NEC at Enterprise Connect 2016

Enterprise Connect always attracts technology innovators and creative disruptors in cloud solutions (UCaaS, IaaS, CCaaS, etc.), Unified Communications, the Internet of Things and more. This year’s event was again abuzz with powerful keynote presentations, lively panel discussions, and distinctive product demonstrations and exhibits. As a proud platinum sponsor, NEC helped attendees “Discover the Power of SMART Enterprise”, attracting an impressive crowd to our booth and winning a prestigious award for the second year in a row.

Ram Menghani - Enterprise Connect 2016“Last year, we introduced our Smart Enterprise approach to helping companies work more efficiently,” said Ram Menghani, vice president of product management and development, NEC North America. “This year, we demonstrated how our Smart Enterprise solutions are making a difference in all parts of our customers’ organizations, from the reception area and data center, through other areas like customer care centers and conference rooms, along with mobility solutions that enable seamless communications from any location.”

Showcasing the SMART Enterprise

On the show floor, visitors enjoyed a tour of the SMART Enterprise. Our display represented different departments within a company, highlighting how NEC solutions, such as UNIVERGE 3C and UNIVERGE BLUE, help unite every area of a business.

Examples of what visitors experienced:

  • Our SMART Receptionist, a touch-screen that allows someone to work remotely while managing the lobby, greeted guests in the reception area. Security protocols then went into effect as visitors were screened by one of our biometrics solutions.
  • A jaunt to the SMART Conference Room allowed visitors to work at individual stations, such as laptops or tablets, while seamlessly sharing information (even across several rooms or locations).
  • The SMART Customer Care Center displayed how UNIVERGE BLUE’s multi-channel interaction – voice, email, chat, video and voicemail, remote agent support, and analytics in the cloud – improves customer service and productivity.
  • The SMART Data Center showcased high availability infrastructure, including NEC’s unique Fault Tolerant servers that provide up to 99.999% uptime.

UNIVERGE BLUE Wins Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS)/Hybrid RFP Award

Each year Enterprise Connect holds a mock request for proposal (RFP) session. Every vendor that submits a response is required to answer questions related to their solution’s architecture, features, and total cost of ownership over a five-year period.

NEC was awarded the highest overall score in the annual UCaaS/Hybrid mock RFP session for the second year in a row when NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE Business Cloud Services UCaaS solution was selected as Top Cloud Solution with Lowest Total Cost Ownership.

“NEC has consistently ranked at or near the top in delivering value to its customers, said Menghani, “and the back-to-back, top-mark results from this mock RFP analysis further validates the value of an NEC solution.”

We’ll have a whitepaper of the 2016 results available soon. You can review the specifics of last year’s win by clicking here.

Session Speakers

NEC and its partners were featured speakers in several sessions throughout the week.

Menghani took part in the first general session of this year’s conference, the “UC Summit: Is the Path to UC Changing?”.

Watch video of the UC Summit

It was a lively panel featuring NEC and execs from Google, Cisco, Mitel, Microsoft, Avaya, and Unify.

“The communications market is changing aggressively,” Menghani said during the summit. “Having a combined infrastructure of UC and IT plays a very important role because they go hand and hand. It’s a wonderful benefit.”

Other featured speakers at this year’s Enterprise Connect included:

  • Gail Kasek, senior manager of SMB Product Management, hosting the breakout panel,  “Your Next Endpoint Deployment: Getting to Specs and Costs”
  • Kurt Jacobs, director of Internet of Things solutions at NEC Enterprise Communication Technologies, featured in the panel, “Disruptor Panel: Internet of Things and Enterprise Communications: Is Convergence Coming?”
  • NEC customer Steve Molander, chief information officer of Frandsen Financial Corporation, as a panelist for the “Driving End User Adoption for UC” session
  • NEC customer Roger Bruszewski, vice president for finance and administration at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, featured in the “EC Summit: Is There a New Model for Enterprise Communications and Collaboration?”

“When looking for an enterprise communication solution,” Bruszewski said to his audience, “there are plenty of vendors out there. However, you don’t want just a vendor. You want to find a partner who will take time to understand your needs and thoughtfully integrate their solutions within your company.”

Thank you to everyone who visited us during Enterprise Connect 2016 – our customers, partners, consultants, analysts, and media. We look forward to connecting with you again next year as we continue to evolve the SMART Enterprise.

