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

Trends in Unified Communications

Unified Communications is not dead, NEC’s Gary Gordon discusses in this video how unified communications trends are shifting and changing to the needs of today’s workforce.

Do you need help in deciding on a UC solution?

Download this comprehensive guide to learn how the various approaches to Unified Communications (UC) impact your organization.

 

Download free UC guide

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.

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.

TechKnowledge: The Best of 2014

As we look back at 2014 to prepare for 2015, we thought it would be great to provide you with some of the best tips from our NEC Today series. So sit back, relax and prepare to be informed!

MOBILITY – COMMUNICATION

Creating a strong mobile platform provides flexibility for your workforce, but must remain secure in order to protect company assets. Take a look at these posts on the subject:

  1. Get the Best of All Worlds with In-Store Mobile
  2. How to Stay ‘Mobile’ during a severe Weather Event
  3. Healthcare Innovation for Improved Patient Experience
  4. Under the Sea…with Internet?

SDN

Software-defined networking supports business agility through architecture that is dynamic, manageable, and adaptable. Are your ready for some transformative technology?

  1. Is Your Company Seeking Business Agility? Uncovering the Business Value of SDN
  2. NEC Teams with Microsoft for flexible, open, standards-based SDN for the cloud

BIG DATA

A critical component and potential differentiator for businesses going forward, big data and analytics are showing up in every industry and business type, as you can see in the posts referenced below:

  1. Big Data to the Rescue!
  2. Armchair Quarterbacks Rejoice! Big Data is in the Game!

IERS

Our guest blogger, Matt Sarrel, provided us with many good posts on InfoFrame Elastic Relational Store, so if you are in need of information on high-performance databases building for high availability and flexible scalability, look no further! Here is a sampling:

  1. An Introduction to IERS and NoSQL/NewSQL
  2. An Interview with Atsushi Kitazawa of NEC Japan, the “Father” of IERS
  3. IERS is Built for Elasticity

We hope you enjoyed some of our best posts from 2014. We look forward to providing more compelling information in 2015, so check back regularly to see what’s going on with NECToday!