Shane’s Touchscreen Keeps Him In Touch – With Everyone!

September 22, 2012

For our Director of Managed Services, Shane Roberts, everything he does – at work, or at home – revolves around communication – email, instant messaging (IM), text messaging, and the telephone.  Shane is what many might call a communications “power user”.  He looks at the things that a technology will allow him to do, then figures out how to modify the technology to fit his needs. 

I wanted to understand some of the techniques and tools that Shane uses to stay on top of things – and still get some sleep.  So, I decided to follow him around for a day.  Here’s what I learned.

6:30 a.m.:  Shane arrives at the office.  And while he’s downloading his email on his laptop, he’s scanning today’s news on his iPad.  Shane likes the article he’s found on Cisco’s Nexus switch in the Wall Street Journal, so he shares it with colleagues and customers directly from his iPad.  And, because Shane has “favorites” set up on his iPad email, he’s already responded to important customer or company email last night before he went to bed.  Now, all he has to do is scan through what’s left, and respond only to messages that need his immediate attention.

7:00 a.m.:  Shane checks his iPad calendar for the day and realizes that he’s got a full day ahead.  A customer call, an onsite customer meeting, a company conference call, and the Nexus Open House.

To prepare for the customer call and meeting, Shane takes a quick look at each company’s web site.  What’s been happening?  Have they announced a new product or service?  Has the company won any awards or have the products or services been mentioned in a newspaper or journal?

8:00 a.m.:  Time to check in with the sales teams for the customer call and meeting.  Shane uses his company IP phone to do two short video calls.  Is there anything that he needs to know beforehand?

8:30 a.m.:  Shane’s first customer call.  Shane uses his laptop, IP Phone and Nexus’ Cisco Unified Communication Manager to share his desktop and a short presentation.  I’m intrigued by the Bluetooth headset that Shane is using.   With it, he can connect to, and switch between, his IP phones (Shane has two), laptop, iPhone and iPad with a single click.  It makes me wonder if he’s actually listening to me during our telephone conversations, or if he is switching over to speak with someone else on another device.  Hmmm….

10:00 a.m.:  It’s time to run down the hall for the customer onsite.  Instead of loading up his laptop, IP phone, cell phone, pen, and paper like I do, Shane just grabs his iPad.  He uses Microsoft’s OneNote to take notes in the meeting.  When he gets back to his office, he’ll just sync up his iPad to transfer the notes to his laptop.

Shane needs some files that are only on his laptop during the meeting.  Does he panic?  No way.  He merely invokes the remote desktop app that he has on his iPad and accesses the files.  I discover that Shane’s remote desktop app can access his laptop using our VPN and the Internet as well as the company wireless LAN.

I’d been noticing that Shane’s laptop never seemed to leave his office – yet he was still getting work done on the road and at home.  Now I know how he does it!

11:30 a.m.:  Lunch, but there’s no time to go out.   Why that sneaky Shane!  He has a flat panel TV installed in his office with a Sling Box.  He’s catching up on the last episode of Sons of Anarchy while he gets a quick bite.  Now I know how I can watch some Ryder Cup matches in a couple of weeks!

While Shane is watching – and eating – he’s also doing his expense report.  How?  Using Concur, he merely takes a picture of his receipts with his iPad, then forwards them in a message to Finance.  Cool!

12:00 p.m.:  Time for the company conference call.  It’s a long one.  During the call, one of our important customers calls Shane on his second IP phone.  Shane uses his slick wireless headset to switch over to the customer, answer his question, then return to the conference call.  No one even knew he was gone!

1:30 p.m.:  Open house duty for Shane.  Customers come by the booth and ask for status on their tickets.  Shane whips out his trusty iPad and gives them updates from his Salesforce.com app.  In between, he sends some quick IMs using his iPAD’s Cisco Jabber client.  That’s when I notice something odd.  When I open another app on my iPad from the Jabber client, I get disconnected from our Unified Communications Manager.  Shane doesn’t.  What’s going on here?

Shane’s been up to something again.  He has done a “jailbreak” on his iPad.  His iPad, unlike the standard one, can run multiple apps concurrently.  Shane can switch from video or voice to Salesforce, to OneNote seamlessly.  What a timesaver!  I think Shane might have another iPad to work on very soon – MINE!

6:00 p.m.:  It’s been a long day.  Shane faced some tough questions today, and everyone seemed to want to speak with him at once.  While I was grabbing a beverage, I look around and Shane isn’t around.  Hmmmm…  I head back to his office, and there he is.  Hey!  What’s that on his dual wide screen monitors?  That looks like Need for Speed Hot Pursuit!  It IS! 

Shane’s in his office relaxing from a stressful day.  O.k., but, I’m still wondering how he got the Xbox 360 in here without anyone knowing about it!

6:30 p.m.:  Shane’s out the door – with his iPad. 

So what did I learn during my day with Shane?  That there are lots of ways to use communications and other technologies to help us get things done.  And, that taking a break and having a little fun during the day, only helps to make us happier and more productive.

