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Hopefully this year won’t drag-on
AI was also a talking point throughout the Call and Contact Centre expo at the end of last year (page 20), where the pivotal question of replacing agents with machines was a major theme throughout the show. I found this to be a common occurrence throughout the year last year. There are obviously pros to installing artificial intelligence into your company, however it can let you down at times. This obsession may also be counter- productive. Owl Labs, for example, diagnosed AI anxiety in nearly 20% of the workforce as rumours and headlines continue to pop up detailing how ChatGPT is taking our jobs. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Owl Labs CEO Frank Weishaupt last month, to discuss how businesses are dealing with the demands of hybrid working, along with how he wishes he could have dialled into half the meetings he had earlier in his career. We also have a piece looking into the challenges in the Cloud marketplace (page 24), and I had a look at the Jabra Evolve2 65 Flex on page 48, an impressive start to a series of reviews we’ll be bringing you every month. I’m off to pack for Barcelona as we will be reporting from ISE for the next issue, as well as looking into the large room marketplace and how businesses can become more sustainable. As always, I invite you to get involved in the magazine. If you have any thoughts on topics, news, or fancy meeting up my email is email@example.com. With that, enjoy the issue, let me know what you think! Most of all, let me be one of the last to wish you a Happy New Year!
It may be cliche, or even a bit obvious but I always see the turn of a year as a turning of a page. Modern working life is busy, when months fly by quickly, going from exhibitions to the end of the financial year, planning for the 12 months ahead, it’s usually August that offers a lull before the push into the festive period. Because these months can merge, I’ve found that years have started to merge too. Certainly in the UC industry, since 2020, the headlines have rarely changed, lurching from growth in Teams usage to the reception of hybrid working, to growth in Zoom usage; I expect that’s why GenerativeAI has become such a hit. But as we settle into the new year I am looking forward to a change in the narrative. For a long time now one of the questions I’ve been wanting to ask Zoom executives is how are you taking on Microsoft? What’s the plan? I’ve only resisted the urge because, for the most part, the answer is predictable; looking after customers, offering great services, and being easy to deal with. But with the introduction of Zoom Docs and Generative AI for free, Zoom seems to be making the move it needs to in order to take a chunk of market share out of its competitors in the northwest of the United States. In the year of the Dragon, with the new solutions on top of the suite of software it can provide, it’s now time for Zoom to become a problem for Microsoft to respond to. That’s the impression I got when I sat down with Zoom EMEA CEO, Frederik Maris (page 38) at the end of last year, who hinted that we will be hearing a lot from the collaboration provider, as not enough people know about the suite of solutions Zoom can offer.
Elliot Mulley-Goodbarne Editor
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How Owl Labs are catching attention in a marker that is still unsure about remote working.
News You should know p6 Collaboration Owl Labs are catching attention p14 Call & Contact Centres Call and Contact Centre Expo p20 Cover Story Nuvias UC p22 Cloud Getting Cirrus about Cloud p24 Zoomtopia Q&A p30 Thought Leadership Effective scheduling p36 Zoom More than just meetings p38 Thought Leadership Strategic tech adoption p44 Headsets Ensuring quality service p47 Product Insight Jabra Evolve2 65 Flex p48 Thought
Jabra Evolve2 65 Flex Jabra is a brand renowned for specialising in audio and communication technology
Call and Contact Centre Expo kicked off with a fiery exchange between members of the opening keynote
Zoom EMEA CEO Fredrik Maris sat down with UC Advanced to share his vision for 2024
Leadership Smart Schools p50
Zoomtopia: we got the chance to pick the brains of Smita Hashim and Graeme Geddes
Editorial Elliot Mulley- Goodbarne 07910 441 024 firstname.lastname@example.org Dan Parton 07941 979 845 email@example.com Head of Sales Martin Jenner-Hall 07824 552 116 firstname.lastname@example.org Publishing Director Justin Penn 07816 573 186 email@example.com Written permission from the publisher is required before any part of UC Advanced can be reproduced. © 2024 In the Channel Media Ltd.
UC Advanced talked to Nuvias UC’s chief information officer Michael Curtis
Joel Chimoindes, CEO of Nuvias UC tells us how to move Forward Without Leaving Your Business Behind
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As we rapidly approach two decades of hyper scalers, what role do resellers play in leaping?
