You Can Do That From Home?

December 31, 2014

The remote workforce has proven to be a key cog in the wheel of industry. 2014 saw more businesses embrace various tools like Web conferencing that have made telecommuting a very real option. Heading into 2015, this is the time for resolutions. Many are in the market for a new job; some have circumstances that do not permit a daily commute and others simply want the freedom that working from a location of their choosing permits.

As more companies embrace the freedom, productivity and efficiency that conference call services and technology in general provide we begin to see it reflect in job postings. More and more it is seen that once the benefits are experienced enterprises are willing to hire remote workers.

A recent article from Forbes, “The 50 Most Surprising Work-From-Home Jobs Of 2014” painted quite the eclectic picture of the 2014 remote workforce. It also points to a bright future for telecommuters in general, as each of these positions carry a telecommuting component and most would not be considered ‘typical’ telecommuting positions—I would most certainly suggest perusing the list.

Forbes’ Laura Shin lists several names from the list we all know like The Chicago Cubs, Holland Brewing, Apple, American Express (News - Alert) and Aetna—all with positions to be filled for the remote workforce.

Founder and CEO of Flexjobs, Sarah Sutton Fell told Forbes, “Many people underestimate the types of legitimate work-from-home jobs available in today’s employment market, but the variety of opportunities represented in this list reveals how rapidly telecommuting jobs are growing and diversifying.” She continued “Opportunities for interesting work-from-home jobs will continue to increase as more companies recognize and capitalize on the win-win benefits that telecommuting arrangements offer for both businesses and workers.”

The most prominent advantages to a virtual team include cost savings, improved morale, reduced stress, reduced turnover, increased productivity and a reduced carbon footprint. To those using conference call services and the like, the concept of telecommuting can be considered a no-brainer.

Edited by Peter Bernstein

Huawei Launches Converged Agile Gateway to Support Value-Added Branch Services

Huawei Launches Converged Agile Gateway to Support Value-Added Branch Services

December 31, 2014

One of the late developing trends of 2014 that is sure to pick up steam in 2015 is the introduction of extending the benefits of Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) to the edge of the networks.  In fact, a target of opportunity of said virtualization extensions is to help enterprises with multiple locations empower their branches with high-performance, secure, adaptable and cost effective capabilities that are the same as the home office and are easily maintained and controlled as well.

Back in November, it was Alcatel-Lucent’s Nuage Networks unit that made a splash with the extension of its Virtualized Network Services (VNS) solution to address this market.  As a way to ring out the old year and ring in the new, Huawei has launched the Huawei AR3670. It is what Huawei is calling, “The industry's first ICT converged agile gateway.” And as is the case with the Nuage solution, it is designed to help enterprises:

  • Reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) of branch networks
  • Achieve rapid service deployment
  • Simplify network operations and maintenance (O&M)
  • Improve capabilities to launch value-added services
  • Transform to address challenges presented by new information and communications technology (ICT) services.

As the nature of work becomes more global and virtualized, networks must keep up as branch offices not only proliferate but must have secure and complete access to the full tool kits of their enterprise.   Indeed, the cloud, mobility and big data are helping drive a sense of urgency for ensuring that regardless of location workers have the tools they need while IT has the visibility and control to mitigate risks. Adding to the challenge is that the traditional answer of adding more hardware is no longer a viable alternative, especially as the speed of market change accelerates and the requirement to add new services at branch offices takes on a sense of urgency for enterprises and their service providers. 

The traditional approach of adding hardware to existing systems for additional ICT capabilities can no longer meet the growing service demands of branch offices. To address these challenges, the Huawei AR3670 agile gateway has been designed to help enterprises integrate ICT resources through the adoption of Intel's x86 architecture design and best-in-class virtualization technology. The AR3670 is one of Huawei's key agile branch solution products and it is a foundational one.

