Why do you get out of bed in the morning?

The following was originally posted on the Avaya site here and then again at the CIO Collaboration site here.

As with many Americans, it is back to school season in my house. My children are still young enough that “school” is really just glorified childcare a few mornings a week. But for me, it means returning to WPI in pursuit of my MBA (my approach must be the world’s longest MBA program: five years down and three more to go). This semester I am taking a class on marketing, and I was pleasantly surprised when my professor included in our first session the following TedTalk in which Simon Sinek challenges us with: “Why do you get out of bed in the morning, and why should we care?”

I’ve been a fan of this video for quite some time. While I definitely see the importance of Simon’s challenge in the realm of marketing, I’ve been using it in conversations around leadership and employee satisfaction. This is because it is not only important for your customers to understand the ‘Why’ of your company, but your employees must understand this as well. It is this why that will keep them aligned with the company’s goals. It is this why that will keep them engaged, excited, and giving it their best.

In Made to Stick, the Heath brothers make many excellent points about successfully conveying a message. The part that stuck the most with me was a clear “commander’s intent“, which is essentially the true “why” of an operation so that no matter what happens, the leaders in the field understand the larger objective. In the book, Chip and Dan Heath tell the story about a newspaper editor in Dunn, NC who had +100% subscription in his distribution area by focusing on the names of the people in the local news stories. He excelled at making his intent so clear and simple to his employees that a staff photographer would know to shoot the crowd watching an event rather than the event itself. That leads to more names, which leads to success.

Here at Avaya, we know our “why” is collaborative communication. Everything we do is focused around that, as Pierre-Paul Allard explained so well in a recent article (I think if Pierre-Paul were closer to my age or younger, this would have been entitled “This is how we do“). Having our “why” so well defined helps our employees and our customers understand our vision. When I visit with customers or just explain who I work for at a social gathering, I can easily explain what we do, and more importantly, why we do it.

I encourage you to pause … and think … why do you get out of bed in the morning? Do your employees know and believe that? If not, you are likely not convincing your customers either. And if people don’t understand the why, they almost certainly won’t care.

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Speeding up Support

The following was originally posted on the Avaya site here and then again at the CIO Collaboration site here.

Dee boo Dee Dah Do …. Eeeeee-Oooooo-Eeeeeee … GHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGH …..

When was the last time you heard the sound of a modem connecting? My first foray into modems was in high school, but was short lived as by the time I was in college, we had high-speed Ethernet in our dorm rooms and I could never go back to dial-up. The protocols used by these modems were last updated in 1999, 13 years ago. According to the 2010 United States Census, only 4.3% of households use dial-up access.

I bring this up to ask: Are you still using modems to service your Avaya hardware and software? Sure, modems are reliable and many IT departments feel safe being able to simply unplug their modem and know that they’ve closed a potential security hole. However, your Avaya solution is a 21st century technology; shouldn’t you be using 21st century technology to maintain it?

Avaya launched its Secure Access Link (SAL) in 2009, allowing customer and partners a secure but fast remote access solution. At the most basic level, SAL provides a remarkably secure method for authenticated Avaya Support Engineers and/or partners to access your deployed Avaya products. Beyond just a secure pipe between your enterprise and ours, it also has a good deal of value-add features that many come to rely on. In fact, in the years since Avaya rolled this out, the results have been quite remarkable (link):

  • 21% faster resolution on Major outages
  • 50%+ faster TTR on tier 4 engagements
  • 74% fewer outages for solutions using EXPERT Systems SM, which requires SAL

Our customer base has over 125,000 devices connected via SAL at over 12,000 customer sites. This includes over 1,000 devices at 100 sites for the US Government.

The first thing a security expert needs to understand about SAL is that we use an egress-based connectivity model, which means all network communications take place over a single outbound HTTPS port from your centralized SAL Gateway server. In order to access a customer’s system, all Avaya engineers must be trained on the product in question and provide two-factor authentication before gaining access. As I wrote in a previous post, video is a great way to explain things, so below is a six minute video that fully explains this model:

Beyond just remote connectivity, SAL also provides a set of rich features to allow Avaya to provide you with a greater level of service (1):

  • Inventory management of what Avaya solutions you have and their versions
  • Automated diagnostics and resolution through Avaya EXPERT Systems
  • Advanced troubleshooting scripts and tools to restore service and identify root cause faster
  • Enables value-add services such as Operations Intelligent Suite (OIS),While You Were Sleeping reports, and more.

For those additionally security-conscious customers, a SAL policy server can be added to the solution, allowing you incredibly detailed control over access. For example, I met with a large US retailer recently and in order to meet certain regulatory recommendations, when Avaya wants access to their Communication Manager, Avaya has to call them, a series of calls are made to track the right person down (even worse on a weekend) and then once permission was granted, yet another person has to manually connect a modem to the server in question. With the SAL Policy Server, Avaya was able to integrate with the customer’s own policy server so that when a connection request is made, a set of IT employees is emailed for their permission, and once granted, the connection is automatically allowed. This deployment model is expected to dramatically reduce the time to resolution (TTR) for their issues.

For more on the Policy Server, we have put together the following video that covers additional Policy Server topics such as levels of access, white and black lists and time-of-day restrictions:

So, in the words of Jerry Maguire: “Help us help you”. Contact your Avaya Account Manager or your Avaya authorized partner and ask about deploying SAL in your environment. The software is free and self-installable on just about any server running Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

More on SAL:

(1) The features available vary amongst Avaya products.


