Trip to Ottawa

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WebRTC is real, it resulted with me traveling to Ottawa. It had been a while since I’ve been to Canada, so I thought I would share a few observations.

In a respectful way, it was like going back in time. I had to change planes in Montreal, and I was concerned if I would have to go through security again. I did, but it was no concern. No TSA in Canada! I even got to keep my shoe’s on and walk through a metal detector instead of a full image scanner. Unfortunately, my T-Mobile phone didn’t have any data in Canada. But that was kind of liberating. It actually would have been ok if the voice part didn’t work either because there were payphones – at least in the airport. Normally, the only payphone I see is in my yard, but Montreal airport had quite a few. My flight from Montreal to Ottawa was on a propeller plane. Hmm. I think I was back in the 80s.

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Doug Michaelides, Managing Director, Macadamian demonstrates WebRTC from a tablet.

The reason for my trip was to participate in an Macadamian panel on WebRTC. It was a blast. Macadamian is a global UI design and software innovation studio that provides a complete range of product strategy, user experience design, and software engineering services to clients around the world. They realize that WebRTC presents significant opportunities to the user experience. Macadamian has a proven track record of helping clients create successful products on Android, BlackBerry 10, iPhone, iPad, Web 2.0 & RIA, Windows 7, and Mac OS X – has been doing UI since 1977.

The panel included myself and: Jim Davies, Chief Technical Officer, Mitel; Dilshan De Silva, Head of Browser Products, Espial; Mark MacGowan, Director, IT Infrastructure Management, Canadian Blood Services; and Scott Plewes, Vice President, User Experience Design, Macadamian. And we discussed the impact of WebRTC on businesses. The discussion moderator was Mark Lindsay, President of the Ottawa Product Management Association.

My message, no surprise to many of you, is that WebRTC is fairly exciting and in many ways represents the natural evolution of the browser. It’s a contentious evolution as Google and Microsoft have disagreement about it. Google is going to win this battle, at least in terms of the adoption of the standard. Though it may not matter if Microsoft nullifies it with Skype (see this post on NoJitter). However, WebRTC becoming a standard is only part of the battle. Organizations need to change their processes to embrace real time communications. For example, in this NoJitter post, I discussed how contact centers are designed to minimize real-time interactions. All this hype about just reaching out to a company because you have a question could be a bunch of malarkey if there isn’t a major shift in processes and attitudes – WebRTC or not.

My overall WebRTC advice to organizations is not to wait for the standard. That if they really want to use customer interactions to up their game, as a competitive differentiator, do so now. Start adapting processes today to embrace real-time communications. There’s plenty of ways to do this today pre-WebRTC. I like websites that allow you to enter a phone number and they call you. This requires no telephony plugins. There will also be a challenge in mapping web pages to phone numbers. WebRTC zealots talk about how clicking help on a page will provide context to the agent of where you are on the website, but there’s a lot more web pages than there IVR menus. However, there’s some nice solutions available today (see Fonolo) that can assist with this. The bottom line is WebRTC is shiny, but not a silver bullet.

It was a fun panel, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate. I also managed to get around Ottawa a bit. Here’s some highlights from my trip:

SONY DSC SONY DSCOttawa is a Government town, though on my stay most of the Government was elsewhere dealing with a big scandal over government corruption. Somethings are the same everywhere. I think this picture is of Parliament or something important. Who knows for sure. It was under construction too – they must build things really slowly there. The nice thing about Government towns is they have great restaurants, and I made an effort to verify this.

Next to the big building were the Rideau Canal Locks. They were built by the military and finished in 1832. The locks link the Ottawa River to Lake Ontario through a system of lakes and rivers. They are a popular artery for recreational boating, owned and managed by Parks Canada.

No trip to Ottawa would be complete without a visit to Mitel. It’s still considered headquarters, but more and more of the senior management are in the US now. I got to stop by and get up update on their new call center solutions. Mitel is making some big moves in contact center and since acquired its key partner PrairyeFyre. I knew Mitel was in Ottawa, but didn’t realize everyone else was too. It felt a bit like driving through the Bay area – software firm after software firm. I went to the ALU building by mistake, Avaya was right there too.

I got off the beaten path and found a farm with Organic Maple Syrup. The glass jars instead of those metal tins at the airports. I’ve never seen anything like this, every tree was interconnected by a gravity fed system of surgical tubing. Small tubes feeding into larger tubes. It was a beautiful farm right on a river. The main house was made of stone, yet seemed modern. I actually started seeing myself living like this – harvesting my tree farm without an axe, acres of surgical tubing, a Golden Retriever at my side. It was here that I met the Canadian state bird – lots of them – giant mosquitoes (the size of burritos). So much for that life. Instead it was 2 bottles of organic maple syrup to go.

 

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Found a Crocs store downtown. Nice to see a local Boulder company in a foreign land. Here’s some Crocs trivia for you: their headquarters office has a ShoreTel system.

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Did you know that Canada is a Bilingual country?

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I always wondered what became of Zaphod, but there was no sign of Arthur Dent.  Zaphod was my standard userID in the 80s.

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Dave Michels