For Shane, his iPad is the hub that keeps him connected to all of his devices, applications, and most importantly to his customers and colleagues, friends and family.  Shane’s iPad touchscreen definitely keeps him in touch – with everyone!

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Reduced CapEx Isn’t the Only Reason Our Customers Love Nexus Connected Collaboration

September 11, 2012

– by Mike Heiman, VP of Engineering

One of the services that is becoming very popular with our customers is our hosted collaboration service – Nexus Connected Collaboration (NCC).  The service is based on the Cisco collaboration suite and integrates voice, video, web conferencing, messaging, mobility, and customer care.  It also includes our next generation wide area network (WAN) service – Nexus Connected Next Generation WAN.  Nexus Connected Next Generation WAN automates more than 50 network management functions, allowing companies to provision remote teleworkers, branches, and retail offices world-wide.

Nexus Connected CollaborationMany of our existing customers chose NCC as a way to expand their existing premise-based Cisco collaboration solution to new sites without spending precious capital dollars.  However, once they began to use the service, they realized that NCC provides much more than just a way to conserve their capital.  The NCC solution is not new technology – it’s a new consumption model.  It also:

  • Gave their businesses greater flexibility – With NCC, our customers were able to integrate remote staffers and contractors as well as personnel and sites secured through corporate acquisitions quickly and easily.   Instead of weeks or even months of planning, design, and implementation, our customers can add new users in just minutes.
  • Saved money– Using NCC, our customers didn’t have to overprovision existing systems to accommodate growth.  Instead, they pay only for the services they use, when and where they need them.  Additionally, NCC removes the need for additional maintenance contracts and the time-consuming process of software upgrades.  Keeping things running and up-to-date is our job!
  • Enabled IT staff to be more productive – Our customers love the fact that their staff can now concentrate on deploying new technologies that will differentiate them from their competitors, not the mundane tasks of deploying and provisioning basic voice, data, and web services.  Using NCC’s management interface, adding users is a snap – and a task that is easily handled by customer service or administrative personnel.

Finally, our customers like the way that Nexus Connected Next Generation WAN (which uses military-grade encryption and has a full Public Key Infrastructure with automated certificate maintenance) combines with NCC to extend corporate collaboration services to trusted third parties (suppliers, contractors, customers) without supplying them with access to internal systems. 

Both new customers and existing on-premise customers are finding value in the fact that the same Nexus deployment and managed services teams are supporting them regardless of solution model.  NCC is fast becoming one of our most popular service offerings.  It’s easy to deploy, saves money, is secure, and, most importantly, provides our customers with the flexibility they need to grow.


3 Statistics to Make You Think – Round 2

November 9, 2011

This next segment of our statistics series will make you think (again!) about the ever-increasing volume of traffic moving over your network. With the bandwidth and storage demands of business video and unified communications tools, this topic is more timely than ever.


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.


Advanced Collaboration Brings More Bang for the Buck

January 13, 2011

Companies deploying IP-enabled, advanced collaboration tools are realizing significant gains in business performance, according to an extensive study by Frost and Sullivan. In fact, the more advanced their collaboration deployment, the more impact on performance they are likely to realize.

With companies today deploying IP-based applications such as presence, team spaces, document sharing, unified communications, and immersive video conferencing, the researchers wanted to find out how much value they are realizing from their implementations.

One indicator of interest in unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) is growing demand. While 46% of the U.S. companies in its survey have deployed such solutions already, more than 80% of the organizations that have not deployed them intend to do so within the next two to three years.  “IT managers in these organizations cite collaboration-enabled applications in which a worker can launch collaboration tools within an existing software application (21 percent), presence-enabled applications (18 percent), and immersive video (18 percent) as the top UC&C tools they plan to set up in their organizations in the near future,” the report states.

Of those firms that already had deployed collaboration tools, 72 percent stated that they experienced better performance. Where was performance improvement greatest? Innovation (68 percent), Sales Growth (76 percent), and Profit Growth (71 percent).

As part of its research, Frost and Sullivan identified organizations based on their level of collaboration and reliance on collaborative tools:

FrostSullivan-collabchart
What the research firm found (see chart below) is that there is “a continuum of collaboration-driven performance, such that better performance is related to the degree and sophistication of an organization’s deployment of collaboration tools. Lower levels of collaboration technology deployment and utilization are linked with lower levels of performance; whereas high degrees of deployment are linked with higher levels of performance.”

FrostSullivan-collabgraph

Such results, based on a performance index developed by the researchers, indicate that even minimal collaboration capabilities can deliver significant performance gains. However, top performers also tended to be the most advanced in terms of collaborative tool usage.

“Clearly, the deployment and use of collaboration tools impacts organizational performance,” the report states. “As organizations deploy an increasingly sophisticated set of collaboration capabilities, they are able to perform correspondingly better on several top-level business metrics.”