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8x8 Unveils SellWith8, a Game-Changing Tier in Its Technology Partner Ecosystem
8x8 has introduced SellWith8, an exclusive tier designed to empower select partners with unparalleled opportunities for direct collaboration, deeper integration and enhanced go-to-market efforts. Partners chosen to participate in the SellWith8 programme will have the opportunity to sell alongside 8x8. Partners gain direct access to the 8x8 product team, enabling roadmap alignment and co- development, ensuring tighter integrations and a seamless user experience for both partners and their customers. The program also includes joint go-to- market alignment, featuring co-marketing promotion, sales strategy coordination and cross-company incentives. These elements are set to elevate partner engagement and amplify their impact in the market. Simon Black, CEO of Awaken Intelligence, expressed enthusiasm about the SellWith8
program, stating: “The 8x8 Technology Partner Ecosystem has already demonstrated remarkable success in meeting the business needs of customers, and we’re honoured to be one of the first partners to join the SellWith8 tier of the program.” The SellWith8 tier aims to improve customer engagement by integrating next-generation, native solutions for organisations of all sizes. This advancement helps to democratise technology, eliminating the need for complex custom development and reducing excessive overhead costs. Built on the 8x8 XCaaS (Experience Communications as a Service) platform’s open architecture, the program fosters an ecosystem of leading technology partners. This ecosystem encourages innovation, providing enterprises with the solutions they need to deliver exceptional customer experiences.
Logitech Reach Hits the Market After Crowdfunding Campaign
Following a successful Indiegogo campaign, the Logitech Reach is now ready for mass production and set to be available in the education market by this summer. The device, a versatile and easy-to-use camera featuring the Logitech StreamCam, is designed to enhance the user experience during presentations, online classes, conference calls and content creation sessions. The Reach’s unique selling point is its flexibility. It offers one-handed interaction, lateral adjustments while keeping the image upright, and independent vertical adjustment with full 360-degree rotation. These features ensure that users can stay focused on their presentation or teaching without having to worry about adjusting the camera. The Reach allows users to adjust the camera horizontally or vertically, ensuring that the audience feels like they’re right there. It offers premium 1080p/60fps video quality, enhanced with glass optics and smart autofocus. The camera also features an
easy-to-use analogue button enabling 4.3x lossless zoom with autofocus to captivate the audience with even the minutest of details. “Logitech Reach responds to the growing need for an all-encompassing sharing solution, featuring a remarkably adaptable camera,” remarked Michele Hermann, head of Education Solutions at Logitech. The camera’s unique pivoting and rotating feature combines horizontal and vertical movements to create novel vantage points while maintaining camera orientation.”
Exertis Enterprise and KAYTUS Unite for Global Innovation
CPU and GPU architectures. High-speed interconnection and optimised cooling in their designs ensure top-tier performance even in the most demanding environments, aligning with the growing demands of an AI-centric world. Tom Cox, Commercial Director at Exertis Enterprise, expressed excitement about the collaboration, stating: “We’re very excited to be welcoming KAYTUS onboard. KAYTUS is at the forefront when it comes to product and solution design, particularly in key areas where we are seeing huge growth opportunities in both the UK and Europe.” The partnership is expected to create a synergy between the two companies, capitalising on opportunities within the AI market and beyond. The inspiration behind KAYTUS’s name, drawn from K2, one of the world’s most challenging mountains to climb, mirrors its commitment to overcoming challenges and pursuing innovation. Ian Rose, Senior Sales Manager, UKI at KAYTUS, emphasised the shared ambition of both companies to grow and capitalise on opportunities within the dynamic AI market. The partnership with Exertis Enterprise positions KAYTUS to expand its global reach and further contribute to digital transformation through cutting-edge IT infrastructure solutions.
Exertis Enterprise is set to elevate its offerings in advanced tech areas such as AI, accelerated compute, and cloud through a strategic partnership with KAYTUS, a global IT infrastructure solutions provider specializing in Cloud, AI, Edge and emerging technologies. KAYTUS, headquartered in Singapore, has gained recognition for its agile and platform- based research and development strategy. With manufacturing facilities in the USA, Vietnam and Taiwan, the company boasts the ability to swiftly respond to evolving user needs in the fast-paced tech landscape. The partnership comes at a crucial juncture, with KAYTUS making significant strides in AI computing. Collaborating with industry giants AMD, Intel and NVIDIA, KAYTUS has pioneered innovative designs that optimise
Secure, User-Friendly, and Superior: MXW neXt 2 Redefines Audio
Shure has unveiled its latest innovation in the form of the Microflex Wireless neXt 2 (MXW neXt 2) – a versatile, two-channel wireless system designed to revolutionise audio experiences in diverse spaces and hybrid environments. This cost-effective and user-friendly audio solution is poised to simplify workflows and deliver exceptional audio performance, catering to the evolving needs of corporate and education environments. Scheduled for release in spring 2024, the MXW neXt 2 is set to redefine the standards of audio solutions in videoconferencing and hybrid presentations. The system is equipped with advanced DSP capabilities, offering comprehensive audio I/O connections and a new microphone design featuring upgraded security measures, extended battery life and increased dynamic range.
