Calling All SpiceHeads!

NEC Engages the SpiceWorks Community in 2016

With social media now a major part of our everyday lives, it is no surprise that groups with similar interests and experiences form almost instantaneously across the internet. Everyone knows the most popular social media applications like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter as well as a number of other applications and sites that cater to specific audiences.

For IT professionals, one of the major social media networking sites of choice is Spiceworks. The site connects IT pros with an online community of their peers from around the world. It also provides them with useful tools, for free, to help them do their jobs. Applications such as network inventory, network monitor, and help desk as well as rich APIs that developers and the world’s largest tech brands use to build applications and help IT pros solve their unique challenges.

It also provides a forum for IT pros to share experiences and expertise with millions of their peers, and they can reach thousands of vendors to troubleshoot, get product advice, keep up with tech trends, and even advance their careers. And most uniquely, it is a place where they can connect 1:1 and build real relationships with tech marketers.

NEC Corporation of America has its own Spiceworks vendor page with over 2,000 followers and regularly participates in the annual SpiceWorld IT Conference, with this year’s North American Conference held November 1-3 in Austin, Texas. There is also a European conference scheduled for May of next year to be held in the United Kingdom.

NEC sponsored a booth at the North American conference, where “SpiceHeads,” as they call themselves, from around the region were in attendance, many of whom learned that NEC is more than just projectors and LCDs. The interactive booth exposed them to the wide range of IT products and services XS that NEC has to offer. Subject matter experts (SMEs) were on hand to provide more in depth information about the solutions on display.

SpiceHeads have established SpiceCorps groups throughout the country that hold monthly meetings, often held at vendor locations. NEC sponsored a meeting of the Dallas/Ft. Worth SpiceCorps Group, with 24 members in attendance. The event provided an opportunity for the DFW SpiceCorps group to tour our Executive Briefing Center, where they learned that NEC is much more than display screens, we provide products and services that empower the Smart Enterprise.

Prior to the meeting, NEC sent out a survey to the members and asked them what topics they would like covered. This was an effective way of ensuring that the presentations focused on the topics they wanted to hear about, as well as provide an opportunity to discuss how NEC solutions can help tackle their most challenging IT issues. Members noted that NEC was the first vendor to use this approach and they were appreciative and impressed.

NEC executives Larry Levenberg, Vice President – Sales & Channel Marketing, and Ram Menghani, Vice President – UC Products & Support, were on hand as well as SMEs from every NEC business unit. Topics during the highly interactive and informative presentations during the meeting ranged from Software Defined Networking (SDN), business continuity, data storage solutions, and a preview of NEC’s cloud-based solutions. NEC’s Sam Safa presented Simplifying the Network with Software Defined Networking, which was especially popular, with members engaging with him during and after the meeting ended. Some fun was mixed in, with prize giveaways of NEC branded items and other promotional gifts, as well as the big prize of a drone. Congratulations to Aaron Siegal of TXI Corporation, winner of the drone!

NEC plans to host more SpiceCorps meetings around the country several times a year. Be sure to subscribe to the NEC Today blog or follow us on Spiceworks for insightful posts on IT and Communications industry topics, updates on NEC products and services, and dates, times and locations of upcoming NEC sponsored SpiceCorps meetings.

 

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At Advantage 2016— We Discovered the Power of the Smart Enterprise

More than 400 attendees from the NEC community – top channel partners, consultants, analysts, sponsors, and staff from North America and South America, all met this last month in Ponte Vedra, Florida,near Jacksonville, to “Discover the Power of the Smart Enterprise.” This was the overarching theme of NEC’s 2016 Advantage Executive Conference (Advantage).

Advantage is a highly anticipated annual 3-day conference event where NEC’s key players, dealers, sponsors, vendors, guests and top industry consultants get together to learn and share their interest in business enterprise technology.  Hands-on demonstrations of the latest product and service developments are available, along with opportunities to participate in informational and inspiring sessions led by the “best of the best” in the industry.

NEC’s Smart Enterprise

This year, the spotlight was on Smart Enterprise communications and IT Infrastructures, with a range of sessions focusing on current workforce environment trends, the latest in NEC unified communications solutions, the stability of NEC’s high availability servers, Contact Center challenges being met, and presentations on the importance of real relationships with our customers and why Smart Enterprise solutions make sense for them.

NEC’s Smart Enterprise is best described as a platform of solutions focused on improving safety, security and operational efficiency for our customers.  In the UC and IT space, it’s a broad set of technologies, products and solutions that are truly empowering for our enterprise customers. Smart Enterprise provides an IT communications infrastructure and application layer that allows a more predictive business that customers can also operate at a lower cost, and so empowers them to be more competitive.

Smart Enterprise solutions help our customers solve their real-world business issues, and will streamline and even innovate business processes. Basically, Smart Enterprise delivers a stable and reliable ICT solution, freeing our customers to focus on their productivity and on meeting and exceeding their business goals.

