Operation Finally Home – Giving Back to One Who Gave So Much

When U.S. Army Major Eric K. King (Ret) carefully stepped out of the vehicle on a typically hot Texas day in July, no one could imagine the range of thoughts and emotions going through his mind at that moment. There were TV cameras and a crowd of people he had never met all gathered on a vacant residential lot in Irving. He shook the hand of Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer. He shook hands with Texas State Senator Kelly Hancock. And as he made his way toward the tent set up with chairs and a podium, we know of at least one thought going through his mind that he verbalized later. “I wasn’t prepared for this.”

Maj. Eric King was standing on the spot where his home would soon be, a mortgage-free home made possible by Operation FINALLY HOME and community partners including the Dallas Builders’ Association, Winston Homes, the City of Irving and NEC Corporation of America, among others.

Major King served in the U.S. Army for 16 years. His deployments included three combat tours – two to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. The first combat deployment was to Iraq in 2004 where he served as an Infantry Rifle Platoon Leader. He knew his life had changed after he survived several Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks, ambushes and gunfights while watching other soldiers lose their life or be critically wounded. King received many commendations, including the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Two Bronze Star Medals and many more.

Veteran Eric King receives mortgage free home

Like many combat soldiers, King suffers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The effects of his brain trauma and other serious injuries are constant reminders of his combat experiences. Medical treatment and physical therapy allow him to walk with the assistance of a cane, but he depends on a primary caregiver, a sister he lives with, and his parents to help him and his three children. However, his many challenges have not prevented him from wanting a key part of the American dream: home ownership.

Maj. King contacted Operation FINALLY HOME, a national, non-profit organization dedicated to providing custom-built, mortgage-free homes for wounded, ill or injured veterans, surviving spouses and their families. To date, Operation FINALLY HOME has over 250 home projects completed or in planning in 33 states. The charity works with various builder’s associations and member builders, corporate sponsors, and generous donors to fund each project.

NEC Gets Involved
NEC Corporation of America supports various charities and organizations through its philanthropic nonprofit organization, NEC Foundation of America. The Foundation’s mission is to contribute to the creation of social value and help advance human potential through technology and innovative giving programs with a focus on:
• Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education
• Health and Human Services
• Environmental Stewardship
• Community Wellbeing

Having employees that served or those with family members in the military, NEC has always encouraged employees to get involved and support various veterans’ organizations either with financial gifts or with volunteer time. Additionally, NEC’s work with various law enforcement and governmental agencies allowed company employees to work with many former service men and women. Our employees and customers with military connections inspired the executive board of the NEC Foundation to search for an organization to work with where Foundation dollars would have a positive and lasting impact.

“When the NEC Foundation learned of the vision and work of Operation FINALLY HOME, it honestly felt like the perfect match,“ said Jeremy Strauss, NEC Foundation Vice President. “By providing the gap funding to help turn this plan into a reality, NEC was able to support a deserving veteran and his family – in a meaningful and lasting way – by providing them a safe home – right in our corporate HQ backyard.”

There was a lot of behind the scenes work that went into making the surprise happen, with Maj. King thinking they were only meeting for coffee in a preliminary meeting to determine if he was eligible. You can see how it all came together by watching the City of Irving’s video.

NEC employees will have additional opportunities to support this veteran throughout the building process:

• Notes of Love – Once the house reaches frame stage, employees and other supportive members of the community will be invited to write positive notes posted on the frame before the builder installs drywall. These can be notes of gratitude for his service, spiritual blessings, or other positive sentiments. We want to “wrap the house with love” as the building process continues.
• Key Ceremony – Employees can be there when the keys to the veteran’s new home are handed over and help he and his family celebrate their new home and new life.
• Other volunteer and support opportunities – Employees will have the opportunity to volunteer as the family begins to settle into their new home as there are always unexpected needs and expenses during a move.