Future Trends for Collaboration Technologies

December 22, 2010

What’s ahead for collaboration technology? According to research firm Gartner, you can expect a lot of energy and investment on this front for the next few years – especially under the “social” moniker.

Gartner offers several key predictions for collaborative technology:

  • By 2014, social networking services will replace e-mail as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communications for 20% of business users. Greater availability of social networking services both inside and outside the firewall, coupled with changing demographics and work styles will lead 20% of users to make a social network the hub of their business communications. Gartner recommends that organizations develop a long-term strategy for provisioning and consuming a rich set of collaboration and social software services, and develop policies governing the use of consumer services for business purposes.Companies should also solicit input from the business community on what collaboration tools would be most helpful. After all, user adoption must be wide-spread in order to increase the value your organization can achieve from increased connectivity.
  • Through 2012, over 70% of IT-dominated social media initiatives will fail. When it comes to collaboration, IT organizations are accustomed to providing a technology platform (such as, e-mail, IM, Web conferencing) rather than delivering a social solution that targets specific business value. Through 2013, IT organizations will struggle with shifting from providing a platform to delivering a solution. This will result in over a 70% failure rate in IT-driven social media initiatives.A dearth of methods, technologies and tools will impede the design and delivery of social media solutions in the near term. But long term, enterprises will realize that social media is not a “hit or miss” activity naturally prone to high failure rates, and that a calculated approach to social media solution delivery must be an IT competency. At that point, post-2012, the social software market growth will accelerate as will the overall impact of social media on business and society.It’s time to consider enterprise “social” technology solutions such as Cisco’s Show and Share for video communities and conversations to enable continuous learning and collaboration that promotes better decisions and improves productivity.
  • Within five years, 70% of collaboration and communications applications designed on PCs will be modeled after user experience lessons from smart-phone collaboration applications. As we move toward 3 billion phones in the world serving the main purpose of providing communications and collaboration anytime anywhere, Gartner expects more end users to spend significant time experiencing the collaborative tools on these devices. The experience with these tools for all who use them will enable the user to handle far more conversations within a given amount of time than their PCs simply because they are easier to use.Gartner’s advice? IT organizations should continue to procure leading-edge smart-phones for testing and accumulate knowledge on how collaborative applications on such devices accomplish business tasks. As more organizations consider replacing desk-phones with cell phones, they may wish to anchor their collaboration tools also on the cell phone.

“A lot has happened…within the social software and collaboration space. The growing use of platforms such as Twitter and Facebook by business users has resulted in serious enterprise dialogue about procuring social software platforms for the business,” says Mark R. Gilbert, research vice president at Gartner. “Success in social software and collaboration will be characterized by a concerted and collaborative effort between IT and the business.”


Successful User Adoption Drives UC Value

December 16, 2010

To take Unified Communications (UC) to the next level in terms of success, organizations are challenged to focus on user adoption. While the business case for UC often is extremely compelling in terms of overall savings and productivity benefits, none of these gains can be realized unless UC is embraced by an organization’s workforce.

The first challenge to adoption lies in how a UC solution is presented in the first place. “All too often when Solutions Integrators are proposing a communication solution – whether it is basic VoIP or a UC solution for collaboration, instant messaging, unified messaging or even communication enabling business processes – they get so involved in the technical aspects of the solution that they overlook one of the most basic components of business communication,” writes Pam Avila at Unified Communications Strategies, a portal devoted to UC trends and opportunities.

“That component is the ‘equipment’ that sits on the end-user’s desk or travels in their pocket or briefcase. We refer to this equipment as the ‘end points,’ which sounds very official and technical,” she adds. “In reality, however, it’s all about the end-user experience. Provide a great end-user experience and acceptance of technology is almost assured. Conversely, move the end-user too far out of their comfort zone and a disaster looms.”

Mike Sapien, a principal analyst for Ovum, contends that UC services should be introduced in the enterprise the same way as new PCs have been introduced. As he explains, users gain upfront training. They are educated on new applications, features and the value of these capabilities.

“Just like with new PCs, UC users may at first be completely unfamiliar with some new features and have only very narrow experience with others,” he contends. “The assumption that end users can immediately jump in, knowing which tools to use to improve their productivity, is a bad one.”

He explains that some of the most successful UC implementation results are produced when companies create  formal and informal teams to focus on training users, encouraging adoption, and identifying valuable uses of UC capabilities. In most of these cases, top management also embraces the technology and leads by example.  The rest of the enterprise, in other words, is watching what they do.

“Consider earlier communication technologies, such as voice mail and e-mail, and how often senior managers relied on administrators to manage these tools for them. Some managers went so far as to ask assistants to type up their voice mail.” he adds. “This sort of avoidance technique won’t work with UC features such as instant messaging and telepresence. It has to be clear to employees that they’re expected to use UC features, and bypassing these tools will leave them behind professionally. Senior management has to model regular and effective use of the UC features so that others will respond similarly.”

When senior managers embrace Unified Communications, they set the stage for widespread adoption across the enterprise. They accelerate time to value by taking steps that encourage others.


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