Unified Communications: Reflections of 2011 and Trends in 2012
January 31, 2012 @ 09:52 AM | By James Whitemore

Bob Wise, executive vice president of West IP Communications, was recently interviewed by Susan Campbell of TMCnet. Topics of discussion included reflections of 2011 and trends to expect in 2012. The interview gave Bob an opportunity to speak to some of the wonderful successes we’ve achieved over the past 12 months while also giving a look ahead at what we plan to accomplish this year.

Ucomm

Here are some of the highlights from the TMCnet interview:

  • West’s acquisition of Smoothstone and POSTcti have greatly extended our service offerings and global reach.
  • Partnerships with Microsoft and Cisco have allowed us to advance our unified communications offerings, giving us the flexibility to meet growing customer demand for cloud-based applications. In fact, last year we launched both Microsoft Office 365 and VoiceMaxx CE (based on Cisco HCS platform).
  • Awareness of the cloud and the adoption of cloud-based communications and hosted telephony will continue to grow throughout 2012, and we’ll be there to support the demand with an expanded set of services and solutions.

Bob was also recently featured in a Virtual Strategy Magazine article focusing on the growth of cloud-based communications services in 2012. In it, he touches on key drivers for fueling the adoption of cloud services this year, including:

  • A shift from job reduction to increased productivity
  • Replacement of aging and outdated PBX infrastructure
  • Continued evolution of mobile technology and lifestyle

You can read the full TMCnet interview and check out what else Bob has to say in Virtual Strategies. Be sure to let us know if you think Bob's spot on or if you see other trends coming this year.

James WhitemoreJames Whitemore is senior vice president of sales and marketing at West IP Communications, the team that delivers InterCall’s unified communication services. InterCall and West IP Communications are both a part of West Corporation. James holds a B.A. (Hons) degree in Business from Newcastle University in the U.K. and currently resides in Boulder, CO. In his downtime, James is an avid skier with an enthusiasm for traveling and car collecting.

What Makes Your City Liveable?
January 26, 2012 @ 09:00 PM | By Jess Stephens

In August, the Economist Intelligence Unit announced their Global Liveability Survey for 2011. The result: Melbourne is the best city in the world to live in with a total score of 97.5! When the bi-annual ranking of 140 global cities was announced, Canadians were stunned. How had the city of Vancouver been ‘pipped at the post’ by the Aussies?

Melbourne

The Economist's World's 10 Most Liveable Cities 2011

  1. Melbourne Austraila, Score = 97.5
  2. Vienna Austria, Score = 97.4
  3. Vancouver Canada, Score = 97.3
  4. Toronto Canada, Score = 97.2
  5. Calgary Canada, Score = 96.6
  6. Sydney Australia, Score = 96.1
  7. Helsinki Finland, Score = 96.0
  8. Perth Australia, Score = 95.9
  9. Adelaide Australia, Score = 95.9
  10. Auckland New Zealand, Score = 95.7

The term ‘liveability’ simply refers to which locations on a global scale provide the best or the worst living conditions. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s liveability rating is measured over five categories and takes into account certain challenges that affect a person’s lifestyle. These broad categories are:

  • Healthcare
  • Culture and environment
  • Education
  • Infrastructure

The exact make-up of a liveable city is a well-debated topic. Whilst some may consider education to be the most important factor, others would believe that the environment is the most imperative contributor to great living.

What makes a city liveable for you? Ask yourself what are the key factors that top your list and does your city fulfil your priorities? Personally, it is a number of specific things that fall into the broad liveability categories: living by the beach, a relatively low population, diversified culture, a good health system, an easy public transport system and a work-life balance.

Working for InterCall is a major contributor to my enjoying a great work- life balance. From getting on an audio conference call on the run with my mobile phone to joining an online meeting through an app on my tablet, InterCall is sustaining and supporting my busy lifestyle.

So whilst Melbourne has been voted the number one city to live in, like the Canadians, some people may not agree with this end result. As my company aids the work-life balance for me through conferencing, I can virtually make any city my number one—as long as it’s beachside that is!

What about you? If you don't live in one of these top-ranked cities, how do you make the most of where you are?

Jess Stephens is a marketing executive at InterCall in Asia Pacific, based in the Sydney office. When not working, she enjoys playing sport, travelling and photography.