Doug Daube, the Director of Conferencing, Global Product Management at Shure, expressed optimism about the impact of MXW neXt 2 on meeting experiences. Daube stated: “MXW neXt 2 is an ideal new solution for those seeking enhanced meeting equity and clear sound reinforcement in videoconferencing and hybrid presentations, both in classrooms and business spaces.” One of the standout features of MXW neXt 2 is its adaptability to different environments. The system offers an all-in-one solution with an APT/charger and advanced onboard DSP, making it suitable for network installation or use as a standalone system. Its ease of use is further emphasised by the ability to pair microphones effortlessly with just a touch of a button, simplifying complex installation workflows.
Microflex Wireless neXt 2
Gamma Communications Acquires EnableX emphasising the delight in welcoming EnableX
Gamma Communications has made a significant move in the technology communication services sector by announcing the acquisition of the EnableX Group. This strategic acquisition encompasses three prominent channel businesses: Pragma, Techland and Candio. The partnership is marked by a shared excitement between Gamma Communications and EnableX, underscoring a strong cultural alignment based on principles of openness, loyalty and trust. The development not only expands Gamma’s channel portfolio but also positions the company for strategic growth in the Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) sector. EnableX, a key player in cloud communications and a prime provider to the UK wholesale channel, brings valuable assets to Gamma’s arsenal. Will Morey, CEO of EnableX, expressed enthusiasm about the union, highlighting how the portfolios of both companies align seamlessly, especially in the UCaaS space. Daryl Pile, Managing Director of Gamma Business, echoed these sentiments,
into the Gamma Group. The acquisition is expected to significantly broaden Gamma’s channel portfolio, offering enhanced opportunities for partners to accelerate their growth. Pile also emphasised the importance of the cultural alignment between EnableX and Gamma, built on principles of openness, loyalty and trust. The acquisition further strengthens Gamma’s relationship with Ericsson-LG Enterprise, a leading business communications vendor. Patrick Johansson, CEO at Ericsson-LG Enterprise, expressed enthusiasm about the enduring partnership and the shared success in the UK market with the iPECS Unified Communications portfolio, including iPECS Cloud. Johansson looks forward to continuing this success in collaboration with Gamma. Both Gamma Communications and EnableX Group anticipate providing further updates on the acquisition in due course. This strategic move positions Gamma as a prominent player in the evolving landscape of UCaaS and underscores the importance of cultural alignment in successful business partnerships.
Daryl Pile Managing Director
Sky appoints Amber Pine as Managing Director of Connectivity
Amber Pine has been appointed as the Managing Director of Connectivity at Sky, taking charge of both Sky Broadband and Sky Mobile. This strategic move reflects Sky’s commitment to enhancing its focus on connectivity, especially with Sky Mobile emerging as the fastest-growing mobile provider in the UK. In her expanded role, Pine will be responsible for leading Sky’s connectivity strategy, overseeing commercial and P+L management, managing propositions, handling marketing initiatives, and ensuring smooth product delivery across both broadband and mobile platforms. Pine, who previously led Sky Broadband, brings a wealth of experience to her new position, having served in senior leadership roles within Sky, including Managing Director of the Broadband team and various Commercial Director roles for Sky
TV. Her versatile leadership background, encompassing Sky Glass, Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, Sky Store and entertainment channels, positions her as an ideal candidate for this integrated role. The newly formed Connectivity team will unite the forces of Sky Mobile, the fastest- growing mobile provider in the UK, and Sky Broadband, one of the country’s largest broadband brands. This collaboration aims to deliver a seamless connectivity experience for consumers, incorporating the latest technology innovations. Sophie Ahmad, Chief Consumer Officer at Sky, commended Pine’s leadership, emphasising the success of Sky Broadband and Sky Mobile under Amber and Paul’s guidance. The integration of these teams underscores Sky’s strategic focus on connectivity, a vital component for the connected future both at home and beyond.
Amber Pine Managing Director of Connectivity
Exertis Joins Neurodiversity in Business Forum, Launches Sunflower Lanyards
Exertis is making strides in fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in its workplace environment. By aligning with the Neurodiversity in Business (NiB) forum and launching the Sunflower Lanyards initiative company-wide, Exertis underscores its dedication to supporting disabled and neurodivergent individuals. Moreover, achieving Level 1 Disability Confident Employer status further solidifies its commitment to advancing diversity standards. These initiatives, driven by the ‘Enable’ Employee Resource Group, underscore Exertis’ determination to cultivate an inclusive work culture. In a recent development, Exertis has become a member of the NiB forum, a move aimed at championing neurodiversity within the workplace. Spearheaded by CEO Dan Harris, NiB brings together neurodivergent specialists and leading corporations to improve opportunities for neurodiverse employees. Harris expressed delight in Exertis’s involvement, noting its dedication to
fostering inclusivity. Complementing its NiB membership, Exertis has introduced Sunflower Lanyards across its sites, serving as a symbol of support for colleagues with both visible and hidden disabilities. This initiative aims to raise awareness and provide additional assistance where needed. Furthermore, Exertis’s attainment of Level 1 Disability Confident Employer status underscores its commitment to diversity and inclusion. This recognition equips the company with the skills to effectively recruit, retain, and develop disabled employees. Behind these advancements is the tireless advocacy of Exertis’ ‘Enable’ Employee Resource Group (ERG), a community dedicated to supporting disabled and neurodivergent employees and their caregivers. Tim Griffin, CEO of Exertis IT, lauded the ERG’s efforts in driving progress, emphasising the organisation’s commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce.
