First American Business Enterprise

Avaya Marks a Decade as a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Corporate Telephony

Old Phone 2Avaya, a global leader in business communications systems, soft-ware and services, today announced it has reached one full decade as a Leader in Gartner Magic Quad-rant for Corporate Telephony with the most recent report.

The 2015 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Corporate Telephony report notes that the “market is evolving from a focus on innovation in proprietary hardware to use of commodity hardware and standards-based software. While most telephony solutions shipping today are Internet Protocol (IP)-enabled or IP-PBX solutions, the associated endpoints are a mix of time division multiplexing (TDM) and IP.”

Avaya has fully embraced these trends by offering telephony as both a fully virtualized solution for customer-preferred servers and in an appliance model on commodity servers optimized for Avaya. In terms of end points, Avaya uniquely offers TDM and IP enabled end-points for H.323 and SIP as well as a comprehensive client for Windows, Android and iOS devices.

When it comes to purchasing new or upgrading systems, Gartner recommends that “decision criteria for corporate telephony platforms should focus on high-availability, scalable solutions, which support Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), desktop and softphone functionality, and the ability to integrate with enterprise IT applications while delivering toll-grade voice quality.”

Avaya’s standards-based (SIP) telephony software delivers high quality voice capabilities that can be seamlessly extended to and accessed from desktop phones, softphones and mobile devices. Avaya Aura® Communication Manager, the company’s flagship telephony and unified communications technology for enterprises, supports some of the world’s largest contact centers, global businesses, and highly critical emergency communications operations.

With the acquisition of Esna earlier this year, Avaya now enables workers to access communications from inside browser-based applications such as Salesforce, Google for Work, Microsoft 365 and others, eliminating the need for them to move in and out of different applications and thus streamlining work streams and display screens. Avaya Engagement Development Platform enables developers to use a simple tool to tightly integrate communications into business processes and contextual data to further streamline workflows and increase productivity.

Quotes
“The expectation of simplicity, quality and speed of implementation for telephony is higher than any other technology. It’s been a driving factor in everything we do even as business communications technologies grew into multimedia applications over any device. We continue to set new benchmarks in developing and delivering the communications experience that engages the world’s businesses.”
Gary E. Barnett, SVP and GM, Avaya Engagement Solutions

Aspect Software Files Bankruptcy to Cut Debt Load

Debt

March 10, 2016 | CFO.com | US – Matthew Heller

The call-center software company plans to execute a restructuring that would eliminate $320 million in debt and equitize another $60 million.

Aspect Software, a provider of software systems and equipment for call centers, has filed bankruptcy so it can reduce a $795 million debt burden that has limited its ability to invest in next-generation products and services.

In a Chapter 11 petition filed Wednesday, Aspect said a capital restructuring plan backed by its creditors would eliminate $320 million of second-lien debt and convert $60 million of first-lien debt into 100% of the reorganized company’s equity.

“By resetting our capital structure and dramatically improving our balance sheet, we will be well-positioned to compete over the long-term while continuing to accelerate investments in our

Over the past three years, Aspect has invested $160 million in acquisitions, technology agreements and partnerships. It serves 2,200 call centers in more than 70 countries, generating annual sales of more than $400 million.

But in a bankruptcy court declaration, Bloom said staying on the “cutting edge of software solutions has been especially challenging given Aspect’s highly-leveraged capital structure,” which includes annual cash interest payments of approximately $34 million on about $475 million of first lien secured debt and about $320 million of second lien secured debt.

The chief executive noted that, as with other call-center software companies, Aspect has been shifting to cloud-based solutions, but has incurred downward revenue pressure in part because of the high costs of adapting to another technology platform.

Cloud revenue is also recognized over the period of the subscription contract, resulting in a deferred revenue backlog of more than $100 million, Bloom said.

The planned restructuring will bring Aspect out of Chapter 11 under the control of its lenders. Aspect said it expected the reorganization to be completed within 105 days.

“Communication Manager” provides UC foundation

The Avaya Aura Communication Manager is a core component of the Avaya UC platform and the foundation for delivering real-time voice, video, messaging, mobility and other UC services.Old Phone 2

The Communication Manager registers and maintains all Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) endpoints, call routing, call queuing, prioritization of voice and video calls and much more. The product also has built-in conferencing and contact center applications — suitable for companies with call centers and demanding conferencing needs.