Additional media coverage of the event:
• Dallas Fox 4 – Disabled North Texas veteran surprised with mortgage-free home
• Dallas CW33 – Army veteran gifted new Irving home through national organization
• Rambler Newspapers – U.S. Army Major Eric King and his family received a big surprise

Gartner’s UC Magic Quadrant is Losing its Luster

The Gartner Magic Quadrant has long held a place of reverence in the Information and Communications Technology industry as a go-to resource for large enterprises seeking a short list of vendors to consider for technology purchases and projects.

As you may know, NEC is regularly included in a number of Gartner reports, most notably the recently updated 2018 Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications.

Frost and Sullivan Report NEC Smart Enterprise

Despite the fact that NEC is the world leader in lines shipped – with a 14.3 % market share in Global Call Control Licenses Vendor over Q1 2018 according to MZA Consultants – and despite the fact that we offer a full portfolio of UC solutions for businesses small, medium and large, Gartner has decided to place us in the “niche” category.

I’d like to share a few points of fact that I think you should consider when reading this year’s updated UC Magic Quadrant.

“Unified” No More

Let’s start with the name. I believe the widely accepted phrase “unified communications” is reaching its end of life. I’m not the only person who believes this, in fact there are several prominent industry analysts who share this opinion.

A recent NoJitter article by Sorell Slaymaker – a former Gartner analyst who was the lead author on the Corporate Telephony (CT) magic quadrant – makes a compelling point that the Gartner UC Magic Quadrant is “reaching the end of its usefulness.”

In Slaymaker’s opinion, “the idea that an enterprise will use a single platform for all communications is dead. Business communications is increasing an embedded capability in applications, and no one vendor does all things well across all regions of the world.”

His point is valid. We live in a highly customized world. Different business processes drive unique requirements, and we in the vendor community have learned that we must be able to integrate to survive. This is what we as NEC successfully demonstrate and are widely recognized as doing with our smart and integrated solutions across many vertical market sectors such as Hospitality, Healthcare, Government and Education.

Is #Gartner UC Magic Quadrant Losing its Luster? #magicquadrant Click To Tweet

Positioning in Quadrant Highly Questionable

Slaymaker furthermore does not agree with the positioning given by Gartner to several major vendors, including NEC.

As he states: “It’s hard to see NEC move to a niche player this year since it arguably sells more phones than anyone else; has a full feature set; is doing some leading edge things, including incorporating facial recognition into communications; and gets decent reviews.”

Many of our largest customers run multi-vendor, multi-cloud communications environments, just as many also run only NEC. We embrace them all. And I doubt any of them would consider us “niche.”

Furthermore it is worthwhile noting that, not unlike the market overall, a significant portion of our customers are categorized as ‘midsize businesses,’ while analysts like Gartner tend to be disproportionately impressed by major firms with larger marketing budgets. The strong marketing influence of American-based vendors like Cisco, Microsoft and Avaya is another aspect to consider when evaluating Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant.

Smart Enterprise is the Future

The truth of the matter is there’s no perfect Magic Quadrant that can accurately capture the essence of NEC’s enterprise technology business. As a result, you’ll find NEC products, services and solutions captured in 11 different Gartner Magic Quadrants, at last count.

Today’s large businesses run highly customized IT and communications environments, and rather than seeking point solutions to react to specific problems, they’re becoming more strategic about their buying decisions.

NEC believes this strategic approach is best achieved by focusing on the four value pillars of the Smart Enterprise. These pillars are business agility, cloud delivery, collaborative communities and assured services.

NEC supports these four pillars by delivering the industry’s strongest and most innovative portfolio of IT and communications solutions built on 118 years of excellence and expertise.

You can learn more about the Smart Enterprise on our Web site.

The Bigger Picture

Gartner’s library of Magic Quadrants is constantly evolving. For example, the company retired its Corporate Telephony Magic Quadrant a few years ago. Many believe the same will be true for the UC Magic Quadrant before too long.

In the meantime, NEC will continue to pursue optimal positioning with Gartner and other industry influencers with all available facts, vision and information regarding our products, solutions and implementations, as we’ve always done.

And while the era of optimal usefulness may be coming to an end for the UC Magic Quadrant, NEC maintains a healthy rating over on the Gartner Peer Insights Web portal.

