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September 03, 2009

ITEXPO West 2009 Keynotes Cover the Gamut of Communications Technology

By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor

Bullish predictions, emerging business opportunities and strategies, sunny outlooks and the federal government’s interfering ineptitude – these were the bullet points in a series of keynote addresses that C-level executives, thought-leaders and IT insiders made during ITEXPO West 2009, held in Los Angeles this week.

On Tuesday, in a widely praised keynote (which began with house music that TMC CEO Rich Tehrani (News - Alert) later claimed to have chosen), PAETEC CEO Arunas Chesonis predicted that within a decade, the majority of energy purchasing decisions will be made by CIOs.  
“If you’re helping a company with energy and power,” Chesonis said, “they become more likely to work with you on telecom.”
In fact, as TMC Editorial Director Erik Linask noted in an article covering the event, back-up power sources, data center energy usage, energy efficiency, green initiatives, real estate coordination are increasingly coming under the purview of CIOs already. The process is perhaps being hastened by the economy, but it was bound to happen in any case – sooner or later power and cooling costs would come under intense scrutiny.
“Indeed, there is a natural synergy between communications and energy, in that the entire communications infrastructure has rather significant power requirements that warrant careful consideration when studying cost analyses,” Linask reported. “In many ways, this move shouldn’t come as a surprise. PAETEC has a legacy of making bold investments well in advance of market trends. Chesonis rationalizes the strategy by suggesting that, in order to grow a business, you have to sow the seeds well in advance of when the market ripens.”
Also on Tuesday, ShoreTel CEO John Combs (News - Alert) crystallized a number of emerging trends in IP communications when he described the attraction of communications tools in terms of their ease of use – going so far as to describe ShoreTel as a communications, not a phone, company.
What keeps ShoreTel in business aren’t the features and capabilities of its UC system, Combs said, according to Linask.
“Rather, it’s the ‘brilliant simplicity,’ as he calls it, of the system,” Linask reported. “In order for a solution to be successful today, it must be both easy to use and easy to install and manage – and it has to be available anywhere, anytime (that’s why the mobility component is critical).”
Another speaker on Tuesday stressed that UC itself is production-ready and businesses are missing out on a huge opportunity if they’re failing to embrace the technology
Mike Regan, vice president of unified IP development at Aspect told dozens of IP communications and IT professionals, C-level executives and media members during his speech – held on the first day of the three-day event – that UC’s use in the contact center especially has been shown to yield cost-related benefits, among others.
And that’s partly because the consumers with whom many contact center agents interact themselves are familiar with “presence” technologies such as IM and chat, and their patience has dried up accordingly.
“Consumers are becoming very demanding and if they hav ea bad experience, they will let others know about it,” Regan said.
Aspect, which has a strong relationship with Microsoft and leverages the software giant’s OCS R2, found a way to blur the traditional contact center barriers by using UC. Regan cited a survey which found that more than 10 percent of calls into contact centers required expertise from someone outside the center itself.
But how to effectively – and quickly – route that call to the appropriate person? For Aspect, the answer is in UC applications.
The company, Regan said, used a tightly integrated platform with various Microsoft technologies to leverage what he called “rich presence.”
Meanwhile, at an ITEXPO-collocated event, the 4GWE Conference, Jeffrey Thompson, CEO and director of Towerstream explained the differences between unserved and underserved communities – key differentiators of rural areas by the federal government – as he addressed a crowd of carriers and wireless industry professionals on the applications, technology alternatives, timeframes, opportunities and challenges in the new age of mobile broadband.
“The definition for broadband under the notice of funds availability document that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Rural Utilities Service issued back in July relative to the first round of broadband stimulus funds defines broadband,” TMC Senior Editor Erin Harrison reported, “as a service providing two-way data transmission with advertised speeds of at least 768 kbps downstream and at least 200 kbps upstream to end users, and sufficient capacity in the middle mile to support the provision of said services.”
The federal government said last week it had received requests for a total of $28 billion from groups that want to expand high-speed Internet service in the U.S. The government has $4 billion in loans and grants initially available. The 2,200 requests came from states, counties, Indian tribes, nonprofits, phone companies, libraries, universities and service providers, including Towersteam.
The bulk of the requests – worth $23.2 billion – are to build out Internet lines. The NTIA and RUS will pick the winning applicants and announce them in November.
