Category Archives: Microsoft

Maturity framework – How do you sell Unified Communications?

Unified Communications Maturity FrameworkI recently held a series of Unified Communications Readiness Workshops in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to provide our channel partners with the tools to break down a complex unified communications solution into something which can be easily characterised and understood.

A few months back while working with Microsoft I stumbled across a maturity framework which Microsoft called the BPIO Model otherwise known as the ‘Business Productivity Infrastructure Optimisation’ Model which is based upon Gartner’s Infrastructure Maturity Model, and MIT’s Architecture Maturity Model.

While similar to other infrastructure optimisation models, what I liked about Microsoft’s interpretation is how they applied it to unified communication.

I won’t go into the detail of the model here… which would take a minimum of two (2) hours to explain but essentially the model consists of four (4) vertical stages each of which represents enhanced levels of maturity as the organization transition from stage to stage.

Horizontally I have identified five (5) technology area’s which I have expanded further from Microsoft’s BPIO Model and which I feel form the foundations of a unified communications solutions include.

  1. Messaging

  2. Collaborative Workspaces and Portals

  3.  IM & Presence

  4.  Voice

  5. Conferencing

The benefit of the model is that it provides us with a framework to have a strategic discussion with our customers to evaluate what their current maturity level or which stage they are in and by using a consultative approach identify where the business would like to be by taking into account the direction and goals of the company.

By understanding the current state of the organisation and where they would like to be we are in a better position to recommend and implement a staged approach to getting them there. Or to develop a plan transitioning the customer through each maturity level in order to reach a level which provide maximum business benefits and cost savings to the organisation.

Solution in silos – How do you sell Unified Communications?

Unified Communications is a term which has been around for some time but often is the cause of confusion and misunderstanding.

I remember giving a presentation about the strategic position of IBM, Cisco and Microsoft where I focused specifically on the area’s where the vendors compete and more importantly where they collaborate. During the Q&A a hand went up and ask “..so which product should we lead with?”

Where do you go from here? The question could be answered on many different levels, but the important thing that this question highlighted was that unified communications can not be defined as a single product.

The challenge for all of us who are developing our unified communications practice is to stop thinking of solution in silos… instead the real value which we as sales people can offer our customers is the ability to develop a wider and deeper understanding of their current infrastructure which will undoubtedly consist of a multi-vendor environment.

By understanding the bigger picture of where each of the vendors are coming from in terms of the unified communications strategy and especially understanding where their products compete and compliment we are in a better position to recommend a unified communications solution that scales to meet the customers future needs.

Social Software Impact on Business

We have seen a transition from the web over the last few years from being purely transactional. Today in the next evolution of the web, called web 2.0, we are starting to see growing communities where individuals can easily share and collaborate on information and where individuals can have their 15min of fame. 

We have all heard of MySpace, You Tube, Flickr, Blogs & Wiki’s…. These are all example where individuals can share their personal profiles and interests (such as MySpace), where you can share video files and Pictures to friends and family… or to the world – using You Tube and Flickr… or to provide a forum where individuals can express their opinion on any area of expertise and receive feedback from individuals with similar views – blogs and wiki’s etc, etc. 

What about ‘Sell-a-band’ and ‘Second life’? Both of these communities where you can emerge yourself into a virtual world or have influence and share in the success of the next biggest rock band. 

Ok a quick overview… 

Sell-a-band is a music industry concept designed to remove the barriers for struggling bands to get have their music heard, to develop a fan base and to have their music professionally produced. The key difference is that the success of each band depends on the number of fans (5000) and or investors they can accumulate over time.  Anyone here who would like to invest in the success of a band could make a visit to sellaband.com, listen to a number of bands who are ranked similar to a top 50 chart and spend your hard earned dollars to invest in their success. In return you will receive ongoing royalties from any music downloads and CD sales. 

Who is happy with their current life…? Second life is an online virtual world which provides you with just that a second opportunity to do something over, to test try a new business opportunity that you are thinking about getting into or to escape into a virtual world.  

Well that’s the business reason; of course second life like any other online community has more than its fair share of participants who are motivated purely by the excitement and the opportunity to ‘live out’ their sexual fantasies with complete strangers, but that’s for another discussion. 

You may have heard of Second Life on 60 minutes a couple of weeks back… where individuals are spending and making a lot of money within this virtual world. A couple of examples of examples which came out of the 60 minutes where… one guy who spent $100,000 (USD) on an asteroid off the main world… he makes his return on investment by building a nightclub and resort on the asteroid where other visitors can visit. He also offers a hunting safari service for those of us who want to go around hunting and killing alien creatures… and of course we pay real money to do this. 

Getting from the main world to the asteroid has created employment opportunities for those of us who fancy ourselves as Han Solo who are employed (yes with real $$) to fly people to and from the asteroid…and of course we all need to look good, so any one of us could start a fashion label, or work in a nightclub as a barman, deejay, own a restaurant or become a property developer, model or actor… you get the picture. 

This maybe a hard concept to grasp but the idea is that individuals are getting the opportunity to experience a second life… and to make money doing it… and businesses are seeing the value of it. Consider this research report from Gartner last year…. 

Enterprise social software will be the biggest new workplace technology success story of this decade. 30% of enterprises will openly sponsor internal MySpace-like social sharing spaces to help employees find others with similar interest, skills, backgrounds and experiences. Gartner, “Predicts 2007 – Big Changes ahead in the high performance workplace”, Dec 5,2006

So how are businesses leveraging this technology? Businesses are seeing the benefits of utilising these new social trends in social software by investing in land and premises within these worlds to simplify the way there employees collaborate and share information. Today we are seeing retail chains like Star Bucks who are employing professional 3D modellers to design and build shops to be placed on each street corner within second life.  

We are seeing universities including Princeton and Harvard Law School who are offering online lectures where students can attend for free. We are seeing large companies like Cisco, Microsoft and IBM to name a few who are conducting world wide product releases and presentations to their internal staff within second life, where all employees can make their way there in a virtual world… and the payoffs… it dramatically reducing transportation and travel cost and providing ease of access…. because you don’t need IT support to schedule a web conferencing session…. all you need is an internet connection.

Unified Communications defined?

What is Unified Communications (UC)?

Cisco defines Unified Communications as ‘…an architecture that connects people-people and people-applications… simply.’ Anonymous – Cisco

Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Unified Communications group defined Unified Communications as being ‘… personal and intuitive; centered around people and availability; allows users to be in control of communications on any device; is deeply integrated with business processes; leverages infrastructure customers already have; makes it simple to manage communications services; lower the costs; and is standard-based for interoperability.’

UC is often the course of great confusion. If you asked 10 different people to define UC you will get 10 different answers. For those of us who are working in this area the above definitions provide us with a bare bone definition for which we have to flesh out. I would suspect that a relative newcomer to the world of UC would find these definitions utterly useless. So let’s get the ball rolling. How would you define UC… I’ll start…

I use this definition to simplify the concept, applying it to the business case. Remember these guys don’t care about ‘speeds and feeds’. They want to know how this technology can increase productivity and provide their business with a competitive advantage.

UC can be defined as

‘…the office of the future where users are empowered to take control over how they communicate, providing access to the right information and the right person over any device or application the first time…’