Crazy October

by Dave Michels

It was true last year too – October is a crazy month in the world of UC.

This October 2014 is filled with travel, briefings and trials.

On the travel side, I’m doing a 4 city road show with AVST, attending BroadSoft Connections, and an AR event with Unify.

AVST announced a big release of its CX-E platform, and there’s lots to like about it. Two big ones are Lync and TeamQ. On the Lync side, AVST CX-E becomes the first third-party voice mail system supported by Lync. This is significant because Exchange doesn’t cut it for voicemail for many organizations. It’s not a slam on Exchange – most call manager vendors do an ok job at voicemail because ok is generally sufficient. That’s exactly why a company like AVST exists. CX-E meets the advanced messaging needs of larger organizations, including native interop with multiple platforms.

It isn’t really as though Lync needs help with sales, but AVST CX-E will enable Lync voice to expand in many scenarios where Exchange functionality was too limiting. For example, organizations that have strict compliance rules/policies on voice messages that are different (usually stricter) than email policies can now implement this on Lync.

TeamQ fills in a hole for a lot of platforms – it’s a call distribution feature for informal contact centers. It actually makes a lot of sense to put this on the messaging platform. It allows a queue of calls to be distributed across different phone systems. TeamQ has a very clever feature that I haven’t seen before – the ability for “agents” to pull calls. Most ACDs push calls. They have lots of rules about who to push them to, and we hope they get it right. Sometimes it is the agent that actually knows best. Since AVST is also a robust IVR, it can collect some basic information and displays the queue to the agents. There’s tons of scenarios where this makes sense.

This week is BroadSoft connections. It is my third time here. It’s a big one because this year Bill and I are releasing the results of a half year study into BroadSoft-based providers. We issued an RFI to all of the major BroadSoft-based providers and identifies and ranks seven providers we feel are the most appropriate fit for enterprise UC customers. The report will be available at later this week. It was a fascinating project as I learned a lot about BroadSoft, its providers, and Wainhouse.  (by the way, AVST is here too because they facilitate cloud/premises hybrid deployments).

BroadSoft has been at hosted/cloud IP services longer than just about any of its present competitors. I think their technology is excellent, and some of their providers are top notch. I would recommend any of these seven providers to most US enterprises seeking UCaaS. Another of my take-aways is how hard it is to compare hosted providers. I think a high percentage of premises-based sales are just because it’s easier. This is a bit counter-intuitive, but comparing and normalizing UCaaS providers and offers is harder than buying and installing a premises-based anachronism.

Next report that I am doing for Wainhouse – to be published later this month – is ShoreTel, and the rapid changes occurring there. More so than I think most realize. The company is quietly transforming its products and architectures in significant ways.

Regarding travel, next week is a Unify Analyst Event. I am really looking forward to an update on project Ansible. For example, what will it be called?When it was originally introduced, the name was intended as a project name – but I thought they subsequently settled on making it the official name. Maybe not, this post suggests the name is still up for grabs (thanks @SteffWatson).

Rounding out the month is some current product evaluations – actually more than usual.

I’ve started using Lync much more than than in the past. I am using it with my Office365 subscription, so no PSTN (yet). I do use it for voice with other Lync users – oddly there is no way to connect a Lync phone to Lync Online. Overall Lync exceeds my expectations on the desktop. The mobile client on Android – not so much. I have been surprised with how many people I can federate with on Lync. I am also surprised that Skype and Google Chat have some areas where they are still better than Lync.

Included in my Lync trial is a replacement of my old white board with a new LRS solution from SMART. I am having a blast with SMART – both in and outside of Lync. It’s actually quite useful just as a personal display as I can effectively turn my Surface Pro tablet into a larger wall mount version. SMART is also much more of a phenomena than I appreciated. The UPS delivery dude knew all about it – he says he delivers them all the time. He knew the models and the nuances of the one I got. He then complained that schools have easier driveways than I do.

I’ve also been having a blast with LifeSize Cloud – it’s an impressive service that proves sometimes you just have to wait. I will be writing about it separately.

I just activated a Switch.Co account – the new Google Apps integrated UCaaS from FireSpotter and Craig Walker. It’s OTT and cheap, and has lots of lineage with Grand Central and Google Voice. It is very interesting to me because I’ve felt that most of the “enterprise” UC vendors are not working hard enough to accommodate Google Apps customers.

So much travel this month. Such a shame because I am missing lots of quality time with my in-laws that are visiting for 6 weeks.

Upcoming events in November:

  • Mitel AR Event
  • Cisco Collaboration Summit.