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December 21, 2016

J Arnold Illuminates Hot Topics Before ITEXPO

The communications landscape is experiencing immense transformation. The growing innovation and adoption of burgeoning technology like the cloud, WebRTC, AI and the like is resulting in a new generation of solutions. From the contact center to the c-suite, communications are changing.

J Arnold & Associates is an IP Communications, Research and analysis firm able to offer insight through its three core services: Thought leadership, go-to-market and strategy. And, its Principal Jon Arnold is set to bring his expertise in areas such as the IoT, UC, cloud services, VoIP and more to the upcoming ITEXPO. Arnold will participate in several panel discussions at the event, and as a look ahead, he spent some time with TMC to offer some of his much requested industry insight.

 How have technology changes over the past 12 months helped businesses grow?

The two main changes I see would be increased use of the cloud, and the ability to better support a mobile-centric work style. While the cloud is an ongoing story, it’s helping businesses grow in terms of short-term cost reduction. The economics of leveraging cloud and the SaaS model are attractive, at least initially. Long-term is another story, but the ongoing costs of cloud-based applications should be outweighed by enabling a higher performing organization.

It’s too early to tell if the cloud is really driving top-line growth, but the operational savings do help the bottom line.  The second change impacts this as well, especially in businesses with a younger workforce. Mobility is becoming the preferred mode of communicating, and both vendors and carriers are now better to support this. 4G and 5G are making mobile collaboration more viable, and, along with that, UC platforms are becoming more mobile-friendly.

How can artificial intelligence best be used in business applications?

It’s early days yet, but I see two roles here for AI. First would be the ability to help automate tasks and streamline processes. Over time, AI will come to recognize patterns in how people work – which applications they use, when they’re used, with whom, etc. For regularly occurring activities, AI can become a virtual concierge or personal assistant to help workers manage their schedule and their workflows.

The second role would be related to knowledge management, where AI can bring scale, speed and efficiency to how workers gather information. This is really another form of automation, but one that empowers employees to draw from a wider range of sources. Not will this help them access knowledge, but also to manage these greater volumes of information to extract new learning in ways not previously possible.

How will augmented/virtual reality by used in business environments?

 Am not sure yet how AR/VR will be used inside organizations, although training and R&D should prove to be popular use cases. Clearly, this technology can be used to make it easier for workers to learn new skills or understand new concepts. Even more powerful is new product development, where the applications would be around developing prototypes, testing new models and simulating new experiences.

 In the short term, I see more immediate applications with end customers in two areas. First would be for customer care, where contact centers can provide more immersive engagement, especially when solving problems or providing technical support. Secondly would simply be providing new ways for end customers to consume your products or services. Prime examples would be home health care, virtual travel, personalized shopping, entertainment/gaming and online learning.

How have the growing number of high-visibility security breaches impacted your outlook on security?  Which breach is of greatest concern?

Frankly, it’s getting darker, not lighter. While it’s hard to know what’s really true anymore in the media, when state-sponsored cyber attacks become routine, nothing is really safe. At all levels and sectors of society, major security breaches continue, and I really don’t see that changing.

On a personal level, my greatest concern of course would be identity theft, from which many other bad scenarios will invariably follow. As we become increasingly dependent on Web-based applications for everything, along with accessing them on mobile devices, this just plays into the hands of the bad guys, who are always one step ahead of us. While this can’t be eliminated, we simply need to become more security-literate, as there are lots of preventive measures everyone can use to cut a lot of this back.

This applies equally well in the workplace, and with the blending of work/life spaces, businesses are doubly at risk, since breaches can come from either persona that we try so hard to manage. A key challenge, however, is that a growing portion of work activity occurs outside the realm that IT normally manages. As such, even if IT implements best practices internally for data security, gaps will remain unless this extends to scenarios where workers are using their own off-net applications.

What emerging technology has the potential to have a disruptive impact on businesses in the coming years?

 In broad strokes, cognitive computing, along with IoT – Internet of Things – is going to fundamentally alter the relationship between humans and machines. What seemed like science fiction a few years ago is becoming reality, with IBM Watson being the best-known example. As machine learning comes to produce better and more efficient results than humans, this will have a major impact on the job market, especially for lower value work where the underlying skills can be automated.

Conversely, this will be spur exciting innovation in terms of new product development and understanding the customer journey, and in our lifetime this will touch every sector of our economy.  

 Are channel partners keeping up with the latest trends and developments?  Is more education needed and how can they better leverage the latest technologies to grow?

They’re trying, but many are fighting a losing battle. There is great opportunity for those who adapt to selling software instead of hardware, as well as consumable applications from the cloud instead of premise-based solutions. The business models will be more challenging, but for channels that hold on too long, their legacy base will move on simply out of necessity to remain competitive.

Channels have to recognize the magnitude of these changes, along with how quickly they are coming. For those who embrace these changes, education is absolutely the key to re-inventing the business, along with re-tooling your talent. Ultimately, what channels will need is expertise in helping their customers with digital transformation, rather than selling them technology, and the starting point comes with thinking differently about where the channel can add value.

  What is your session at ITEXPO about and who should plan on attending?  Why should this be a must-attend session for the week?

 I’ll be moderating two sessions, both on Friday morning. The first is What's New in Enterprise Communications, followed by Hot Topics in Tech and Communications. As both titles suggest, my panels will be forward-looking, and being the last day of ITEXPO, they will be a good takeaway for attendees to think about what’s ahead for 2017. If you’re trying to figure out what things like enterprise messaging, social business, cloud-based collaboration and customer journey will mean for your business, both sessions will be time well-spent.

 What are you most looking forward to at ITEXPO 2017?

The appeal of Florida in February is a given, but aside from that, I’m really looking forward to the emphasis this year on transformation. Most of my research focuses on some form of business transformation, and it will be great being among so many leaders in this area. The speaker lineup and range of topics is really diverse, and there’s a great balance among familiar players and new ones who are helping shape that transformation.

When it comes to the transformation of business communications, ITEXPO is the industry event that looks comprehensively at the space by bringing together the cream of the crop. By corralling industry thought leaders in the Broward County Convention Center for a few days, you get the chance to learn from the best.

Booked your trip yet?

Edited by Alicia Young

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