Blockchain Futurist Conference, Toronto - Pix, Thoughts and Larry King

Kinda thought that last part would get your attention. What in the world does Larry King have to do with blockchain?

No matter what your answer, it's correct. Yes, he really was there, and in a bizarre way, his voice-of-authority presence kinda provided a veneer of validation to all the goings-on. I have no doubt that's part of why he actually does represent Gear Blockchain as an Advisor; although in yet another bizarre angle to the blockchain/crypto tsunami, they share a common passion to combat climate change. I can explain later.

Lots to unpack there, and I'm saving that for a longer post, so stay tuned. In short, yesterday I attended Day 1 of of the Blockchain Futurist Conference - basic details here - partly to invest a day of my time to immerse myself in the space, but also to see where there might be applications in the communications and/or customer care spaces. Am still a bit fuzzy on the latter, but give me a day or two, and things will become clearer.

Overall, there was lots of energy in the crowd, and while the show producers fell short in many areas, they sure packed the place with big names, and the venue had the right mix of exciting new technology and a Gen Y/Z party vibe. I'm on the wrong side of the age curve for what MIllennials can relate to, but I still find it hard to take speakers seriously when dressed in sneakers, skinnny jeans, hipster beards and black t-shirts. Ya gotta get past that though, as there were some very smart people who know what's happening, and really, it's their future, and I'm just living in it.

Sure, there's lots of hype, and it's hard to say how many of these companies are going to make it, but the potential sure is fascinating - and yes, it is happening. For those of us who went through VoIP's growing pains, it's certainly 2004 redux, and the whole trajectory of this space feels eerily familiar. I'll have more to say about that in my upcoming post, so for now, I'll share a few photos. I'm not giving you much here, but your thoughts, questions or first impressions are most welcome!

Great view of our skyline from the back patio - CN Tower and all - cool, huh?

Great view of our skyline from the back patio - CN Tower and all - cool, huh?

Future of Blockchain panel - including Jeff Pulver - not surprisingly, I think his comments resonated with the audience by far better than anyone else I saw speaking.

Future of Blockchain panel - including Jeff Pulver - not surprisingly, I think his comments resonated with the audience by far better than anyone else I saw speaking.

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Venue sure had some interesting spaces for the speakers - not always easy to hear them, and the mikes cut out from time to time, but they made good use of the space.

Venue sure had some interesting spaces for the speakers - not always easy to hear them, and the mikes cut out from time to time, but they made good use of the space.

Old school journalism never gets old. Larry King's opening comment - "I'm the oldest guy here in the room". Yup, but nobody  minded, and in the end, he asked THE right question that made all of this real for the audience - watch for that in my next post!

Old school journalism never gets old. Larry King's opening comment - "I'm the oldest guy here in the room". Yup, but nobody  minded, and in the end, he asked THE right question that made all of this real for the audience - watch for that in my next post!

June 5 - our next SCTC regional event - Toronto

Just doing another shout-out for next week's one-day event just outside Toronto. It's being shared by two SCTC chapters - Canada and Mid-West US. This won't mean much to non-members, but if you're from the communications consulting community and want to learn more about what the SCTC can offer to strengthen your practice, this is a great way to do it.

Being an analyst, this isn't particularly relevant, but I'm one of a handful of SCTC members from the analyst community, and the only one in Canada. For the past couple of years, I've been actively involved with the programming for our Canadian event, and have also been a keynoter. So, I can vouch first-hand to say that we have a really strong event lined up for next week, and it will be time well spent.

That said, this is one of three events I could be attending next week, but I can only do one, and unfortunately, it won't be SCTC. Sorry to be missing it, but I've been helping make it happen, and one way is to talk it up here. So, if you're interested, or still mulling it over, all the details are here, and if you end up going, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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My Q&A with David Crook, Enghouse Interactive

The scope of my ongoing industry research is broad, and from time-to-time, it includes doing executive interviews. Sometimes those interviews turn into longer conversations, and when there's a good story to tell, I'll share it here on my blog. The following Q&A is a good example of that, where I got to connect with David Crook, who recently joined Enghouse Interactive as their SVP of Sales and Marketing, Americas. 

Enghouse Interactive is quietly doing good things in the contact center space, and it's easy for that to get lost in the noise as bigger players have recently been making pretty big moves that take up most of the headlines. Being based in Toronto, I'm always happy to feature Canadian companies, but as a marketing guy, what's particularly interesting to me, is how David's role covers both sales and marketing. Much like we're seeing contact center and UC coming together, this mix is going to be interesting to watch. That's my spoiler alert, so it's time to stop talking, and let David take over.

Let’s start with the present, and work back a bit. When did you come over to Enghouse Interactive, and what attracted you most to the company?

I came to Enghouse Interactive in January of 2017. Before accepting the position, I was aware of Enghouse Systems as an acquisitive software company with a strong balance sheet; plus, they are a Canadian success story. Being Canadian myself, the company’s heritage was quite appealing.

After digging a little deeper, I saw that Enghouse Interactive was a great company with exciting technology that is uniquely positioned to advantage of the disruption in the contact centre market. What sealed the deal for me is the people at Enghouse – an energized, veteran group that is passionate about their work.

Now let’s hear about your role as SVP Americas for  Sales and Marketing. How much is this about taking over from your predecessor, and how much is this a new role within Enghouse Interactive, or one you’re in to transform?

The role of Senior Vice President of North America Sales & Marketing is new for Enghouse Interactive. The company recognized a need for and benefit of having one voice to lead both sales and marketing, as the two disciplines must be aligned for long-term growth. My mandate is to build on the success of my predecessors and help our team achieve new levels of performance. It’s an exciting challenge as we’ve raised the bar for everyone, setting higher expectations across the board and establishing a predictable operating rhythm.

To define the role, what’s the core vision, and what priorities are driving your goals for 2017?

We give our customers choice and control. The vision for Enghouse Interactive is be the world’s leader in omni-channel contact centre software and services. We want to own the customer interaction solutions marketplace by providing our partners and customers with the right applications in whatever environment they desire (i.e. public cloud, on-premise, managed private cloud or hosted on any UC platform), and the choice of consumption by subscription or perpetual licensing.

As such, our priorities for 2017 are two-fold: 1) tell the Enghouse story, and 2) enable and engage our channel partners

What specific opportunities you’re targeting from a S&M perspective? How much focus are you placing on vertical markets, and if so, which ones? What about on the product side – what problem sets are you focusing on right now? How about new markets or segments that you’re looking to move into for 2017?

Healthcare and financial services are two verticals that continue to present us with opportunities, as new regulations like M.A.C.R.A. and the DOL Fiduciary Standard, respectively, are creating new demand.

Consumers today want an effortless service experience and we understand what businesses need to address this reality. Enghouse Interactive offers a myriad of solutions that cater to small, medium and enterprise customers in need of a sophisticated, customized, omni-channel platform. As a global software company with expansive resources, we have the means, ability and expertise to integrate our products with multiple telephony platforms and applications – a tall order in today’s vendor ecosystem.

I also want to highlight our success in the Microsoft Partner Community. Not only is our Communications Center platform one of the most widely-deployed contact centers on Skype for Business, but TouchPoint Attendant is one of the first operator consoles native to both Skype4B and Office365.

James Skay, senior product marketing manager, Skype for Business Developer Platform, put it best by explaining how Enghouse Interactive helps Microsoft fill gaps in its portfolio by providing contact center, attendant console, and other applications that are native to their platform.

Looking more broadly at the contact center market, what are the top forms of disruption or evolution that you’re seeing? These are impacting everyone, and how do you see Enghouse Interactive adapting to stay ahead of the curve? Could you comment on this for both the overall portfolio as well as how you go to market?

There is a lot of disruption in the contact centre market today: traditional ‘legacy’ vendors are struggling as native cloud players are emerging; and industry giants are invading the ‘telecom or ICT’ space. The last 18 months has shaken up the market, marked by mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies.

Debt-free with a very strong balance sheet (and a parent company with a $1 billion+ market cap), Enghouse Interactive offers customers stability in these volatile times.

Our customers, as well as the marketplace at-large, are demanding greater flexibility to meet the continuously evolving needs of consumers - in real time. Unfortunately, many companies feel trapped. They want choice and control from a vendor they can trust to deliver. That is what Enghouse Interactive offers.

I believe that change breeds opportunity and the organizations that can execute effectively will be able to capitalize on disruption.

Speaking of go to market, let’s shift now to your partner ecosystem. With so much change in the market, how do Enghouse’s partners need to adapt, and what do you need to see from them to have continued success? Conversely, what do they need from Enghouse, and how are your partner programs evolving to ensure Enghouse stays top of mind with them?

With so much change it is very easy to just follow the pack, to become a “me too” in search of revenue. Perhaps we are seeing that with a few partners.

Our partners have had success – and will continue to have success because each of them brings a unique value proposition to the market. Choice and control with great technology.

Unlike so many vendors, we do not have an appetite to compete with our partners. We believe in “win/win” partnerships that go beyond chasing revenue at all costs.

Continuous improvement is a sign of a good organization, and our commitment to partner enablement and education has never been stronger. We will provide comprehensive “air cover” to partners sales teams digitally, and with those who influence buying decisions. Central to this task is concise messaging and communications, which manifests into value for our partners every day.   

To close out here, working back a bit, you gained solid experience with Avaya. What best practices and lessons learned have you brought over to Enghouse?

I learned many things at my time with Nortel and Avaya – those were invaluable experiences. One of many best practices is the important foundation of a partner ecosystem. And that’s why enabling and engaging our partners is a priority in 2017.

As with the contact center space, the S&M space is evolving, especially in the use of analytics to better engage and address core business challenges. In that regard, what new best practices do you expect to add in 2017?

To reiterate my earlier point, I would say that precision messaging and communications are essential.

Sales and marketing teams work best with prescriptive structure and discipline. Everyone knows and plays their position, working together towards a common goal. Each of us is accountable and sales and marketing success will be measured quantitatively.

Canadian Telecom Summit - Quick Take

Yesterday was Day 1 of the 16th Canadian Telecom Summit here in Toronto, and I was happy to attend. Hosts Mark Goldberg and Michael Sone always put together a strong program, including an opening keynote from the Hon. Navdeep Bains, Canada's Innovation Minister. He is strongly advocating for more affordable access to mobile broadband, especially for lower income Canadians. It's long been a charged issue, as previous efforts to legislate more competition to bring down prices hasn't really worked, and maybe things will be different this time around. For more on that, here's some coverage of his keynote in today's Globe and Mail.

Following that, we had a full day of other keynotes and panel sessions, and the all-day espresso bar kept the audience alert and focused. The highlight for me was the cybersecurity panel, and as always, Dr. Ann Kavoukian pulled no punches about the dangers of new technology and how it's pushing us closer to becoming a surveillance state. I totally agree with her message about taking our personal privacy very seriously, because it's impossible to get back once you give it up.

Closer to home for me, I really enjoyed the customer experience panel, and while Canadian companies have a long way to go, we heard some great examples of how companies like Telus and Rogers are working hard to reinvent CX around how people engage with technology today. That message also came through loud and clear from keynote sponsor Netcracker, as their CTO, Aloke Tusnial talked about the need for CSPs - communications service providers - to evolve into DSPs - digital service providers. Totally agree.

While I'm not able to attend CTS today, I'll be back tomorrow, and here are some photos from Day 1. Otherwise, the twitter feed has been active, so you can follow all the buzz there - #CTS17.

Michael Sone and Mark Goldberg with their opening remarks

Hon. Navdeep Bains, Canada's Innovation Minister

Panel sessions - customer experience, and cybersecurity

May Writing Roundup

If you follow me, you'll know the whole month has been non-stop, but aside from all the travel to conferences and speaking spots, I managed to keep a pretty full slate of writing going - mostly for clients, but also for my own blogging. Here's a digest of my activity, and that will give you a sense of the trends I'm seeing in the collaboration and customer care spaces right now.

Tech Leader Talk - Digital and Customer Experience: Are We There Yet? - Facebook link to live-streamed video, May 30, Schulich School of Business, Global Alumni Network 

NEC and Frank Viola - "Raising a Family" - My Q&A on Frank's Retirement, May 30, my blog

How Can Near Real-Time Communication Modes Offer Context?, May 25, TechTarget

CX17 - Genesys and ININ - Quick Take, May 25, my blog

Thinking Clearly About the Cloud for Collaboration, May 23, Toolbox.com

Our Drivers of the Digital Economy Event - Thanks for Coming all!, May 17, my blog

Messaging, Slack and Facebook - It's Complicated, May 15, Internet Telephony Magazine (am also cited in three other articles in their Q2 edition - links are here)

Vertical Market Collaboration Scenarios - Healthcare, May 12, Toolbox.com

NEC Advantage 2017 - Quick Update, May 12, my blog

Takeaways from Cisco's Customer Care Analyst Event, May 10, UCStrategies

Assessing the Total Impact of Digital Transformation, May 8, Toolbox.com

How the Customer Journey Drives CX, May 2, Toolbox.com

Messaging, Chatbots, AI - Finding the Enterprise Opportunity, May 2, No Jitter