mpro5 Launches Partner Recruitment Drive
mpro5 has launched a vigorous recruitment campaign to establish partnerships and bolster its expansion efforts across key regions including the UK, Europe, the Middle East and North America. This strategic move aims to collaborate with specialized Managed Service Providers (MSPs), consultants, and industry experts, particularly in sectors such as facilities management, contract catering and grocery retail. The initiative is a response to the escalating demand for solutions
that streamline and automate core business operations. Transitioning from its previous direct operational model, mpro5 is now actively seeking to engage channel partners who possess expertise in delivering technology solutions tailored to various sectors. The company’s subscription-based offering is designed to enhance operational effectiveness, boost productivity, and optimise costs for businesses. Jacqueline Daniell, CEO of mpro5, emphasised the significance of this shift in strategy, stating: “Our decision to expand through channel distribution underscores our commitment to meeting the evolving needs of businesses seeking efficient process management solutions.” By forging strategic partnerships, mpro5 aims to capitalise on the growing market demand and accelerate its presence in key regions, offering partners the opportunity to tap into predictable revenue streams and long- term contracts.
Jacqueline Daniell CEO
Remarkably afforda When your customer’s key focus is best value, Sharp/NEC must be part of the conversation.
Trusted for long-lasting reliability, Sharp/NEC has an enduring reputation for quality. Its customers know that they are buying peace of mind with fit for purpose performance and industry-leading service and support. What they may not be aware of however, is what great value Sharp/NEC is. An impressively low Total Cost of Ownership is achieved over the exceptionally long lifecycle of its products. Not only is this good news for your budget, but it also supports sustainability goals as replacement is deferred
over a longer period and the robust aluminium construction and innovative design supports repair, reuse and recycle initiatives. “With our E Series products, both in the LCD and LED categories, Sharp/NEC is absolutely in the running for even the most budget- focused projects,” says Helen Sheldrake, Commercial Manager at Sharp/NEC. “Think E for Essential – all the essential features you need for professional performance, but without all the extra bells and whistles – perfectly placed for mainstream usage at an entry-level price!
Sharp/NEC quality comes as standard of course.” Recent additions to the LCD MultiSync® E Series of Large Format Displays are two extra-large 75 and 86-inch models and now a super-large 98-inch. With a high haze panel, they’re ideal for large bright meeting rooms or for life-sized signage. The entire MultiSync® E Series from 32 to 98-inch is also approved for portrait orientation – a professional feature rarely found in low-cost displays. The dvLED E Series delivers all the brightness and high contrast advantages
of LED technology yet targeted at cost- conscious installations. With a range of pixel pitches, convenient ‘all-in-one’ SKUs up to 217-inches, or scalable to even larger sizes, the Sharp/NEC E Series is a serious contender for price-driven LED applications. “My advice?” says Helen, “don’t compromise on quality, it can only come back to bite you through customer issues and warranty claims. Sharp/NEC is a trusted brand. It’s a low-risk purchase and is surprisingly affordable.” Find out more about why you should choose Sharp/NEC
Helen Sheldrake Commercial Manager
The Sharp/NEC Difference UALITY, SERVICE, SUSTAINABILITY
The Sharp/NEC Difference QUALITY, SERVICE, SUSTAINABILITY The Sharp/NEC Difference QUALITY, SERVICE, SUSTAINABILITY
an era where audio visual technology is critical to successful working practices, hoosing the right technology partner to address the challenges of hybrid working ecomes more important than ever.
In an era where audio visual technology is critical to successful working practices, choosing the right technology partner to address the challenges of hybrid working becomes more important than ever. In an era where audio visual technology is critical to successful working practices, choosing the right technology partner to address the challenges of hybrid working becomes more important than ever.
• • Dependable reliability Industry-leading service & support Long-life sustainability Remarkable value Dependable reliability • • • Long-life sustainability • Remarkable value • Dependable reliability Long-life sustainability Remarkable value
Industry-leading service & support • Industry-leading service & support
How Owl Labs are catching attention in a market that is still unsure about remote working.
