools sophisticated enough to analyze and disseminate information instantaneously. As a result, opportunities for excessive profits exist, but they will be short-lived and limited to rare pockets of disruptive and transformational innovation.

Another big challenge in a flatter world is the narrowing boundaries of privacy. As individuals become increasingly exposed through social media and various Internet transactions, multiple parties can now access extensive details about their demographics, economic status, tastes, and preferences, and then analyze and predict their behavior.

Opportunities exist for UCC technologies to further flatten the world. But there are also opportunities for UCC vendors to provide unique customer value by enabling users to more effectively control their availability and privacy and sort through large amounts of data.

 

Living in a Flatter World: Benefits and Pitfalls

21 Jan 2013

In a previous blog post, I talked about the role of social media in creating new beliefs and behavioral patterns. Here I’d like to talk about how social media is making our world flatter and what that means for individuals and society.

The “flattening of the world” refers to the gradual disappearing of geographic limitations and the leveling of the playing field in the search for unique talent, job opportunities, and new markets. It also refers to the ability to connect more frequently, easily, and inexpensively with family, friends, and business associates.

Pervasive Internet connectivity, growth of mobile and IP communications, and the rise of social media and social networking have made the world “flatter.” While the flattening of the world is not solely the result of ICT developments, this is one case where technology trends have had a profound impact on society, including both personal lifestyles and business relationships.

Overall, the flattening of the world is driving personal, business, and macro-economic prosperity.

Frost & Sullivan predicts that by 2020, there will be 10 connected devices for every household, five connected devices for every person, five billion Internet users, and 500 devices with unique digital IDs per square kilometer.

This explosion of connected devices has positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, people can more easily access and share information, knowledge, and expertise, thus accelerating innovation; driving economic growth and improving living standards in parts of the globe that were previously unable to benefit from economic advancements in other countries; creating new education opportunities; and contributing to improved international relations.

On a personal level, UCC advancements have enabled individuals to enjoy more flexible working hours and blend personal and work lives, as they are now able to work from anywhere. They have also enabled society to better handle issues such as elderly isolation and the disintegration of the extended family.

However, one negative side effect of ubiquitous connectivity and the proliferation of communications and collaboration tools is over-connectedness and information overload. Greater availability to perform job tasks any time, anywhere, has made it difficult for some to effectively balance work and personal life.

Furthermore, convenient and inexpensive access to abundant information presents new challenges. Users need new tools to sort, analyze, and leverage the various pieces of data that are now available to them. Therefore, data analytics represents the next frontier of technology innovation to help turn informational chaos into well-organized repositories of useful data.

Abundant data, faster communications, and easier information exchange can arguably hurt opportunities for profit generation as well. Markets are becoming more efficient, which typically shrinks profit margins.

However, human ability to process information is relatively limited. Also, in spite of continued advancements in data analytics, there are no tools sophisticated enough to analyze and disseminate information instantaneously. As a result, opportunities for excessive profits exist, but they will be short-lived and limited to rare pockets of disruptive and transformational innovation.

Another big challenge in a flatter world is the narrowing boundaries of privacy. As individuals become increasingly exposed through social media and various Internet transactions, multiple parties can now access extensive details about their demographics, economic status, tastes, and preferences, and then analyze and predict their behavior.

Opportunities exist for UCC technologies to further flatten the world. But there are also opportunities for UCC vendors to provide unique customer value by enabling users to more effectively control their availability and privacy and sort through large amounts of data.

 

On Social Networking and Social Responsibility

02 Jan 2013

As I busily shared greetings, thoughts, and photos on Facebook during the holiday season, I decided to write a post about the impact of social media and social networking on our lives today. Then I remembered an article I had posted about three years ago on a site that no longer exists. I searched for the draft on my computer and, as I read it, I found most of the ideas still relevant. Here is my article from January 2010 (with only a few minor edits):

"A couple of years ago, a friend, quite obsessed with conspiracy theories, sent me a video (unfortunately, the link no longer works) about Sigmund Freud, his daughter Anna, and his nephew Edward Bernays and the impact of their theories on modern marketing and public relations. My friend’s takeway from the video was that we are being constantly psychologically manipulated and deceived by those in power—politicians, corporations, media, aliens, etc.  I do not subscribe to global or otherwise large-scale conspiracy theories (color me naïve), but I enjoyed the video because I take interest in Freud and Jung, and the way their theories have been applied in social studies and comparative mythologies and how they have impacted the works of great minds such as James Frazer and Joseph Campbell.

