First American Business Enterprise

Save Money through Staff Augmentation

Let’s say you have a typical IT department where you have a lot of good people supporting your existing business systems.   Will those systems, and the people supporting those systems, stay in place with no change in the future?  Will your environment stay constant?  Hardly!   Your business, along with everyone else’s, is changing because the market is always changing and your completion is not standing still.  Your business leaders aren’t going to let your IT department stand still either.  Your CEO, CIO and others will need new systems to drive a reduction in costs and improve operational efficiencies through technological innovation.  That’s just the way it is.

This translates into a constant number of new IT projects.  While trying to complete these projects you may have unplanned staff turnover along the way but make sure you complete these projects on time, within budget, and to specification!

When companies look for outside help in completing IT projects, they generally turn to Staff Augmentation.

What is IT staff augmentation?  A way to easily and quickly add trained IT and telecom staff (resources) as needed. Resources are employed by the staff augmentation firm. A company may easily ramp up and down to meet changing demand without shouldering the cost and liabilities of full time employees.

Business usually look at two variations of the Staff Augmentation delivery model. One,  you can bring in resources with certifications and skills in the new system or new project or two, you can bring in Staff Augmentation resources to “backfill” your existing staff to free up your existing team to work on an exciting new project.  In either case, the Staff Augmentation allows you to fill the gap.

Here are the pros and cons of Staff Augmentation.

Pros

  • Speed:  Very quickly you can bring in an expert resource from a staff augmentation firm.   It is not unheard of to put out a request on a Monday and have an expert on-site (or remote) in less than 7 days (by the following Monday).
  • Control:  This new Resource works for you – you can direct them the way you want.
  • Specialist:  A Staff Augmentation resource brings a specific skill that fills a gap in your team.
  • Alignment:  Adding and subtracting Staff Augmentation resources allows your company to directly align the costs of a project equally with the duration of the project.  If you have a 6 month project the Staff Augmentation resource is there exactly 6 months.   No more.
  • Synergy:  By adding a new skillset to the team in the form of a staff augmentation resource, a company can take advantage to new knowledge inserted into the existing IT team.
  • Cost Savings:  There are no HR hiring costs with Staff Augmentation.  Such as:  Long interview process, job postings, on-boarding, annual training, or unfortunately in the business world these days – staff layoff costs.    You simply avoid the cost of investing and caring for an internal skill set.
  • Reduced burdens:  Liabilities of full time direct employees.
  • Improved Internal Employee Acceptance:  Existing employees are less threatened by staff augmentation because if there is downsizing, the contract labor is generally the first to go.

Cons

  • Training:  While you don’t have to train the resource on the technical skill they bring to the table there may still be training involved in bringing them up to speed with company processes and tools
  • Overhead:  Even though you cut out the hiring and firing part of the HR process there is still a need to supervise the staff augmentation resource.  They are an extension of your staff.
  • Results:  Unlike the outsource model, with Staff Augmentation the responsibility of the results stays with you (the company).  You are purchasing a resource … not a specific result.   The company remains responsible for the overall project deliverables.
  • Knowledge Departure:  When the Staff Augmentation resource leaves the company, the knowledge he/she brought leaves too.

Selecting a Vendor

When selecting a vendor, consider working with one that has your same geographical reach (is in all the locations your company is) and a broad set of skills – not just one function.  This will allow you to develop a long and trusted relationship as your business needs change.   Find a vendor you can trust to take the time to understand your business and deliver the desired results.

Summary

While there are pros and cons to Staff Augmentation the net benefits can be tremendous.  In today’s world of always changing business demands there is no way for an IT/ Telecom department to keep up with all the demands for new systems.  Staff Augmentation is a great way to cut costs by easily and quickly bringing on-board the right skilled resource to align exactly with the duration of the project.

Microsoft’s Lync surging as PBX choice in North America

Orlando — Microsoft’s Lync communications platform is making big gains as the IP PBX of choice, particularly in North America and particularly among larger businesses, Enterprise Connect attendees were told.

Lync ranks 11th worldwide among IP PBX vendors, but comes in No.3 in North America among businesses with more than 100 phone extensions, according to Peter Hale, principal analyst with MZA, speaking at the conference.

“Microsoft has gone from nothing to third in two to three years,” says Jerry Caron, an analyst with Current Analysis. “It’s become a very significant player in a very short period of time.”