Agility for the branch

Huawei is boasting the AR3670 agile gateway’s innovations.  Cited are such things as:

  • The AR3670 is the first product of its kind that uses leading virtualization technology to integrate information technology (IT) and communication technology (CT) resources for gateways. As Huawei says, “A single AR3670 device is equivalent to a whole branch ICT system, which substantially reduces enterprise device purchasing requirements and O&M costs.”
  • It is the first agile gateway in the industry to implement unified control and O&M of IT and CT devices through Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)-based architecture. Applications can be remotely and automatically deployed and upgraded through a unified management platform to accelerate service launch and streamline network O&M at branch offices.
  • It is the industry's first open gateway to support integration and compatibility across devices, networks, and applications, and can be rapidly integrated with third-party systems.

"ICT convergence is reaching new heights. This fusion of IT and CT has resulted in architectural innovation and is no longer just a combination of different products with feature-rich functionalities. It is virtualization and SDN-based product innovation developed to address customer requirements," said Mr.Li Xianyin, General Manager, Enterprise Gateway Domain, Switch and Enterprise Communications Product Line, Huawei. "Huawei's AR3670 agile gateway is a pioneering technology in the ICT convergence space. It is the first of Huawei's agile gateway products series dedicated to help enterprises address the challenges of evolving branch services through adopting innovative and cutting-edge technologies."

While Hauwei is claiming a number of firsts for its gateway, realities are as noted at the top that empowering branch offices with end-to-end solutions that extend the power of the data center to them to be more agile in terms of easily turning up cost effective, secure and needed capabilities while allowing the enterprise’s IT professionals to oversee a policy framework that gives them the visibility and control they require to manage and secure an increasingly dispersed workplace is rapidly moving from curiosity to must have. 

This is certainly a space to keep an eye on in 2015 not only for the efficiencies and cost reductions automated capabilities can provide, but also because of the impact empowering the branches with the tools they need to be more productive and customer friendly will have on the bottom line.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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Encryption is Key to Protected Communications

The notion of ‘Big Brother’ watching can bring comfort like that of a warm blanket on a cold December night, or the chilling fear the lack of privacy provides. As we see frequently in the news, data breaches and leaked documents occur at an alarming pace. For an enterprise like Sony for instance, its proverbial laundry has been aired for the public to see—including social security numbers and other personal information.

IP communications can create a natural vulnerability to unwanted visitors getting a peak at sensitive information. A large scale example we have all watched play out are the infamous Snowden documents—recently, Der Spiegel, a German newspaper, released more Snowden documents with some interesting revelations.

"The Snowden documents reveal the encryption programs the NSA has succeeded in cracking, but, importantly, also the ones that are still likely to be secure," reports Der Spiegel. "Although the documents are around two years old, experts consider it unlikely the agency's digital spies have made much progress in cracking these technologies."

Protecting one’s communications and data is not as simple as turning on a firewall. It is a multistep process that includes leveraging an anonymizing VoIP tool in conjunction with an anonymous browser and an additional anonymizing tool. I have been brought up with a better safe than sorry mentality, so to follow are some tools in the market that offer the level of security that could keep potential ‘evil-doers’ out of proprietary or sensitive information.

Pretty Good Privacy is an all-in-one privacy tool that encrypts Web browsing, messages, documents and files. There are free versions for download but for the enterprise, its business enterprise versions are worth the price.

Off-the-Record is another encryption tool that can protect Internet instant messages from intruders. It is not compatible with all messaging services but does work well with multiple messaging services available.

A solid free tool that hides Web content and identity is Tor. Tor is available for free, and currently is the most easily attained and readily used encryption tool available.

It may be tough for some to draw the line from the NSA to industry security but do not be fooled. Whether or not the government is watching, competition in the business is fierce, while many have entered a mode of collaborative growth others seek to employ other means for advancement. Ensuring that communications are protected is small price to pay for peace of mind.

