Vodafone Unified Communications Briefing: February 15, 2018

Vodafone UC Ecosystem

On February 15th, I received an update on Vodafone’s current Unified Communications business in a briefing led by Peter Terry-Brown and Craig Marshall.

Key metrics that got my attention included Vodafone’s current base of 4.7 million One Net users, 10% growth Year-over-Year in the UC business, and a massive increase in their multi-national pipeline. The adoption of these offerings are starting to accelerate as global trends for TDM retirement are forcing enterprises to re-evaluate network and voice infrastructure options and to consider SIP, cloud, network, and unified communications innovations. These trends are strong in light of Vodafone’s overall positioning as the largest voice carrier in the world with over 60 billion minutes per month and the #2 mobile subscription provider in the world behind China Mobile.

The offering, itself, has become more flexible as Vodafone now supports quarterly offering updates and can deploy basic cloud-based Unified Communications projects over a weekend rather than the multi-month or multi-year staggered projects that have typically defined telecom. Vodafone also noted the increased interest in its contact center product, which now starts at 250+ agents rather than 500+ agents and that 80-90% of unified communications deals now include a contact center component.

As is now typical in the UC space, Vodafone sees interest in bringing voice, mobility, and collaboration together and emphasized its combination of support for a variety of collaboration tools and its use of APIs to support additional integration. The combined offerings of SIP, unified communications, contact center, and voice APIs provides a broad range of options for Vodafone customers and serves to reduce churn on the network as well. Vodafone describes its broader UC ecosystem in context of the diagram below to show how voice, network connectivity and integration, platform, applications, self-service, and third-party applications come together in its unified communications offering.

Vodafone UC Ecosystem
Vodafone UC Ecosystem

Interestingly, Vodafone’s sales Center of Excellence has led to a majority of opportunities, 79%, created with line-of-business leaders. This metric speaks to Vodafone’s sales force training focused on finding the right buyer in an organization, regardless of department. And this behavior aligns with an Amalgam-tracked trend of the increasing business focus associated with technology investments and the reduced need for IT to be the primary lead for acquiring telecom and network transformation solutions in a cloud-based world.

Vodafone also provided guidance on its roadmap plans in the upcoming year including improved self-service, analytics, greater collaboration integration, improved deployment for small and medium businesses, and geographic expansion. In these efforts, Amalgam warns that in the enterprise telecom world, self-service is best provided as a guided service for the majority of business users and that an overly open experience will not gain strong adoption.

In addition, Amalgam looks forward to seeing the approaches that Vodafone will take from an analytics and application integration perspective, as both areas have gone through sea changes in the last few years. Clean visualization, directional guidance, and a well-embedded experience are now status quo for enterprise technology experiences.

Overall, Amalgam believes that Vodafone’s Unified Communications offerings represent a strong converged option that should be considered for:
• Small, medium and large enterprises
• Medium and large enterprises with contact center needs; as well as
• Multi-national organizations seeking to upgrade capabilities and reduce total cost of ownership for telecom costs.

Market Milestone: Red Hat Acquires CoreOS Changing the Container Landscape

Red Hat Acquires CoreOS

We have just published a new document from Tom Petrocelli analyzing Red Hat’s $250 million acquisition of CoreOS and why it matters for DevOps and Systems Architecture managers.

This report is recommended for CIOs, System Architects, IT Managers, System Administrators, and Operations Managers who are evaluating CoreOS and Red Hat as container solutions to support their private and hybrid cloud solutions. In this document, Tom provides both the upside and concerns that your organization needs to consider in evaluating CoreOS.

This document includes:
A summary of Red Hat’s Acquisition of CoreOS
Why It Matters
Top Takeaways
Contextualizing CoreOS within Red Hat’s private and hybrid cloud portfolio
Alternatives to Red Hat CoreOS
Positive and negative aspects fcr current Red Hat and CoreOS customers

To download this report, please go to our Research section.

The Brain Science that Drives Corporate “Training for Retention”

Iterative Targeted Retention

Companies Mentioned: Axonify, Degreed, EdCast, Fivel, Grovo, Pathgather, Percipio, and Qstream

A recent study by Deloitte suggests that the #1 problem facing companies revolves around employee engagement, turnover, and the corporate culture, with 87% of companies rating these as important imperatives, and 50% rating them as urgent. Learning may be the key, with companies utilizing effective Learning & Development (L&D) environments showing higher levels of engagement, reduced turnover, and positive corporate cultures.