Towards the end of last year, the BBC published a piece that claimed that the debate over hybrid working was over. The solution? A mandatory three days in the office with the other two days free to work wherever they like, within reason. Research from Leesman backed up the article too, finding that employees in the United States spent 30% of their working days at home equating to one and a half days a week. Now naturally this isn’t a rule of thumb. However, the trend is gradually falling month on month, year on year from 37% at the start of 2021, to 33% 12 months later. The office appears to be making a comeback. For those with a mandatory office attendance policy, the line to justify it usually revolves around collaboration, communication, and boosting productivity. Last year Zoom came under criticism for introducing a mandatory two days a week policy, saying that the office increases collaboration, a sense of culture and ultimately promotes collaboration and innovation. But where Zoom may be better placed to invest in office culture and ensure workers can maintain productivity levels, Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs, might disagree. “I do think that we are in a weird transition period where companies are trying to still find their way through making this work for them. “There’s 100 million conference rooms in the world and only 10% of them have video equipment that is supporting video, so there’s a lot of room to cover there.” Focusing on Employees With so many meeting rooms seemingly unable to satisfy the needs of the modern worker, one might argue that mandating days in the office is somewhat of a fallacy that could be detrimental to the business. Owl Labs research, along with the great resignation we saw after the pandemic, backs this idea up as employees seem to prefer a flexible work week, and will go out of their way to find one.
“This goes back to listening to employees,” said Weishaupt. “Our research shows that if employees are forced into the office 10% will quit right away, and the third will start looking for a job. So half your employee base is at risk if you make this decision for them. “If I look at Owl, we’ve been hybrid from the start. We’ve always hired the most qualified person, we didn’t care where they were, because we believe that video is key to strong hybrid collaboration, and we want the people here to be effective and produce the best results for the company.” As Owl Labs has hired employees based on talent rather than location, Weishaupt set up the model as a commonsense approach to hiring. “If I look at the marketing team, half of the team is here in our headquarters, and half of them are spread remotely throughout the world. So if I make the statement that you have to be in the office Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, does that mean that the half that is remote doesn’t? It doesn’t make sense for them to come into the office. “I think corporations are still focused on policies and not necessarily technology. When you think that around 98% of meetings will have at least one remote person, you can see that the meeting experience has to translate everywhere so that I’m able to have this same experience when I’m working from home. “It’s also about listening to your employees. It’s about having productive and happy employees, productive and happy people who do better work and have more loyalty to the company. This isn’t rocket science at the end of the day.” Jet Lagged This approach may not be surprising from a meeting room camera manufacturer, after all, it would be the best advert for a business espousing the benefits of hybrid working to chain employees to the office! Yet, as I dig a little deeper, it’s clear that this model for productivity has been born out of experience earlier in Weishaupt’s career.
Frank Weishaupt CEO
I do think that we are in a weird transition period where companies are trying to still find their way through making this work for them.
“I’m based in Boston and the majority of my career has been spent in digital media. I have spent the majority of my life on planes. In fact, at one point I lived in Boston and worked in San Francisco and every week, I would fly back and forth between those places while my family was here in Boston, and I was working out there and that was where I kind of sparked my interest in this concept of working from anywhere.” This idea led Weishaupt to Owl Labs in 2018 at a time when Zoom and Microsoft Teams were gaining notoriety and spending time in the office was assumed rather than negotiated. “If you look back historically, one of the trends that we used to quote to customers was that people were starting to work from anywhere, and the data was trending in a positive direction. “2020 turned everything on its ear and hybrid work is here forever. Anybody that questions that I think is kidding themselves, because we’ve got a flavour of a better work and life balance that is favourable for the employees, and talent rules at the end of the day.” Opening Eyes The talent ruling may be a challenge for modern business but the UC&C industry will be quick to tell you that these platforms existed before the world locked down in 2020. Owl Labs was founded in 2014 by robotics experts Max Makeev and Mark Schnittman who raised a total of $7.3M in venture capital from seed and Series A rounds led by Andy Rubi, Antonio Rodriguez and iRobot Ventures.
