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‘From: No Jitter’

Toshiba will be one more step in the journey of the transformation of Mitel.

With Rich McBee as its CEO, Mitel has had a singular vision: Roll up many of the smaller UC vendors to create a supplier with enough size and scale to give Microsoft and Cisco a run for their money. While there are dozens, maybe hundreds of companies that fall into the broad category of “unified communications,” the dominant share held by the top two players effectively creates a duopoly. The coming together of a number of smaller vendors could eventually create a third vendor strong enough to go toe to toe with the big two on a global scale.

During McBee’s tenure Mitel has acquired Aastra, prarieFyre, and a couple of technology tuck-ins. The company also took a shot at both ShoreTel and Polycom, the latter of which was broken up at the 11th hour by Siris Capital. Yesterday, the next piece of the puzzle fell into place as Mitel announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to transfer the unified communications assets from Toshiba Corporation.

Earlier this year, in somewhat a surprising announcement, Toshiba stated it was exiting the unified communications market. While it’s true that Toshiba share had been sliding and it had lost its way as an innovator, it was still a shocker given it has about 3% market share in the U.S. and 4% in Canada, as well as a number of blue chip customers such as Whole Foods, Firestone, and Lowes.

Fast-forwards efforts to add artificial intelligence to collaborative environments

In Star Trek, when Spock wanted to get smarter about something, he could create a telepathic link between himself and another person. Called the Vulcan mind meld, the technique allowed for an exchange of data (thoughts) enabling the participants to act as one mind… which would hopefully lead to smarter and better decisions.

However, we’re still a few hundred years from forming an alliance with our future friends. For now, we’ll need to find a better way of doing things faster and smarter, and companies are looking to fill that gap through artificial intelligence (AI). Of all the unified communications vendors, Cisco has been among the most vocal regarding the use of AI for improving collaboration. Back in July 2016, Cisco previewed a speech interface, called Monica, and made it clear that AI was something it was pursuing.

Aiming for the “wow” factor, CRM company rolls out next- generation knowledge solution for improved customer experience.

Late last month I was a guest on the No Jitter On Air podcast for a conversation with No Jitter editor Beth Schultz on digital transformation. As I pointed out during the discussion, in the digital era organizations will compete on the basis of customer service. In support of this statement, here are some interesting factoids from my research:

  • By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the top brand differentiator
  • 67% of millennials changed brand loyalties in 2016 because of a poor experience
  • 90% of companies use customer experience as a differentiator today

An imperative for businesses today is to deliver not just a good experience, but a differentiated, fast experience. For example, a customer may sit on hold on a support line for a few minutes, and then spend 10 more minutes with a polite agent to solve a problem. This is a typical “good experience.” What if, through chat, the customer could ask the same question and get an immediate response? Or, should the customer prefer to call in, he or she would instantly receive a link leading to information that will help solve the problem? The fact is that people like things to be fast today, and fast responses are generally viewed as better than good ones that take time.

Given the massive size and scale of AWS, its contact center service certainly has some potential — over the long haul.

At Enterprise Connect last month, Amazon Web Services got all kinds of “oohs” and “ahhs” when it announced the Amazon Connect contact center service. But were they warranted?

The Amazon Connect announcement served as the catalyst for a number of news stories speculating about troubled times ahead for some of the most established contact center players. Below is a sampling of headlines and quotes I’ve seen in mainstream publications regarding Amazon Connect.

  • Amazon Connect Could Mean Big Trouble For Twilio
  • Amazon Strikes Contact Center Market
  • Companies including Five9 Inc, Broadsoft Inc and inContact are most at risk from Amazon’s new offering

I get it. AWS is cool, disruptive, and anything it touches will turn to gold at the expense of everyone else, correct? Well, to quote President Donald J. Trump, “Wrong.” Let me explain why.

Riverbed adds an important piece to its march towards its own transformation.

A decade ago Riverbed was smack in the middle of a phenomenal run, as the company had made itself synonymous with WAN optimization. The value proposition was simple, many applications ran poorly over the enterprise WAN and Riverbed’s SteelHead solution magically made things better. Riverbed wasn’t the first WAN optimization vendor, but it was certainly the loudest and most aggressive, and it became a household name.

But, as the famed songwriter Bob Dylan stated, “The times, they are a changing,” as things in technology tend to do. WAN optimization growth slowed, as did Riverbed’s growth. In 2014 the company was taken private so it could figure out what the company’s Act II would be.

Riverbed’s Transformation Journey

The first step in the transformation of the company was the acquisition of SD-WAN vendor Ocedo in January 2016. The next move came earlier this year when it announced Riverbed SteelConnect, which married Ocedo’s technology with SteelHead and network management software, SteelCentral. The result is a product that enables businesses not only to evolve the WAN into one built on broadband, but also optimize the transport with Riverbed’s optimization technologies.

Cisco’s Red Dot award roll underscores the company’s attention to detail and validates their approach to providing a delightfully simple user experience.

Following on its Best of Enterprise Connect 2017 win for the Spark Board 55, Cisco has earned recognition from Red Dot, receiving the “Best of the Best” award for the product’s “extraordinary, innovative design.”

While this year’s winners include many well-known consumer brands such as Bose, Apple, Sony, and GoPro, Cisco’s wins stand out to me as particularly interesting, indicative of the tremendous success the company’s Collaboration business unit has had in recent years. In total, Cisco received five Red Dot awards (the four other awards being one tier down from the Best of the Best), for its recently announced Room Kit (see, “Cisco Beefs Up Spark Ecosystem“) and other Cisco Spark products.

Remembering this year’s event for cloud, comms APIs, team collaboration, physical meeting rooms, and the digital experience.

The 2017 edition of Enterprise Connect is just about in the books, as we head into the final morning of the conference program and the vendor booths are all packed up. As is always the case with this show, due to the very nature of unified communications, a large number of subtopics, ranging from the basics to the most sublime, emerged throughout the week. However, I will remember Enterprise Connect 2017 for the following five major themes.

1. Evolution of the cloud. The cloud has been a major storyline at Enterprise Connect for several years in a row now. However, up until recently, the value proposition of the cloud has revolved around being a cheaper, faster way of doing UC when compared to premises-based solutions. This year the tide seems to have turned, and the majority of UCaaS provider vision now centers on how to use the cloud to create new ways of working and new experiences. We should see some interesting results, as now it’s time for the cloud providers to differentiate themselves from one another.

For example, RingCentral is moving toward an integrated UC/team workspace experience, Vonage is leveraging its Nexmo asset to appeal to developers, 8×8 is leading with contact center and BroadSoft is making available a wealth of contextual information through its Hub. Even companies like Cisco and Microsoft that have relied heavily on premises-based sales have shifted to cloud-first strategies with Spark and Office 365, respectively. The differentiation is certainly good as it gives customers more choices to solve different problems.



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