Edited by Peter Bernstein

BaubleBar Wins 2014 Customer Engagement Award

BaubleBar Wins 2014 Customer Engagement Award

December 31, 2014

By Joe Rizzo, Cobrowsing Technology Contributing Writer

Vee24 is a company that was founded seven years ago with the goal of providing a better way for brands to engage with customers. Vee24 provides a simple and seamless way for brands to connect with their customers over the Web, on mobile devices and in stores using voice, video, text, and co-browsing.

Co-browsing is like screen sharing, however it is limited to the browser and it is lightning fast. With co-browsing, a remote viewer can connect up to a presenter’s browser instantly and show them around a website by highlighting different elements of the page. They can also click links or fill out forms remotely, which is all accomplished with no downloads or installations for either party.

Every year, brick and mortar retailers see less people walking through their doors. After that big Thanksgiving day dinner who wants to wait outside a store in the wee hours of the morning to begin Christmas shopping when they can do it from the comfort of their couch while drinking a cup of coffee?

Of course, this does present a problem. How can you be sure of what the item really looks like from a Web-based image? Many factors come into play, such as the actual size of the item. By using products like Vee24’s live video assistance solution the customer can interact with a salesperson giving more valuable information than can be acquired from a static photo.

This is a solution that many companies are beginning to develop and focus on. One such company is BaubleBar, which is a jewelry e-commerce retailer. It is very difficult to see an image of a diamond ring, or ruby necklace and know exactly what it looks like from the picture on a retailer’s website. BaubleBar has resolved this issue by partnering with Vee24.

BaubleBar has implemented Vee24’s live video assistance solution, which connects shoppers to stylists via live video. This brings the in-store experience online and directly to the customer. Visitors to the website are invited to have a live video session with a stylist. Once the link is established, the stylist can answer all of their questions in real time. In addition, they can also try on jewelry, which will allow the viewer know how it would look and provide a close-up of any piece.

Nina Alexander-Hurst, who is vice president of customer experience and SWAT (Service With Accessorizing Talent) at BaubleBar had the following to say about the company’s relationship with Vee24, “We are always looking for innovative ways to forge stronger relationships with our customers and are proud to be one of the first in our industry to offer live video styling and co-shopping on our website. “Vee24’s live video assistance technology has helped us achieve the same personalized service on the Web that consumers are used to receiving in-store, resulting in happier customers and higher conversation rates. Our entire SWAT team should be very proud of this great honor.”

The honor that Nina is referring to is Vee24’s fourth annual Customer Engagement Awards from Retail TouchPoints. The awards recognize retailers that are using creativity and innovation to deliver on the promise of customer-centricity. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Enterprise Cloud is more about Operational Efficiency than Cost Savings says KPMG

Enterprise Cloud is more about Operational Efficiency than Cost Savings says KPMG

December 31, 2014

In many ways 2014 was a watershed year for the cloud and data center transformations as more and more enterprises of all sizes, but particularly larger ones, decided to test the cloud waters in part or in whole.  The reasons are varied, but as a new survey from KPMG highlights, one of the biggest trends along with an increased comfort level was the shift from looking at the cloud as a way to reduce costs and a greater focus on actual business outcomes. This is a major shift in emphasis and one that is likely to pick up even more momentum in 2015.

Getting comfy with the cloud

To say the least, KPMG’s 2014 Cloud Computing Survey (PDF), is worth a download and a detailed examination.  It analyzed the responses of more than 650 senior executives across 16 countries and various industries.

According to the survey, through the implementation of cloud solutions, 73 percent of enterprises were able to improve business performance, 72 percent improved service automation, and 70 percent had reduced costs. These enterprises have been able to create solutions to empower mobile workforces, and improve business processes and automate services.

The graphic below is instructive as it highlights the top ways businesses were using the cloud in 2014.

Source: KPMG 2014 Cloud Computing Survey (click to enlarge)

Study authors Steven Hill and Rick Wright said, “[A] greater focus is being placed in new areas including getting the business process redesign right, facilitating appropriate change processes and business model improvements, and moving more core functions to the cloud.”