Three years later, In June 2017, it announced its Meeting Owl device. “If you look at our flagship product,” said Weishaupt, “it is a device that sits at the centre of the table and it focuses on the person that is speaking in order to provide a more comfortable, face-to-face experience even though we could be thousands of miles away. “I think we essentially created a category at scale by having a software-driven piece of hardware sit at the centre of the table and be the director of the meeting. The entire industry has come along with us. “Now we have multiple cameras in the rooms that interact in a way so that no matter where I am in a room if someone starts talking to me I don’t miss out on that interaction. If I’m looking at a meeting owl but start to interact with
the television because someone is speaking that way, then another camera can give a face-first view. “If you look at our competitors they’re following along with this idea that cameras need to be able to see every angle of the conference room for the remote user.” This comfortable and “clean” experience is no accident, as Weishaupt said that the company takes a philosophical lead from the likes of Apple along with feedback from valued customers. “One thing I love about Apple products is that the experience is clean and easy. Every time that I buy
an Apple product, I don’t need third-party support to help set it up. I think we really kind of look at ourselves in that vein, which is how do you restrict barriers for participants? “Our customer feedback is the number one resource that we use when we’re building new products. We didn’t just decide that we were going to force this narrative of having a camera in the front and having cameras down the table so that you could cover all those angles, it was from direct feedback that we get from customers who said they hate when a remote person spends the entire meeting looking at the side of a head and not interacting with people’s the faces. “That’s the biggest source of feedback that we get. That helps build our product roadmap and we feel that we have a pretty strong two-year roadmap that’s going to support the industry well.” Maintaining Productivity That industry is one that is forever changing. There is a desire of the employer to foster collaboration and improve customer loyalty that only an office can provide if you listen to them. However, employees have their own perspective and half of them, if you look at the Owl Labs ‘ State of Hybrid 2023 ’ report, believe that requiring them to work from the office is because of traditional work expectations. While this tussle continues to play out, Weishaupt
“I think there’s something there that should indicate that you can’t just knee-jerk into this concept of making everybody go back into the office because at the end of the day, you hire people to do a job and you need to create a culture that has accountability built into it. You’re not hiring them to watch them work. “The office still has a role, but it is task- based. I’m in the office today, I was not yesterday. Yesterday, all of my work was either independent work, or it was with people who were not based in this office, so it didn’t make sense for me to come in because I could use that extra time. “I was able to use that time to go to my son’s soccer game, which I had commuted into the city I never would have been able to make it there on time. In that instance, the company gets the value that presents me, as an employee of a company, to be able to balance those two things together but be as productive as I was if I was sitting in the office because I would have never interacted with a human here that would have made a difference in my calendar. “That’s the most surprising thing with all these return to office mandates. If half of the managers that we are interviewing are saying that employees are more productive, you
Employees have their own perspective
and half of them, if you look at the Owl Labs ‘State of Hybrid 2023’ report, believe that requiring them to work from the office is because of traditional work expectations.
have to take that into consideration when you’re making your plans for how you want people to use the office.”
pointed out “about half of the managers in this year’s report believe that hybrid and remote working has made their team more productive.
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Cloud & Cybersecurity Expo 2024 We are attending Cloud & Cybersecurity Expo 2024 with our partners at AvePoint and Microsoft! Come visit us at stand S330 to find out more about how we’re working together with our partners to propel your business forward…
CALL & CONTACT CENTRES
“Hello, How can AI Help You?”
All you need to know from Call and Contact Centre Expo
Call and Contact Centre Expo kicked off with a fiery exchange between members of the opening keynote about the implementation of artificial intelligence. As AI capabilities continue to grow into an integral part of the contact centre, how far the part AI will play was a key source of discussion throughout the show. With Generative AI demonstrating the capabilities to mimic humans in writing, the question of the role of agents, in the long run, was posed to the first panel of the day. “When we talk about empowerment, I’m excited about this sector because I can see that we can have highly motivated, highly driven, accountable people who are opting into a number of different brands,” said Sandra Thompson, founding Director of The Ei Evolution. “The idea that agents will have a whole bunch of different companies to work for on their terms is going to turn everything on its head. “That means that management will be different, it means the availability of information will be different, it means that employee engagement will be different, and this is going to require things like psychological safety, allowing agents to do the job without fear of reprimand or getting in trouble.” With agents in control of when they work, Thompson painted the picture of the contact centre industry becoming a contributor to the gig economy, equating it to the Airbnb and Deliveroo business models that allow people to earn as and when they want to. To facilitate this transition though, Shameem Smillie, founding member of Women in CX, said that trust needs to enter the contact centre if it is to become an attractive place to work. “I talk to a lot of agents on the front line and the biggest thing from their perspective is trust. Even after working from home through COVID, a lot of them now are being forced to go back to the office because people