The Communication Manager offers more than 700 features that are available to all users, no matter where they are working from, including office users and remote users working from home or on the road.

With this product, SIP and H.323 are fully supported, along with other industry-standard protocols. Connection with PSTN and ISDN services is possible using Avaya’s media gateways, such as the Avaya G250. These media gateways work pretty much the same way as most vendors’, connecting to the Aura Communication Manager and providing inbound and outbound call routing to PSTN and ISDN services.

Critical environments can also have a second Communication Manager installed, providing high-availability and uninterruptible service in case the primary server is down. Extending this redundancy model further, in the event that both servers are down, users will automatically register to the media gateway — if available — and have access to basic telephony services until the servers are restored.

The Communication Manager is offered as a standalone hardware application server or a virtualized application. It runs on a Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system, offering increased reliability, speed and smaller hardware requirements, as opposed to other non-Linux-based systems.

The Communication Manager can support up to 36,000 endpoints and 24,000 SIP trunks, making it a scalable solution for small to larger enterprises.

Voice systems and telepresence are hurting, but vendors see growth in other areas

January 11, 2016 | By Chris Talbot

Voice and telepresence are both suffering as vendor revenue in those areas continues to decline, but other enterprise infrastructure areas are growing. New research from Synergy Research Group shows that wireless LAN infrastructure products are growing the fastest – something that comes as little surprise as more enterprises roll out Wi-Fi deployments with the latest 802.11 technologies.

The Synergy report shows that revenue for WLAN products grew by about five percent in the last four quarters, whereas Ethernet switches grew at four percent, data center servers were a little above two percent, unified communications applications grew about four percent, routers were barely above zero percent, voice was down two percent and telepresence was down almost five percent.

It’s good news and bad news for the vendors involved. Cisco leads six out of the seven market categories. The exception is data center servers, where Hewlett Packard Enterprise reigns. HPE came in second in the Ethernet switches, routers and WLAN categories (the last is thanks to its 2015 acquisition of Aruba Networks).

“Cisco remains in a league of its own, accounting for a third of the market and gaining market share in the only segment where it is not the current leader,” said Jeremy Duke, founder and chief analyst at Synergy Research Group, in a statement. “Across these hardware-oriented product areas HPE is the only broad-based challenger to Cisco’s dominance and it has been steadily increasing its share of the market. However, what we are now seeing is the strong growth of cloud, hosted and collaborative software solutions, which is introducing competition from non-traditional areas and causing market boundaries to blur.”

The other number two vendors include – Dell in data center servers, Avaya in voice systems, Microsoft in UC applications and Polycom in telepresence.

But there are some up-and-comers gaining market share in each category, including Microsoft in UC apps and voice systems, Arista Networks in Ethernet switching, Mitel in voice systems, HPE in WLAN, Huawei in telepresence, Lenovo in data center servers and Cisco in data center servers.

Whether this could mean significant changes in market share and dominant vendors in the seven categories over the next several years is anybody’s guess. It seems unlikely there will be a repeat of the huge shake-up in networking that happened in the late 1990s, but transitions could happen.

“Services” Project Management.

Can you take any project manager and plop them onto any program and have it succeed?   Can a project manager who is an expert at deploying Avaya IP Office deploy Microsoft Lync?   Can a project manager who deploys ATT cell towers lead a Manage Service outsource project?   In other words, is Project Management “one size fits all”?

At First American Business Solutions we specialize in delivering world class services.   We perform deployments, upgrades, surveys and day- to-day maintenance support.   All of which take project management skills.

We believe “Services” project management is different from “Product” project management and we have a specialized discipline around it.  Our methodology, developed around a services only business, is designed for delivering network solutions that add business value to our customers.  Services Program Management is the framework by which all our programs are planned, estimated, controlled, and tracked in a consistent manner.  The program is based on the successful integration of people, process and systems.

Product focused methodologies (used by manufactures of equipment for example) is focused on the order, management and installation of hardware (servers, switches, etc.) whereas the Services Program Methodology is focused on the solution delivery.