The premise of the documentary is that modern marketing and public relations pioneered by Edward Bernays reduced individuals to passive, brainless consumers with little ability to pass judgments or make decisions on their own. As social networking rapidly penetrates society and I keep pondering over how it will eventually impact individuals, businesses and the various aspects of social life, I remembered this video and watched it again.

I personally believe that social interactions are inherently “manipulative” in nature—aimed at influencing other people’s perception of ourselves, of others, of concepts and various natural and social phenomena. It is our personal responsibility, not that of others, to decide to what extent we will allow ourselves to be influenced. With the exception of blatant, inaccurate propaganda (e.g. smoking is good for your health) or brutal enforcement of ideas (e.g. the crusades, the inquisition, etc.), the rest, in my opinion, is perfectly normal, natural human behavior. In fact, people have engaged in “marketing” activities, “public relations” and various forms of propaganda since the early days of humanity, only the means have changed over the years. Myths, rituals and religions were created for the purposes of disseminating collective wisdom and promoting values, as well as for entertaining people. In today’s society, those have been replaced by books and magazines (printed media), television, and most recently—the Internet and social media.

Have common people become less or more powerful participants in the process of exchanging ideas and impacting others in the way they think and behave? I believe that, in democratic societies at least, individuals are becoming increasingly better informed and empowered through improving literacy levels and growing availability of affordable means of communications. It is the Internet, however, that has truly democratized access to information and entertainment. Now social networking is making us even more powerful participants in creating social value by sharing ideas with a large number of people dispersed over vast geographic areas. In the distant past, people gathered around the shaman to hear prophecies, find cures for various illnesses or just for a relaxing time with songs and dances. Now we have Facebook, Twitter, Youtube …

This new social experience comes with certain implications that we might wish to consider prior to engaging in further social activities.

Opportunities to influence our social environment: It is obvious that the Internet and social media are creating opportunities for the common man to more freely (and arguably, more effectively) voice his ideas and concerns. Even if one person alone cannot have a significant impact on a stock price, a movie rating or a company reputation, the collective voice of the masses can make a big difference. This has tremendous implications for how social media is and can be used for marketing and customer service. “Word of mouth” will acquire a completely new meaning in the era of social networking!

Creation of new myths, beliefs, and rituals: We need to acknowledge that, as social media participants, we will become the creators of new urban legends (myths) and social practices (rituals). We may not even realize that, occasionally, we will fall prey to self-fulfilling prophecies as we systematically and collectively enforce a belief. To bring this closer to home, let’s take the concept of Unified Communications (UC) as an example. While UC certainly has the promise of delivering cost-efficiency and productivity benefits to business users, vendors, analysts, and media are effectively contributing to its becoming a more immediate and tangible reality by keeping its definition fluid and continuously ascertaining it as a “de facto” trend, rather than just a vision or a theoretical construct. But even simpler than that—isn't it amazing how we have become used to expressing our opinion or even simply acknowledging that we have read something by pressing a "Like" button? We instinctively look for a "Like" button everywhere we go on the Internet.

Emergence of new fears and conspiracy theories: It will not be long before social networking creates a fertile ground for new fears and conspiracy theories to emerge. Some people are already worried about too much exposure, identity theft, etc. These fears will grow into more serious concerns about the possibility of increasing negative influences on children and young adults that will be ever harder to monitor and control. Today, parents typically make sure they know their children’s friends and their friends’ families, but how will they know who’s behind a social networking pseudonym? The fear of companies, sects, the government, aliens, etc. now being able to reach individuals in all kinds of new and powerful ways is likely to cause people to alter their behavior, look for counter-measures, and seek for certain policies to be implemented in order to ensure at least minimal identity and security protection. Therefore, both individuals and businesses using social media will need to be very careful about what information they disseminate and how to avoid possible backlash.

The need for greater social responsibility: The sheer power of the Internet and social media and networking requires a new sense of responsibility from all contributors. While I stated earlier that it is everyone’s responsibility to control the extent to which they are impacted by new media, we should not forget that we are parents, employees, and consumers. As such, we have a responsibility to protect our children, companies, and other consumers like us from the spread of erroneous information and unhealthy beliefs.

