Learning Center

Why Is Collaboration So Hard?

Collaborating at work is not an option, it’s just something we all have to do. In fact, “stimulating and facilitating information and knowledge sharing between employees is considered as very important by 71% of organizations” [1] and most would agree that it’s critical for success. So, if we all truly believe that working together is essential, why don’t we just do it? Why do we find it annoying and frustrating, and why is it so hard to actually work together?

Collaboration requires effort

A March 2016 Forrester report by Art Schoeller entitled, “Define Business Value In Collaboration” , confirms “The effect of more people driving and refining a business activity can dramatically improve results. While we see and understand the effect of collective action on the open Internet, we often lack the culture and technology to drive the same results in our work environment.”[2] Why is that, what’s really going on?

Well, according to Fréderic Laloux, when we walk into the office in the morning, when we visit a customer,  or when we pick up the phone, we put on our “working mask”. We aren’t fully ourselves, in fact we’re only a very small part of ourselves.

In his book entitled, “Reinventing Organizations” [3], Mr. Laloux explains that we are only 1/16 of ourselves, and that the rest of “us” is hidden behind the mask. Why do we need this mask you ask? To protect ourselves of course, from judgement, criticism, and possibly even foul play. We become a “professional animal”. As a result team creativity and efficiency is constrained, simply because team members are hiding 15/16 of themselves behind their mask.

Unfortunately, maintaining the mask takes a lot of energy and  working together requires effort. And that effort isn’t always immediately rewarded.

Collaboration is time consuming

Organizations have become more and more complex. According to the Boston Consulting Group, “the index of complicatedness” has multiplied by 6 over the past 60 years, making collaboration ever more time consuming. Chief Executive cites the BCG report: “in the 20% of organizations that are the most complicated, managers spend 40% of their time writing reports, and 30% to 60% of it in coordination meetings. That doesn’t leave much time for them to work with their teams.”

Not only that, but the more complex the organization, the more knowledge workers spend time looking for information. According to Art Schoeller of Forrester, “more than half of highly paid roles like sales (52%), professional services (55%), and IT/technology (53%) spend an hour or more searching each day.”2 Leveraging the collective knowledge is hugely time consuming.

Collaboration tools are disappointing

Information and knowledge sharing can’t be avoided, so how do enterprises facilitate collaboration? They buy tools. However, “in four out of ten companies, quality of collaborative and personal productivity tools is considered as low”. [4]

The main challenges sound very familiar, and include [4]:

  • ”Ease to use tools and ergonomics”
  • “Interoperability between solutions”
  • “Access to applications from mobile devices”

You can make collaboration less painful

Success really comes down to two key ingredients – people and technology.

People come first. Fredéric Laloux suggests a number of ways to unleash the collaborative potential using what he calls self-management, wholeness and evolutionary purpose. In other words, freeing employees from the weight of their hierarchy, from their “professional mask”, and from the dictate of the “corporate vision”.[5]

As for technology, while there are many tools out there to choose from, they often don’t address the key challenges mentioned above including ease of use, interoperability and mobility, and result in a low adoption rate by employees.

If you are looking for a new tool that can empower your employees to be spontaneousengaged and in control, try Rainbow.  Best of all, it’s free! Let us know what you think.

 

[1]NetMediaEurope, January 2016

[2] Define Business Value In Collaboration, Forrester, March 2016

[3] Reinventing Organziations, Fréderic Laloux

[4] NetMediaEurope, January 2016

[5] Reinventing Organziations, Fréderic Laloux, 2014

5 Key Issues SMBs are Grappling With

oxo-connect-blog-750Did you know that Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) are responsible for 2 out of every 3 jobs around the world? Understanding the challenges and opportunities that are shaping the future of SMBs is a matter of the utmost importance.