Professional Services is a people and relationship type of business.  In a product based business it is possible for the client to buy your product if they believe it is the best product on the market regardless of the support people associated with the delivery because the physical product quality is the driver of the purchase.   In the services world of companies like First ABS it is not possible to separate the product from the delivery because the “people” are the product.  Therefore, not only do we have to have the best product (i.e. people to deliver that solution) but we must develop a relationship with that client before we can earn their trust to purchase services from us.  We must understand the client’s business drivers and benefit triggers and develop a partnership type of relationship where we are perceived as part of their team.

Case in point:   Recently a potential customer we had never done business with before contacted us about purchasing a block of hours for Tier 3 emergency technical support.   We provided a bid with a reasonable price for 200 hours for 7×24 support.   About a week later, that customer called with an emergency about a key site that had a switch outage.  Without a PO and without any commitment we immediately assigned the outage to an engineer who resolved the issue remotely within an hour!  To say the customer was pleased was an understatement.   As a result of that effort and the trust that was built, we received a PO for the full order within two weeks and we believe this is a start to a long lasting customer relationship.   This is an example of the “art” of project management.

Conclusion:  Services project management recognizes that there is both an art and a science to Project Management.  The Science is the traditional “Initiate, Plan, Deploy and Close” tactical part of project management.  The Art is the “people” part of project management.  The Art focuses on the client:  understanding their business, their revenue drivers, and how our solution will help them to be more successful.   Being flexible to the client’s always changing needs and leveraging knowledge from prior programs is key to the success of First ABS’ project management.  With our approach we strive to understand the customers’ business drivers from a strategic perspective, cultivate that relationship and then drive it down to the individual project for that client.

Lync is now Skype for Business

Old Phone 1If you already use Skype to communicate with friends and family at home, you’ll appreciate the power and familiarity of Skype for Business where it’s easy to find and connect with co-workers. And you can use the devices you already have (iPhone, etc.) to reach business contacts through an “enterprise grade”, secure, IT-managed platform. If you’re already using Lync at your office, you’ll recognize all of the features you already use but in a new interface with simplified controls and some good new additions:

Call from Skype for Business using your desk phone for audio

If you have a PBX (Private Branch Exchange) desk phone and your IT department has configured it to work with Skype for Business you can search for people in your organization and place calls to them within the Skype for Business user interface, while audio for the call flows through your standard desk (PBX) phone. You can also place calls from the Skype for Business client using any phone near you (like your mobile, home, or hotel phone). The person you’re calling sees your phone number as though you were calling from your company’s main phone number.

When you make a Skype for Business call with audio routed through your desk phone, you also get:

  • IM—so you can do a quick copy/paste of a URL you want to share (as an example)
  • Desktop and app sharing—so you can easily show and tell, work through problems, or explain stuff with pictures
  • Attachments—send files to the other person without leaving Skype for Business

Rate My Call

Kind of a cool feature called “Rate My Call” lets Skype for Business Server administrators collect call data, access standard reports, and export raw data for further analysis. Users are prompted to take a survey after completing a call.
image11306094838
First there was Skype, a popular app for instant messaging, video chat, and voice calls. Then Microsoft bought the company in 2011, continuing to offer it as a consumer product along with Lync as a business application. But last year Microsoft announced it would drop Lync in favor of Skype for Business, which would combine features of both Lync and Skype.

Today, some people are confused with what is actually available and how it works. There are two Skype services (free and paid and online or on-premises versions). There are two client types available as well.

Cores:

Skype for Business Server 2015: This on-premises server provides IM, presence, peer-to-peer VoIP and video, conferencing, enterprise voice, and telephone-system (PSTN) connectivity.

Skype for Business Online: This service is on line and bundled within Microsoft Cloud or Office 365.  It provides IM, presence, peer-to-peer VoIP and video, and conferencing. It does not provide enterprise voice or PSTN connectivity, but these features are in development.

Clients:

Skype for Business: This client replaces the Lync client as part of the Office suite. It works with either version of Skype and on almost all iOS and Android phones.

Skype: This client is available for consumer download, providing free service for personal use. Its features are similar to those of Skype for Business but usually are more limited in scope.