“People have to be reasonable about this,” Thompson said, according to Harrison. “They are going to rank stack file (the applications). Originally there was not going to be as much people lobbying for this to their local government,” however the changes in broadband definitions have created a stir for applicants who are now seeking backing from the state level, Thompson said.
In one of the most widely anticipated keynote addresses made in recent ITEXPO memory, technology entrepreneur and billionaire Sir Terry Matthews, chairman of investment firm Wesley Clover and founder of nearly 90 companies by his own estimation (including Mitel and Newbridge Networks), declared that the technology space has never been more fertile, and the federal government should interfere less with the small businesses that drive the economy.
In a stirring, often funny talk, Matthews emphasized the importance of developing products quickly and going to market when the time is right.
“Timing,” Matthews said simply. “Timing is almost everything in life. I don’t care whether it’s sex or a new product, you must get your timing right. You must.”
A self-described engineer, businessman and salesman, Matthews said he founds about four companies per year these, and that he applies similar principles to each venture – including a focus on applications, content and transactions – or “ACT.”
“I’m here (at ITEXPO) because I’m an enthusiast,” Matthews said. “I’ve never seen more opportunities. There are so many facets and changes. And whenever there is change, there are many opportunities. Some people will fail and some people will make it.”
During his address (see video here), Matthews estimated that he himself has seen four of his roughly 89 companies fold, “so my ratio is pretty damn good.”
One of the companies Matthews highlighted is Dragonwave, which does backhaul work in the area of 4G wireless – a rapidly developing segment to which an entire conference is dedicated here in Los Angeles.
“We have a whole range of new developments in 4G wireless,” Matthews said. “You can see Clearwire cranking out 4G perhaps more than anyone else. I think there’s a war coming up over the next few years between WiMAX (News - Alert) and LTE. Consider the huge user demand that’s pulling on bandwidth. That move alone to LTE and WiMAX is fueling that, as well as a huge deployment of WiFi.”
AT&T is seeing a huge WiFi deployment now, Matthews noted, and so are Cablevision and Time Warner.
“Because there is so much congestion – and why is there congestion?” he asked. “Look at the growth in iPhones, of the (App) Store, of smartphones. It’s quite unprecedented. So there is a huge shift going on in the underlying network. Humans are using iPhones and BlackBerrys, but at the end of the day the simple use of this mobile bandwidth is driving huge user demand and that, in turn, is driving a huge investment in networks.”
Equally well-attended was a keynote session that featured Dr. Don Brown (News - Alert) of Interactive Intelligence, whose major theme was that the enterprise as a whole could learn a lot from the contact center.
“Contact centers are unbelievable, and we know what everybody is doing in them,” Brown, InIn’s co-founder, chairman and CEO, told a standing-room only crowd during his address. “How many other places in the organization do we have that kind of discipline and that kind of flexibility? Not very many.”
Brown, as Paula Bernier, executive editor of IP Communications magazines reported, aims to change that.
“At Interactive Intelligence we want to use communications technology to build all- in-one process automation platform.”
That entails creating process and bringing communications into the mix so work is done more efficiently, he said. The value in communications is in getting more work done with fewer people, he continued. “To me this has to be the goal of any revolution in technology.”
So how can a business achieve that?
Brown says first you need to figure out what data is needed, Bernier reported. Then you create end user forms. Then you need to lay out a process flow that explains the stages through which work goes and the actions involved in each of those stages. One of those actions could be the ability to invoke web services (both internal and external), to obtain a customer’s credit score from Experian, for example, Brown said.
Once you set up this framework for how work is done employees can be presented with work via their computers. They can see on the form what they need to do at each step along the way, just like call reps do in the contact center. And that process can be launched in various ways using different technologies, but there’s a standard process for actually doing it, he said.
Not only does that allow employees to keep track of work, it also allows supervisors to see what’s going on.
“A supervisor can see work and whose desk it’s sitting on – whose desk is holding up that lead from that important customer,” Brown said.
As Tehrani noted in his blog, Alvarion Ltd. Corporate Vice President Mohammad Shakouri got straight to the point during his presentation at ITEXPO, explaining how he will help the audience make money.
“From there he spent time discussing the various levels of broadband penetration in the world - citing how the United States is falling further behind – currently considered second world according to him,” Tehrani reported. “Shakouri gave examples of global customers which are benefitting from WiMAX and LTE (News - Alert) technology and the audience seemed genuinely interested in his comments and thoughts.”

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Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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