And the Winner Is…

Advantage is a multi-purpose event for learning, experiencing, sharing, socializing, and recognizing extraordinary partners, so always climaxes with NEC’s Sales and Marketing Leadership Awards, presented to the Top Ten Channel Partners.  This recognition is not only for outstanding business performance, but also their relationship and involvement level within their local communities. The Awards are an important part of NEC’s “Orchestrating a Brighter World” mission, honoring successful partners who have achieved a high level of customer satisfaction and are making a notable difference in the lives of those around them.

Once more, we’d like to applaud this year’s NEC SML Award honorees:

  • Advanced Communication Solutions (ACS)
  • Arrow SI
  • Business Communications Systems, Inc.
  • Epitome Networks
  • Forerunner Technologies
  • Hawaiian Telcom
  • nDataStor
  • NetServe365
  • Okanagan Telephone Company
  • Positive Business Solutions, Inc. (PBSI)
  • Scharfstein, South America

 

In Conclusion

NEC’s 2016 Advantage Executive Conference was an uplifting time of learning, fun, and inspiration, an opportunity to concentrate on the latest technology for business communication, workforce productivity, and reliable business continuity, with a successful blending of education on customer needs and NEC solutions, great social interaction, and receiving the positive messaging of NEC’s Smart Enterprise.

Essentially, the message is that Smart Enterprise brings together and orchestrates the best, specifically tailored solutions, to meet our customer’s individual business needs, and, ultimately, to help brighten their world. And that’s the real NEC mission.

If you want to hear more on the conference, many of the consultants and analysts who were in attendance – including Dave Michels, Jon Arnold, Steve Leaden, and more – gathered for a UC Strategies podcast

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.

6 Reasons for IT Pros to be Thankful

It’s the time of year when we express our gratitude. Just check any social media platform and you will see various countdowns of thankfulness or 40 days of gratitude. People share all types of things, from being thankful for family and friends, to how their dog makes them happy, to how they love a certain food. Let’s face it – we have a lot to be thankful for! And one of those is the way our lives can be positively impacted by innovation and technology.

OK, so it might not make the top 10 list at your Thanksgiving dinner, but for IT professionals, technology is not only their means of making a living, it’s the one thing that can make their lives easier, provide them an opportunity to make a positive impact, and support their organizations in reaching goals.

We asked some IT professionals what they had to be thankful for regarding certain NEC technology solutions, and here’s what they said:

  1. Unified Communications + Software-defined Networking UC is great because I now have a single platform to handle all communications, making it easier to administrate. This improves efficiency while also being more reliable, especially when you add SDN. I never worry about losing connectivity or being out of touch because SDN reconfigures on the fly. There is no concern about missing an alert or important voice mail with this solution.
  2. Retail Solutions for Improved Customer Experience Before being able to combine powerful solutions such as biometrics, analytics and unified communications, I had to work with disparate systems to provide good customer information. Now, I am able to improve both security and our customer service programs using biometrics. Plus, the information we receive is actionable. We can empower sales associates to provide a much better customer experience in the store. And our loss prevention has never been stronger. These are both goals we have strived to reach for a while, and I am happy to see us making big strides in both areas.
  3. Biometrics Support Law Enforcement While I may be in the background, I take my position very seriously. It is important that our men and women serving our communities on the front lines have the best tools available to safely and effectively do their jobs. That is why having biometric solutions such as NeoFace® and NeoScan 45® are so important. They give us accurate information quickly so we can take proper action. Getting the bad guys off the street is important, and making sure we make the proper identification is crucial. These tools empower us to do so, and having the opportunity to support law enforcement teams is powerful.
  4. Network Solutions: SDN, Servers & Storage Empower IT By enabling my organization to use virtual machines much more efficiently, I don’t have to physically reconfigure the network. Plus, I don’t have to hard code as I used to. It minimizes finger pointing between vendors and lets us troubleshoot more effectively. In case of mergers or acquisitions, I can easily integrate two networks while still maintaining administrative capability in an OpenFlow network.
  5. Business Analytics tell the Story Before business analytics were so readily available, we were unable to provide empowering data to our customers. Using business analytics gives me information to more efficiently do my job. For example, with the ability to see historical data, we can now ascertain that the sales spike we are seeing is temporary, so I can use my existing infrastructure more effectively. I can analyze the data usage by every department, and because business owners can see information on their trends, together we can ensure we are deploying resources to accommodate their critical business goals and initiatives. It’s seamless to our internal customers, and ensures that everyone has what they need from a computing power standpoint.
  6. Uniquely NEC – #SolutionsforSociety We have a tendency to take technology for granted now, having it so readily at our fingertips. However, NEC’s major initiative to use technology to innovate Solutions for Society is a prime example of how we can use technology to create a better world. With solutions focused on transportation, water conservation, improved communication and quality of life, we are orchestrating a brighter world through technology. That is something to be thankful for!


Thanks for stopping by and we would like to wish our IT professionals, friends, and families a warm and Happy Thanksgiving.