The operative term here is “effective” L&D. Stale textbook and slide show training is obsolete and ineffective. Effective learning content is compelling and engaging, is available in multiple media (text, video, audio), and is available 24/7 on multiple platforms (mobile, tablet, laptop, desktop). Effective learning content is readily available in short bursts to address a specific question without disrupting the workflow, or as a series of short bursts for a deeper dive. Many Learning Management Systems (LMS) are embracing these properties and are showing improvements in initial learning and proficiency.

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How does Zylo’s Series A Funding Round Affect the SaaS Optimization Market?

Note: This blog contains excerpts from an Amalgam Insights Market Milestone covering this funding round in greater detail. To get the full story, please download the report.

On January 23, 2018, Zylo, a SaaS (Software as a Service) Optimization platform based in Indianapolis, Indiana, announced a $9.3 million funding round led by Bessemer Venture Partners with participation from Salesforce Ventures and the Slack Fund. In addition, previous investors High Alpha Capital, GGV, SV Angel, and Hyde Park Venture Partners also participated in this round. Zylo has previously been covered by Amalgam Insights in multiple reports and webinars as a market leader in the SaaS Optimization space and this funding round marks Zylo as an early leader in the battle to manage enterprise SaaS spend.
Continue reading “How does Zylo’s Series A Funding Round Affect the SaaS Optimization Market?”

Providing a Rapid Response to Meltdown and Spectre for Hybrid IT

Tom Petrocelli, Amalgam Insights Contributing Analyst

I have a new paper out called “Providing a Rapid Response to Meltdown and Spectre for Hybrid IT.” It’s sponsored by CloudPassage, and the paper is free from them.

This paper is designed to help key stakeholders mitigate the risk of Meltdown and Spectre, which will be especially difficult in hybrid or mixed systems.

There are billions of PCs and mobile devices affected by Meltdown and Spectre. That’s a big problem for OS vendors. For enterprise IT, there is also the need to deal with hundreds of millions of host servers and the virtual machines running on them. Meltdown and Spectre highlight just how difficult it is to update and patch hybrid systems with hosts, virtual machines, containers, and cloud servers in the mix. Don’t despair! There are solutions.

Take action by downloading my paper, underwritten by CloudPassage: “Providing a Rapid Response to Meltdown and Spectre for Hybrid IT.”

GSG Rebrands as Sakon and Launches the Sakon Platform

Note: This blog contains excerpts from Amalgam’s Market Milestone document. For the full story, including additional context and recommendations for Global 2000 organizations, purchase the full report. Key Stakeholders: CIO, CFO, IT Finance, Telecom Managers, Network Managers, Mobility Managers, Software Asset Managers. Key Announcement On January 17th, Sakon, formerly known as GSG, announced the launch…

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FloQast Announces Visualizations to Improve the Financial Close

Industry: Accounting and Audit Automation
Key Stakeholders: CIO, CFO, IT Controllers, Finance Managers, Accounting Managers

On January 23rd, 2018, FloQast announced new visualization capabilities for its Close Analytics solution initially launched in April of 2017. These visualizations included views of retrospective and close trends, progress in entity management, and a filtered isolation of high risk processes and root cause drivers.

Amalgam Context for FloQast Visualizations

FloQast is a close management solution created to improve the financial close process. Through a combination of workflows, cloud storage, and deep accounting subject matter expertise, FloQast provides a cloud-based environment to coordinate and accelerate the financial close.

In April of 2017, FloQast launched its Close Analytics solution, an additional module that allowed accounting teams to add visual tracking and metrics to improve close management. These analytics have been enhanced by this most recent announcement to improve process visibility for controllers, finance and accounting executives, and other key executives tracking the accounting close process. Amalgam Insights believes this announcement and its focus on risk contextualization and process specificity reflects the culmination of multiple strategic needs and trends in the accounting world.

First, these visualizations reflect a key market trend that accounting and financial automation in and of themselves can become a Black Box of risk when the process is not completely transparent. Although FloQast was already a market leader in providing visibility in the close process, FloQast’s efforts in providing clear visualizations on an entity and process-specific basis continued FloQast’s leadership in making financial close faster, easier, and more transparent.

Second, these visualizations offer accounting and executive teams with a greater shared basis for trust in their financial close. Amalgam Insights believes that Trust is the key theme for enterprise technology in 2018, superseding speed, automation, and productivity. Fortunately for FloQast and FloQast clients, close process visualization can simultaneously accelerate both productivity and trust. However, modern solutions must focus on trusted productivity, as productivity in and of itself is not sufficient.

Third, agility requires real-time visibility, or at least a reasonable facsimile of the current state of affairs. To minimize bottlenecks in the close process, accounting leads must be aware of potential problems and delays that are currently in place. Through these added visualizations, FloQast provides a level of visualization that is not currently available in the vast majority of mid-sized and large enterprises due to the inherent disaggregation that currently is pervasive in accounting departments.