YMCA of Greater Louisville: Using UC to Transform the Guest Experience

This powerful narrative about the YMCA of Greater Louisville shows how the organization’s use of NEC unified communications (UC) transforms the guest experience. YMCA management and staff share how NEC technology is empowering employees to connect more closely with members—resulting in a better experience for the Y’s membership.

Utilizing a newly built contact center that serves 17 branch locations across three counties, the YMCA increased onsite productivity by effectively handling on average 12,000 calls a month from a single remote location. Which leaves more time for staff to personally interact with their local members. Learn more about the YMCA’s story presented in their own words.

NEC technology can help other organizations grow their businesses through unified communications solutions. Are you ready? Let us know as we are ready to help.

NEC Advantage Executive Conference Gives Dealers First-hand Look at Latest Solutions

More than 125 top dealer organizations gathered in May to attend NEC’s annual Advantage Executive Conference, held this year in Phoenix. A total of 502 attendees came together to learn about NEC’s latest Smart Solutions for Smart Business, see demonstrations of the latest solutions, and network with counterparts from other organizations.

The annual event provides an excellent opportunity for NEC dealers and consultants to meet directly with NEC product and solutions experts and management. The exhibit area featured demos of not only NEC’s newest solutions, but also related products and services from vendors who work directly with NEC.

A highlight of this year’s event was the keynote address by Gartner analyst Tiffani Bova, who spoke on “Reading the Tea Leaves: Responding to the Speed of Business.” Bova addressed “keeping the customer as the true north” when preparing for the new business reality of what Gartner calls the Nexus of Forces: the convergence of social, mobile, cloud and information.

A wide range of products and solutions for both enterprise and SMB organizations were showcased during breakouts and in the exhibit area, including:

  • NEC’s award-winning software-defined networking (SDN) solutions and its Smart Enterprise IT portfolio of SDN-ready UC solutions
  • Smart Solutions for verticals, including higher ed/K-12, hospitality, healthcare and government
  • Applications for NEC’s new UT880 terminal
  • UNIVERGE SV9000 series of communications platforms
  • UNIVERGE Cloud services and hybrid models
  • Customer care solutions
  • Innovative biometrics solutions

“This year’s conference was probably our best ever, in terms of attendance and showcasing a wide range of NEC solutions,” said Larry Levenberg, vice president of sales, NEC Corporation of America. “Our Smart Solution portfolio, featuring innovative NEC technologies such as biometrics and SDN along with our communication networks and UCC solutions, received an enthusiastic response from our dealers.”

To learn more about NEC’s technology and solutions, visit http://necam.com.

5 Features to Look for When Differentiating UC Solutions

Unified communications is an increasingly important investment for organizations looking to improve productivity and responsiveness while reducing their IT costs. UC and it’s convergence of voice, video, and applications, is bringing benefits to enterprises and SMBs in every industry across the globe.

But if you’re undertaking a UC upgrade, it can be hard to know how to differentiate between all the many UC solutions that exist on the market today. Unified communications technology evolves so rapidly that it’s becoming more difficult for organizations to predict which requirements they might need now and in the future. What are the implications on your IT infrastructure?  Will the technology become obsolete too quickly?

In fact these fears are consistently on the list of the many reasons that organizations tend to sweat legacy investments for too long.

The key to differentiating the right UC solution is to search for and ultimately adopt a solution that’s built with/on:

  • Sufficient Flexibility – As office applications change, desktop and IT experiences evolve, and system requirements grow an enterprise-grade UC solution should offer multiple choices to adapt. The right UC solution will be flexible—with choices for both premises and self-managed deployments, subscription models with cloud services, or a hybrid with private cloud option—and accommodating  of  new requirements as your business needs evolve over time. Solutions that extend the value of your existing IT investments and promote end-user adoption should be high on the list of anyone looking for flexible, agile communications.  Core elements of a flexible solution should include: use of open, standards based protocol interfaces, Web Service orientation, the ability to add complimentary solution components including devices (IP phones, smart phones, etc.),productivity applications (plug-ins for email clients, or web portals), and even purpose built applications to automate certain business processes.
  • All Inclusive Licensing – All-inclusive licensing gives technology and financial decision makers the ability to anticipate user costs while ensuring that their end users have full access to the UC productivity apps and tools they desire. The inclusive structure makes purchasing UC easier by eliminating complexity associated with mapping licenses for specific apps or features to individual users or groups of users.
  • Variety of UC apps and services such as mobility – Often users throughout an enterprise adopt varying work styles which best suit their roles and responsibilities.  Offering a range of UC applications allows users the ability to choose the apps that best suit their particular needs and work styles.  These may include some, or all, of the following:  desktop UC apps for windows MAC users, browser based applications for cross platform use, mobile device apps for smartphones and tablets, plug-ins for other productivity tools like email and calendar apps or document management and related groupware systems.  Ideally, all of these various UC oriented applications will have uniform features delivered with a common look and feel to simplify transition from one to another.
  • Software-based solution – software-based UC and collaboration platforms operate across premises, cloud, or hybrid environments (flexibility). With a variety of software apps, operating across multiple devices (PCs, smartphones, and tablets), software-based UC systems fit naturally into an enterprise’s IT systems environment, leveraging common operating principles and practices.  This lowers overall operating costs, and maximizes the possibility for integration into an enterprise’s business processes maximizing the return on investment.
  • Vendor Maturity – vendor maturity is incredibly important when choosing a UC solution. There are multiple types of vendors in the marketplace today. There are those whose background is in network convergence. There are others whose background is strictly telephony. But for today’s modern communications—that work consistently in co-operation with other enterprise technologies—you need a vendor whose strengths are in both telephony and IT infrastructure. You need more than a Gartner Magic Quadrant leader—you need a challenger, an innovator, a customer-focused vendor building next-generation unified communications and collaboration experiences that reduce IT complexity and delivers superior reliability, scalability and robustness.

Enterprise Connect 2015

Each year at Enterprise Connect, a mock Request for Proposal (RFP) session is held. The mock RFP is a simulation of the requests that enterprises and government agencies put out when looking for a new unified communications solution.

The session, led by independent consultant David Stein, Principal at Stein Consulting Group, assesses the most common unified communications and collaboration that SMBs and enterprises alike typically differentiate between.  Each of the vendors that participate is required to answer questions related to their solutions’ architecture, features, and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) over a 3-5 year period.

This year’s UC RFP and Review session will, again, look at premises vs. cloud-based communications platforms. The session is a long running tradition and the ideal way to provide potential customers an objective way to learn about the top vendors in the industry. The session includes discussion of:

  • Overall findings/trends as of Q1 2015
  • The system offerings currently available from leading suppliers
  • Strengths and weaknesses of leading vendors’ offerings
  • The subjective rankings based on architecture, functionality and cost
  • Product Differentiation (what really matters?)
  • UC Procurements (should enterprises focus on platform or use cases?) and more.

There are a number of factors to consider in evaluating Unified Communications RFPs—high availability, voicemail, unified messaging, and unified communications are just some of the features of modern communications technology.

If your organization is starting the process of looking for a new UC solution to replace your existing IP/PBX, I invite you to join me during the session and listen to how each vendor ranks.

For a comprehensive look at weighting, factors and TCO evaluations from 2015, download the UC RFP whitepaper by David Stein.

How to Choose a Cloud or SaaS Vendor

2015-02-26_1113Choosing a cloud and SaaS vendor can be tricky for SMBs with small IT organizations and larger corporations looking to lower operating costs. There are many benefits to choosing cloud or SaaS over on-premises but the route to those benefits is not always risk-free.

Difficulty vetting cloud or SaaS vendors is a common problem in today’s IT world. We see many organizations that continue to sweat older assets, having used on-premises software for many years. Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research, has pointed out, however, that more than 90 percent of businesses are starting to employ these technologies on some scale.

Vetting cloud or SaaS vendors can be very easy if you take the right approach. Rather than simply taking trusting the vendor’s qualifications or what you’ve read/heard, you should validate each claim the vendor makes to ensure that they don’t overstate their capabilities.

Verification is the key to success when choosing a cloud or SaaS vendor. Here are our tips to help you make the comprehensive assessments needed to make the right choice.

Vetting the Business

You wouldn’t buy a car from a manufacturer you knew nothing about. The same should be said of a cloud or SaaS solution. When your business is thinking about adopting a new cloud or SaaS technology, its imperative that you vet the vendors’ businesses as well as their technology.