Pretty cool stuff…  Microsoft seems to finally be consolidating their story and solution to Enterprise voice and communication.  As a result you will likely see more selling to the corporate IT team in your company with Microsoft pointing out these selling points:

  • Online meetings, messaging, calls, video, and sharing with up to 250 people.
  • Find anyone in your company and schedule meetings in Outlook.
  • Enterprise-grade security and management of employee accounts.
  • As low as$2.00 user/month

Despite Improving Economic Conditions Enterprise PBX Market Continues Slide

Campbell, CA (March 10, 2015)—Technology market research firm Infonetics Research, now part of IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS), today reported that the global enterprise telephony and unified communications (UC) market closed down 4 percent in 2014, to $8.7 billion, as businesses continue to hold off new purchases and upgrades of PBX equipment despite improving worldwide economic conditions.

Infonetics chart
The overall market decline masks the health of the evolving UC applications segment, which jumped 20 percent in 2014, energized by the demand for tools to increase workforce productivity.

The data comes from Infonetics’ fourth quarter 2014 (4Q14) and year-end Enterprise Unified Communications Voice Equipment market share, size and forecast report, which tracks PBX phone systems, voice over IP gateways, UC applications and IP phones.

“The enterprise telephony market continues to be tough. Just as we see one area begin to improve, it’s offset by slowdowns in geographies or market segments. Underscoring the declines are not only slowing businesses purchases but also competitive pricing, which has created unpredictable swings,” said Diane Myers, principal analyst for VoIP, UC, and IMS at Infonetics Research, now part of IHS. “The move to the cloud is having an impact in certain markets, particularly North America.”

MORE ENTERPRISE TELEPHONY MARKET HIGHLIGHTS

  • Globally, PBX revenue, including TDM (time-division multiplexing) and IP PBXs, dropped 6 percent in 2014 from 2013, and dipped 1 percent in 4Q14 from 4Q13
  • PBX line shipments declined 3 percent in 2014 from 2013; In 4Q14, line shipments were up 4 percent year-over-year, driven by pure IP PBX
  • Vendors remain in a battle to gain customers and hold onto existing ones as enterprises migrate to IP and UC solutions: In 2014, the top four PBX revenue market share leaders were, in alphabetical order, Avaya, Cisco, Miteland NEC

Microsoft continues to see strong sales on the UC front, solidifying its position atop the unified communications market share leaderboard

Enterprise Telephony Market To Shrink 20 Percent; Cisco, Avaya Will Grow

By Mark Haranas on July 31, 2015

The enterprise telephony market will shrink about 20 percent within the next few years as enterprises move their IT dollars away from premise solutions toward the cloud, although vendors like Cisco and Avaya continue to see growth through on-premise solutions.

The market is expected to decline from an estimated $10 billion in 2015 to $8 billion by 2019, with its peak hitting $16 billion in 2007, according to Dell’Oro analyst Alan Weckel.

“Having premise equipment is less and less important. Those functions are just going to be integrated into other equipment or come from the cloud,” said Weckel in an interview with CRN. “Although on the enterprise side as you get to scale, the ability of having thousands of connections to the cloud for voice really doesn’t make sense. So the enterprise market will have a different transition.”

Dell’Oro is still predicting IP phone growth over the next five years from both PBX vendors like Cisco, Avaya and Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, as well as from third parties, such as Polycom and Grandstream.

Weckel said enterprises will pick some cloud pieces to use, but, ultimately, the call control will stay premise-based, because for companies with thousands of employees having everything from the cloud “just doesn’t make sense.”

“Cloud makes sense for a lot of SMBs, and the large middle-size companies, but when it gets to thousands of employees, it makes sense to have premise-based solutions,” said Weckel.

“The large vendors, a lot of them are growing through acquisitions and consolidation … If you look at Cisco, they were looking at selling to cloud providers to grow. So using Cisco equipment for the cloud offering, that will be a strategy vendors will use to expand the market — so not selling to the premise but selling to the cloud,” he said.

Analysts said enterprise vendors must create more unique cloud offerings in the telephony market by both selling equipment to support cloud build-outs and by creating stand-alone cloud offerings.