want to see them at their desks. “We need to be able to trust our people. If we want to make the industry more attractive to find new people, there has to be better benefits, better pay because at the moment people will just use it as filler in between jobs which needs to change.” Looking Forward With AI on the minds of everyone in the room, the future of the contact centre was also a key question that was addressed in the opening seminar. One of the fundamental requirements for generative AI to be a success is an in-depth database for it to draw from. This fact is something that Smillie picked up on and said is one of the most important aspects as we move forward. “As we look to the future, I still think big data is going to change everything. I know, we’ve been talking about it for years, but with the capabilities that are being expedited month on month, I would say that what we do with that data is gonna change a lot of experiences; from the frontline agent to the CEO at the top in all industries.” However, any optimism about the use of Generative AI was shattered by Ira Cohen, VP of business development and marketing
at MMDSmart, who predicted that businesses would use the big data that Shamille is saying will be vital to the future of the contact centre, and use it to replace agents with ChatGPT. Cohen said the future is “going to be less human” adding: “The way technology is going and because businesses want to save costs and want to be more efficient, they’re going to humanise the technology so it sounds warm like a human being is speaking and it is going to become a lot smarter because generated by AI and predictive AI are going to come. “Today, most of the phone call centre experiences can be carried out on ChatGPT.” Human After All “I don’t believe humans are going to be surplus to requirements,” said Smillie. “As we look to the future, I think there will be roles for humans that we haven’t imagined yet. So I don’t think that technology is going to replace us. “In fact, I think it’s going to work more in harmony with us and hopefully alleviate some of the mundane things that none of us want to do. It will open new doors to do new roles and provide new services for things that we just haven’t even thought about today. Cohen went on to point to consumer trends amongst younger generations, pointing to short-form content providers like TikTok and the main interaction medium through text on a device. Whereas Thompson made a case for human interaction. “There will be roles, there will be massive opportunities, but the organisations that will keep the customer will be those that are innovative and create things that don’t exist right now. As a result, I think that we will end up with people wanting more human contact than ever before. “As a species, we are designed to connect with others through things like facial
expressions with a real human. “The funny thing about us is that we can spot a fake a lot of the time. So if you are a fake and you haven’t told us we don’t like it. We want integrity. We want sincerity. We want authenticity. You get that from another human being.” Taking it slow Marc Monet, head of Contact Centre at Benefex, agreed that human interaction will continue to be prominent in the contact centre and advocated for more benefits for agents who provide the service brands rely on. Before he said that, Monet warned that adopting AI early may not be the best policy. “In terms of where we go next, we do need to embrace technology but we need to get the people and the processes right as well. Technology is used as a sticking plaster sometimes or because the AI looks sexy or the CEO wants it, but before they bring it in, businesses need a plan. “I think the future for contact centres is technologies like AI fueling our knowledge systems, and providing good bot interactions. Where I see people coming in is being able to offer better training, and more empowerment so that agents can give solutions to the difficult queries. “I want a smaller contact centre, but I want those contact centre agents paid more. I want them to get better benefits. I want them to have all the best tech and all the best systems to make their job less complicated. “It’s making sure that we’ve got everything in place, contact deflection, we’ve got really good self-serve models, but then when someone needs help, they’re going to come through to someone that wants to be sat in that seat, is getting paid above market rate and has a title that reflects what they’re doing in a much more meaningful way, rather than just contact centre agent.”
We want integrity. We want sincerity. We want
authenticity. You get that from another human being.
IMP- ORT- ANT
Q What are the challenges Focusing on value-add UC Advanced talked to Nuvias UC’s Chief Operating Officer, Mike Curtis to find out more about how the company can help resellers to provide unified comms solutions to customer and the trends he foresees for the year ahead. Q What initiatives from Nuvias UC mitigate these challenges? resellers face in this market?
Mike Curtis: The big thing that we see in the market is consolidation. Rather than being able to pitch devices and software at volume, resellers now have to start to differentiate with value, which is becoming increasingly challenging. This commoditisation squeezes margins for resellers, their relevance starts to diminish as more competition comes into the market, and they need to evolve towards a solution provision, especially around ecosystem-based collaboration solutions. Q How have Nuvias UC set up to help resellers? MC: We have positioned ourselves, not just as a distributor in the traditional sense, but as a solution provider for the channel that helps those resellers to differentiate on a value proposition. That ranges from hardware, software and services and building solutions for customers for differentiated value.
MC: Nuvias UC focuses on the value- add services – as they used to be called – providing comprehensive, consultative installation, training and ongoing support, so resellers can differentiate with an enhanced customer experience and an ecosystem of services. We offer specialisations for them to pass on to their customers. Evolving their position into that trusted adviser status and becoming a solution provider allows them to leverage and access more of the annuity-based revenues. These specialist fields include platform provisioning, core plan options, ecosystems around contact centres, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom, which gives resellers migration opportunities, so they can help lead their customers on a journey. That’s where we’re trying to help people mitigate that slide into just a volume- based low margin, commodity structure, where it’s very hard to show true value to your customer. Q What sort of opportunities can resellers expect working with Nuvias UC for services? MC: It starts with advice and guidance and helping resellers understand the challenge for their customer in a more detailed sense and being able to offer the solution. It’s not just selling a headset, a video bar, or a point- based solution but asking customers the key questions, such as ‘How is your business evolving?’ ‘How are you utilising AI features?’ ‘How can you enhance a conversation with an AI solution?’ Q How can Nuvias UC improve a reseller’s ability to improve customer communications?
We have positioned ourselves,
not just as a distributor in the traditional sense, but as a solution provider for the channel.
