The power of open standards – Cisco Jabber and Apple OS X Mountain Lion

As you may or may not have heard, Apple has a new OS on the way – “OS X Mountain Lion“.  In this new OS, they are including an updated application for IM/Presence/Chat called Messages (although it may be changed to iMessage to match the app on IOS devices).

Of course this app focuses on FaceTime and iMessage communication to iPads, iPod Touches, iPhones – however like iChat before it you can use it as a client for IM services that use open standards….like Cisco’s Jabber services!

The power of open standards is this.  Use the application you want to use.  When a new one comes out from your favorite computer maker, use it!  If you want to have a single client that ties FaceTime (an Apple proprietary environment) and IM with customers, partners, and co-workers, go for it!  If you want to use the applications from the manufacturer, go for it.  If the manufacturer doesn’t have an application for your desired OS (yet), go for it!

Don’t box yourself into a corner.  Choose open standards.

If you want to try out the new Messages app you can download a beta of it from here.

Below is a quick video of how to setup the Messages app for use with Cisco’s Jabber Connect service.

 

Windows 8 Quick Look

I’ve spent some time with Windows 8 over the past week and have my brief thoughts to share below.

What I Like:

  • Windows 8 natively looks to connect to my total digital world including Twitter, Gmail, LinkedIn, Exchange and Facebook.  This is very similar to what Palm OS did several years back which I *loved*.  Palm seemed to pull off the execution better, perhaps because they didn’t have a horse in the race (i.e. MSN).  I would also like to connect to XMPP servers (i.e. Jabber), but Microsoft doesn’t seem to be too willing to share their playground at the moment (more on that in my summary).
  • Dynamic Tiles – this feels like Unified Inbox from Cisco on the Cius which I’m a big fan of.  The Cius version is a bit unpredictable, hopefully that improves and Windows 8 takes cues on algorithms to make it feel very active and predictable.
  • Connectivity to cell phones – LOVED this concept.  If I lock my home computer and can’t remember the password, I can use my cell phone to help reset my home PC’s password.  I expect this is leveraging my MSN account and SMS out capabilities in MSN.  EXCELLENT example of blending of PC’s and mobile devices in real life ways.  Kudos Microsoft. Below is a screen shot.

Dislike:

Disclaimer on the dislikes.  I don’t really mind the technical issues.  This is a preview, and I commend Microsoft on hanging their laundry out on the clothesline before it is completely dry.  I mention them simply to caution – Windows 8 is clearly not yet ready for prime time.

Technical issues.  Clean install wouldn’t work for me with Fusion 4 using 32 bit.  Neither would the 64 bit version which I just attempted.

For those keeping track, here are the two errors I saw on the 32 bit.

And the error seen on 64 bit.

 

Also while adding my Google account the wizard initially failed and required a server address.  Are you kidding – I have NO idea of any google server address!?  After canceling process and trying later it finally worked.

 

UI Issues:

  • No clear search from home “tile screen”? – There should be clear icon (spotlight in Mac anyone) that is visible at all times for search.  My data is far too unwieldy at this point to not use search as a primary and most efficient function.  As it stands, if you hold the mouse (and I assume your finger on a touch screen) in the bottom right – you are rewarded with a search icon.
  • ESC should be a universal “back up one level” button.  I’m actually unclear on what it does, it seems to be sometimes back up one level, and other times akin to Alt-Tab.
  • Likewise, the Windows key seems to be a toggle button which is confusing – I prefer it doing one thing only regardless of where I am.
  • In the mail app – Pressing Delete on a message icon doesn’t delete it.  I have to use the Trash icon.
  • Also in the mail app – there is no “All Mail Accounts” view.  /cough – Microsoft – we are in 2012, not 2007!
  • Also in the mail app (which appears to need lots of work) – there is no “move message to folder” option.

Summary Observations:

  • Windows 8 feels very “consumption” focused.  The tiles update with information about what is happening, there doesn’t seem to be a focus on tiles to create content.  When I sit down in front of a Windows or Mac desktop, I’m doing so to create content.  When I sit down in front of a tablet or mobile phone, I’m doing so to consume content.
  • My final word – As I mentioned above, Microsoft seems to want to force consumers into using their products.  This was cute back in 1997, now it is just stupid and annoying.  The result of the lawsuits Microsoft has suffered have trained consumers that equal choice is expected – trying to now not show common messaging platforms (Google, other XMPP, etc.) and force users into MSN is just begging for another anti-trust lawsuit.