Collaborative Education Empowers Young Minds

Few things are more emotional than debate regarding our educational system. Parents want the best for their children, teachers want to provide creativity for their students, and students want to be empowered to be a part of their own learning process, while also having access to the latest tools, technology and information. All this must be wrapped up in a system that ensures learning objectives are met, and students are absorbing information that will prepare them for their next steps in life.

Recently we caught up with Gregory Alvarez, senior manager, Education Vertical Market, for NEC Corporation of America, to learn more about the changing landscape of education and how NEC’s Collaborative Content Management Solution (CCMS) creates solutions to solve challenges in the collaborative education model. Here’s what Gregg had to say:

Q: What are some of the shifts you see in education that are driving the need for new learning solutions?

A: Education is moving more toward a “creator” versus consumption environment. In the past, students were given textbooks. Now, they often consume their assignments on a tablet or laptop, which allows for more elements such as video, presentations, and audio files to be included.

Social interaction is also becoming a large part of the educational experience, particularly since students are so accustomed to using social media to interact with friends. Educational environments are working to provide that same level of interaction via blogs and discussion feeds to keep students more engaged. Furthermore, students can now have access to virtual learning environments, allowing for more progressive learning environments such as flipped classrooms while also supporting learning at home. If students are out of school due to weather, injury or extended illness, they can continue studies with minimal interruption, ensuring they stay abreast of their studies while also keeping them engaged.

Higher education, while ahead of the curve with student technology use (the average college student has three-to-five networked devices), is looking to redesign the classroom and improve students’ interaction. Now these institutions are moving towards work group, project-based learning where students create workgroups and collaborate on class assignments. The goal is to prepare students for today’s work environment where collaboration and teaming are the new norm.

These schools see a need to get students more engaged, as well as provide professors the flexibility to go beyond the core curriculum and expand teaching elements. By providing the flexibility for educators and students to collaborate on learning objectives, everyone has an improved educational experience.

For example, if a teacher is providing a history lesson and students can collaborate on the curriculum by uploading videos from current day events that tie-in with the lesson, then not only are students more engaged, but teachers are able to help them draw conclusions in a real-life manner that was not available before.

Q: What is NEC’s Collaborative Content Management System (CCMS) and how does it support this new educational shift?

A: It is a learning management system (LMS) solution for higher education and K-12 that is powered by the cloud software platform PassTheNotes (PTN).  As a technology leader, NEC takes pride in anticipating market changes and the impact that technology will have on society. NEC recognized that educators were looking for a solution that provided a tool to help faculty expand on course curriculums through the addition of content. This helps engage students in their educational experience with a service and methodology they are most comfortable with (the Internet and social media), giving students the ability to be a part of their educational experience.

Our collaborationwith PTN enables NEC to offer a cloud-based learning management solution that leverages the best of the PTN content management/educational solution with NEC collaboration and communication solutions. PTN is a dynamic, innovative company of veteran educators who understand and process customer feedback to continually improve the offering. We view our working together as a way to improve education for students, thus better serving the community.

The NEC CCMS provides benefits to educators and students they cannot find in other learning management systems today, including:

  • Immediate access via a non-proprietary platform providing technology-agnostic solutions.
  • Single sign-on access with popular applications such as Dropbox or Drive.
  • Collaboration within the platform so students can invite students to create modules for enhanced learning opportunities.
  • Built-in application for taking and hosting notes.
  • Social interaction leveraged via discussion feeds and peer reviews and grading.
  • Seamless integration of additional technology such as unified communications or biometric facial recognition.

Q: What other educational trends are on the horizon?

A: We see a number of trends that are quite interesting, including:

Biometrics and Facial Recognition –While traditionally seen in law enforcement or security, biometrics is making its way into schools and campuses to address specific use cases. The most obvious use case is for security, where facial recognition can capture an image match against a database to determine if the individual belongs on campus.

We’re also seeing more interest is using facial recognition for verification of course completion for accreditation. Facial recognition is being considered as a tool to address attendance taking as well. This becomes a time saving solution in K-12 and for higher ed use to support class attendance requirement for course credit.

Learning analytics is an educational application of “big data,”a method used by business to analyze individual activity. In education, learning analytics is being used with the aim of improving student retention and providing learners with a superior personal experience. Learning analytics uses student data to build better pedagogies, identify at-risk students, and assess whether programs aimed at student retention are successful.

In the future, we see the introduction of other technologies and teaching methodologies that could take hold, such as.

  • 3D printing
  • Gaming and gamification
  • Making online learning more natural

Thanks to Gregg for providing a fascinating overview of current and future educational trends, while explaining how technology provides #SolutionsforSociety in education. You can learn more about NEC’s educational solutions, as well as see demonstrations of other innovative solutions such as unified communications, cloud contact center and SDN by visiting booth 1121 at Enterprise Connect 2015.

 

Photo by NEC Corporation of America on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.