Collaboration for Education

February 27, 2011

In a global economy, the advantage goes to those who invest in their future leaders, preparing and educating the population for the challenges of the future. To stay competitive, both K-12 and higher education institutions must build safe, effective learning environments that engage and challenge students while streamlining communications and improving operational efficiencies for administrators.

Technology has become a part of our daily fabric. Today’s students demand access to constant connectivity and expect content to be delivered in increasingly visual, rich-media formats. Leveraging the power of secure, borderless networks and developing solutions with the network as a platform helps schools to design complete, end-to-end solutions that make learning more accessible and engaging.

As we prepared for the Enterprise Connect (#enterprisecon) show in Orlando this week, two key technologies stood out as ways for schools and universities to become more efficient and help students gain skills such as problem solving, innovation, and media literacy so they can compete in the global economy.

Video on Demand:a suite of voice, video, and web conferencing tools that can help schools and universities:

  • Deliver on-demand learning to desktops and digital signs anywhere, at any time. Inspire, motivate and educate students – and train educators using the same systems
  • Leverage access to remote resources and provide educational resources to students in remote and under-served geographies
  • Facilitate real-time, virtual face-to-face interactions between students, teachers, parents, and administrators, from anywhere, at any time

Unified Communications:a single IP network delivers connected voice, video and data, enabling faster, more effective communications:

  • Teachers and staff can automatically send parents assignments via voice and text messages with advanced outbound-calling services
  • Provide district wide intercom paging, allowing classes to hear school announcements over IP-phone speakers and external loudspeakers
  • Deliver district wide emergency messages to parents and classrooms within minutes of a situation
  • Phone calls and e-mails can be automatically sent to parents, teachers, and staff, notifying them of student absences, schedule changes, school holidays

In today’s learning environments, the ability to communicate the right information to the right people at the right time is essential. Collaboration technologies are the way to get there.


Choose Managed Services to Boost Internal IT Skills

February 10, 2011

As IT and communications infrastructure implementation, integration, monitoring and management become more complex, companies need to consider the advantages of selecting a managed services partner. The true goal of business and IT alignment is for IT to focus on how the business can use technology to support its goals and objectives—not just to maintain and support the systems it relies upon to do so. At the rate of technology advancements that require new skill sets, incorporating managed services to boost internal IT skills can be a very cost-effective choice.

According to Frost & Sullivan, “Managed services can empower the enterprise to more effectively leverage IT investments for a competitive advantage. A trusted partner with superior voice and data expertise can become a powerful extension to internal IT staff, saving money and ensuring more efficient and effective infrastructure operation and management.

Some of the benefits a managed services partner can provide to your businesses include:

Diverse and Comprehensive Expertise: Through rigorous certifications and extensive experience, managed services providers have typically acquired a broad spectrum of technology expertise. As technologies evolve, they focus on expanding their skill sets and competencies to remain competitive. This positions them well to manage complex, multi-vendor communications environments.

Proactive Infrastructure Monitoring and Management: Rather than resorting to reactive infrastructure management processes that address issues after downtime and inefficiencies occur, the right partner can reverse this trend that results when IT staffs are overwhelmed and under resourced. Managed services providers typically deploy remote monitoring and diagnostics technologies that enable them to detect and prevent potential network failures and resolve issues immediately. With a technical and customer service staff available around the clock, they’re often better equipped to provide flexible and reliable network management capabilities.

Predictable Costs and Quality of Service: Managed services deliver predictable network performance at predictable costs, greatly reducing the risk for the business. Service-level agreements (SLAs) commit the managed services provider to a certain level of quality of service that may be difficult to achieve using internal resources.

Economical Scalability: With managed services, businesses can scale infrastructure management capabilities more economically, by leveraging their partner’s extensive NOC capabilities and experienced staff to economically scale based on customer demand. In this manner, adding capacity or new technologies would typically entail predictable incremental increases in monthly charges instead of hiring new staff and lobbying for a major resource allocation.  

Managed services help businesses accomplish the following objectives:

  • Increased IT effectiveness through division of labor and sharing of responsibilities with the managed services provider based on core competencies and skills.
  • Reduced HR issues due to the managed services partner’s ability to answer the need for evolving skill sets related to advanced technologies.
  • Gain efficient knowledge transfer from the managed services partner’s expertise and skills based on similar projects implemented for other customers.

With communication and infrastructure technologies at the fore to help companies create competitive advantages, adding a managed services partner to your IT arsenal can provide impressive results much easier than when you try to do everything on your own.

IT Must Become the Center of Business

February 3, 2011

The Gartner 2011 CIO Survey shows some pretty drastic differences this year in relation to the previous three years. In fact, in several ways it appears that the IT agenda has been flipped on its head.

The number one IT strategy ranked by CIOs this year is developing or managing a flexible infrastructure. This initiative ranked at #8 in 2010 and #11 in both 2009 and 2008. On the flip side, the strategy to improve/link the business-IT relationship has been either #1 or #2 from 2008 – 2010. Now, it’s in 10th place, at the bottom of the priority list.

However, these rankings may not give the right impression of what CIOs have in mind. According to Gartner:

“The first wave of the digital revolution measured an enterprise’s digitization by its Web presence; but by today’s standards, most enterprises have much work to do before they can become fully digitized (see figure below). Now they must become digital from the front office to the back office. This may not be easy, but it gives CIOs the opportunity to re-imagine IT as the center of the next digital revolution.”

Reading between the lines, this restructuring of IT from infrastructure to process to people that will be necessary to digitize companies will actually serve to link IT closer to business objectives as they seek to enable them. In fact, the next wave of the digital revolution will mean extracting more revenues from information as well as the ways in which technology is used within the organization.

One of the ways this will be accomplished is by embracing non-traditional IT models:

“New lighter-weight technologies – such as cloud computing, software as a service (SaaS), and social networks -and IT models enable the CIO to redefine IT, giving it a greater focus on growth and strategic impact. These are two things that are missing from many organizations.”

But this doesn’t mean success will come easily for CIOs. Two of the obstacles that must be addressed include delivering business benefits and improving IT skills to manage and evolve the new technology models to serve the business. Let’s face it, all IT projects these days involve some level of IT, but each and every project undertaken by a company is developed with a strategic objective as its goal. It’s all about the business.

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