Empowering mobile workers has become a top priority for companies around the world. Collaborating effectively no longer requires all team members to be in the same room at the same time. Instead, technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), messaging, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) all work together to make sure that every employee has all the resources they need to do their jobs.
Greg Plum, VP of Channel (U.S.) at OBT Anywhere, has become a bit of an expert when it comes to promoting mobility. Plum has been involved in various technology roles over the past 15 years, but his most recent position has him focusing largely on new cloud technologies and evangelizing their economical and productivity benefits for businesses of all sizes. Plum has not only been named a communications industry Channel Executive of the Year Finalist in 2009, 2010 and 2011, but he is also a recognized industry expert in the conferencing, collaboration and UC space.
According to Plum, collaboration is key, and there are several innovative ways in which one employee can work effectively with other employees, no matter where they are in the world. It all comes down the empowering remote workers and utilizing technologies in the most effective ways possible.
Those interested in hearing more from Plum are in luck. He will be moderating three sessions at ITEXPO, held Feb. 8-10 in Fort Lauderdale, FL. So be sure to stop by “The Case for UC Diagnostics,” held Feb. 8 at 10 a.m., “Monetizing Communications Services in a Digital World,” held Feb. 10 at 9 a.m., and “What Every SMB Wants to Know About MSPs,” held Feb. 10 at 11 a.m.
TMC recently caught up with Plum to discuss his ideas on mobility and collaboration. Our full exchange can be seen below.
What does the term Collaboration mean to your business?
Collaboration has evolved from referring to how two or more people can communicate effectively into how they can now work as though they were side-by-side, regardless of the distance between them. This includes messaging, audio, video, screen sharing, and co-authoring. All of these components are fueled by the ability to see the availability of your remote audience via presence indicators. I anticipate the future of collaboration will involve an artificial intelligence (AI) component that may function as a virtual assistant, automatically recording and transcribing an event, detecting action items raised in the meeting, and scheduling follow up activities for participants.
What elements of Unified Communications are most useful for your company?
UC provides me the ability to connect with an audience of one or hundreds without having to think about the device I am on. I can achieve the same results by opening my UC client on my phone as I do opening my laptop. This provides a freedom to work from anywhere, and anytime.
Are you using messaging technologies to communicate with your customers? How, or why not?
Messaging is a key functionality that I use daily to communicate with colleagues within my company and outside of my company, regardless of their geographic location. Thanks to the presence component of most UC services, I can see when my colleague in another hemisphere is available to respond to a message. Within seconds, I can obtain the information I was seeking, without ever picking up the phone, or leaving my UC client sitting on my desktop (or mobile phone!).
How can artificial intelligence best be used in business applications?
Artificial intelligence may be granted a “seat at the table” in virtual meetings, performing clerical duties, such as recording and transcribing the content of the meeting, indexing content based on keywords, and scheduling follow-up items. Tasks that have historically required human intervention may well be accomplished passively, and more efficiently, by the virtual assistant sitting next to you in the meeting.
Content marketing has become a hot topic recently. Have you defined a content marketing strategy and how has it helped you build your business?
Content marketing has become a cornerstone of our marketing strategy. At OBT, we have gone beyond the standard blog, which has become requisite to any content strategy, with an online magazine, www.SeeThroughThe.cloud , providing industry, and even lifestyle, content to our customers, peers, competitors, and marketplace as a whole.
How will augmented/virtual reality by used in business environments?
With the incorporation of augmented or virtual reality, participants in an online meeting can easily be transported to a job site or even a tropical oasis, completely altering the experience for meeting attendees. The boardroom will never be the same again!
How have the growing number of high-visibility security breaches impacted your outlook on security? Which breach is of greatest concern?