“If you’re a vendor and you don’t have a cloud strategy today, it will be too late,” said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at Westminster, Mass.-based ZK Research. “Now it comes down to how aggressively a vendor would be willing to cannibalize its premises-based business in favor of the cloud, how they compensate the channel and how they transition partners.”

“If channel partners do not have a plan in place today for cloud, they will be obsolete in five years,” he said.

Kerravala said ShoreTel has its own cloud offering and cloud partner program that allow the channel to sell its suite of cloud-based VoIP services, while Avaya is enabling its cloud partners to build a cloud rather than offer one directly.

“What’s important is that the vendor plays in the cloud-collaboration market regardless of whether they choose to build, enable others to build, or both,” said Kerravala.

Jamie Wood, executive vice president at Avatel, a Brandon, Fla.-based Avaya partner, said Avaya is ahead of the game with the Avaya Collaborative Cloud open platform solution for partners and customers.

“They provide the options to build, deliver, use, or enhance an organization’s cloud communication services and applications,” said Wood. “[The platform] was designed to support the transition and lives seamlessly alongside the on-premise solutions that organizations retain.”

Wood said the move to cloud communications will be a gradual evolution, and opportunities for solution providers are biggest in the midmarket.

Analysts said solution providers need to expand their level of expertise in cloud or face extinction.

Russ Zielezinski, chief operating officer at Advanced Telecommunications, a ShoreTel and Mitel partner based in Naperville, Ill., said 2015 has been the biggest market shift to the cloud ever.

“It’s been a challenge for us, who were founded as premise-based providers … It has impacted the premise market, and I can say we’ve seen it affect our numbers too,” said Zielezinski. “But for survival, you need to adopt a new cloud-recurring revenue model.”

Zielezinski said solution providers need to become cloud-focused and have the proper amount of technical staff on board to support all the different applications.

Organizations are selecting cloud over premise because companies are more comfortable with using OpEx dollars compared to spending a large sum of money up front for the equipment, according to Weckel.

“So the cloud allows them to pay on a monthly basis, which is just easier from a consumption point of view,” said Weckel.

In addition, cloud solutions are easier for SMBs because they don’t have to overprovision their systems, and it is also typically easier to manage.

“There’s a lot of opportunities there if the VARs and channel expand into adjacent areas around cloud,” said Weckel.

“It’s more than just voice. [Customers] are probably thinking about updating their entire networking, maybe going with a cloud-managed solution there like a Meraki solution for wireless and switching. Maybe they’re thinking about some cloud computing whether it’s Amazon or Rackspace — there’s a lot of opportunity to rewrite applications, write new applications and sort of become the trusted consultant to the customer.”

6 Ways Video is good for Business

Video Conferencing for the Small and Medium size companies.

Screen ShotOne of the best ways for businesses and employees to stay connected with each other is through the use of innovative technology. This is also great news since everyone also wants to save money and do something that can help benefit the environment. That is exactly the idea behind using remote video conferencing. This can end up not only helping business people to become more productive, but will also end up saving time and potentially a lot of money. Here are some of the ways remote conferencing can help.

  1. Video Means Employee Connections:
    Many, over 15% of office based employees work out of their homes multiple days per week. Because of this, video conferencing is highly valuable for employees who work from home a day or two. Video conferencing also provides immediate connection – It enables workers to get in touch within seconds. Rather than waiting for a quarterly meeting to come around, you can add insight into daily operations whenever you need immediate feedback. See last week’s blog post on what systems are free!
  2. Video and Facial Expressions:
    Live, online video meetings encourage employee participation through face-to-face expressions, unlike the traditional conference call in which everyone just talks into an office phone. Facial expressions and body language can be helpful if seen. They can encourage engagement, leading to more focus and participation in the business at hand. This also allows for strategy sessions and key meetings to be recorded and used as training for future hires.
  3. Video Means Less Travel Costs:
    With travel costing so much, video conferencing offers an enticing cut in the need for so much travel. Video links allow you to foster open communication with clients regularly, while potentially limiting travel to the most important of meetings. Not only are your travel costs reduced, the hours spent sending staffers all over the country is reduced as well, cutting down on lost time and productivity. Less travel on team meetings, customer meetings and training … all equals cost savings.
  4. Video Gives You a Competitive Advantage:
    The time and money you don’t spend on travel means you can gain a competitive advantage. When you provide a medium for your team to collaborate, share knowledge and communicate via video in real time, you’re fostering personal relationships between your company and your clients. This encourages client loyalty and reduces the time you spend going back and forth with revisions, quality checks and changes.
  5. Increases Productivity:
    Most of the better video conferencing systems now have the ability to help users share and edit all kinds of documents and files. All of this can happen in real-time.
  6. Huge Reduction in Carbon Footprint:
    Another interesting thing about the benefits of the type of conferencing is the potential to reduce your carbon footprint. Less car and less airplane travel reduces pollution.