Bonus Tips: (they are tips because they are not obvious in the UI)

  • Right-click on main tiles page brings up “All Apps” at the bottom.  This seems to be essentially the equivalent of the Start Button – without a command line or search still.
  • Hitting the “Desktop” tile – brings you back to “Windows 7” mode

Get the Windows 8 preview for yourself at http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/home

 

Barriers to Collaboration

As more executives look to collaborate to gain value across their organization and not just within individual silos in the organization, it is important to review the most common barriers for collaboration.

Dr. Morten T. Hansen was interviewed for The Collaboration Imperative and spoke about his research on this subject.

He boiled it down to four common barriers for collaboration:

  • Not Invented Here” mentality – and the resulting lack of motivation to collaborate.
  • Hoarding of information
  • Lack of ability to search information
  • Lack of ability to transfer information

When defining a strategy to overcome these barriers, it is important to use the right weapon on the right barrier.

The first two barriers are more cultural in nature, and are best overcome through changes to compensation and cultural norms.  Both changes come as a result of leaders setting the example of the desired behavior.

The “Not Invented Here” mindset can be overcome with compensation tweaks.  For instance, instead of focusing a sales VP with only metrics related to sales, incent their behavior with metrics that tie them to performance in other related areas (i.e., an “On Time Orders” KPI for a manufacturing organization).  This sets the leadership requirement to work outside of their silos, which in turn increases the strength of the overall business and embeds the need for collaboration into the culture.

When looking to attack a hoarding mindset, it is important to start with the basics.  Are there real barriers to sharing of information such as concerns about confidentiality for sensitive information?  I’ve worked with organizations that would not share information outside of the department for fear of that information being leaked to the public or their competition.  For both real legal and compliance and perceived legal or compliance issues, it is crucial to set up clear rules on what information CAN and SHOULD be shared.

The ability to search information is related to the technology or toolsets in use.  Enabling enterprise-wide search of shared documents and e-mail distribution lists is a good start.

Transferring or sharing information is also a technology capabilities issue; however, for seamless transferring and sharing of information, new toolsets should be considered.  Specifically, toolsets that allow sharing of all types of content and discussion, feedback, and prioritization of that content based on an individual’s preferences should be considered.  Cisco Quad is a toolset that allows for simplified information transfer AND excellent search capabilities.

Consider also that you will most likely not face one barrier, but a combination of barriers that need to be dealt with accordingly.

Clearly identifying the barriers should be the first step.

Figuring out which weapon to use to overcome the barriers — and in what order — comes next.

I fired a customer today

I fired a customer today.
And by “I” I actually mean a gutsy account manager who is my new hero.

This isn’t the type of behavior you hear much about in sales – especially highly competitive technical sales.
You hear lots about organizations who fire a vendor, companies that fire their employees, and individuals that fire their lawyers. Not too much about resellers/partners firing a customer.
Especially at a “closing” meeting for the start of a thousand+ phone deployment.

What this account manager knows however, is that just because money is going in our direction for the transaction does NOT mean we are the one receiving more value or benefit in the transaction.

We charge for our services precisely because they provide value and are outside of a customer’s core business or competencies – exactly how I would hire an architect to design and plan a house.  I don’t want to learn building code (best practices), fire prevention (security), space aesthetics (user interface) – I have a day job!  I just need someone to bring their expertise and walk me through the process, get my decisions and input, and design a house for me.

We also guarantee success and eliminate risk as I outlined on a previous post.

Our customers are selected based on a mutual understanding of our value. The potential
customer that was fired right before signing up with us simply did not understand the mutual benefit of the relationship. I have several customers I’ve worked with for 8+ years who understand the benefit of a long-term relationship where money most often flows one direction, but value is absolutely expected (and delivered) in two directions.

Bonus tip for AM’s – if you want to win the adoration and support of your support and delivery teams – ensure you are SELECTING customers for your organization not because you are desperate for commissions but because there is a mutual understanding of the value both parties bring to the transaction and hopefully long-term relationship.