Maintaining the Workplace Peace (Part 2)
January 19, 2012 @ 10:08 AM | By Anusha Karnad

Last week I posted a blog about the types of ‘difficult’ people you may work with in an office. So I don’t leave you with all challenges and no solutions, below are recommendations that will hopefully help you navigate the various personalities of the people you work with so everyone stays on track.

Office-workers

Celestine Chua offers these nine strategies that you can practice. Many of her suggestions apply to situations where you share office space, but they also apply to virtual teams. While working remotely can reduce the time you actually engage with the person who pushes your buttons, you can also be challenged with not having as many opportunities to really understand where she is coming from. By applying these techniques and fostering relationships with online meetings and audio conference calls, you can have more productive, and dare I say successful, interactions.

  1. Be calm.
    Losing your temper and flaring out at the other person typically isn't the best way to get him/her to collaborate with you. Unless you know that anger will trigger the person into action and you are consciously using it as a strategy to move him, it is better to assume a calm persona.
  2. Understand the person's intentions.
    I'd like to believe that no one is difficult for the sake of being difficult. Even when it may seem that the person is just out to get you, there is always some underlying reason that is motivating her to act this way. Rarely is this motivation apparent. Try to identify the person's trigger: What is making her act in this manner? What is stopping her from cooperating with you? How can you help to meet her needs and resolve the situation?
  3. Get some perspective from others.
    In all likelihood, your colleagues, managers and friends must have experienced similar situations in some way or another. They will be able to see things from a different angle and offer a different take on the situation. Seek them out, share your story and listen to what they have to say. You might very well find some golden advice in amidst of the conversation.
  4. Let the person know where you are coming from.
    One thing that has worked for me is to let the person know my intentions behind what I am doing. Sometimes, they are being resistant because they think that you are just being difficult with them. Letting them in on the reason behind your actions and the full background of what is happening will enable them to empathize with your situation. This lets them get them on-board much easier.
  5. Build a rapport.
    With all the computers, emails and messaging systems, work sometimes turn into a mechanical process. Re-instill the human touch by connecting with your colleagues on a personal level. Go out with them for lunches or dinners. Get to know them as people, and not colleagues. Learn more about their hobbies, their family, their lives. Foster strong connections. These will go a long way in your work.
  6. Treat the person with respect.
    No one likes to be treated as if he is stupid/incapable/incompetent. If you are going to treat the person with disrespect, it's not going to be surprising if he treats you the same way as well. As the golden rule says, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
  7. Focus on what can be actioned upon.
    Sometimes, you may be put into hot soup by your difficult colleagues, such as not receiving a piece of work they promised to give or being wrongly held responsible for something you didn't do. Whatever it is, acknowledge that the situation has already occurred. Rather than harp on what you cannot change, focus on the actionable steps you can take to forward yourself in the situation.
  8. Ignore.
    If you have already tried everything above and the person is still not being receptive, the best way might be to just ignore. After all, you have already done all that you can within your means. Get on with your daily tasks and interface with the person only where needed. Of course, this isn't feasible in cases where the person plays a critical role in your work - which leads to the last tip.
  9. Escalate to a higher authority for resolution.
    When all else fails, escalate to your manager. This is considered the trump card and shouldn't be used unless you've completely exhausted your means. Sometimes, the only way to get someone moving is through the top-down approach, especially in bureaucratic organizations. Be careful not to exercise this option all the time as you wouldn't want your manager to think that you are incapable of handling your own problems. I have done this several times in my previous job and I found it to be the most effective in moving people who just refuse to cooperate otherwise.

Try implementing one or more of these strategies with someone who challenges you. Come back and tell me how it worked.

Anasha KarnadAnusha Karnad is a post call services lead at InterCall in Bangalore. She’s been with InterCall since 2009, working in customer service, training for new hires and account management where she helped customers with billing and service related questions. Anasha's background is in training voice, accent and soft skills for customer service agents.

Maintaining the Workplace Peace (Part 1)
January 12, 2012 @ 09:29 AM | By Anusha Karnad

It is inevitable that in the workplace you are going to have differing opinions and ideas for doing things. That’s just what happens when you bring people together who have their own personalities, backgrounds and experiences.

Have you come across that one person who pushes your buttons? Doesn't listen? Takes credit for work you've done? Focuses on issues that aren’t important? Thinks he knows everything? Always criticizes?

Frustration5

We’ve all come across ‘challenging’ people. You know the ones I’m talking about—they don't turn their work in as promised, always show up late for meetings, can’t see another person’s point of view, refuse to be ‘team players’.