If you’re not familiar, Gartner Peer Insights is where you can find customer testimonials on numerous IT vendor solutions. NEC has numerous positive reviews in numerous categories. I encourage you to check it out.

And if you’re an NEC customer, please do us a favor and leave a review! After all, in the customer’s buying journey, there’s very little information that’s more useful than hearing from a peer who has walked a mile in your shoes.

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Knott’s Berry Farm – How Does a World-Famous Theme Park Make a Great First Impression?

Upon entering the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park in Buena Park, California, you’re immediately immersed in another time. My first impression was of the charm of the place, its friendly “olden days” feel with a sense of Old West adventure. Even with the drama of live-action shows, the addition of its famous wooden roller coaster, exciting rides, shops, and dining choices, Knott’s Berry Farm has managed to retain its historical feel. But is all this history and charm really typical of a customer’s very first impression?

Actually, my first experience with Knott’s Berry Farm began online, followed by a phone call for more information. Just as most people these days would go online to purchase tickets, or book a full vacation package.

The Knott’s Berry Farm theme park is just one part of a larger brand experience. The company also offers the convenient on-property Knott’s Hotel lodging for guests, and the nearby “Soak City” Water Park. As a potential customer, my first impressions could well have been formed by speaking with a contact center representative who assists with guests’ vacation arrangements.

I dare say we’ve all experienced long hold times, and struggled to navigate prompts on an older phone system, trying to reach a live agent just so that we can solve a problem or simply make arrangements to pay for goods or services. Knott’s Berry Farm sought to solve this exact challenge for its customers.

With three distinct Knott’s entities to consider, all struggling with older systems that had long since passed end-of-life and support, Knott’s Berry Farm was faced with some big decisions. Decisions about how to make essential and long overdue changes in their communications system without incurring critical downtime, or disrupting their daily operations, or causing staff re-training headaches—and, since it would impact thousands of end-points, what is the most dependable yet flexible solution with the most efficient network?

Basically, how do you select the right new technology and then transition over from the old, while still maintaining ongoing operations of a giant multi-faceted entertainment enterprise?

Our Knott’s Berry Farm story will share with you the challenges, solutions, and successes of their recent strategic migration to two (2) UNIVERGE SV9500 communications platforms, complete with NEC’s UC for Enterprise (UCE) suite of unified communications (UC) and contact center applications. They chose this flexible, comprehensive UC solution that is fully networked, highly intuitive for staff, provides critical operations information, simplifies administration, has built-in disaster recovery–and was actually cost effective. In their own words, “It was a seamless transition”.

By providing routing assistance and delivering effective toolsets for the newly networked call centers–as well as basic features such as Caller ID, Collaboration, and Mobility for other Knott’s personnel, the upgrading from their existing NEC systems that have served them well, not only helped to enhance customer service between the hotel and park operations, it effectively improved the operation’s internal communications as well, simply by enabling much-increased functionality.

First impressions are important for this kind of Entertainment/ Retail/ Hospitality industry, and are really all about a happy workplace, providing a worry-free environment that can create great memories, for guests and staff alike. Knott’s Berry Farm can now deliver an improved guest experience, from the very first “Thank you for calling Knott’s Berry Farm”, to the last fond farewell.

If you’d like to learn more about this historical venue’s modern day move to state of-the-art communication solutions just let us know, and we can provide you with a free consultation with one of our hospitality experts.

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Advantage 2018: Bringing the Smart Enterprise to Life

Sharing stories of transformational success

Hundreds of attendees converged on the Gaylord Texan Resort to attend the 25th anniversary of NEC Corporation of America’s 2018 Advantage Executive Conference . The three-day gathering brought together top-performing NEC partners and solution integrators, along with distributors, resellers and IT and UC consultants.

This year’s conference agenda emphasized sharing success stories of transformation—through selling and implementing Smart Enterprise solutions in businesses of all sizes. Playing off a theme of “Exchange. Transform. Experience.” keynote presentations focused on how Digital Transformation is altering today’s business landscape. Paul Kievit, head of NEC’s enterprise business for EMEA and the Americas, noted that the integration of digital technology permeates all areas of business, causing a cultural shift in which organizations increasingly challenge the status quo with technology and innovation. NEC’s success comes from delivering IT and communications to create customer solutions for digital transformation.