Do you have customers or vendors that don’t understand the critical need for continued and bi-directional value in a technical consulting relationship?  Tell me – what level of value do you expect from your vendors/resellers/partners?

The Collaboration Imperative

I just finished Integrity by Dr. Henry Cloud and  started reading “The Collaboration Imperative – Executive Strategies for Unlocking Your Organization’s True Potential” by Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese.

First – thank you to the Collab Partner Summit team for the autographed copy!

I’m really excited to digest the content in this book especially after reading the Executive Summary on p16 that articulates my strong belief better than I’ve been able to. It reads:

Improved Collaboration represents your best opportunity to tap the full range of talents of your people, move with greater speed and flexibility, and compete to win over the next decade.

Building a collaborative organization requires a transformative approach to culture, process and technology – along with an unwavering  commitment from top to bottom. If you foster a culture that encourages collaborative  behaviors, put processes in place to help people work better together and adapt technologies that facilitate collaboration, your efforts will be rewarded with an energized organization that can adapt quickly to changing markets and deliver results.

While I feel that is an excellent summary, I wanted to touch on a couple points from my perspective.

1.  “the next decade” – This underlies what I feel people (especially those who are paid commission on a SKU) forget.  Collaboration is not a light switch that I can install into an organization.  It is a platform (as a smart guy who pretends to not be a smart guy I work with says).  Furthermore, it is a culturally enabled (or disabled) platform.  If your culture is a fit for collaboration from day 1 then great.  If it is not a fit day 1, then there needs to be a process in place to till the soil of your organization’s culture to make it ready to sow the seeds – and ultimately reap the benefits of collaboration.

2.  “unwavering commitment from top to bottom” – I can’t say how true this is.  I don’t need to – Ricci and Wiese are more traveled and wiser than I – and they say it (so there!)  Collaboration within an organization will fail as a grassroots skunkworks project.  It needs to be a commitment to the culture, process, and tools that enable collaboration from the top down.

My closing thought is actually touched on later in the chapter – collaboration is a years long initiative (I would project 1-5 years depending on the existing culture to really get it going).  Once it gets going however, it will pick up steam until the organization is transformed.  If you get started too late on this you are going to be WAY behind your competition, and they will only pick up steam and get further ahead – and more able to connect with and serve your former customers.  Get started now.

Explain your job to a 5 year old…

Last week I was asked to fill out a form for my son’s Kindergarten class explaining what I do.

My life is spent explaining what I (and my solutions) do to customers of all ages. Explaining to a kindergartener shouldn’t be too hard right?

Wrong.

It turns out, everything I do and sell is assumed by 5 year olds.

When my son is talking to me on my wife’s iPhone – he is LOOKING at the screen for me. He is assuming he will be able to see me when talking to me, even if he is driving home from school talking on a mobile device.

Our home phone rolls to my wife’s cell phone when nobody picks up – he assumes that communications aren’t tied to places or “lines”.

We regularly reach out to family members over video to play the “pass the pen” game — pretending that the pen I toss behind our computer screen is the same one my brother pulls out from behind his computer screen.

When I’m travelling, my kids assume I won’t miss out on little things like playing hide and seek over video.

What does this tell me?

  1. At a minimum, in about 20 years technology consultants will no longer need to explain “why” video is better. Video will simply be assumed to be the way businesses communicate.
  2. We better work on that pen transport technology or else I’m going to have to eventually break it to my kids that it isn’t really the same pen!

Telepresence is…a sneak peek into my personal demo script

I recently had the opportunity to present a demo to a customer during their national sales convention.
The format was akin to a convention like CES, Cisco Live, etc. where you are given small slices of time with people who come by the booth to check out what you are pitching.

Therefore, the challenge was – given only a couple minutes of interaction, leave the end users (the audience was regional leadership at a national company) with a taste to spark their hunger for some of the solutions we were asked to show. The collective hunger of the regional leadership will then help us build a compelling solution for the organization based on the leaderships direct feedback.

We were focused on three different topics for the discussion:

  • Telepresence
  • Workspace
  • Unified Communications/Collaboration

For this post I’ll review the Telepresence Messaging and demos.

The key message I wanted users to leave with was that “Telepresence is Personal, Mobile, and Integrated“.

Telepresence is Personal
In the past days of video conferencing and immersive Telepresence one would need to go to a public area or room to take advantage of the richer visual experience. This results in scheduling conflicts and a general sense of video being “unreachable” for most employees. It is seen as too expensive, and only to be used for large meetings – which limits the positive impact it can really have on a company culture.

In my opinion video is most effective when used in smaller groups – a large meeting means the camera isn’t really looking at anyone, or it is switching between people all the time which keeps the technology “in the way” during the experience.

Cisco and Tandberg’s immersive systems did a great job of constraining the number of people in the meetings to eliminate this issue – and as a result the technology fades to the background.

However while the immersive systems were great at limiting users, there were horrible at making video available for “average” personal interactions. Those immersive systems came with a sizable price tag, and were expected to be utilized at a high degree, which meant that they were out of the question for your run of the mill conversations with customers, coworkers, and friends around the world.

Enter Telepresence in 2012…
The first choice for personal telepresence is the unit I’m typing this on – an EX90. That was the centerpiece of the products we were showcasing, and without fail the response was extremely positive (although nobody came close to guessing the price…)
The experience on an EX90 is one of having a large monitor that transforms into a HD video endpoint – magically and on the fly – FOR ME. It is used when I want to have interactions with someone across the country, world, or office – I don’t need to head down the hall, find out a room is booked, and reschedule my interaction based on the availability of a scarce resource. I’m able to place a phone call – and have a HD video experience.

Dan Stephens (my new coworker) argues that video is exploding because:

  1. Bandwidth is now more common
  2. Quality matches our expectations
  3. We finally get the need for a visual vs. audio experience.

I would add that another huge reason is that the ease of using technology is finally coming in line with where it should be. The use of touch pads vs. remotes is a MAJOR step forward for UX – which makes it possible for a video endpoint to be my main communication device.

Telepresence is Mobile
As I’ve mentioned above, video conferencing historically stayed in the ivory tower and walls of either an executive suite, or a public conference room – hardly something that you could take with you. In order to use video capability – you had to travel to the technology vs. the technology traveling with you.

Enter Telepresence in 2012…
As I’ve posted previously, I’m using Telepresence on my iPad2. Now that might be breaking some marketing laws since I’m technically using a Polycom client on my iPad2 to tie into Cisco Telepresence, but through the power of open standards, my Telepresence capability is now mobile.
In addition to Telepresence on my iPad2, I’m able to use Telepresence (Cisco blessed this time) on my Cius. The quality is better on the Cius than on the iPad2 (you’re welcome Cisco), however the key point here is that Telepresence goes with me. When our CEO was traveling around to all the INX offices to discuss the pending acquisition in November, I was on the other side of the country and unable to show up in person. So I used my Cius sitting in the hotel lobby to call our Tandberg C40 at the office and participate in the meeting. Telepresence is Mobile.

Telepresence is Integrated
I had a life changing experience with telepresence in late 2010. That is to say, I finally jumped on the telepresence bandwagon. Not that I wasn’t a fan of it before, I just truly didn’t see much of a difference between “Telepresence” and say…Video conferencing. I’m somewhat cynical about marketing efforts, and was feeling like the current “Telepresence” marketing efforts were rather thin. So sue me. Wait. Nevermind.
The life changing experience happened while I was supporting a customer who was deploying 9971’s to international locations – specifically Australia. We had a 9971 at the Santa Monica office I was at, and the technical contact at the other end plugged in theirs. We called it.
The oceans evaporated.
Perhaps not literally, but it was as if the oceans separating us and the employee in Australia were suddenly irrelevant. We were talking to him in person, and we hadn’t gone to great lengths to do so. We simply called him. There is power in placing a call, and seeing someone. Power that gets you hoooked. Power that makes you realize what a waste of time it is just talking on the phone. Power that makes you understand that a key strength of Telepresence is that you don’t need to place video calls – just calls. Let the system that is integrated to the endpoints figure out what to do – and how rich of a call you get. Simply call, and see.
Telepresence is integrated. (Perhaps Unified even?)

