Andrew Prokop
Andrew Prokop has been heavily involved in the world of communications since the early 1980s. He holds five United States...
Read Full Bio >>

Andrew Prokop | January 26, 2015 |


Selling UC, Using UC

Selling UC, Using UC An inside look at how a systems integrator uses the enterprise communications products and services it sells

An inside look at how a systems integrator uses the enterprise communications products and services it sells

Life comes with a few simple rules: Be kind to others. Live purposefully. Learn from your mistakes. Don't buy a unified communications solution from a company that doesn't deliver unified communications to its own employees.

OK, you won't find that last rule in any self-help book, but for those of us who understand the power of presence, it's extremely important. After all, you wouldn't take financial advice from someone deep in debt and you wouldn't hire a personal trainer that was sorely out of shape -- at least I certainly wouldn't. So, doesn't it also hold true that you shouldn't trust your enterprise's communications future to a company that doesn't use the products it sells?

A couple weeks ago, No Jitter managing editor Beth Schultz challenged everyone to open up the kimono in her post, Enterprise Communications Managers: We Want You. Not being one to pass up a challenge, I wanted to share the communications world in which I live.

At Arrow Systems Integration (formerly Arrow S3) we eat our own dog food, so to speak. While we don't manufacture products, we do promote them. And so, by dog food, I mean the multimedia PC clients, mobile UC clients, enterprise conferencing, desktop video, room video, document sharing, and integrated UC applications we package up in our solutions. Best of all, we don't lock our users into specific hardware platforms, software, or even vendors. We give our employees choices that allow them to pick and choose what works best for their particular communications needs.

Voice Services
Avaya is at the core of Arrow SI's voice strategy. We have an up-to-date Avaya Aura system comprising a main site in Bloomington, Minn. (my home base), and local survivable processors in our larger branches around the country. Those of you familiar with Avaya will recognize this as a flatten-consolidate-extend configuration. This gives us a robust system that delivers reliable voice services to our 1,000+ employees.

We serve Avaya and third-party applications and services from an enterprise communications cloud we were able to create using Avaya Aura Session Manager, of which we were an early adopter. The services connect to the cloud with SIP and are accessible to both Avaya and non-Avaya systems.

Up until a few years ago, we primarily used H.323-based voice services for both office and home users (a significant number of our employees work from home). Our remote workers would connect to the voice core with VPN-enabled physical telephones or soft clients on their PCs.

That was then, though. These days, SIP is our protocol of choice and we use an Avaya session border controller as the ingress and egress point for our remote users, whether they are using a traditional desk phone, a soft client, or -- especially exciting, I think -- mobile clients on their smartphones and tablets. I run a SIP telephone client on my iPhone and iPad, and know of coworkers who run similar clients on their Android devices.

It's All About Choice
While Avaya still plays a significant role in our communications strategy, Microsoft is just as important.

Starting with Office Communication Server (OCS) before moving to Lync (I still can't bring myself to say Skype for Business), our users have had presence and instant message on their desktops for years. Every PC is installed with the Lync client, and most users have installed Lync on their Android, iOS, or Windows Phone smart devices. Some have fully immersed themselves in the Microsoft world and have jettisoned their Avaya telephones for Lync Enterprise Voice.

Since we are all about choices here at Arrow SI, you will even find users who have adopted UC solutions from Cisco and others who get UC software delivered as a service from the Genband Nuvia cloud platform. Our solutions are federated, so a user's personal preference won't affect the ability of every employee to communicate with every other employee. A presence jellybean will show that someone is on a call regardless of how he or she is taking that call. We have no communications islands around here.

Choice isn't limited to soft clients and telephones, for us. Arrow SI offers choices around voice, video, and data conferencing. Every user has the ability to have his or her own Microsoft or Avaya conference bridge. I personally use whichever one best suits the needs of my audience, but most employees have settled on one.

Can You See Me Now?
Want Polycom? We got it. Want Microsoft video? We got that, too. Are you an Avaya guy or gal and does Scopia do it for you? No problem. Like voice, we have implemented all the technologies our customers ask about and open them up to our own user population.

Now, unlike voice, video interoperability is still something of a challenge. You cannot make a Lync video call to a Scopia client and vice versa. This requires users of video to either install all platforms or selectively choose who they want to look at during the call. It's my hope that that is not always the case, but it's the world we live in today.

The Enterprise Communications Cloud
As I mentioned earlier, we use Avaya Session Manager to connect to our applications and access elements. This allows every user to have access to the same voice mail system, conference server, and SIP trunks. Arrow SI hosts some of these services on either dedicated appliances or virtual servers, but we're pushing more and more of our applications into the Microsoft Azure Cloud.

On top of the off-the-shelf applications, our enterprise cloud also supports the Avaya Engagement Development Platform for custom applications development. That has been fun for me, as I've written Java code that allows me to do some pretty clever call manipulation. So far, it has all been experimental work, but I see the power behind this platform and anticipate some exciting real-world applications in the not-too-distant future.

Additionally, we use the enterprise cloud to distribute SIP trunks throughout our entire network. This has allowed us to slash the number of local trunks at branch offices. In fact, we have reduced quite a few locations down to zero trunks. Everything comes from our cloud.

Those SIP trunks also give us extremely flexible applications scalability. For example, expanding the size of our conference bridges is as simple as adding more logical trunks to existing bandwidth. What used to require weeks and a capital expense can now be accomplished in minutes for practically nothing.

Wrapping Up
I hope this helps you form a picture of what we at Arrow SI are doing with unified communications. Again, our goal is to offer choice. We use every product we promote, and give our employees access to the platforms that make the most sense for their work styles. Geeks like me will probably choose to use them all, but that's certainly not a requirement. We are not a square-peg-in-a-round-hole type of company.

Are there other companies that choose to offer their employees as many options as we do? Doubtful, but as systems integrators, we have to be open and flexible. We believe what is good for us is even better for our customers.

Andrew Prokop writes about all things unified communications on his popular blog, SIP Adventures.

For more insight from Andrew, attend Enterprise Connect Orlando, taking place March 16-19, and attend his session, "Interoperability: Has Anything Actually Worked?"

Follow Andrew Prokop on Twitter and LinkedIn!


Andrew Prokop on LinkedIn


March 7, 2018

Video collaboration is experiencing significant change and innovation-how can your enterprise take advantage? In this webinar, leading industry analyst Ira Weinstein will present detailed analysis

February 21, 2018

Business agility has become the strongest driver for enterprises to begin migrating their communications to the cloud-and its a benefit that enterprises are already realizing. To gain this benefit

February 7, 2018

Enterprises are starting to grasp the critical importance of security and compliance in their team collaboration deployments. And once the risks are mitigated, your enterprise can integrate these n

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.