The survey also found that as knowledge grows businesses really are becoming more comfortable with the benefits as well as the risks of the cloud and over the next 18 months will be putting their money in cloud-based business process automation as budgets for cloud projects are increased.

Cloud is being seen as more than a way of saving money, but rather as something more central to their business, and is being treated as such. “[I]n order to reap the full benefits of cloud adoption…organizations must also transform their business processes, or they run the risk of misinterpreting the short term IT savings as success, while the longer term strategic business objectives go unrealized,” Hill and Wright note.

The authors also noted that as initial adoption of cloud has been surmounted along with a mitigation of security and performance concerns, implementation including integration, operations and governance are rising to the top of the heap although the report does note that in terms of evaluating cloud-based applications and services providers the rank order of selection criteria were:

  • Security (82 percent)
  • Data Privacy (81 percent)
  • Cost (78 percent)

However, here too thanks to experience best practices are starting to develop, which are speeding development and implementations and creating greater peace of mind with IT professionals.

There is a final cautionary yet optimistic note from the authors which while note surprising is symptomatic of all major technology transformation.  Hill and Wright state that: “The resulting journey [towards Cloud] is proving more complicated and challenging than many had originally anticipated. That said, it is clear that – with greater experience and a few hard-won lessons – executives continue to believe that the benefits of cloud adoption far outweigh any growing pains that they may experience through implementation.”

The good news is that thanks to early adopters and the increasing speed of innovation, the cloud is not just here to stay but more importantly is being viewed as something more than a means for moving CAPEX to OPEX.  Enterprises see the value in enabling the mobile workforce and improving both business processes and having the tools to enhance the customer experience as big cloud benefits that create differentiated and sustainable value.  In short, it turns out that we appear to be out of the hype cycle and 2015 is shaping up as a very cloudy year.  This means data center transformations are going to be very high on enterprises’ agendas.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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Tesla Developing Automated Charging

Tesla Developing Automated Charging

December 31, 2014

It is not always easy to stay on the cutting edge of the tech space and the IoT, but Elon Musk makes it a bit easier with his Twitter account. Today, Musk quite matter-of-factly announced that Tesla is working on a robotic snake arm that automatically extends from the wall and charges your Tesla—You can see for yourself HERE

Btw, we are actually working on a charger that automatically moves out from the wall & connects like a solid metal snake. For realz.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 31, 2014


TechCrunch and Gizmodo are both reporting that the arm is to function autonomously. Gizmodo’s Darrell Etherington describes the innovation as something that would, “presumably somewhat resemble the kind of articulated robotic arms made famous by comic book villain Doctor Octopus, but less threatening and evil.” Based on the above video, this appears to be an accurate summation.

It sounds silly but, have you ever forgotten to get gas? Maybe you’re running late to dinner or the office and it just slips your mind. Tesla’s newest innovation automatically extends and plugs into your car, making this issue a thing of the past. It is unclear how the process will work, but advents in IoT sensor tech and connected devices will likely play a large role in taking this idea from the drawing board to your garage.

Secondary to Musk’s initial announcement of Tesla’s new ‘solid metal snake,’ he added that the arm would work with all Model S cars. Couple this with its recent battery warranty extension; Tesla is doing all it can to provide its customers with the fruit of its labor. The steep price tag of a Tesla S comes with all the perks of innovation.

This can be used with all existing Model S cars, not just futures ones.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 31, 2014

Tesla and its fearless leader exist in a space of constant development and evolution. From years ago, when Musk was scoffed at about creating an electric sports car, to today where Tesla is THE preeminent electric sports car on the market. The autonomous snake arm isn’t ready for the general public quite yet, but hopefully soon—as I am holding my breath.

Edited by Peter Bernstein

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Getting Help with App Reviews and Rejections

iTunes Connect is now available after the holiday shutdown. Please remember, if you need to appeal an app rejection or request that the review of your app be expedited, the fastest way to get help is to contact the App Review Team through the Contact Us form. To view app rejection details and ask for clarification, visit Resolution Center in iTunes Connect. We look forward to seeing the innovative new apps you'll create in 2015.