Fourth, visualizations must reflect the past, present, and future of any given process to be truly useful. Historical visualizations of the past are important for identifying patterns and viewing evolutionary changes in process and activity. Current visualizations are important in taking action in the moment and allocating resources appropriately. And expected visualizations of future processes and results are vital in forecasting the need for additional resources and time that may be necessary due to external demands such as new revenue recognition and leasing requirements, mergers and acquisitions activity, or significant portfolio reallocations.

Recommendations for the Accounting Community

The visualization of financial close processes and progress is still relatively novel because of the traditional distribution of work in managing the enterprise close. Because of this, there are very few best practices for accounting teams to follow in tracking the close other than to simply visualize all processes. As accounting departments seek to integrate visualization into their close tracking process, Amalgam provides the following recommendations.

Use cloud-based storage for managing financial close documents, including relevant reconciliation and consolidation reports that must be viewed by two or more people. Without this shared view of key documents and standardization of processes and document names, businesses will be unable to support the data access and real-time updates necessary to visualize financial close process in the first place. The ongoing creation and governance of these documents can also be improved by creating repeatable monthly, quarterly, and annual templates that are also made available to all relevant financial close stakeholders.

Ensure that close visualizations include views of the past, present, and future, but be aware that each of these sets of visualization are used for different use cases. Visualizations focused on the past are important for compliance, pattern recognition, and a historical record of evolutionary change in financial close and data collection. Visualizations portraying data in the present need to be linked with alerts, high-risk processes, and the need to take action when necessary. Visualizations showing future forecasts and potential outcomes allow departments to prepare for key events, regulatory changes, or business transactions that may require reallocation, additional preparation, or additional investment to ensure consistent delivery of accounting services.

Be careful that the financial close is not a black box of activity. It is not sufficient to simply create a set of financial documents that reflect the business activity of the past fiscal period. Without sufficient explanatory documentation, progress tracking, and identification of key drivers that affect financial close efficacy, the financial close is not repeatable and companies will be stuck reinventing the wheel every month simply to conduct a basic business task. This lack of repeatability from Black Box thinking will prevent accountants from taking on higher business value tasks, such as resource optimization, sales operations, and other analysis that can elevate accountants from operational bean counters to strategic business consultants.

By aligning accounting process visibility to these key industry trends, Amalgam believes that FloQast’s focus on visibility has enhanced the Close Analytics module that this vendor offers and met a key need for improving accounting environments. FloQast’s improved visualizations reflect holistic business needs for increased trust, real-time agility, and risk contextualization in accounting departments. Mid-sized and large enterprises must adopt visualizations that portray retrospective trends, entity-specific close processes, and risk-prioritized isolation to truly gain control of their close environments.

Data and Analytic Strategies for Developing Ethical IT: a BrightTALK webinar

Recommended Audience: CIOs, Enterprise Architects, Data Managers, Analytics Managers, Data Scientists, IT Managers Vendors Mentioned: Trifacta, Paxata, Datameer, Datawatch, Lavastorm, Alation, Tamr, Unifi, 1010Data, Podium Data, IBM, Domo, Microsoft, Information Builders, Board, Microstrategy, Cloudera, H20.ai, RapidMiner, Domino Data Lab, Dataiku, TIBCO, SAS, Amazon Web Services, Google, DataRobot. In case you missed it, I just finished…

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Calero Purchases European TEM Leader A&B Groep: What to Expect?

Note: This blog contains excerpts from Amalgam’s Due Diligence Dossier on Calero. To get the full report, click here.

In January 2018, Calero announced two acquisitions, Comview and A&B Groep. These acquisitions have increased Calero’s headcount by over 70 employees, added geographic footprint, demonstrated a specific profile for acquisition, and demonstrates the willingness for new owners, Riverside Partners, to quickly take action within 120 days of acquiring Calero. This combination of acquisition, execution, and stated focus result in the need to re-evaluate Calero in context of these significant changes. Continue reading “Calero Purchases European TEM Leader A&B Groep: What to Expect?”

The Brain Science of Effective Corporate Soft Skills Training

Cognitive and Behavior Systems of Learning

Companies Mentioned: Deloitte, Salesforce, SAP, Cornerstone, Saba, Skillsoft, Fivel, PageUp, PeopleFluent, Talentsoft, Oracle, SilkRoad, IBM, Lumesse, Litmos, D2L, LearnCore, and Lessonly

Soft skills are “people skills”, and they are extremely important in the commercial sector. They involve showing and feeling empathy, embracing diversity, and understanding that we all have biases that we need to be aware of and keep in check. They involve effective interpersonal interactions and real-time communication skills and are relevant at all corporate levels. Whether office staff who interface with clients, office managers who interface with employees and their superiors, or the C-suite who provide the leadership and vision for the company, effective soft skills matter. An individual with strong soft skills can be an effective collaborator, leader, and “good” citizen. They not only know “what” behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate, but they know “how” to generate those behaviors and do so in a highly effective manner.