*Full General Session Playlist*

Partners Take the Spotlight

Opportunities for attendees to network, exchange lessons learned and share new ideas expanded this year with the addition of expanded breakout sessions and solution demos.

“We listened to feedback from our partners and transformed our conference to include more breakouts, unique sessions, customer stories and partner experiences,” said Larry Levenberg, vice president of sales.

One of the highlights this year was the “Proud to Partner” session with presentations by a panel of partners Guyette Communications Industries, ServiceMark Telecom, Matrix Communications and Magna5. Representatives from each company described their organizations’ own recent transformational experiences, sharing advice and lessons learned with partners planning to embark on a similar path.

Vision for the Future

NEC executives also shared the company’s technology vision and strategy updates during keynote presentations. NEC’s Smart Enterprise technology strategy consists of a three-pronged approach, as outlined by Ram Menghani, senior vice president, UC/IT products and support:
1. Maintain unified communications and hybrid IT at our core
2. Grow intelligent-edge solutions and business models by incorporating biometrics, artificial intelligence, IoT and dynamic workflow into our offerings
3. Create additional value for individuals, enterprises and societies

“Since we first launched our Smart Enterprise initiative in 2015, we’ve converted many of our solutions to software-based platforms and converged our IT and communications channels. We created hybrid cloud offerings, building Platform Solution Integration Centers across the globe,” said Menghani. “Moving into the future, these centers will evolve into Centers of Excellence and key competency centers that will further fuel the creation of innovative solutions based on local and global trends, as well as emerging factors in society.”

He went on to say that this past year NEC expanded its strategy by functionally combining operations in NEC America with those of NEC EMEA. This combination propels innovation and simplification of the company’s products, resulting in greater support for both partners and customers.

Channel Partner Excellence Award Winners

Each year during Advantage, NEC recognizes partners who are leaders in marketing and selling the NEC portfolio. The 2018 recipients of the Channel Partner Excellence Awards included:
American Telephone
Batts Communications
Brookfield Group
Connecticut Communications
Design Communications (DCI)
Forerunner Technologies
Interwest Telecom Services
IPNET S.A.C.
Matrix Communications
Résotel
SETEL UC
Target Distributing

Advantage also provided an excellent opportunity for partners and consultants to meet directly with NEC solutions experts and the management team. The expo area featured demos of NEC’s IT and UC solutions for both SMB and enterprise, including cloud, biometrics and analytics. Valued partners who provide joint solutions with NEC also showcased their demos in the expo area.

To learn more about NEC’s Solutions for Smart Enterprise visit the website.

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A New Vision for NEC’s Smart Enterprise

As the enterprise environment changes, it’s up to technology partners to provide tools and stay adaptable to help support those businesses. NEC has a wide breadth of core UC and IT products and each stands on its own to help solve common technology dilemmas. Our NEC Smart Enterprise encapsulates those multiple solutions into one powerful enterprise approach to meet the demands and complex needs of today’s end users and IT executives.

With Paul Kievit expanding his role to SVP of Enterprise and a new Frost & Sullivan report, we’re building out a new vision for NEC’s Smart Enterprise.
Paul Kievit’s New Vision for the Smart Enterprise

In an effort to respond to market forces and transform Enterprise operations across both the Americas and EMEA, I am pleased to announce that Mr. Paul Kievit, Head of EMEA Enterprise Solutions, will assume the additional role of Senior Vice President of Enterprise for NEC Corporation of America.

Under Paul’s leadership and passion, his team helped develop the NEC Smart Enterprise go-to-market message and approach, which has been adopted by NEC businesses globally. Paul’s vision for NEC Smart Enterprise is to continue to develop and sell solutions around the customer experience:

• Addressing unmet customer needs
• Implementing best practices
• Creating excellence in the customer purchase experience
• Building brand equity and adopting NEC solutions to customer demands

NEC Smart Enterprise Explained

Built on four key objectives, NEC Smart Enterprise helps executives face the complex needs of enterprise users head on:
• Architecture flexibility
Software-defined anything
• Business continuity
• Internet of things

These elements allow businesses to improve how their employees communicate and collaborate, as well as improve the security of the information that is shared throughout the organization.

Moving to the Cloud
As IT executives adopt cloud-based IT and communications services, they hope to solve the challenges of data storage and scalability, maintenance requirements and multi-vendor platform integration. Decision makers, concerned with quality control, security risks, reliability and installation challenges, need to work with a provider and cloud model that addresses their unique needs. A hybrid cloud architecture can combine the best of a public and private cloud, allowing the organization control where they need it and outsourcing other components. Customizing the cloud environment strategically adds architecture flexibility and prepares for future business needs while improving business continuity and compliance.

Meeting the Workforce Where They Are
Business agility helps a mobile workforce respond to customer and business challenges on the go. The legacy focus on hardware has given way to a more flexible architecture of software services. Users and applications expect to work together in an ecosystem that should be available everywhere at any time. Virtualizing networks, through software-defined-anything, relieves the burden of time, real estate, and manned resources and therefore decreases the cost to the enterprise. The benefits of software-defined environments are simplified management, security, ability to scale, and less staff requirements with business continuity built-in.

Preparing for the Worst
While IT departments can “pray for the best” during their primary activities of rolling out new technology or resolving end-user quandaries, business continuity is not just an option anymore. Traditional business continuity solutions involved red tape and budgetary challenges to pay for the expensive hardware requirements. We have finally reached an era of business continuity/ high availability (BCHA) affordability through nearly always-up service level agreements, and users are demanding nothing less. Today’s enterprise technology partners must provide reliable data access through a variety of elements such as virtualization, load-balancing server software, fault-tolerant servers, Software-Defined Networking (SDN), scalability, security and threat management.

Improving Security
The internet of things (IoT), while adding a layer of security through connected devices and biometrics, can also build business value through analysis of the captured data. Law enforcement, higher education, and enterprise organizations leverage video monitoring and multi-factor authentication to prevent theft, monitor crowds, and create more secure areas and access control. Retail, hospitality, and healthcare also rely on video and biometric recognition to increase customer loyalty, improve record accuracy and reduce operational costs. Executives want to invest in IoT technology and need a partner who can maximize the benefits while easily accessing the data through reliable servers with nearly unlimited storage capacity.

The NEC Approach
The Frost & Sullivan vision of a technology partnership that solves enterprise challenges is reflected in NEC’s capabilities and product solutions. Our fault-tolerant servers, the full line of general purpose storage products–including our high-end HYDRAStor product which scales to almost unlimited data, work together with NEC’s SDN and UC solutions to build a quality Smart Enterprise solution for the enterprise marketplace. By condensing the amount of data center space required to run critical applications, and including biometrics into the mix, the new vision for NEC Smart Enterprise reduces costs for organizations and continues to add value, even to existing infrastructure.

• NEC offers hybrid cloud solutions customized to best fit the need of the enterprise, even those with regulatory and compliance challenges.
• An industry leader in the SDN space, NEC’s open architecture enables a flexible and simpler approach to the network design and provides business agility to the workforce.
• Disruptions to business, planned or unplanned, can be damaging to any size business in today’s climate. NEC’s secure fault-tolerant servers–as well as Active-Active communications with multiple software instances balancing the load in real time for high availability, provide true business continuity, even in hybrid environments.
• NEC’s facial recognition, biometrics and behavioral analytics solutions create the ability to gain business intelligence and maximize IoT solutions, creating a forward-thinking smart enterprise.

With new focused guidance and leadership, our NEC solutions for Smart Enterprise and passion for improving the customer experience helps to meet and exceed the needs of technology leaders, preparing them for the future.

To learn more about NEC’s Smart Enterprise, download the Frost & Sullivan Report. (Companion Piece) or the full report here.

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