Cisco ranked first worldwide, edging out No.2 Avaya by just 1 percent, but in North America among large businesses, it blew away the field. Cisco sold 44 percent of the phone extensions, he says, with Avaya pulling down 20 percent. Microsoft landed 13 percent, Hale said.

The number for Lync represents phone extensions actually deployed, not those sold, he said. Because Lync comes bundled with other software and includes communications besides IP telephony, the number of licenses sold is actually higher, he said.

One problem Lync could face is the decline of the PC, Caron says. Part of its success so far may be that most corporate desktops run Microsoft software. As businesses use other devices, notably mobile devices, for their main computers, that could change, he says.

Cisco’s worldwide lead in phone extensions is slight and fragile. It holds 13 percent this year, down from 14 percent last year. Avaya is breathing down its neck at 12 percent, the same percentage it scored last year.

Cisco dropped 2 percent in its North American large-business sales from 46 percent to 44 percent from 2012 to 2013, Hale said. During the same period Avaya went from 19 percent to 20 percent. Microsoft went from 12 percent to 13 percent.

Author:  Tim Greene @ Networkworld

 

Mitel Takes Aim at Avaya With ShoreTel Bid

Anyone thinking about signing a deal with ShoreTel for unified communications gear might want to take a closer look now that Mitel has made public its hopes to buy the company.

Mitel says it’s prepared to pay 24% over the price last Friday of ShoreTel stock (about $540 million), but ShoreTel says no and won’t negotiate, according to a letter Mitel’s CEO wrote to the chairman of ShoreTel. Despite the rebuff, Mitel plans to persist and that means ShoreTel customers should be vigilant.

At the very least, businesses weighing whether to buy ShoreTel gear should find out the likely impact of a merger, says Ken Landoline, a principal analyst with Current Analysis. “Beat up your channel about what does this mean for me?” he says.

Likely it won’t be anything bad because Mitel wouldn’t want to alienate ShoreTel customers by shutting down products they have invested in and perhaps hope to rely on for years, says Jeremy Duke, CEO of Synergy Research group. “They’d be on thin ice,” he says, if they did that. “The market is too competitive. They have to keep the customer base happy.”

An unhappy customer base would leave the Mitel/ShoreTel entity open to poaching by the two big unified communications leaders Cisco and Avaya, he says.

Still, potential ShoreTel customers should make sure that the terms of ongoing support for products are spelled out in whatever contracts they sign, says Landoline, so they know they won’t be stranded if the company is acquired, and its product roadmap changes.

By making public Mitel’s offer to buy the company is putting pressure on ShoreTel’s board by bringing the proposal directly to the attention of shareholders. “[W]e have a proven track record of successfully completing and integrating transactions and are firmly committed to bringing the benefits of a combined organization to our respective customers, employees and other stakeholders,” says Mitel CEO Richard McBee in an Oct. 20 letter to Charles Kissner, chairman of the ShoreTel board.

If Mitel succeeds, it would move the combined company up the ladder of market leaders by revenue in unified communications – at least in the U.S., says Duke. If U.S. on-premises gear plus unified-communications as a service market share for Q1 2014 are compared Cisco (28.7%), Avaya (13.8%), ShoreTel (8.7%) and Mitel (7.1%) rank numbers one, two, three and four respectively, according to Duke. Post merger, that would put Mitel/ShoreTel in second place and bump Avaya third.

He says the prime motivation for the deal may be to boost Mitel’s share of the U.S. market, similar to the way its acquisition of Aastra in January gave it the number 1 ranking in unified communications for Western Europe, Duke says. The Aastra deal also pushed Mitel into the realm of billion-dollar companies by revenue.

Author:  Tim Greene @ Networkworld

Keeping the Nortel CS1000 Alive

Avaya’s announcement of a “final release” of Nortel CS1000 at version R7.6 appears to have left these customers with one choice: rip and replace.

Enterprises that have Nortel CS1000 platforms and phones were hit hard by the Nortel’s bankruptcy. When Nortel’s telecom related assets were acquired by Avaya and GENBAND, the CS1000 customers became dependent on Avaya for ongoing upgrades and maintenance. Avaya’s announcement of a “final release” of CS1000 at version R7.6 appears to have left these customers with one choice: rip and replace.