As suggested by Deloitte, the movement toward increased automation and artificial intelligence in the workplace has led many in the C-suite to suggest that soft skills are going to become increasingly important in the workplace. The #metoo movement makes glaringly clear that effective soft skills training is lacking in many workplace environments, and in society in general.

Corporate approaches to soft skills training do a good job of teaching employees how to identify and define appropriate and inappropriate behavior, and even offering suggestions for how to behave appropriately, but they are lacking in the use of tools for effective behavior change.

Brain science suggests specific solutions to this problem and can drive innovation and success in the commercial sector. As applied to soft skills training the science is highly suggestive. Training tools targeted directly at behavior change and the systems in the brain that drive behavior are required.

Brain Science of Soft Skills Learning

The human brain has evolved in such a way that there exist two distinct learning systems. One system focuses on learning the “what”, and is referred to as the cognitive skills learning system in the brain. The cognitive skills learning system in the brain learns through passive observation, studying and mental repetition, and recruits the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal lobes. The second system focuses on learning the “how”, and is referred to as the behavioral skills learning system in the brain. Learning in the behavioral skills system in the brain is active, it involves learning by doing, and physical repetitions, and recruits the basal ganglia. A more detailed discussion of these two systems can be found here.

The most common approach to corporate soft skills training involves having learners read text, view slideshows, and watch videos of appropriate and inappropriate soft skills behaviors. Learners are trained on definitions, how to identify appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, and are given strategies for incorporating appropriate soft skills behavior into their repertoire. This is focused on the “what” and is an important first step in soft skills training.

Unfortunately, most soft skills training programs stop here. It is assumed that the learner will somehow take this “what” information and will convert this into behavior (the “how”). The brain science makes clear that this is highly unlikely, and our own experience reinforces this claim. As anyone who has ever tried to change their own behavior knows, it is much easier to know “what” to do, than it is to learn behaviorally “how” to do it.

Once the learner is well versed on definitions and has strategies in place for effective soft skills, the next step is to train behavior (the “how”). Behavior change occurs when the learner’s behavior is following in real-time, literally within 100s of milliseconds, by feedback that rewards correct behaviors and punishes incorrect behaviors. Thus, the training scenarios must be interactive. Although the detailed neurochemistry is beyond the scope of this article, suffice it to say that behavioral skills are learned gradually and incrementally via dopamine-mediated, error-correction learning in the basal ganglia of the brain. When rewarded, behaviors are more likely to occur in the future, and when punished behaviors are less likely to occur in the future.

Interactive Training Platforms

Traditional approaches train a cognitive understanding of soft skills. These need to be supplemented with interactive approaches that train behavior. Interactive computer-based training platforms, as well as immersive virtual reality (VR) platforms, are available and should be used to complement traditional soft skills training procedures.

The learner can be placed in situations in which they must interact with an individual or avatar who is poor in soft skills so that they learn how to deal with situations like those, or they can be placed in situations in which their behavior is responded to in a negative manner. In other words, they can learn how to affect change in another, or affect change in themselves. Regardless of the platform, whether VR or computer-based, the key is to target the behavioral skills learning system with realistic interpersonal interactions and real-time communication. Behavior change will follow.

Buyers Beware

Corporate training professions need to beware of platforms that claim interactivity that is not truly interactive. From a brain science of learning perspective, behavior change will only be effective if interactivity involves real-time feedback—that is, rewards and punishments that occur within a few hundred milliseconds of the behavior in question. Providing feedback even several seconds following the behavior will not lead to effective behavior change. Interactivity must occur in real time or it won’t be effective.

Corporate Training Platforms

A number of vendors offer corporate training including Salesforce, SAP, Cornerstone, Saba, Skillsoft, PageUp, PeopleFluent, Talentsoft, Oracle, SilkRoad, IBM, Lumesse, Fivel, Litmos, D2L, LearnCore, and Lessonly, to name a few.

All of these vendors offer soft skills training focused on the cognitive skills learning system in the brain. These vendors are urged to complement their current training platform with real-time interactive training that targets the behavioral skills learning system in the brain. In the end, effective soft skills are effective behaviors that are only learned by engaging the behavioral skills learning system in the brain.