A recent survey, conducted by Techaisle[1], identified the top 10 SMB priorities that IT and business decision makers are focused on in 2016. That got us thinking and we decided to drill down on 5 key areas we believe SMB business owners are grappling with this year:

  • Mobility
  • Collaboration
  • Cloud
  • Security
  • Budget

#1 Business on the go

In today’s business environment employees need to be able to work from anywhere, anytime–whether from home, from Starbucks, or on the road. To get the most out of mobile solutions, small businesses need to figure out what they want to accomplish. For instance, a flexible workforce can provide real-time customer service; employees can collaborate more easily and get faster results; real-estate costs can be reduced. The solution might be complex, highly secure and expensive, or it might be simple with lower security and higher risk. Selecting the right solution is specific to each company’s goals.

Some of the challenges SMBs face today when setting up mobility solutions include high equipment costs, complex installation, VPN integration, and they may require assistance installing software on mobile devices. And, even when a solution is working fine, it may be operationally complex and require IT expertise to maintain.

Hybrid cloud solutions are changing the game. Employees can easily install applications on their devices and become immediately mobile. Regular updates keep their applications current with no requirement for complex installations. The solution just needs to be hybrid-cloud “connected” to the existing telephony system and they are ready to go. Additionally, since the service is provided on the cloud network, there is no requirement for a VPN, or a remote security solution.

 

#2 Collaboration is key

The world is clamoring for collaboration. Voice and video calling directly embedded in a browser is making that possible. With the open-source API standard, Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC), Web applications can engage in direct voice calls, video chat, and data sharing without the need for desktop or mobile applications, add-ons, or browser plug-ins. This means videoconferencing will continue to get smoother, smarter, and more affordable while operating at even higher Internet speeds.

But it’s not just about video conferencing, IDG’s 2015 Unified Communications & Collaboration Study,[2] predicts a surge of adoption in UC&C over the next three years. According to their findings, 56% of enterprises, and 66% of SMB organizations plan to implement or upgrade their UC&C solutions within the next year. Those numbers are impressive.

Cloud-based integrations also have a role to play in expanding collaboration. They can connect a  videoconferencing solution with, not only core collaboration software, but also the myriad of devices with which employees interact. Off-site team members increasingly collaborate using smartphones and tablets, as much, if not more, than they use desktop or laptop PCs. Whether that means joining a group chat, sending and editing shared documents, or logging into a videoconference from an Android or iOS device on the go, cloud-based collaboration is on the rise.

Fundamentally, the key is to align systems with how people actually work. In a March 2015, Harvard Business Review article entitled, “Technology Alone Won’t Solve Our Collaboration Problems”, Mark Mortensen stated “every week a vendor introduces a new gadget, system, or service that promises to improve communication and collaboration.” [3] The reality is it’s not necessarily what technology you’ve got, but how you use it.

 

#3 It’s time for the hybrid cloud

A recent study from IDG Research Services asserts, “it’s no secret that digital business transformation and hybrid cloud computing are two of the most dominant IT trends today.”

Findings from the study indicate there is, “clear proof that a hybrid environment makes implementing digital business initiatives faster, easier and less expensive.”[4] Costs are lower, and return on investment is quicker and higher than initially projected.

IDC’s white paper, “The Growth Opportunity for SMB Cloud and Hybrid Business Continuity” suggests,  “SMBs are discovering, that in today’s hypercompetitive business climate, an investment in cloud-based business continuity can mean the difference between thriving, surviving, and becoming obsolete.” It confirms that, “SMBs around the world continue to shift investments from on-premise, to public and hybrid cloud environments, to achieve robust, complexity-free, and cost-effective business continuity.” [5]

Business owners are being driven toward consuming everything in their environment as a service. This is a major shift from capital expenses to operating expenses. By migrating services like communications, Unified Communications, and collaboration, from on-premise, to a hybrid cloud platform, companies can  commit to a consistent expense structure that is flexible and can create a business advantage.

 

#4 The security challenge

As SMBs rely more on technology to run their businesses, the requirements for access, as well as secure and protected data, become more critical and more complex. So, it’s not surprising that both small and medium businesses rank security among their most pressing technology challenges.

Data is no longer tied to a specific device or location and that makes IT folks uneasy. In our increasingly “cloud-first, mobile-first” world, data may reside on a company server, in cloud applications, or in cloud-based file-storing services. In addition, data can be accessed from a smartphone or tablet as easily as from a desktop.

The Dimension Data, Network Barometer 2015 Report[6], which was focused on a large installed base of customers, uncovered the following results:

  • 60% of network devices have at least one security vulnerability
  • 74% of wireless access points are older models (802.11g and older) that don’t support a sound mobility and security strategy
  • 53% of network devices are aging or obsolete (and that number is growing year-over-year)

This confirms how critical it is to regularly review network infrastructure.

 

#5 Scaled activity without scaled budgets

Budget constraints are top of mind for most SMBs. They often have different requirements and different IT challenges compared to large enterprises. In the blog entitled, “The SMB Digital Challenge: Scaled Activity Without Scaled Budgets”, Lindsay Rowntree says that, “In the UK, SMBs make up 99.3% of all business, yet account for only 18% of total marketing spend. One of the core challenges faced by small business marketers in the UK and, indeed, globally, is the lack of budget versus their larger peers, forcing them to limit their options significantly.”[7] That huge disconnect, between the number of SMBs, and the marketing spend, means SMBs have to seriously consider what they need to do to compete.

To be successful today SMBs need to be online, connected and accessible via mobile apps. To ensure efficient customer service, they need to be able to manage their business anytime, and from anywhere. The digital world is creating a massive opportunity for SMBs willing to embrace and leverage its advantages. A pay-per-use service offering can deliver the services and the budget flexibility that SMBs require, especially when essential services are basically provided for free.

Business DECT Handsets

EN_PS_PB_BusinessDectHandsets_Jul14Making on-site mobility an affordable option in all business environments

Alcatel-Lucent Business DECT Handsets take on-site mobility to a new level. The 8232 Business DECT Handsets offer easy-to-use, cost-effective and reliable voice communications, addressing mobility needs in evolving business environments.

The 8242 Business DECT Handsets also provide notification and location capabilities in addition to a one-button alarm function for the hospitality and healthcare industries. Designed as a high-end business terminal, the 8242 comes with several enhancements such as a large color screen for readability, HD Audio Ready technology for clear conversation, Bluetooth and USB connectivity.

Both Business DECT handsets offer a rich communication experience leveraging the capabilities of the powerful Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise platforms.

Benefits: Business DECT Handsets

  • Lightweight, ergonomic design and intuitive operation
  • Compatible with existing Alcatel-Lucent base stations for infrastructure investment protection
  • Excellent voice quality and business telephony features improve user responsiveness and business productivity
  • Green: Economy mode uses automatic low radio emission power (25 mW peak)
  • Low power mode (50 mW) makes it suitable for demanding environments
  • Notification & Location-based services (8242 only)
    • Location alarm signal when alarm triggered to help locate user
    • Up to 4 notification calls types from server
    • Dedicated alarm key
    • Task monitoring signaling (Hospitality, Healthcare, Warehousing…)

Features: Business DECT Handsets

  • IP-DECT connectivity
  • Keypad and display backlight
  • Hands free, microphone mute and vibrate modes
  • Headset jack (3.5 mm)
  • Antenna diversity
  • Direct micro-USB charging
  • Supports all AGAP features on OmniPCX™ call servers with TDM infrastructure, and on the OmniPCX Enterprise Communication Server with IP-DECT infrastructure
  • 8242 only :
    • Large 2.4” screen, 65 thousand colors, TFT display with 320×240 pixel resolution
    • Programmable keys
    • Embedded Alarm Applications: Notification and location based services
    • Bluetooth headset profile

Premium DeskPhones

Contemporary deskphones for SMBs and mid- to large-sized companies: awarded 2014 TMC Communications Solutions Product of the Year

Alcatel-Lucent Premium DeskPhones are designed to meet the needs of both SMBs and mid- to large-sized businesses or organizations. Featuring an elegant, contemporary design, they combine improved audio and software capabilities with ergonomic features to provide a superior communication experience.

Wideband audio provides better sound definition and quality. The re-designed speaker phone enclosure produces greater volume and projection. And with a Bluetooth connected handset and headset, you have room to roam.

All Premium DeskPhones and their add-on key modules feature ergonomic details such as an adjustable stand and backlit display for more comfortable viewing, whatever the ambient light. The alphabetic keyboard provides fast access to messaging and call-by-name functions. The easy-to-use navigator and programmable soft keys enable immediate interactivity with phone functions, as well as organization-wide applications and services available from OmniPCX™ or OpenTouch™ communications platforms.

The superb build quality of these phones, as well as their impressive list of features and add-ons, ensures that your investment today will offer excellent communication services for many years to come.

IP Premium DeskPhone models

  • 8068 Premium DeskPhone
  • 8038 Premium DeskPhone
  • 8028 Premium DeskPhone

Digital Premium DeskPhone models

  • 8039 Premium DeskPhone
  • 8029 Premium DeskPhone

Benefits: Premium DeskPhones

  • Wideband audio and ergonomics improve employee efficiency and productivity
  • Easy installation – supports plug-and-play provisioning
  • Easy-to-use feature buttons and interactive soft keys
  • Offers full range of telephony services
  • Support for Energy Efficient Ethernet provides improved energy efficiency
  • Service assurance with SIP survivability

Features: Premium DeskPhones

  • Superior voice quality
  • Optimized ergonomics
  • Omni-directional navigator
  • Dedicated function keys
  • Backlit display
  • Intuitive icons and soft keys
  • Alphabetic keyboard
  • Adjustable stand
  • Wall mountable
  • Compatible with 9 Series (Digital Premium DeskPhones)
  • Compatible with 8 Series (IP Premium DeskPhones)
  • IPv6 ready (IP Premium DeskPhones)
  • SIP survivability (IP Premium DeskPhones)
  • Embedded software encryption capabilities (IP Premium DeskPhones)

Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Omniswitch 6450 Stackable Gigabit Ethernet LAN Switches Family

The Alcatel-Lucent OmniSwitch 6450 Stackable Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet LAN value switch family offers versatile, 24/48-port xed con guration switches with optional upgrade paths for 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) stacking, 10 GigE uplinks and metro Ethernet services.

Promoting a design optimized for exibility, scalability, and low power consumption, the OmniSwitch 6450 is an outstanding edge solution. It uses the eld-proven Alcatel-Lucent Operating System (AOS) to deliver highly available, secure, self-protective, easily managed and eco-friendly networks.

The Alcatel-Lucent OmniSwitch 6450 family is embedded with the latest technology innovations and offers maximum investment protection.

The following types of deployments bene t from the OmniSwitch 6450 family: • Edge of small-to-mid-sized networks

  • Branch of ce enterprise and campus workgroups
  • Residential and commercially managed service applications • Service provider network deployments

omniswitch_6450BENEFITS

  • Meets all customer con guration needs and offers excellent investment protection and exibility with easy deployment, operation, and maintenance
  • Provides outstanding performance when supporting real-time voice, data, and video applications for converged scalable networks
  • Ensures ef cient power management, reduces operating expenses (OPEX) and lowers total cost of ownership (TCO) through low power consumption and dynamic PoE allocation, which delivers only the power needed by the attached device
  • Field-upgradeable solution makes the network highly available and reduces OPEX
  • Fully secures the network at the edge at no additional cost
  • Enterprise-wide cost reduction through hardware consolidation to achieve network segmentation and security without additional hardware installation
  • Supports cost-effective installation and deployment with automated switch setup and con guration and end-to-end virtual LAN (VLAN) provisioning
  • Simplifies metro Ethernet network OA&M for service providers

Alcatel-Lucent Omniswitch 6900 Stackable LAN Switches

The Alcatel-Lucent OmniSwitch® 6900 Stackable LAN and data center switches are compact, high-density 10 Gb Ethernet (GigE) and 40 GigE platforms. In addition to high performance and extremely low latency, they offer Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN), OpenFlow, Shortest Path Bridging (SPB), and data center bridging (DCB) capabilities, QoS, Layer-2 and Layer-3 switching, as well as system and network level resiliency. They are designed for the most demanding software-de ned operations in virtualized or physical networks and converged data centers.

With their modular approach, the OmniSwitch 6900s support lossless con gurations and native Fibre Channel (FC) ports for high-speed storage I/O consolidation. They can be positioned as converged top-of-rack or spine switches in data center environments, or as core and aggregation devices in campus networks.

omniswitch_6900The OmniSwitch 6900 product family offers a broad range of 1/10 GigE and 40 GigE port density in a 1-RU form factor. The switches offer the highest 10 GigE port density in their class, with up to 104 x 10 GigE ports, up to 32 x 40 GigE and up to 24 x 2/4/8 Gigabit Fibre Channel (GFC) ports in a 1 RU form factor. Its modularity also allows for many combinations to address any to any switching between Ethernet, Converged Ethernet and FC ports. The OmniSwitch 6900 product family leverages an energy-ef cient model with leading low power consumption, making them the most ef cient and versatile switches in their class.

Alcatel-Lucent Omniswitch 6860 Stackable LAN Switches

The Alcatel-Lucent OmniSwitch® 6860 Stackable LAN Switches (SLS) are compact, high-density Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) and 10 GigE platforms designed for the most demanding converged networks.

In addition to high performance and availability, the OmniSwitch 6860 offers enhanced quality of service (QoS), user authentication, deep packet inspection (DPI) and comprehensive security features to secure the network edge while accommodating user and device mobility with a high degree of integration between the wired and wireless LAN. The enhanced models of the OmniSwitch 6860 family also supports emerging services such as application fingerprinting for network analytics and up to 60 watts of Power over Ethernet (PoE) per port, making it ready to meet the evolving business needs of enterprise networks.

These versatile LAN switches can be positioned:
• At the edge of mid- to large-sizedconverged enterprise networks
• At the aggregation layer
• In a small enterprise network core
• In the data center for GigE server connectivity and SDN applications

omniswitch_6860

FEATURES

  • Versatile features and models offering high-density Gigabit and 10 Gigabit interfaces
  • Up to eight switches can be connected using Virtual Chassis technology to create a single chassis-like entity with up to 32 10 Gigabit uplinks and 384 Gigabit ports
  • Internal, hot-swappable power supplies, front-to-back cooling providing the lowest power consumption in its class
  • AdvancedfunctionsintegraloftheAOS:qualityof service (QoS), access control lists (ACLs), Layer-2/Layer-3 switching, Virtual LAN (VLAN) stacking and IPv6.
  • IEEE 802.3af and 802.3at compliant PoE of 30 W per port on all ports
  • Support of high PoE (up tp 60 W per port) on some ports

BENEFITS

  • With the variety of interfaces and models, the OmniSwitch 6860 family meets any customer con guration need and offers excellent investment protection and exibility.
  • The OmniSwitch 6860 Virtual Chassis increases system redundancy, resiliency and high availability while simplifying deployment, operations and management of the network.
  • Ensures ef cient power management, thereby reducing operating expenses and lowering total cost of ownership.
  • With its advanced PoE capabilities and high density of PoE ports, the OmniSwitch 6860 is ideal for converged campus deployments by offering deployment exibility, simplifying the wiring and reducing the time to deploy edge devices such as VoIP phones, surveillance cameras, 802.11ac access points and emerging devices that require higher than 30 W, such as a thin virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) client, small cells, or even a small network switch.
  • Using the embedded DPI technology, allows OS6860 Application monitoring to discover of up to 2000 business or personal applications owing through the network and apply QoS policy enforcement and prioritization for the discovered applications. This type of visibility can be used to optimize the performance of the network as well as apply adequate control.