So…what do you think?

What else is Telepresence to you?

Collaboration in unexpected places

Collaboration keeps popping up in places I wouldn’t expect.

Church this morning for instance.

Two verses in the bible were referenced –
The first is written by Paul who was one of the leaders in the early Christian church. Paul was writing a letter to a group in the city of Corinth, and this passage comes from an explanation of how the flow of their gatherings should be. 1 Corinthians 14:26 – When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.

Looks to me like collaboration being used in a distributed manner even in a new religion. We usually think of religion as hardened and frankly fear based. Personally I see a correlation in many businesses. They are fearful of allowing employees and customers to participate in a loose but meaningful way because of the sense of a lack of control. Well, collaboration seems to have played a part in the spread of the Christian church… Just drive down any street.

The second reference is from a book written by King Solomon who is widely considered to vie for the title of the wisest person to have ever lived.
He writes in Proverbs 15:22 –
Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed.

This is collaboration in both planning and action. Have you ever been on a project that failed because the right people were not brought into the discussion during planning? I have and it is amazing how dumb I felt to have missed something that would have been obvious had I included all the necessary people.

On the action side – collaboration is critical to ironing out the bumps and surprises that come up. When issues aren’t surfaced and worked on by the team they become too much for one person to handle – and the timeline slips as a result. Have you ever seen a timeline slip because too much of the load was on one person? I have, and again it is frustrating to see a project suffer because of a lack of collaboration.

Bring in the experts – whether it is employees explaining their workflow or consultants explaining the technology.
Keep communication and collaboration open and frequent – ensure timelines and budgets are met.

Enterprise Video on the iPad #2 (2 of 2)

A few weeks back I posted that I was able to get video working on the iPad2 and that video integrated with our Cisco/Tandberg environment.

I’m pleased to provide an update based on version 1.03 of the Polycom iPad2 app that fixes three issues I had with the previous version.

Fix #1 – DTMF now working – Thanks @paland for the heads up on that issue

Fix #2 – Correct resolution when calling a Telepresence Content Server (TCS).  On the previous Polycom version I could only connect @ 192×144 vs. the 480×352 that I was expecting.  I could connect at the higher resolution to any other endpoint, it was only the TCS that would result in a lower resolution connection.

Fix #3 – Unpredictable SIP registration on TCP vs. UDP – I would sometimes need to toggle between TCP and UDP due to failed registration.  On the new version I haven’t seen any failures regardless of protocol.

At first when downloading the new version, I thought Polycom was going to lock me out of the app unless I had their infrastructure.  This screenshot was why I thought this…

Fortunately it turns out that login is their attempt at autodiscovery of their CMA server.

You can put in bogus information, tap Sign In, and still get to the main screen.

Notice the Alert icon on the bottom of the screen.  Tapping on it shows you that your login to the automatically detected CMA server (that doesn’t exist in my case) failed.

 

From here the settings are nearly identical to the last version.

Tap the Gear (Settings) icon in the bottom right corner of the screen and be presented with the main settings page:

First, toggle the Polycom CMA service to OFF.

That adds the familiar H323 and SIP options.

Then toggle the 3G/4G Call Rate to 512Kbps.  This is a new setting, in the past it only knew about 3G.

Your screen should look like:

Tap to go into the H.323 Settings.  I have H.323 calling disabled on mine to more closely match how the Movi client operates (SIP only).

Once into SIP settings enter the settings as shown below.

Enjoy!!

Acquisition #2 – Complete!

Well, the Presidio acquisition of INX is now complete!

I’m now working for the second largest company I’ve ever worked for.

Time will tell but I’m looking forward to having a similarly positive impact in the new sea I find myself swimming in.

Presidio is now 1,800 employees strong and the Cisco Collaboration market on all coasts.  If I am to admit, I would acknowledge (with great anticipation) that the region I’m in has the greatest untapped potential for growth.

Presidio now has over 45 offices in the US, three of which fall in my region.

Presidio wisely acknowledges INX’s delivery framework as a key asset in the acquisition, and is looking to adopt this model across the organization.  THAT is exciting to me – taking a proven process and using it to light a match on a powder keg of human and financial capital – leading to explosive growth!