Unify Blog

Despite the heat wave and the summer holidays approaching – there is a heavy sigh hanging in the air. Various public tragedies seem far too frequent in the news right now.

Whenever there is an event, anywhere in the world, our colleagues message each other to ensure our safety locally. This got me thinking. The people that we all work with – we spend (even when remote working!) at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, interacting with them. We congratulate them on job changes, on personal situations such as new additions to the family, we wish them well for their holidays and we welcome new starters.

Monday’s interactions start with ‘how was your weekend?’ and Fridays close with ‘have a fabulous weekend’.

Work Family

These conversations, virtual or in person, happen over our business tools or on business premises, and between real people – not work robots. The relationships built are real. We sometimes speak with colleagues more than we do friends or family!

The people we work with are not just colleagues or peers or managers. They are our work family – which comes with personality clashes and also with deep friendships. Some may be close, but many don’t mix their personal social channels with work colleagues.

The tools that we use to collaborate and communicate are not just work tools. When an incident occurs, Circuit notifications pop up at the weekend or evening: ‘Are you ok?’

1001 Uses for Circuit: #872. Checking that your work family is safe.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Mobile Working, New Way To Work, Unified Communications, Virtual Teams

Dear People who try to get anything done working from home.

When I entered the workforce, the job market was tight. I sent out a lot of resumes, but there wasn’t a market for my skill set. That skill set consisted of…come to think of it, I had no skill set, other than…nope, that’s not a skill. Son of a gun, how did I ever get a job in the first place? As I turned out, my brother got me a job pulling cable for a company that installed and repaired business telephone systems and I have been in telecommunications ever since.

This career has been fascinating, well maybe not fascinating, but it has certainly held my interest for a good percentage of the time. And what has been interesting is seeing how differently people work since I started. For example, people once scoffed at the idea of leaving a voicemail message, rather than having a “secretary” take a message on a pre-printed pink pad. Then    voicemail became commonplace; now it is passé. I think it’s because people hated hearing the sound of their own voice on voicemail. They prefer the way their voice sounds in their heads when they type or text and figured that was a better option. Someday we’ll be sending messages telepathically and we’ll be able to choose the voice with which it is delivered. My default voice will be Jerry Lewis as the Nutty Professor. That should cut down on the return traffic.

If you’ve read this far you’re asking yourself, “Does this guy have a point?” That’s a good question. I think there are lots of people adjusting to a work world that is changing so quickly that the change in how you work is creating as much stress as the work itself. We’ll offer some relief from that stress and from time to time discuss technology and suggestions based on my experience as a provider and user of telecommunications technology. While I work for a provider of these solutions (Unify), there will be no commercials or sales pitches, not even a subliminal advertisement. I will post these little nuggets here and elsewhere and ask that you let me know if I’m nuts, wait, no, my family has that that piece covered like a tent. Maybe just let me know if I am off-base or if you have observations and opinions as well.

 

Peter Greco

Peter is married with 3 children and published his first book in 2012.  Peter has been with Unify for over 20 years, currently as Vice President – Inside Sales and Sales Support for North America.

Peter Greco

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Mobile Working, New Way To Work, Unified Communications, Virtual Teams

I’m back!  I know I know.. I haven’t taken virtual pen to paper and blogged for some time, but I have been busy!  There is this small event coming up called ‘UPC2017’.

By small, I am under exaggerating wildly. This event is exciting, and I have the privilege of helping to create it.

Want to know more? Take a quick (20 seconds or so) sneaky peak here:

Teaser

Intrigued? You can discover more by having a chat with your CAM.

The Unify Partner Conference 2017 is in Monte Carlo, in July. Two years ago, we told our Partners where we had come from. One year ago we told them how far we had come since.  This year, well this year – it is time to Advance and to choose YOUR next move as a Unify Partner.  Whether it be in the Cloud or feet firmly on the floor – Unify is here to support and guide our Partners through the next stage of your technological journey – at your pace.

 

So .. what ELSE will we see in Monaco? How about the Global Partner Awards 2017? Five categories, one results based and the other four by nominations from our Partners and Unify staff. You can take a look at the criteria and nominate here.

Oh, and our Technology Partners will be on hand, available to talk to our guests about opportunities to add further value to your customers.  Media 5, ASC & Private ptm-Akademie GmbH are on site throughout the event so please drop by!

Anything else? Surely not! Although… we *actually* have  an exclusive launch preview at the event. This is the event that just keeps giving!  Not only is there the exclusive launch – but the enablement piece – so you can take this solution to market straight away.

 

Of course that isn’t it, but I couldn’t possibly share all with you. Not yet anyway…

 

 

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Channel Updates, Events, Unified Communications

Shaun Cadwallen – Energy & Utilities Expert at Unify

Over the last several years, major storms around the world have caused extensive damage and disruption to power and energy supplies. For example, winter of 2013/2014 the UK experienced some of the most damaging weather events in its recent history. Driven by a series of deep low pressure systems, at least 12 major storms ravaged the country – with major flooding and high winds leaving entire regions underwater for months at a time, and hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses without power. It was a season that broke records – becoming the wettest since the UK’s Met Office began reporting. This story is repeated again and again – though not always with such devastating consequences nationally.

In October of 2016, Hurricane Matthew ravaged the East Coast of the US, with intense rains and coastal storm surge causing major flooding across several states. Storm Angus in December 2016 brought winds of 80mph, heavy rain and flooding to the UK. Storm Doris followed in February 2017 – bringing further disruption, and this time snow. With the pattern set for increasingly frequent and serious storm events, severe weather continues to be one of the single biggest causes of power disruption in many regions around the world.

Energy and utility firms face a constant battle to assess and evolve grid resilience, flood prevention strategies, and master disaster planning in attempts to limit infrastructure and customer impacts to the irreducible minimum. The question then is how best to respond to those inevitable events… and do so quickly and cost effectively.

There’s little doubt an effective response to interruption or supply issues can easily save hundreds of thousands of pounds. In competitive markets, where speed matters, it helps to maintain good customer relations and to reduce churn. The right response protects remote and lone workers, and supports cost containment strategies to ensure firms stay within their Ofgen RIIO allowance. It’s just good business sense. It begins in the command centre, at the dispatch desk.

Dispatch at We Energies

While today’s dispatch environments are a sophisticated mix of technologies and services, their purpose is straightforward: to activate and protect first responders, facilitate the flow of information, and connect multiple parties throughout the course of the event to its resolution. For example, We Energies, a gas and electricity provider serving over two million customers, deployed OpenScape Xpert Dispatch from Unify to:

  • Handle hundreds of lines concurrently, ideally in a single application
  • Bridge multiple protocols (radio, mobile, IP, satellite)
  • Initiate instant conference calls between multiple stakeholders
  • Integrate dispatch into existing command and control centre solutions
  • Prioritise calls, barge into conferences and record for compliance
  • Broadcast simultaneous announcements on a variety of channels

 

Moreover, dispatch environments able to integrate real-time social channels and video into their environments will be able to disseminate on-the-ground information and images much faster than those without this ability.

Real-time video from the field can be particularly valuable. Today’s social networks allow users to live-stream from their mobile phones and tablets. There is no reason the same cannot be done in a command centre environment.

“One of our requirements for a new solution was one that had increased survivability capabilities that could improve our chances of handling the weather we experience in Florida. With this new solution from Unify, we have a much higher confidence that we can operate during a natural disaster.” Martin Rose, CIO, Pinellas County

Enhancing the experience at VattenFall Europe

The dispatcher’s own experience can often be overlooked – which is dangerous when so much of the coordination and resolution rests on their shoulders. A conventional dispatch position has multiple devices and consoles for communications. There’s a console for talking on radios (or portable radios), there’s a console for talking on telephone lines (or regular desktop telephones), and there are satellite communications, intercoms and paging systems. There are handsets, headsets and footswitches, gooseneck microphones, various external speakers, keyboards and mice all related to voice communications. And there are a large array of screens and keyboards providing critical information related to the incident.

It’s not unusual to see multiple screens facing a single operator. Simplifying this environment is critical.

Vattenfall Europe, the continent’s fifth largest energy supplier, has deployed OpenScape Xpert to connect and secure engineers across 72 sites in Germany. Switching between devices, from a radio console to a telephone console, or even from one mouse to another can take time, cause mistakes and can lead to disaster. Bringing together the various modes of conversation used by VattenFall personnel onto a single screen makes operational sense in stressful situations.

Pre-configured planning

One of the most critical elements of a dispatch environment is its capacity for personalisation and pre-configuration. The former supports the agent experience, allowing individuals to tailor their experience to their own personal preferences. Having buttons and soft keys in the right place undoubtedly improves the dispatcher’s productivity. So too, to a much larger degree, do pre-configured and rules-based buttons – whether on a dedicated terminal or as a software application on a laptop. Each key is coded to a specific event, and each will automatically notify the most relevant individuals, initiate conferences or specific site or community broadcasts. Rather than saving seconds, this saves minutes, and potentially lives.

Evolution imperative

The majority of today’s dispatch environments simply weren’t built for the digital world in which they must now operate – precisely the issue facing both We Energies and Vattenfall. Unsurprisingly, the lack of scalability and flexibility in these legacy infrastructures hampered efforts to modernise and improve response. The multiple screens; the numerous radios, telephones and disparate messaging systems on desks; the inflexibility of hardware terminals; the reliance on traditional PSTN infrastructures, all create time barriers in the chain. It’s entirely possible, and financially desirable, to run a sophisticated dispatch position from a single, standard laptop – bridging all those communications protocols and connecting field engineers on radio to controllers in the office, with colleagues on their mobile phones.

Adding unified communications functionality seamlessly initiates instant multi-party conferences to share information with external agencies and emergency services faster. Combined with an integrated contact centre solution, organisations can use social and video channels to aid in incident management and resolution.

A large utility in the US state of Florida has been using heat mapping in the contact centre to quickly identify the scope of an issue for faster outage resolution, and hopes for results that include improved SAIDI scores.

None of this, of course, is of any use without resilience and reliability. Which is why today’s generation of dispatch solution, such as Unify’s OpenScape Xpert Dispatch, is designed to assure faultless 24x7x365 operation, being underpinned by Unify’s carriergrade switch to deliver 99.999% uptime – equivalent to less than six minutes of downtime during continual operation in any one year.

“Our customers are our top priority, and we need a solution that offers flexibility to meet changing demands and to ensure we could deliver the highest level of customer satisfaction.” Scott Johanning, Telecom Supervisor/ We Energies

Find out at  www.unify.com/uk/utilties_energy.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Unified Communications

By Franziska Schneider, Director of Partner Introduction at Unify

 

How often are you invited to training?  Personally, it happens a LOT! Every time I think ‘great! an opportunity to meet new people, to learn something new, and just have some time out from the challenging office everyday life’.

So, I really get excited about it. However, as in a lot of cases, the reality is quite the opposite of exciting.  It is training ‘as usual’, with a trainer in front of you telling you all the nice theory. Where is the practical part? Often, you don’t get that. At the end you are taking your nice brochures or book home – just for it to remain unforgotten on a shelf gathering dust. One week later you have forgotten most of the training.  Such a shame!

Training should bring fun, should help you to change thinking, and should help you to step out of your normal, standard way of doing things.

This was in my mind when I started the introduction on a training session to our partners. I wanted to offer a workshop which is different to former classes they visit.  I wanted to provide a lot of exercises and interactivity during the day – not power point but real examples. So –  I started my search and quickly found a company called Natural Training to help me here. Together with Natural Training we developed training where the sales teams get better trained, able to deliver compelling propositions and create new customer appointments in just 1 day. We integrated coaching sessions based on small exercises, and at the end of the day, the sales people received feedback from the coach when doing real calls to real customers.

This is the way I would like to see training delivered. The great thing about it was the feedback from the people who participated in the workshop – which was extremely positive.

Are you a Unify Partner and interested in such training? Watch the video and reach out to us.

Natural Training small

 

Tagged with: ,
Posted in New Way To Work, Team Working, Unified Communications

By Paul Bender, Global Public Sector Marketing

 

Exploring OpenScape Xpert

As mentioned in my last blog, here is that shameless plug for our vision of what next generation emergency response should look like: It’s an intelligent multiline dispatching application that accelerates incident response and coordination on DoD posts, camps and stations. And, it’s named OpenScape Xpert.

OpenScape Xpert allows dispatch personnel to manage a virtually unlimited number of calls in parallel. They can disseminate the available intelligence from these calls to colleagues anywhere, at any time and on any device. Radio integration simplifies incident collaboration between on the ground services and other support organizations.

Emergency personnel, C2 controllers, mobile security forces and on-site commanders can communicate seamlessly via landline, mobile phone, land mobile radio, satellite communications, or other devices in secure and non-secure modes.

As an incident unfolds, a graphical display helps operators identify and prioritize incoming calls by importance, not sequence. Speed dialling connects them to key personnel in an instant – and should decision-makers be on another call, OpenScape Xpert allows operators to ‘barge in’ or join existing calls. And should it become necessary to notify a wider group of stakeholders or local populations, OpenScape Xpert can broadcast alerts and messages.

The operative interface, such a crucial element in speed and accuracy of call management, can be optimized for each individual dispatcher – whether they’re accessing OpenScape on a dedicated terminal in the EOC or on a standard off-the-shelf laptop in another remote

location.

Lines to first responders are kept open, audio and video conferences are instantly established, and all incoming calls are logged. No call goes unanswered. And conversations are monitored

and recorded.

A heritage of military service

OpenScape Xpert is designed to assure the faultless 24x7x365 operation required by emergency response communications. It’s underpinned by Unify’s carrier-grade switch to deliver 99.999% uptime – or less than six minutes of downtime during continual operation in any one year.

OpenScape Xpert builds on Unify’s communications leadership – its solutions already deployed at over 150 US Air Force and Air National Guard locations worldwide, with integrated solutions

the C2 standard for Pacific Air Force, Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command, Air Force Space Command, US Air Force-Europe, and Air Force Reserve.

Contact center functionality, repurposed for post, camps and station dispatch, assures the swiftest possible response and gives emergency command center powerful new options to manage call volumes, integrate multiple media channels and to enhance collaboration through Unify’s leading unified communications portfolio.

And because OpenScape Xpert is built on a pure, standards-based IP architecture it will seamlessly integrate with existing command and control infrastructures and applications – minimizing communications latency, deployment and support requirements and eliminating costs throughout the system. It addresses federal agency operational and financial imperatives.

Offering the manageability, security, resiliency, and flexibility today’s command and control centers need, OpenScape Xpert is the logical choice for today’s transitioning emergency response teams.

Innovation at the heart of dispatch transformation

An effective response to on-post incidents of any size requires speed, information accuracy and seamless collaboration across your dispatch environment – three things legacy infrastructures often struggle to provide.

Transitioning to an IP-based dispatch platform offers armed services a way ahead – adding a wealth of capabilities to access, disseminate and action the intelligence flowing to and from the emergency. And it does so while addressing the high costs of existing solutions, providing

application development and integration opportunities, and by delivering the kind of information security and reporting demanded by federal authorities.

But for all that, the need to extract maximum value from existing dispatch infrastructures and to ensure high levels of integration and support remains. The answer is to innovate with new approaches and to integrate powerful new collaboration capabilities.

While there is no silver bullet to the challenges facing the DoD over the coming decades, fresh approaches to EOC dispatch offer real opportunities to dramatically enhance operational responsiveness, operator efficiency and incident communication and collaboration.

OpenScape Xpert offers a cost effective answer to these technical and operational challenges to support base response teams now and in the future. Moreover, Unify provides specialized

support services to help the armed services create a dispatch environment that directly addresses their specific challenges and strategic objectives.

Posted in Public Sector