What would you do if you lost your building!

How will you communicate with customers?

How will you generate revenue?

buildingMany companies have not considered the impact to their business if their communications systems were down for 1 or more days following a disaster such as a fire, hurricane or earthquake.  The fact is, recovery time to restore even partial service will take days, if not weeks.

ICON’s Rapid Communications Deployment Services

ICON Cloud’s Rapid Communications Deployment Service can have critical communications functions operational within hours as opposed to weeks or months following a disaster. This includes:

  • Telephone system services hosted in ICON’s secured data center
  • Alcatel-Lucent IP phones
  • Number forwarding service
  • Auto-attendant & voice mail.

Maintain Communications & Generate Revenue in the Wake of Disaster

iconcloudDown time can be measured in lost phone calls, lost emails, lost orders and lost revenue.  For a medium size business, this revenue loss could be tens of thousands of dollars per day.  Not to mention the stress it can lead to with your most critical customer and supplier relationships.

Is your business prepared for the unexpected?  If not, Telspan and ICON Cloud specializes in helping companies avoid the crippling effects a disaster has on business operations.

How to Choose a Phone System

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When deciding to buy a new phone system, there are several items you need to keep in mind. Follow these steps to help determine what you need.

First, Establish the Basic Business Needs

Consider what is driving your decision for a new phone system by first accessing your current situation. Ask and answer these questions:

· Have you outgrown your current system?

· Are there new features or applications you want to add such as collaboration, video, cell phone integration, desktop screen pops, database lookups or wireless voice?

· Are you having problems maintaining a new system or problems with service level?

· Do you have a high level of missed or abandoned calls?

· Is it difficult for customers to reach the correct employee?

Knowing why you are looking and what basic needs you are trying to achieve will help narrow down your choices.

Second, Analyze Call Flow and Design the Ideal Call Flow for your Business

Now that you know why you are looking for a new phone system, what do you want that phone system to do? Don’t make it about the great new “whiz-bang shinny” feature – go back to basics. It’s important to know why people are calling and how you handle those calls now.

Who will be calling? Customers looking for support? People wanting to buy your products or services? People wanting to reach other people for general information, billing, follow-ups or telemarketing?

Asking these questions will establish the basic needs. For example, if your company has multiple departments, an automated attendant can be used to route calls to those departments based on factors such as time of day, number dialed and reason for call. Or would it make your company more effective if callers were able to reach mobile employees by routing directly to the cell phone?

Third, Design the Best Solution for your Business

Now that you know the why and what, that is, why you are considering a new phone system and what you need that phone system to do, it’s time to analyze the how. At this point you will probably be working with a consultant or voice communications company.

Here are some things to consider that can help guide you through this process.

· Consider what existing infrastructure can be used with the new system. For example, cabling. Today’s converged IP-PBX systems often support both IP and digital/analog phones and your current cabling can be used.

· Discuss with your vendor how the proposed system will handle exact call flow sequences – this  will prove if the solution works for your business.

· Always be conscious of future growth – it is typical to plan for your new communications system to be in operation for a minimum of 7 years. A good rule of thumb is they system should have double what you believe is your growth projection.

Conclusion

As with most buying decisions, the best decisions are made when you are completely aware of the specific reasons that are driving your buying decision. By focusing on how calls are currently handled, what the pain points are for both customers and employees, and having some sense of your future growth and needs, you will make the best decision.

A good communications solutions provider can be your best asset in this process. Find a vendor that will work with you to help you identify needs specific to your business and leverage they best available technology to meet those needs.

Buying A Phone System

Your guide to buying a business phone system.