It is easy to wonder “Why me?”, but as Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything, says in a Harvard Business Review blog, the problem with being a victim is that you cede the power to influence your circumstances. We have to realize that we can’t change the people who make us so frustrated; we can only change ourselves.

According to an article by Dawn Rosenberg McKay, here are some of types of difficult people you may meet at work and some advice for getting along with each type.

The Chatterbox
The chatterbox usually means well. She is friendly and wants to share all her thoughts (every last one of them) with you. She isn't trying to harm anyone ... her incessant talking is just keeping you from concentrating on your work. Here are some things you can do to quiet down your chattering co-worker so you can get your job done. Rather than risk insulting your colleague, put the blame on yourself. Tell your co-worker you have trouble concentrating while you are listening to her very engaging stories. You'd love to hear them at some other time, just not while you're working. Then, if you truly enjoy her company, have lunch with her once a week.

The Complainer
There's always one person in a group who can never find anything about which to be happy. If she's not complaining about her health or her family, she's complaining about her job, the company or your boss. Of course, some of her complaints may be legitimate, but the incessant whining is getting on your nerves. Generally, the complainer isn't looking for advice so offering it probably won't do any good. Change the subject whenever the bellyaching begins. Your colleague should get the hint after you do this repeatedly.

The Gossiper
The gossiper seems to know everything about everyone and he wants to share it. Should you listen to what your gossiping colleague has to say? Yes, you should listen to it since it is often a good way to hear news that may not make it through more formal information channels. The problem with gossip is that it carries both elements of truth and untruth, so view it with a cynical eye. Listen to your gossipy co-worker quietly. Don't become a gossip too. However, if the gossip being shared is of a very personal nature, for example he shares with you news of another co-worker's marital problems, change the subject or say that you don't feel right discussing someone behind his back.

The Delegator
In almost every workplace you'll find someone who wants to share his work with his colleagues. We're not talking about those who have a legitimate reason to delegate work to others, for example managers or team leaders. We are speaking of those who either can't do all the work they have been given or don't want to do it. If team work is encouraged in your office and you have time to help your colleague, you should. However, if managers are the only ones who have the authority to delegate and you already have your hands full, then you have to turn down the request. Tell your co-worker you have your own work to manage.

The Credit Grabber
The credit grabber does not acknowledge any help she receives from others. She accepts all the praise for a project without mentioning that she didn't do it alone. The first time this happens, consider it a mistake. Mention it to your colleague and ask her to let others know about your participation. If she doesn't, or if this happens again, make sure you let others know about the role you played in getting a project done. Then, unless you are mandated to work with this person, refuse to help out again.

Every experienced any of these types? Have you applied any of these techniques for dealing with them? Check back next week for more tips to keep the peace (and your sanity) in the office.

Anasha KarnadAnusha Karnad is a post call services lead at InterCall in Bangalore. She’s been with InterCall since 2009, working in customer service, training for new hires and account management where she helped customers with billing and service related questions. Anasha's background is in training voice, accent and soft skills for customer service agents.

The Playbook For Small Businesses
January 10, 2012 @ 09:09 AM | By Tonya Hottmann

Is taking control of your financial future one of your resolutions this year? In the ‘good ole days’ you played it ‘safe’ – went to school to get a degree, landed a corporate job, bought a house, invested in stocks and looked forward to retirement. It’s now 2012 and that is no longer the formula for success for everyone.

For many, taking control of your financial future means starting a small business. Increase the odds of success by joining us for our free webinar, The Playbook for Small Businesses, scheduled for Wednesday, January 18 at 1:00 PM Eastern with Steve Henry.

During this hour-long webinar, you will learn:

  • How to tailor your business to customers’ needs
  • Creative techniques for the most successful business
  • How to create a solid and long-lasting relationship with your customers

Free Autographed Book
As an added bonus, Steve is giving away 250 autographed books. To enter, register for and attend the event, LIKE Steve Henry on Facebook and sign up to receive the FREE eBook. The first 250 people who do this and reference the InterCall webinar will be eligible for a signed copy of The Playbook for Small Businesses.

Register now>>

About Our Speaker
For over 30 years Steve Henry has started and successfully run several small businesses. His last endeavor allowed him to grow a used car lot in one of the deepest economic downturns from two vehicles and $7000 in cash to a recent buyout worth over three quarters of a million dollars.