Rip and Replace
The rip and replace solution presents several problems for the CS1000 owner. First, there is the expense of a new platform; in most cases new servers will be required. There certainly will be new software, management tools, operational procedures, and re-training of IT staff.

Beyond the core platform, there is also their considerable investment in desk phones. Many enterprises have proprietary Nortel TDM and/or Nortel UNIStim IP phones that are not supported by other vendors. With nearly half the cost of an upgrade tied to desk phones, replacing endpoints can be one of the biggest costs, and, of course, every new phone requires an end user to be retrained. And, since CS1000 customers have felt the pain of being tied to one vendor, standards-based SIP endpoints are in-demand.

The technicians that support the CS1000 and UNIStim phones are also moving on: either retiring or learning new systems. As CS1000 technicians refocus on other platforms, their numbers dwindle, impacting availability. As time goes by, the shortage in expertise and parts drives up maintenance fees.

Users will have to be re-trained. New apps will need to be introduced that essentially replace the CS1000 apps. UNIStim phones will have to be replaced. Moving to Unified Communications will be limited unless the CS1000 is eliminated.

IT’s Goals
Given the expense and complexity of rip and replace it’s no surprise that this is not a CS1000 owner’s first choice. An IT team’s goals for the continued life of the CS1000 are likely to include:

  • Extending the life of legacy UNIStim endpoints that can’t be converted to SIP
  • Building a true SIP-based solution
  • Maintaining feature transparency, thereby saving staff time and retraining users
  • Using the enterprise network or Cloud-based service
  • Adding Mobility (smart devices)
  • Offering UC to a range of endpoints (PC/Mac, tablet, phone)
  • Adding Video & Collaboration
  • Supporting Advanced Messaging

A GENBAND Solution
GENBAND has acquired Nortel’s carrier assets. Using their acquired intellectual property theyhave introduced three alternative paths for the CS1000 owner. All three pathways extend the useful life of the CS1000. The pathways not only allow the retention of the CS1000 investment, they also permit the addition of new capabilities for the users.
ScreenShot002
Three GENBAND Solutions

Wrap the CS1000 with a Cloud Overlay
This solution uses the GENBAND cloud-based service called NUViA™. NUViA™ is an enterprise-class Unified Communications as a Service designed to eliminate the need for premises-based session/call control. It is powered by GENBAND’s EXPERiUS™ solutions which is a platform that ties its heritage to the Nortel MCS platform.

NUViA services can overlay the CS1000 implementation without replacing the existing CS1000 hardware or software. It offers an overlay of UC, video and mobility applications on top of the CS 1000. The enterprise is free to use as little or as much as they want since it is sold on a per seat basis.

Migrate Endpoints to Cloud Based Core
This path expands the NUViA cloud based solution. The enterprise re-registers the UNIStim IP or SIP phones into the cloud-based NUViA system. The DID’s can be moved into SIP or cloud connections or can be maintained on premise gateways registered into NUViA. This allows the enterprise to be always current with the latest features. This solution is also priced on a per seat basis.

Migrate Endpoints to Premises Based Core
This third alternative moves the session/call control to GENBAND’s EXPERiUS™ service. EXPERiUS ties its heritage to the Nortel MCS application server. Given the heritage the feature set will be familiar to CS1000 users. However EXPERiUS is very much a fully virtualized platform with a hardware freedom model where enterprises can select Dell, HP, or IBM servers. The enterprise would re-register UNIStim, IP or SIP phones to the on-premises EXPERiUS servers. Enterprises can then add UC, video and mobility applications.

GENBAND’s Intelligent Messaging Manager integrates with EXPERiUS for voice mail, including emulation of much of the Call Pilot’s telephone interface.

The Benefits
The benefits of the three alternative solutions are:

  • Limited or no user training except for new features
  • The option to select either CAPEX solution with on-premises or an OPEX solution via the cloud
  • Retaining the Nortel phones can save $200 to $500 per user
  • Migrating forward with a SIP-based solution
  • Deploying a full set of UC features
  • No SIP device licenses

Conclusions
The enterprise may select to rip and replace their IP PBX. However, the GENBAND solutions offer a lower impact path for the future. The financial expenses will be lower if the enterprise can continue using its existing CS1000 and UNIStim phone investment.

This is not to say that the GENBAND is the best solution. The enterprise should look at the ROI on both the GENBAND solutions and a rip and replace implementation. It may be that the enterprise is ready to replace the UNIStim phones and the CS1000 is at the end of its ROI life. The GENBAND solutions offer another benchmark for comparison.