Bottom Line:
Using a Video conferencing solution is one of the best things you can do for your business. Not only does it allow you to have a global presence, it is also great for your employees. This will end up saving your company time and money in so many ways, reducing your business travel and improving productivity.

“Saving Money with Video”

Saving money and building relationships.

Video Conferencing for the Small and Medium size company.

Screen ShotEvery company wants to save money and build stronger relationships between their employees and customers.   While some people are uncomfortable talking over a video call, it can be an extremely valuable tool for a small or medium sized company.   How many times have you taken a business trip somewhere or attended a conference and said afterwards “the best thing about the trip is I got to meet face to face with a bunch of people I normally deal with over the phone”.   In other words, the trip was worth the effort because you were able to build upon a relationship that was, up to that point, only based on audio or written communication.   Video may not be as good as an in person meeting but it is the next best thing and it has a WHOLE LOT of benefits (see our blog post next week!)

First off, let’s talk about saving money.   How does “free” sound?   Here are the most common free platforms available to companies today:

Google Hangouts
Web | iOS | Android
This product started as Google+, then moved to Google Talk (Gtalk) and now has morphed into Google+ Hangouts.  The video chat capabilities Google has created are simple to use and powerful.

There’s no large program to download and install on the desktop, but you will need to add a Hangouts plugin to your browser. It’s available for most browsers, even Internet Explorer. Sign into Google+, make sure Hangouts is signed in, and you’ll see your buddy list on the right. Pick a name and you’ll see a chat window. Click the video camera icon to start a video chat. Very simple

Skype
Windows | Windows 8 | Mac OS | Linux | iOS | Android | Windows Phone |

Skype is the de facto standard in video chat between two people. However, each participant must have a Skype account and it’s only free when you are talking one-on-one. Group video chatting requires a premium subscription, which starts at $4.99 a month. While video chatting you can instant message, show off your desktop screen, and share files.

FaceTime
Mac OS | iOS

FaceTime comes free with all Mac and iPhones and is as easy to use as making a phone call.

Once you register your phone number and/or email addresses with the service, you can then find others. If you know another user’s contact info and they’re also using an Apple device, making a video call is as simple as pie. That’s the major strength, along with very high video quality. The only drawback with FaceTime is that it’s not on any other platform

CamFrog
Windows | Mac OS | Linux (Server only) | iOS | Android | Windows Phone
CamFrog lets you set up Web-based video chatrooms where you or others with a webcam can join a conversation. One-on-one conversations are also an option. Plus it’ll do voice and text if you don’t want others to see you.

Cisco WebEx Meetings

Webex is a standard way to share a desktop and do an online whiteboard, but it also offers VoIP features, even on the free level that includes standard-quality video chat. However you’ll have to pay extra for high-definition video.

Jitsi
Windows | Mac OS | Linux
If you like free software to be more open-source and unlimited try Jitsi.  Jitsi (formerly the SIP Communicator) has almost nightly new builds of the multi-protocol software.  It is ICQ for video and does SIP or XMPP-based video and audio, and works with Yahoo Messenger and AIM for text chat.

ooVoo

ooVoo takes on Skype directly by providing features like IMs, free voice calls to any phone, screen sharing, and file sharing—and on the video side it offers group video chat with up to 12 people, along with video call recording directly to YouTube. There’s a Facebook app that lets you join a video chat right from the Web.

There are others but you get the idea.   These tools are out there and can be leveraged in your business for practically nothing.  Once you have the platform to use then you can unlock all the other value – see our next blog post called “Why Video”.