His current book, The Playbook for Small Businesses, was a runaway bestseller, hitting impressive sales both online and in retail book stores. The message contained is helpful for all businesses to take to heart during these economically challenging times. Steve understands the day-to-day pains that the small entrepreneur endures.

Your take away from his teachings will be that you’re not alone. You’ll recognize that Steve’s true passion is success for everyone. Steve believes that the small family business is our only hope for financial freedom.

Steve currently hosts his own nationally syndicated small business radio show, The Steve Henry Show, heard in every state and around the world, broadcasting live from the flagship station, Arizona’s #1 News Talk Station, 92.3 KTAR, Saturdays at noon Mountain.

Tonya Hottmann imageTonya Hottmann is the director of marketing at InterCall, responsible for direct response marketing programs. Before joining InterCall, Tonya ran a boutique marketing consulting firm for 10 years. In her free time, she enjoys reading, traveling, exercising and spending summer days at the beach.

Five Key Considerations Before Moving to the ‘Cloud’
January 4, 2012 @ 03:28 PM | By James Whitemore

It seems like everyone is talking about how computing is moving to the cloud – defined as the delivery of computer applications to distributed users from a central location rather than putting software on individual PCs or local servers.But what do you need to know before making the switch to the cloud?

  Are you ready to move your computing to the cloud?

Cloud-based computing is growing fast

According to Forbes, a study done in late 2013 by TheInfoPro estimates that the worldwide cloud computing market will grow at a 36% compound annual growth rate through 2016. And 69% of enterprises are planning increased spending on cloud based resources in 2014.

Among the reasons for the interest in cloud-based computing and communications are the need for collaboration among the increasing number of remote and mobile workers, a desire to improve customer service, and the ever-present goals of improving operational excellence while driving down technology equipment and management costs.

What to consider when moving to the Cloud

We have broken the key elements to consider when moving to a cloud-based service into a top five list. These are designed to help you make the switch and find the important information you need about the cloud.

1. The Cloud works best with multi-location enterprises.

The first consideration should be whether your company has a single headquarters location only, or also has multiple branches. If everyone works out of headquarters, and that’s all you plan to have, you may not need a cloud-based solution.

But if you have multiple branches in addition to headquarters, or a significant number of your employees spend most of their time out of the office, moving to the cloud simplifies management of communications and applications – which, in turn, improves collaboration between employees.

2. Can your IT staff handle a Cloud-based solution?

The next consideration is the size of your IT staff. In the past few years, many organizations have pared their IT staffs, particularly in maintenance functions. Additionally, while technology has continued to advance at an ever-accelerating pace, very little has been spent on training or upgrading skill sets.

3. Preparing your infrastructure for the Cloud.

Once you’ve determined that the cloud is right for your enterprise, it’s important to look at your network infrastructure. Networks at many organizations are often a hodgepodge of carriers and equipment that were built over a period of years. Many times they were based more on expediency than an enterprise-level plan.

4. Be able to prioritize network traffic

With the Internet, all traffic looks the same. Which means if data for the day’s financial report arrives at the same time as last night’s highlights from ESPN, the latter may win out.

A fully managed voice/data/video network provides one quality of service (QOS) and routing capability over the entire network. It allows you to prioritize traffic by business case rather than simply on the type of traffic (video, voice, data, etc.) to ensure that business-related data always goes ahead of non-business data.

5. Controlled Cloud migration or rip-and-replace?

Once the infrastructure is in place, it’s time to start moving applications to the cloud. One of the prevailing myths is that this is an all-or-nothing proposition. In reality, migration to the cloud is a complex proposition, so performing a complete rip-and-replace is a bad business decision fraught with risk.

Ready or not, the future is here.

Your industry is highly competitive, so you can be sure if you’re not looking at cloud solutions and how to speed adoption of the latest technologies, your competitors are.

But there’s no need to go it alone. The right partner, particularly one that offers a fully managed voice/video/data network, can help you migrate to the cloud intelligently and successfully, allowing you to achieve the operational excellence you demand while delivering superior customer service.

This article appeared in Corporate United Quarterly (12/5 issue)

James WhitemoreJames Whitemore is senior vice president of sales and marketing at West IP Communications, the team that delivers InterCall’s unified communication services. InterCall and West IP Communications are both a part of West Corporation. James holds a B.A. (Hons) degree in Business from Newcastle University in the U.K. and currently resides in Boulder, CO. In his downtime, James is an avid skier with an enthusiasm for traveling and car collecting.

« December 2011 | Main | February 2012 »