Avaya Launches New Solutions to Address Multichannel Communications Preferences

Avaya Launches New Solutions to Address Multichannel Communications Preferences

December 29, 2014

Avaya (News - Alert) Inc., a global provider of business communications and collaborations systems, has unveiled a suite of new solutions to address multichannel communication preferences while meeting enterprise expectations for security, availability manageability and scalability. Called "Avaya Engagement Solutions," the suite is comprised of technologies to connect locations with functions across an enterprise, integrate communications-enabled applications into workflows and support seamless migration from desktop to mobile.

The Avaya Engagement Environment combines communications capabilities with daily business applications, which can then be integrated into workflows. The merged applications can also be published as a service to create more intuitive connections and improved experiences for customers and employees alike. Customer and team engagement is thus solidified into a singular competitive advantage.

Avaya has aligned its Customer and Team Engagement Solutions with the most important challenges in the modern business climate, enabling organizations to implement strategies for a more efficient and engaged enterprise.

Customer Engagement Solutions are now aligned into three sets of solutions: Top Line Growth, Customer Experience and Contact Center Efficiency. New inclusions among these sets are Avaya Snap-Ins for Engagement Environment, which add enhanced communications capabilities such as WebRTC, real-time speech, work assignment, mobility and context store to contact center operations, and a Customer Engagement Transformation Consulting Service designed to help revitalize legacy contact center operations. Also included is the Avaya Agent for Chrome, which provides a WebRTC interface on Google (News - Alert) Chrome to access Avaya contact center technologies, and the Avaya Social Responder for managing social media operations through a contact center operation.

Team Engagement Solutions are comprised of the three solution sets Communications Optimization, Worker and Team Productivity and Growth Enablement. New and enhanced offerings include the Avaya Engagement Development Platform (formerly known as the Collaboration Environment), which includes new capabilities and tools for easily customizing and building applications and workflows, the Avaya Communicator client communications interface, AvayaLive Video cloud-based integrated audio/video conferencing and screen sharing service and the Avaya IP Office Select unified communications and collaboration solution.

"With communication at the heart of so much employee and customer frustration, building engaged organizations is the number one challenge for 21st century business," said Kevin J. Kennedy, CEO of Avaya. "Business needs to empower people with technology and services to communicate effectively and effortlessly in the workplace – with each other and with customers. For more than two decades, Avaya has pioneered business communications, and as the world ushers in a new era of engagement, our solution portfolio is again a step ahead, addressing all modern user preferences with the proven reliability, performance and manageability global Fortune 500 companies depend on for success."

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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Being Customer-Centric Means Being Employee-First

While customers are the engine of commerce (no customers, no sales, no profits), not everyone within an organization is responsible for dealing with them directly. All of the IT personnel, financial czars, maintenance workers, back-office gurus, HR folks—these roles are critical to customer-centricity, albeit in an indirect way.

That’s why it’s absolutely required for every stakeholder within an organization to have a customer-oriented attitude, and to understand that he or she is responsible for his or her own internal customers. Internal customers are people that rely on support and operations personnel to get their own jobs done—jobs that often are directly customer-facing.

Taken together, management should consider implementing an “employee-first” approach, where the very heart of a business is considered to be the operational apparatus and the roles therein. From there, excellence in communication, productivity and efficiency expands outward—one can think of it like an onion, where each successive layer is closer to the outside (the customer).

Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher is a big champion on this approach, as is Virgin’s Richard Branson. Both run extremely successful customer-centric businesses.

“Employees come first, and if employees are treated right, they treat the outside world right, the outside world uses the company’s product again, and that makes the shareholders happy,” Kelleher famously has said. “That really is the way that it works, and it’s not a conundrum at all.”

And as Branson has said, happy employees mean service with a smile. "It should go without saying, if the person who works at your company is 100 percent proud of the brand and you give them the tools to do a good job and they are treated well, they're going to be happy," he said in a recent interview.