Author: Eric Krapf at nojitter

Trends in UC and PBX

Unified communications market up 27% from a year ago; PBX market continues to take hits

—Market research firm Infonetics Research released its 1st quarter 2014 (1Q14) Enterprise Unified Communications and Voice Equipment report, which tracks PBX phone systems, voice over IP gateways, unified communications (UC) applications, and IP phones.

ENTERPRISE TELEPHONY AND UC MARKET HIGHLIGHTS

  • Worldwide PBX revenue (TDM, hybrid, and pure IP) is down 8% in 1Q14 from 1Q13, and down 8% from 4Q13
  • The unified communications (UC) segment is the lone bright spot, racking up a 27% worldwide revenue increase in 1Q14 from the same period a year ago
  • Although there are pockets of growth in parts of Europe and South America, along with strength down market, none of it is large enough to lift the overall PBX market
  • CALA (the Caribbean and Latin America) is the only region to notch positive year-over-year PBX revenue growth in 1Q14, as economic activity picked up in anticipation of the World Cup
  • Cisco, Avaya, and NEC are the PBX market share leaders; Mitel cracked the top 4 as a result of its merger with Aastra Microsoft, who leads the UC market, is the only vendor in the enterprise telephony segment to post year-over-year revenue growth in 1Q14

ANALYST NOTE
“The enterprise telephony market continues to struggle as businesses hold off new PBX purchases and invest instead in unified communications (UC) applications. Purchase cycles are getting longer, and competitive activity is putting pressure on the market with pricing all over the map,” notes Diane Myers, principal analyst for VoIP, UC, and IMS at Infonetics Research.

Will the Office Desk Phone Die?

Traditional PBX vendors hope not.   How about a “Hard MAC”?   Not the Apple product but the move, add or change.   Need one of those?

There was a time not long ago where most all of us drove into the office every day, sat at a desk and did our work.   And we spent a whole lot of time on the phone!   Fast forward to today and the trends are pretty easy to see that are impacting the use, and outright need, of a desk phone.   For example:

Usage:   15 years ago my office was my “command center”.  I held meetings there and … you got it… talked on the phone.   Phone calls, voice mail, and more phone calls.   Today we simply do not talk on the phone near as much.   Mainly because we have other ways to communicate that we didn’t have before:  IM/Chat; e-Mail; Video; soft phone and of course the cell phone.  All of these other types of communication are driving down the minutes of the Office Desk Phone.   Ask yourself – if my Office Desk Phone went away today could I still conduct business at least for a while?    The answer of is almost sure to be “yes”.

Mobility:  Most of us don’t like to sit in one spot all day.   You know the Herman Miller $600 chair?  You needed one of those because you didn’t move all day and you had to be right next to your Desk Phone – in case it rang.   Now you can be in the backyard, at a park or anywhere and make and receive business calls.   This is better for you and better for the customer trying to reach you.

Millennials:   The 15 – 30ish year olds have really only known an environment with wireless phones.   They may have grown up with a land-line but it had a base station and wireless handsets.   If you are one of the younger Millennials you have always had a cell phone.   And guess what … when they buy a house or get an apartment they don’t get a land line so when they move into the office environment they won’t need one there either.   As the older workers exit the workforce (the ones who like landlines) they will be replaced by new workers who don’t want or need one.
Chart
The youngest households are abandoning landlines in droves. About two-thirds of households led by people ages 15 to 29 relied only on cellphones in 2011, compared with 28% for the broader population.

Softphones:   Most all phone vendors now have a soft client… it can be on your laptop or it can ride on your iPhone or iPad.   You can use your company phone directory and network resources on devices other than the traditional Desk Phone.

For smartphone users making and receiving calls via hosted PBX apps, voice quality and service availability are improving dramatically as 4G data networks spread. Even business software suites such as Open Office, traditionally the realm of desktop or laptop computers, are now available in mobile versions.

Summary:

So the trend is clear…   like the landline at home, the Office Desk Phone is trending down quickly.   So who will end up keeping a standard Office Desk Phone… the people who like to talk on a standard Desk Phone.  It will be a personal preference.  They say they can hear better and it is more comfortable.   Other than personal preference there are too many other options to free up some space on your desk.