MC: There’s a definite opportunity that’s evolving around contact centre solutions for
the mid-market. There’s a perception that contact centres are big, traditional, monolithic based solutions, only for large enterprises, but now we can offer contact centre solutions that have integrations with CRM and sophisticated analytics that even a smaller organisation can take advantage of. That’s where we’re trying to extend the palettes for a reseller – they no longer have to worry about some of the competencies, as they can pass through opportunities to Nuvias UC to handle the deployment services. Q What market trends can you see coming over the next 12 months? MC: We see a movement, like most of the market, to cloud-based software solutions, and annuity-based subscription models are becoming much more prevalent. Obviously, there’s always going to be hardware sales for traditional resellers, that’s not going away in a market where HP has bought Poly and companies like Yealink are producing innovative solutions. But certainly, the trend towards cloud-based software solutions, AI- enhanced, omni-channel communication, and the CCaaS suite are all evolving. It’s no longer all about video, we’re now talking about content capture, compliance, and the evolving ecosystem around UC.
helps them make that first foray into selling at a consultative level. On top of this, we have a set of packaged solutions for resellers on migration, implementation and installation, so they can have a very clear outcome-based
We’re trying to extend the palettes for a reseller – they no longer have to worry about some of the competencies, as they can pass through opportunities to Nuvias UC to handle the deployment services.
pricing model to give to a customer. Q How are you able to help resellers be successful?
MC: One of the things that we try to do is help our resellers move away from the direct return type pricing and switch to a value-based outcome pricing that helps them to have a margin position that isn’t threatened by a race to the bottom. That means our resellers are competing on a solution outcome proposition so if they are in a competitive position, they don’t just bill for materials and get beaten up on a small margin. We demonstrate the value of the solution for the reseller that they can pass on to a customer. Q What are your aims for 2024? MC: Our main goal is to make sure that if resellers have a question about whether a market is for them, we are able to help them answer that question; and invariably the answer is yes. If a reseller feels stuck in a traditional technology pillar and doesn’t have the means to break out, that’s what Nuvias UC is about. Our DNA is in nurturing people to move to adjacent market opportunities and help them to flourish in a new segment with the minimum amount of disruption.
Q How are Nuvias UC helping resellers capitalise on these trends? MC: We have created some very specific packages for resellers. If a reseller wants to offer a contact centre solution into the mid-market, then we have a specific set of solutions there. If a reseller wants training around pre-sales, we have a package that
Getting Cirrus about Cloud
As we rapidly approach two decades of hyper scalers, what role do resellers play in leaping?
“I do honestly hope that we are past the ‘why cloud’ conversation,” Matthew Smith, Ten10’s Head of Cloud & DevOps Practices, tells me. “I think we’re probably entering into the ‘well actually, should you be using cloud for that workload’ phase.” That may well be the most succinct summary of an industry I’ve come across and some might argue a better job that I could have done. Regardless of who said it, the core principle is true, the cloud has been widely embraced by businesses of all ilks. According to Statistica, 60% of corporate data was stored in the cloud in 2022, and the public cloud market is expected to reach a $637 billion valuation at the end of this year. So instead of asking about adoption, I’ll ask the next question in the queue: What are the trends we can expect in 2024? “Not much has changed in the trends of cloud,” said Mark Grindey, CEO of Zeus Cloud. “But it does seem as if cloud is gradually distancing itself from traditional virtual machines and virtual private servers and is now heading towards containerisation instead. “The cloud leaning towards containerisation is a beneficial change, though. The appeal of containerisation lies in the ability to enable easy management and scaling whilst still optimising resource utilisation.
“Due to cloud leaning towards containerisation, such as Kubernetes, there have been a few improvements in that particular sector. One key improvement that has come through in cloud technology is in multi-cloud and hybrid deployments. “Containerisation and Kubernetes have made some big strides in supporting multi-cloud and hybrid deployments more seamlessly. Improvements in tools and functionalities within Kubernetes have made it easier to manage clusters across different cloud providers and on-premises environments.” “With many businesses rushing to the cloud in the wake of the pandemic, enterprises have finally had the time to take a step back and evaluate how they can optimise their cloud applications and migration,” said Kamal Srinivasan, Alludo’s Vice President of Product. “As a result, we are now noticing a trend of maturation of the hybrid cloud approach. It is not just regulated industries that are adopting it; organisations of all types are maintaining on-premises investments while also embracing the cloud. “This flexible approach allows them to leverage the best of both worlds, as reinforced by findings in the recent 2023 Hybrid Cloud Survey . The survey revealed that two-thirds of respondents (64%) have already implemented a hybrid approach, and
Matthew Smith Head of Cloud & DevOps Practices
The cloud has become incredibly popular with new startups, as it offers tremendous benefits such as advanced security features to keep data and other processes safe.
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