Conclusion
In debates over the role and purpose of art, I have maintained a position that it does not need to be educational or elevating—after all, it is just an expression of the artist’s vision. I suppose that the same theory applies to social media, but even if we don’t want to control the content (that would be somewhat undemocratic), we still need some basic rules of engagement or else this may be the beginning of chaos.  As Jean-Jacque Rousseau discovered many years ago, man is inherently greedy, jealous, violent, etc.—i.e. evil in all kinds of ways—but he finds it necessary to sign a “social contract” (i.e. behave in certain socially appropriate ways) in order to be able to peacefully co-habit the Earth with other men and enjoy the numerous benefits of social (versus primitive, isolated) life. I will end this post with one of his quotes to give us all some further food for thought.

“The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "This is mine," and found people naive enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.” "

The CIO's Letter to Santa

09 Dec 2012

Have you ever wondered what a CIO’s letter to Santa might look like?

In a previous post, I shared the key findings of two recent Frost & Sullivan studies that surveyed the opinions of North American C-level executives and senior IT staff on unified communications & collaboration (UCC) tools adoption and investment plans. Based on these findings and other research, I imagine the CIO’s letter to Santa this year might go like this:

"Dear Santa,

The new year is right around the corner, and it looks like it’s going to be another challenging one. Our sales in Europe and China have tanked, and we might be headed into a new recession at home. The CFO is being extra tough with the IT budget; he is demanding hard ROI for every IT dollar spent. With the CFO, it’s all about the bottom line. So there we are again, laser-focused on the basics—which in CFO talk is mostly price, of course. 

But then there is the CMO … She’s not like the CFO at all; all SHE wants to do is spend. I constantly hear about fancy new tools she wants to use—“to improve sales and better serve our customers,” she says. These days, social media is all she wants to talk about. Just thinking about the security issues with all these social tools makes me lose sleep at night. What’s worse, I suspect the CMO is already using some of that stuff behind my back—there is so much free software out there and so much more you can get on demand (on the CMO’s dime, granted, but then who gets to deal with it when things go wrong?)

As if the CFO and the CMO were not enough, the employees are giving me headaches, too. They are going wild with all kinds of new tools that they are using on the corporate network. Personal cell phones and tablets are used for work purposes all the time. Skype and Facebook are now on almost every company laptop. Don’t these younger people know anything about security and governance? 

There is something else going on, too—more and more people are working from home or some place outside the office these days. The cubicles are empty; I am not sure why we are paying for all this space and utilities. But I’ll let others worry about that. My concern is—how do I get them hooked up to the corporate networks and applications while they are sipping coffee in pajamas and slippers at home. We might have to give UC and video more serious consideration or the company will just break up into silos.

But that’s not all … Here in IT, we are constantly swamped and overwhelmed. We can’t manage our aging technologies efficiently anymore. Also, new regulatory requirements call for an infrastructure upgrade. But my IT staff hardly ever get the chance to work on strategic projects; ongoing maintenance and support consume all of their time and energy. With everything going on, it is now apparent that our existing IT infrastructure is no longer aligned with broader company needs and objectives.

Here is where we stand today. We are already half-way through with our IP migration, but we need to further consolidate our infrastructure and optimize our IT operations. Virtualization might be the answer, but we haven’t quite figured out how to virtualize our communications platforms yet. We are looking at new delivery models, too. In this economy, hosted or cloud services may give us some flexibility, but I am concerned about security and control. We want to make so many changes, but we might as well wait and see how things pan out. Everything is evolving so fast these days!

So you see, Santa, I have a lot on my mind and I am hoping you can help. My wish list is very long, but this is what I really need in 2013:

  • Cost-effective and secure mobile integration solutions. There is no keeping these smartphones and tablets off the company premises any more.
  • Social media integration and data mining tools. The CMO just won’t give me a break! 
  • UC technologies such as presence, web collaboration, and desktop video. I must find a way to keep these remote employees connected or they will never get anything done.
  • Hosted services for some of the branches. But I am confused about all the different options. So, I’ll also need help getting educated so I can make the right choices.
  • An interoperable and securely federated IT world. Can you get the vendors to cooperate more? Or is that too much to ask for?
  • If you can’t give me any of the above, just help me find a way to reduce infrastructure and operational costs. I need a partner who will understand my goals and objectives and offer solutions that best fit my case. I am tired of vendors trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Thank you in advance, Santa.

Sincerely,

The CIO”

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