Avaya Evolutions was held recently in Toronto, and was a great look into the leading UC/contact center vendor’s direction. It’s clear that Avaya recognizes social media and mobile access as defining market trends, and they’re rapidly incorporating them into product offerings. Avaya’s Social Media Manager gives customer service representatives the ability to queue, prioritize, route and escalate inbound service inquiries from social channels such as Twitter. Social customer service capabilities are becoming increasingly important given consumer affinity for social media, and social media should be embedded as a key component of any multichannel service strategy. Info-Tech’s own research has consistently found that proactive customer service via social channels is the number one value driver for organizations (even surpassing more traditional marketing and PR use cases). However, Avaya’s major competitors are not standing still. Info-Tech has also seen robust social media integration into CSM products from Salesforce.com (i.e. Service Cloud and Desk.com) and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Companies looking for social-enabled support now have a growing number of vendors to choose from! Mobile was another area of focus, with unified communications solutions like Avaya Flare providing full mobile support on smartphones and tablets. As knowledge workers are  freed from the paradigm of corporate workstations, having a robust mobile solution is quickly becoming a table stakes selection criteria for UC vendors.

Another key focus in this conference was Avaya’s acquisition of the Radvision’s Scopia Video Conferencing solution. This acquisition promises to propel Avaya’s collaboration capabilities to a higher level with immersive telepresence, video conferencing capabilities on mobile devices, and HD resolution. It is only a matter of time until we see Scopia’s anticipated integration with Avaya’s IP telephony and unified communication solutions, Aura and Flare.

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Microphone at conference.Attendees at Info-Tech Research Group’s recent Info-Tech Exchange Midwest, held in Kansas City at the Intercontinental at the Plaza, experienced a great day of informative presentations, engaging workshops and breakouts, and the opportunity to network with peers. We focused our day on the perfect storm of technology trends that are affecting IT departments of all sizes, and how IT leaders can leverage innovation concepts to address them. Cloud, Big Data, Social, Mobility, and Security are forcing changes to the way IT is structured and the way that it operates; in our opinion today’s CIO needs to take these in stride or risk being bypassed by business leaders that need greater agility.

Davin Juusola, our Vice President of Research and Development, kicked off the day with a keynote presentation on IT innovation and his talk was well received by all the attendees. His core message was that too many CIOs live in a state of perpetual firefighting which is limiting IT’s value to the CEO. A quick poll confirmed the sentiment as greater than 50% of the attendees self-admitted they too considered themselves firefighters. Davin went on to show that since enterprises need to grow to stay relevant, they must become innovative or risk facing fates like those of Blockbuster and Kodak.

Next up were Research Manager Tim Lawless and Director of Research James Quin with talks on Purchase Optimization and Process Optimization. Tim outlined the program by which we’ve saved our clients over $19M in 2012 alone while James dove into how to improve the core processes upon which every IT group depends. Together the two sessions highlighted how CIOs can find the time and money to begin to focus on IT innovation. This set up an afternoon filled with dynamic breakouts that explored the key technology trends around which IT leaders can begin to learn the skills necessary to become innovators. We wrapped the day with a group discussion that generated a Start/Stop/Continue plan for each attendee that they could take back to the office and leverage to make immediate changes.

The day was a great success for all in attendance; friends were made, lessons were learned, and even those attendees that drove in from as far away as Omaha and St. Louis agreed the time was more than well spent.

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The 2012 RSA Conference, security’s biggest annual event, saw a slight spin on the all-too-common theme of the cloud.

Moving away from the fear-mongering around cloud computing that was all the rage two years ago, this year’s conference took the stance that the cloud could be considered more friend than foe when it comes to security.

Especially with the Year of the Hack behind us, security professionals are looking for the most effective methods of beating cyber criminals to the punch.

One issue that arose was big data. We’re dealing with too much security data, we don’t know what to do with it, and we’re not using it to our advantage. The cloud was positioned as a way to help store, maintain, and analyze that data to determine patterns.

For Info-Tech clients, this is good news. Especially for mid-sized organizations that don’t necessarily have the time or resources to invest in enhanced security capabilities like a SIEM system. Instead, they can take advantage of the cloud’s potential without giving up valuable resources.

In conclusion, the cloud isn’t going away. Chances are it’ll pop up again at next year’s conference, along with other popular themes like mobility (how do we control the uncontrollable? That still remains to be seen) and big data.

The bottom line is that security has got its work cut out for it. But if the Year of the Hack taught the industry anything, it’s that they need to step up their game or, as one speaker so eloquently put it, “continue to get [their] butts kicked.”

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We have just finished day one at the Open Group Conference and the speakers have posed more interesting questions than they have answered. What role can we expect IT to play in the future of the enterprise? How can the enterprise architect govern an architecture that largely lies outside the firewall, in cloud services? Should the EA even try? What role will the business play in developing the architecture? That last question presents a sticky challenge, since most business people have only limited interest in “architecture,” and yet all the EA frameworks call for total engagement of the business in designing the target state.

In the old days, IT could shepherd the architectural process along, and needed only strong sponsorship from the business. But as the role of IT shrinks (as most of the speakers expect it to do), and businesses start to access cloud services without the intervention of the CIO, the enterprise architect of the future will need to sit inside a business group. To succeed in that role, the enterprise architect will have to redefine his or her mandate in business terms. How many CEOs believe, in the words of one conference speaker, that the “E” in CEO also stands for “Enterprise architect”? Probably not that many do. As Jeanne Ross, a leading voice in enterprise architecture put it, the enterprise architect will need to engage the business in defining its target capabilities. As long as the organization has the discipline to hold to that vision, the enterprise architect can deliver the right blend of business processes, cloud services, and IT architecture to enable those capabilities.

How exactly that will happen remains an important topic area for future Info-Tech research.

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