First Impressions Count

Everyone knows that first impressions are important for businesses and individuals alike. What you should be asking yourself is this: What sort of impression is my company making?

A company must represent itself well on many fronts: to prospective employees, to business partners, to larger organizations etc…

Part of your impression includes your technological abilities and prowess. A slow or out of date tech system can be a warning for other companies looking to do business with you, and ward off possible future employees.

Take time and energy to consider what technological needs or updates your business needs to continue looking attractive. Even apart from outsiders, you need to remain compelling and competitive for your current talent and employees to stay with you and excel.

Staying attractive from a technological standpoint can be simple if you are seeking opportunities to upgrade and improve.

The good news is that you don’t have to do this alone. FirstABS can work with you to make sure your systems are up-to-date and attractive. Make your first impression count – give us a call today!

 

Customer Responsiveness – What to Expect When You’re in Need

Customer Responsiveness is one of the most important aspects of business for FirstABS. When you’re in need, we will be there for you.

So what does Customer Responsiveness mean to you?

For us, it means answering the phone in a timely fashion and returning missed calls quickly, responding to emails promptly, and dispatching qualified technicians rapidly when needed. It means frequently posting and monitoring our blog, newsletter and social media, because we recognize these platforms as our fastest and most efficient way to keep in contact with you and with future clients.

FirstABS is working hard to make these service areas a reality, but as always, we appreciate your feedback and thoughts on our progress.

Do these things fulfill your Customer Responsiveness needs?

To ensure that you are properly equipped to get the answers and tools you need – when you need them, make sure to sign up for our e-Newsletter and click through to link to our social media. The links for our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can be found at the bottom and top of this page. If you need something quickly, contact us and we promise to assist you in a timely and efficient manner!

Taking a Deeper Look into IP Office

Did you know FirstABS now provides a full Avaya IP Office solution for our key channel partners? We have developed a customized program designed to help our customers with hundreds of locations.

The FirstABS IP Office offers several advantages to help keep you productive and profitable, including:

Project Coordination

• FirstABS will provide a Project Coordinator to serve as the primary point of contact for the Prime (customer lead program representative)
• Our Project Coordinator will collaborate with your Prime on dates of implementation, tracking of equipment, site contact and location of installation, staging of equipment, technician assignment, installation of equipment and post installation training and support.

Site Survey
We will perform one survey for each site. The survey will include:

• Equipment room inspection.
• Verification of and power requirements for equipment including base station units.
• Validation of wiring and terminations for Avaya equipment and wireless station units.

Staging and Programming
You ship the equipment to our staging area for programming prior to your implementation date:

• We will unbox and inventory all equipment.
• We stage and program equipment based on your predetermined requirements.
• We will send to the our technician prior to the date of your site installation.

Installation of Equipment
Our technician will install the IP Office equipment at each site location. All installations will be scheduled around your required time frames.

• We will de-install the current telephone system and remove it if requested.
• We unbox and inventory all equipment.
• We install the Avaya IP Office in the sites telecommunication room.
• We set out the end user telephones.
• We mount the wireless base station as necessary.
• We perform cable runs.
• We test all features before leaving site.

Post Installation Support and Training
Our onsite technician will provide post installation support to troubleshoot issues that may arise from the installation.

If the Avaya IP Office sounds interesting, please contact us to learn more about our competitive “turn-key” service, and get your customized program underway!

We Now Provide Full Support on CS-2100/SL100

At FirstABS, we continually seek opportunities to increase our value to our customers. We are proud to announce that FirstABS now provides full support on SC-2100/SL100. Unified Communications (UC) brings the future to us now by integrating all of your real-time communications services.  In addition to providing full CS-2100/SL100 support, we are working tirelessly to explore ways to extend your legacy install base platforms to ensure you are prepared for the next generation of UC.

In 2012, Avaya and GENBAND extended their relationship. GENBAND now provides full development support on the Avaya CS-2100/SL-100 platform.  We have since become a Bronze partner of GENBAND, which affords us the opportunity to leverage the company’s product enhancements and software updates. With this core level of OEM support, FirstABS will expand its 2100/SL1000 service portfolio to include dispatch, engineering, tech support and monitoring. In a nutshell, we will be able to provide any and all needed support for these carrier class platforms.

As with any technology, these products continuously evolve over time, so count on FirstABS to ensure you stay current and achieve maximum productivity.