UCaaS / Hybrid RFP: What Can Cloud Providers Deliver?

Are you looking to move your communications infrastructure to the cloud?

Download today the IP Telephony and Unified Communications System (Cloud and Hybrid Solutions), a free whitepaper / eBook from independent consultant David Stein of Stein Technology Consulting Group that offers the unique chance to examine cloud and hybrid cloud solutions based on actual vendor RFP proposals.

In this free eBook  you will get:

  • An unbiased evaluation of 7 proposed cloud and hybrid cloud solutions
  • Insight into the merits of 5 leading communications vendors
  • A explanation of vendor differentiators

Free Ebook: UCaas RFP 2016

Free #Whitepaper: UCaaS...What Can #Cloud Providers Really Deliver? Click To Tweet

Download and share this information rich eBook with your decision makers so they can also understand NEC’s leadership position in cloud and hybrid cloud migration, the value of a cloud-based UNIVERGE® Blue solution that is backed by NEC’s more than 117 years of expertise as a leading technologies and services provider.

Free Ebook: UCaaS RFP 2016

Free Ebook:

UCaaS/Hybrid RFP & Review IP Telephony and Unified Communications System

There are significant differences in offerings from the major vendors in terms of architecture, functionality and total cost of ownership. IT organizations are encouraged to work with their business units to understand their unique requirements and to articulate these in an RFP or other formal procurement vehicle.



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.

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.

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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4 Crucial Steps to Implementing a UC Cultural Shift

7K0A0129The advent of unified communications (UC) technology has transformed the business landscape for companies that successfully adopt and use it.

These days, email, instant messaging, and social media combined with the myriad types of mobile devices can work together to create an incredibly versatile and productive work environment. But this environment, known as unified communications, is only successful if a business devotes the time, energy, and resources to implement both the physical UC solution as well as a UC-oriented cultural shift.

It’s estimated that roughly 80 percent of companies never “fully realize” their UC implementation.  Why?  Well, while the physical implementation  of a new technology is often planned for, it’s typically assumed that users will accept the new communications system out of the box and will automatically understand its features. More often than not, this isn’t the case.

Here is the problem stated as blatantly as possible: either plan for the culture shift or reap the consequences that unrealized ROI can bring.

Whether your business is thinking of making the UC transition or  if you’re just upgrading to a new iteration of your current communications system, there are steps to follow to make sure that everything goes both physically and culturally smoothly.

Here are our 4 Crucial Steps to Implementing a UC Cultural Shift.

1. Involve the Entire Team
The first critical step in implementing a UC initiative is obtaining the needed buy-in from everyone in the company (not just the management team). The need for buy-in warrants a process that ensures consultation of all department leaders and requires they come to the same understanding in regard to the implementation. This process makes it so all stakeholders can work and learn together—helping define what the vision for the UC implementation will be.

But developing a clear-cut picture of the UC initiative is just a small part of this step. Once upper-management has communicated the needed information to the department leaders, these key players must then take the time to energetically and continuously communicate with their subordinates. This portion of the implementation process is the time to cull departmental knowledge—on the current technology’s best practices and failings, and to get employee opinions on the tools that they think would increase productivity.

Topics discussed should include all of the opportunities that UC offers, even those that may not directly affect most people’s daily work. Case in point: a good UC solution can help businesses realize more timely interactions (that means more revenue) and can help them implement a Capex/Opex shift.

While Capex/Opex isn’t something that even I think about on a daily basis—I more than realize the need for more revenue. And if a new affordable technology is the way to achieve that, then I can more readily get on board with the technology change than I could if I didn’t know anything about the change at all.  And, when I get a look at the full picture, I begin to feel included in the actual decision-making process (which also makes me more likely to be at least interested in the new solution, if not a little excited in anticipating it).

 

2. Test for User Acceptance

While your IT department will lead the technical aspects of the implementation, departmental leaders, and other key personnel will need to be and should be included in the piloting phase. The role of the latter is to ensure that the software is usable in a practical, real-world, day-to-day scenario.

This step should include demo sessions for both senior executives, who can give “big picture” recommendations, as well as front-line employees. These employees are your best resource when testing new UC solutions because they can explain and highlight specific difficulties with certain tools—giving you the opportunity to take note and the company to tailor the solution appropriately.

Even if this project is your responsibility—i.e., you are the one who knows more about it than anyone else in the company—you must remain open-minded to any recommendations or criticism. In the end, a new UC solution will have to both accommodate the needs of everyone in the company more easily while also helping achieve new business objectives.
3. Market Internally

There are many enterprise-level software products that are remarkably robust and dependable. The failure of a UC-oriented one is rarely the fault of the technology. Instead, the more common cause is implementers failing to impress upon their team the importance of embracing the new “initiative.” Everything must be planned for, and everything must be explained.

The vendors, however, can’t do all the explaining themselves. The department leaders mentioned in Step One should “champion” the initiative, developing the messaging and communicating directly the benefits the new solution will bring to their direct reports, co-workers, and other staff.

But you can’t force change. You have to win over your converts. And that requires marketing. The language and materials that you use to market your UC initiative internally can have a dramatic effect on user acceptance and can potentially win over converts. The choice of the word “initiative” instead of “project” is not accidental. The word “initiative” denotes more powerful and compelling reasoning than the word project, and better conveys the all-encompassing nature of a UC implementation.

That vocabulary choice that we just made is actually called marketing. And when you market appropriately to the majority of your end-users, the stragglers will inevitably follow.

 

4. Mandate Training and Measure Afterward
Here’s a fact. People hate “training”. When you’re in the process of implementing any new technology, you’ll find that most of your co-workers will balk at the idea of attending when the training sessions start.

In the same vein, many businesses are also hesitant to make training mandatory. Regardless of how your employees will feel about it, training provides valuable information on how to shift to the new solution and gives you another opportunity to champion your new solution. So they need to be there. And if you have to incentivize it with something awesome to keep everyone happy, then that’s what you should do. Making UC training fun and valuable—and it is imperative that you have your vendor’s help during this period—is the key to getting ultimate buy-in.

BUT, before you count the implementation as “complete”, you need to measure the adoption rate. Analytically speaking this is your one chance to determine whether the UC implementation initiative was truly successful. It’s also an opportunity to identify the last pockets of employee resistance.  If you want to overcome any and all lingering objections to the implementation—measuring the adoption rate is the way to do it.

Keep these tips in mind as you plan your UC implementation. They will make the whole process simpler and really will raise your overall chances of success.

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