In addition to the philosophy, it’s important to put the right software in place to support this strategy and put it into practice as a differentiator, especially when it comes to collaboration tools that include social and mobile functionality. Support teams and the back office have been traditionally siloed, without a lot of information sharing happening between, say, the marketing department and the billing staff.

However, the automation of the back office and the ability to make visible important information that impacts the customer experience has become a mantra.

According to Jeremy Roche, president and CEO of, if the customer-focused company operates around the customer within all layers of the aforementioned onion—whether it is interactions through social networks or behind the scenes in managing customer transactions—gaining a comprehensive view of customers is critical—driving a need for connected apps need to part of any corporate strategy.  It is after all a digital era—today’s communications are driven by all-IP, cloud, mobility, virtualization and cross-network applications.

“To build a truly customer-centric organization, back-office functions, namely finance, services and HR, must also be connected in real-time to the rest of the organization,” he said in a blog. “Because soon, enabling cross-departmental, cross-geographic collaboration will no longer an option.”

He added that connected apps like unified communications clients are particularly adept at knocking down barriers between people and departments, especially when it comes to leveraging analytics within, say, contact center performance management, billing or workforce automation approaches. Information-sharing across departments has solid business benefits for companies: time to market gains; service agility and product development information; and intelligence that can be shared across stakeholders for use in making strategic business decisions. And all of that in turn informs a better customer-service strategy.

“The back-office has the potential to be the biggest beneficiary from the move towards this new level of connection – shifting its role from command-and-control, to an active participant and enabler in critical business conversations,” Roche said.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

2015 Will Be an Important Year for HTML5 Adoption

Fifteen years after the release of its predecessor HTML4, the HTML5 standard was finalized in October 2014. A technological and political triumph, HTML5 is a unified technology for cross-platform machine interactions and the only to evolve from a broad industry-wide consensus.

Although the finalization of a standard is important, it is unrealistic to expect that the industry will immediately react with full adoption of the technology, and that developers are universally prepared with the skills necessary to do so. A recent article in the SD Times outlined several trends that indicate 2015 will be an important year for adoption of HTML, a process expected to be nearly complete by the end of the decade.

Many enterprises and vendors depend on the interoperability guarantees that come with standardization, and thus it serves as a major driver of adoption. In addition, in many cases those implementing the HTML5 standard further benefit from expanded patent protections. Because the technology draws from contributions from numerous parties, a finalized standard allows for compliance without the risk of being sued or screwed over.

Mobile apps are able to function much better with HTML5. The final version brings major improvements, such as implementation of JIT compilers and WebGL, to the embedded WebView component in mobile platforms. Hybrid apps running on mobile devices once were once limited to an inferior WebView, while a Web browser on the same device used JavaScript performing at about a quarter of the speed. Hybrid app developers now have the full array of HTML5 tools at their disposable to create products that run more efficiently than ever.

A new technology creates a void of skilled professionals that must be filled as soon as possible. As an expansive yet relatively new technology, HTML5 does not have as many skilled developers or available tools in the market as Java or .Net. With a finalized standard, however, adoption and skills growth is inevitable as developers gradually adopt the technology.

Many new application development tools, frameworks and middleware tools are being built on HTML5 and the more ingrained JavaScript. As many companies rely on third-party cross-platform application development tools with client-side or end-to-end abstraction models, these tools' increasing reliance on internal Web technologies make them a driving force in spreading HTML5 adoption.

Adrive towards finalizing ECMAScript 6 by mid-2015 will solidify JavaScript as the perfect companion for HTML5, offering expansive functionality and improved performance. Most notably, the ECMA is focusing on including built-in dependency management systems and modularity constructs, as well as revamping the code typing for easier reading and debugging.

2015 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for HTML5 as companies find more reasons to adopt it and developers become more comfortable with the technology. As the Web continues to expand and improve, HTML5 will surely find its place among the technologies responsible for bringing people together in new and exciting ways.

Edited by Maurice Nagle