Change Doesn’t Have to be Reckless

The following was originally posted on the Avaya site here and then again at the CIO Collaboration site here.

Four years ago, I knew where I would be today. I was young(er) and naïve(r) and thought that I could control my life and the changes that would come my way. Then my wife and I got the joyous news that she was pregnant with twins. Once we recovered from the news and assessed the situation, we had a plan: we would both continue to work. We found a daycare just minutes from my wife’s office so that she could nurse throughout the day with relative convenience. As I said, we had a plan. But you already know where I’m going with this don’t you? Plans, well, they change.

Soon after our beautiful boys were born, my wife’s entire division was laid off at the office. We took this as a sign confirming that she should stay home with the kids. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law, bless her soul, had been living with us five days a week just so that we could survive. When she couldn’t keep up the two hour commute, we started living with her part-time. Before we knew it, we were living with her full-time and I was now a full-time remote worker. We learned the value of having family around and fell in love with our new hometown. In only 2 years, our lives had changed in ways we never imagined. It was crazy and unpredictable but worked out in so many wonderful ways.

Similarly, change in the workplace is often (or seems to be) unpredictable and sometimes reckless. As leaders, we have the responsibility to foresee the drivers of change, perform due diligence, plan a transition, execute the plan, handle any hiccups, call it done, and then start looking for the next change on the horizon. Above all else, we are responsible to adopt the change in a way that increases the value of the organization. We’ve all seen examples of successful changes and those that were less than ideal. Was the re-organization done based on facts in order to meet a real business need, or was it based on speculations and smelled of empire building? Was the process change driven by a kaizen event of those who do the work, or by those not familiar with the subject? When done with the right information and for the right reasons, change can be used to drive real incremental value in an organization.

This of course also holds true to technology investments. IT leaders should not make changes to their infrastructure or services that they offer to their users on a whim or as a last-minute response to an unanticipated shift in their users’ needs. Your changes don’t need to be reckless revolutions, they can be planned evolutions. Avaya is here to partner with you in planning how your services evolve. Think of Avaya as that trusted advisor who has seen countless others go through this and can help you avoid the pitfalls. We can assist in thoughtful roll-outs of:

Where do you think you and your organization will be five years from now? You can’t know for sure. All you can do is be diligent in your planning and adapt as life throws you those curve-balls. But don’t stress too much; some of these reckless changes can result in some of life’s greatest blessings


Video as a Knowledge Sharing Medium

The following was originally posted on the Avaya site here and then again at the CIO Collaboration site here.

I got my first Apple laptop this year and was quickly in a situation where I did not know exactly how to do everything I wanted to do. Working at a company that uses a HTTP proxy, I immediately needed to know how to enable and disable a proxy. Did I call Apple for help? No, like you, I simply went to Google and searched for “how to set the proxy on a mac” (link). As I skimmed the results, I found a YouTube video on exactly this topic. I was able to play the video, pause and rewind it as needed, until I got my proxies set correctly. Ah, the wonders of the modern age!

If you are like most technology users, this is a reflexive move: search the web, find a video, and problem solved. This isn’t just true for computers either: I needed to replace the trimmer line on my trimmer at home but wasn’t sure of how much line to use or the best way to add it. A quick search and I was back to wiping out unwanted weeds.

At Avaya Client Services, we know that when faced with a problem on an Avaya solution, our partners and customers will turn to the web. Like most technology companies, Avaya maintains an extensive written knowledge base at http://support.avaya.com which has only gotten better with the re-launch of the site this spring. While black and white text can be helpful (after all, you are finding this blog helpful, right? Right?), raising the bar with video can really help get the knowledge across. Who better than Avaya to be the first in our industry to expand our knowledge base with video? After all, we are an industry leader in video solutions.

With great pride, I want to introduce you to the Avaya Mentor program. This programs tasks Avaya subject-matter-experts with publishing short videos on various services-related topics across all the Avaya product portfolios. These videos are primarily focused on aiding the installation, configuration, and/or troubleshooting of Avaya solutions. By making these videos available to you, we expect you will be able to resolve your problems quickly, perhaps even faster than the time it takes to open an Avaya ticket.

Since we started publishing videos in January, we have seen the consumption of these videos grow. We have now published nearly 400 videos and have received more than 56,000 views spanning 155 countries. We average 40 views per video per month, whereas our text-based KB articles average three views per month. Clearly, video is a powerful medium for our associates, partners, and customers.

This shouldn’t be all that surprising as we’ve all experienced how much more informative a video conference can provide when compared to a standard audio call. With Avaya’s acquisition of Radvision, my geographically-dispersed staff and I have been enjoying using theScopia Desktop client for our meetings. Video provides richer context, conveying more information in the same time.

Want to learn more about the Avaya Mentor program? View the overview of Avaya Mentor embedded below, then logon tohttp://support.avaya.com and browse for videos. If you don’t have your login handy, you can also see all our videos athttp://www.youtube.com/AvayaMentor. If you want to be notified when new videos are published, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel, or follow us on Twitter at @AvayaMentor.

Example videos:
How to Perform a Software Upgrade for a HA Mediant™ 3000
How to Perform a Trace on Avaya IP Office using DbgView
How to Change the System Time on the Avaya VSP9000
How to Diagnose Branch Gateway Connectivity
How to check RAID Battery status on HP DL360F7 in System Platform