You need to ensure that their leadership is strong, their business model is sound, and that the firm has the financial stability to survive the stressors of the current economy. This stage is the time to ask the tough questions, and get real, specific responses in return. Keep pressing until you get a real answer, one that’s supported by policies and procedures. Questions like these can help you determine the viability of the business at large:

  • Do you have a burn rate where you are making less than you are spending? If so, how long is the runway where you can survive at this pace without new partners investing?
  • Is your leadership rounded and truly qualified? Do you have a technologist at the helm, and has he surrounded himself with the operational, financial and sales expertise to keep turning out great products and services?
  • How do you maintain accountability for your administrative staff in regard to the control and management of customer data within/and outside of your application? What security challenges might we face if we give you direct control over our sensitive or compliance-relevant data?
  • How do you address government regulations?
  • Can we adjust our services as the business evolves?
  • Where does my support come from (vendor, support partner, etc.)?
  • What will I really pay?

Vetting the Technology

Just like with the manufacturer situation stated above, you probably wouldn’t buy a car you hadn’t test driven or looked under the hood of either. In order to determine whether the products/services you’re vetting work properly, you’re going to need to get your hands dirty and test each cloud or SaaS product/service for yourself. Does the product/service have known glitches/issues? Will it fit into the environment(s) as expected? Will it work with all of your platforms and impacted software products?

Now is the time to get the engineers involved to assess the technologies behind the vendor and ensure that they are ready for your purposes. Again, specific instances and case studies will help provide proof points to the vendor’s claims. Questions like these can help determine the efficiency, security, and usability of the technology itself:

  • What role does customer input play when your company plans updates and enhancements?
  • Can I see the software/technology’s R&D roadmap? What other changes are planning for performance and usability? Is this investment actually future proof?
  • Can you describe your data center?
  • How do you define uptime and downtime?
  • How frequently do you test your disaster recovery procedures?
  • Do you have a Service Level Agreement (SLA)?
  • How different is our current infrastructure from yours?
  • Can I move existing apps/services from my private cloud to your public cloud without massive reconfiguration?
  • How do you support my workforce’s mobility requirements?
  • How are my apps and data protected from other users on the same cloud servers?

Vetting their Customer Service

Let’s hit the car analogy one more time. You wouldn’t buy any car from any manufacturer if you weren’t going to get service and support to help you maintain the car over the course of its life.

So when vetting vendors, you need to ask point-blank if they are ready to handle you as a client. The only question that need to be asked during this phase is, “Can I speak with some of your customers?” Current customers are the best resources when it comes to determining whether the vendor’s product/service is on par with what you are expecting.

Don’t settle for the few they give you either. Look at trade shows and vendor events for customers that aren’t raving fans. Looking for non-specific issues can save you a lot of headaches in the future. Be skeptical, but open-minded. Knowing the issues that could arise will help you prepare for them in the future.

Vetting cloud or SaaS vendors can take up to 200 man-hours and could require some policy changes on your part. To do it right, though, you do need to assess more than the technology—you need to look at everything; the vendor’s business, technology, security, service, and employees. While it might seem like a bit of an undertaking, spending more time up front will save you headache and frustration in the end.

SaaS and Cloud in Perspective: UCaaS

Let’s take a quick look at a unique cloud and SaaS perspective: UCaaS.

Let’s say you aren’t ready for a full cloud deployment. You still have some reservations about the public cloud, and you have on-premises assets you want to continue to use. Research is actually beginning to show that “Hybrid Cloud UC Demands Unified Platform Management”. This is one of many cases where UCaaS makes sense.

The market for UCaaS is growing pretty rapidly. Among IT pros responding to a 2014 Spiceworks survey, 11% had adopted UCaaS. However, another 12% indicated they are planning to adopt it in the next year, more than doubling the number of people using UCaaS today.

Some suggest that growing confidence in hosted solutions in general is the impetus for the projected dramatic increase in adoption. Much of that confidence is due to the service providers’ dedication to security improvements.

We are excited about the opportunities UCaaS presents to the cloud and SaaS Markets.

Fear of vetting vendors shouldn’t hold you back from learning more. Check out the Reducing UC Costs and Increasing Business Performance whitepaper to take a deeper dive into the advantages of UCaaS, market drivers, concerns, and what to look for in a provider.

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