Each breach is a concern… even those that you will never hear about in the media. Breaches affect every aspect of every business since they infiltrate a company’s most prized asset, their clients’ data. The resultant focus on the importance of cybersecurity presents a massive opportunity for technology professionals to address the concern and deliver solutions that neutralize the threat of cybercrimes. Recognizing the overall impact of actual or threatened security breaches, OBT has adopted cybersecurity as a fundamental focus of our business in an effort to deliver a complementary and critical solution to our customers, dovetailing with our other key solutions, virtual desktop and unified communications.
Have you increased your investment in security technology in the past year? Are you likely to increase you security spend in the next year? Why or why not?
Our investment in security technology in the past 12 months has increased markedly. The driving force behind this investment is to safeguard our entire infrastructure for our internal benefit, as well as that of our clients, who entrust us with fulfilling their computing and communications needs.
What percentage of your workforce would you consider mobile? What technology decisions have you made as a result of your mobile workforce, to ensure they have the tools they need to remain productive?
Since we started in 1999, our platform was built with the mobile worker in mind, long before the concept of a “mobile-first” strategy. It has become an integral part of our culture, process and DNA, actually paving the way we deliver solutions for our customers. As a small, but global company, OBT relies heavily on technology to facilitate effective communications and ensure productivity of the entire organization. UC and virtual desktop have essentially erased the geographic borders between our workforce. The only challenge that remains is the coordination of meetings base on time zone differences.
To what extent are you using cloud services in your daily business processes?
Everything we do leverages the cloud. It is either 100 percent cloud, or a hybrid deployment, running applications locally, which are set to automatically sync to the cloud. This includes all business computing needs, communications, as well as client services monitoring and reporting.
How has the growth in the managed services market impacted your business?
Managed services presents a significant growth opportunity for OBT. As a provider of UC, virtual desktop, and cybersecurity services, we offer MSPs the tools and bundled services they need to meet their customers’ needs. With the convergence of IT and telecom well underway, both channels recognize the value in becoming conversant in both aspects of technology.
How has your business’ product development evolved over the past year as a result of emerging technologies?
OBT has always taken the approach of developing solutions based on the specific needs of our current and prospective customers. These needs actually serve as the framework around which our company roadmap is developed. In addition to our virtual desktop and UC offerings, we have added a new focus on cybersecurity. This completes a three-pronged approach which addresses the fundamental business needs, encompassing compute, communications, and security of all data and processes.
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?
Channel partners are faced with a dizzying array of product and service enhancements, along with new and potentially disruptive players. Staying on top of these developments is paramount to remaining relevant to their customer, who is arguably the most educated and discerning customer the channel has ever supported. Successful partners recognize the importance and challenge around developing an expertise around every aspect of technology available to their clients. To meet this need, most successful partners engage with specialists to assist throughout the sales and implementation process. OBT is that specialist for UC, virtual desktop and cyber security initiatives.
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 will be moderating three sessions at ITEXPO:
The Case for UC Diagnostics – We have moved beyond the novelty phase of unified communications. Now that companies of all sizes, from micro businesses to large enterprise, have implemented (or are seriously evaluating) some form of UC solution, the focus turns to quality of service. To ensure an optimal experience, the best practice is to invoke some form of monitoring mechanism to provide insight into on-going network health and, in the event of service disruption, identify the root cause. In this session we will hear from industry veterans on the importance of diagnostics in any environment leveraging a unified communications solution.
Monetizing Communications Services in a Digital World – Today, customers and channel partners are faced with a dizzying array of communications options. The challenge for technology professionals is to identify the best solution for our clients, while maintaining a viable business model for our own companies. CSPs are also faced with pressure to reinvent themselves to remain viable in the face of competition from non-traditional service providers. If you are a service provider, you can gain some insight as to some steps your colleagues have implemented to do just that!
What Every SMB Wants to Know About MSPs – And the Right Answers
What are you most looking forward to at ITEXPO 2017?
At this years’ ITEXPO, I am excited to share some insight with every attendee on how to ensure their long term survivability in the ever-changing technology sector. We are all in this together and can help each other accomplish our goals.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi