About Me

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TsooRad is a blog for John Weber. John is a Skype for Business MVP (2015-2018) - before that, a Lync Server MVP (2010-2014). My day job is titled "Technical Lead, MS UC" - I work with an awesome group of people at CDW, LLC. I’ve been at this gig in one fashion or another since 1988 - starting with desktops (remember Z-248’s?) and now I am in Portland, Oregon. I focus on collaboration and infrastructure. This means Exchange of all flavors, Skype, LCS/OCS/Lync, Windows, business process, and learning new stuff. I have a variety of interests - some of which may rear their ugly head in this forum. I have a variety of certifications dating back to Novell CNE and working up through the Microsoft MCP stack to MCITP multiple times. FWIW, I am on my third career - ex-USMC, retired US Army. I have a fancy MBA. One of these days, I intend to start teaching. The opinions expressed on this blog are mine and mine alone.

2017/12/17

AudioCodes HRS 458

I have noticed, over the last few years, that companies are spending less on the fancy Video TeleConference (VTC) rooms.  I have also noticed that in my project work, the same companies want the video in Skype for Business (SfB) enabled, but they also note that it does not get used as much as they expected.  Tie that fact with the expense of the VTC room equipment, and we see the rise of the small conference room (cue ominous/heroic background music).

Now, you would think that most folks would fall over themselves trying to get on camera.  I base this on the moonbeams on reality TV who will do anything for camera time.  In the business world, it seems that a bit more prudence takes precedence.  And it turns out most times that video is not the friend of telecommuters who work, like me, in their jammies sometimes.  Or coworkers who did not have their matching suit, their hair just right, or don’t like to be on camera for some other reason.  Bottom line, video use spikes up at introduction, then usage tends to fall off. Way off.  Or at least it does in my little world.

In recognition of this phenomena, companies are starting to use smaller conference rooms.  With Skype, anyone who brings a laptop to the meeting, or if there is already something in the room with a camera, you can stream video.  No need for the bazillion dollar wall unit in every room.

To facilitate this, there have been a variety of conference room solutions whereby the audio is presented both ways, but no video.  Video becomes an add-on for SOME meetings, but not all.  Audio reigns supreme, as it has since the first conference call in 1956.  If you are really interested, you can read some sycophantic stuff here, here, and here.

Enter AudioCodes

To link, somewhat nebulously to the previous paragraphs, these conference rooms need a “something” to sit on the table and provide audio, phone services, and perhaps even a data connection.  You could bring your laptop, and many people do.  But having a static piece of gear is the way to go.  And you need it to be somewhat cost effective, and usable.  I think some emphasis needs to be on “usable” because I have seen some setups that were a tad incomprehensible. I do this for a living and found operation difficult and sometimes tedious.

The fine folks at AudioCodes present the Huddle Room System (HRS).  Ta Da!  At the top of the HRS lineup is the 458 – designed for that mid-size room that holds about 10-15, has a table about 15 feet long, you know… the semi-exec room.  Here is the full AudioCodes IP phone Series so you can visualize where this product lives.

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For that use case you need something that has great audio pickup, clarity, great audio delivery, and maybe more importantly, looks and acts like a traditional handset.  I know, that is really counter to popular thinking.  But, you know, maybe the pundits who are not spending their own money might just be wrong, eh?

Let’s take a somewhat detailed look at the AudioCodes HRS 458.

The first thing to know is that the HRS is based on the 450HD handset.  Then, what is this thingy attached to it?  Yes, looks just like the Jabra Speak 810.  It looks just like that, because, mainly, it is.  Which also brings us to the first point.  No PoE here – I think mainly to maintain power levels for the speaker phone.  Here is your first professionally posed still life photograph:

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I really wonder at times why I am not a photographer by trade.  Look at the composition!  The color!  Oh my.  Adelante.

The HRS came out just as I was delivering a project and I took my demo down for them to try out.  Customer loved it.  Great audio presentation just on the 450HD, but with the football attached to it, the HRS 458 can now service the entire room.  And does it in an excellent fashion.  We tried to find a spot in the room where the football would not find you talking and we failed.  Perhaps a larger room would have caused some degradation in audio quality.  Perhaps not.  Our test room was a 20 person room, long and narrow.  The 458 system simply did what was expected with overall excellent audio.

Having the 450HD as the basis for the HRS results in the customer being able to reduce the handsets needed as the 450HD base unit provides telephony services to the room – no need for a “something” on the table, and a “real” phone in the corner so you can call for help, donuts, coffee, or whatever.

IP Phone Manager

Yes, as a 450HD-derived piece of kit, there is a handy web interface to provide configuration and management. 

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The HRS shows up in IPP Manager also.

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Skype Connection

You know I have to do it – somehow get the Skype for Business angle highlighted.  After all, that is what I do.

Knowing that I had what amounts to a IP phone coming into the environment, I prepared a simple full user account, with a mailbox, enabled it for Enterprise Voice with a secret squirrel PIN and extension dialing.  Taking the 458 out of the box and connecting it took longer than setting up the account.  Once powered on, getting to this point here took all of two minutes… literally.  Compare the on-phone time.

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Because we are using SfB and AudioCodes together, the experience is just like using a regular 450 – that is – so nice.  All call controls, interactions, connections, and usage patterns will be the same as the user and their own account.  Because I ginned up a regular account, the HRS had a copy of the meeting on hand for those critical single click meeting joins.

I did notice that it took 5-10 minutes for the EWS read to occur which updates the calendar display on the HRS.  A little expectation setting with your users will be in order so as to avoid a bunch of bitchy help desk calls.

Logging in with the room ID, shows the current schedule for the room:

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If you are really bright and include the phone account in a SfB meeting, then you get one-button joins as shown.  Otherwise you have a “details” | “attendees”|  “dial” button that provides calling the organizer directly.

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Logging in as a regular user displays… duh!  Your schedule. Here is Mr. Chicken Hawk…

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In terms of total time, maybe 10 minutes total, and I did not have to do anything special to either the SfB environment or the phone itself.  I literally plugged the 458 into the network, into power, and logged in using the 10-key.  And it just works.  Fairly perfect from over here in the cheap seats.

Summary of Findings

Standard AudioCodes build quality – which means this is excellent, solid kit.  Great materials, look, feel, functions.  All a package that works the way you do generally – kinda on the fly, groups probably not bigger than 10-15, and video not needed or wanted.    This solution should be on your short list.

YMMV


2017/12/04

O365 Exchange Voice Mail–Oracle

I have been informed, by a source that I deem to be about 75-80% reliable, that Oracle will not be participating in gymkhana that is the 3rd party PBX using Exchange O365 as a voice-mail target.

A while back, Microsoft announced that Office 365 as a valid voice mail target for 3rd party PBX systems would no longer be an option.  In fact, at the designated date, it’s not like the solution set becomes “non-supported” it will simply not be possible.  These solutions had an SBC (session border controller) sitting between the PBX and O365.   But no longer.

AudioCodes has a solution setanyNode has a solution set with which  one of my co-workers has worked.  Actual words will not be published in respect to my gentle readers.

So here is the announcement, and if you use Acme Packet SBC to connect your PBX to EOL Voice mail, then this might impact you.

“Oracle is not pursuing a product for this, mostly due to the proprietary nature of the implementation.  The interface into Exchange uses the Microsoft UCMA API/protocol which isn’t something we support.”

YMMV

2017/11/01

AudioCodes 400HD firmware v3.04

Those fine folks (and apparently busy beavers) at AudioCodes have popped a new IP Phone firmware release out into the wild. Brings a nice new set of features/abilities to the 450HD in particular.

Please note that the official GA is still 3.0.1. Version 3.0.4 will be used as a candidate GA in the next several weeks. Admin and User’s manual will be ready in several weeks. Version 3.0.4 for all other 400HD models will be available within several weeks.

Here is a partial list of version 3.0 new features. For the full list of features, please refer to the Release Notes document:

· Boss-Admin (Delegated Line).

o Allows a relationship to be established between a boss' phone and an administrative secretary's phone, to streamline office workflow and enhance efficiency.

o Each phone can support up to five Bosses or Admins. One Boss can have up to five Admins. One Admin can have up to five Bosses. A many-to-many configuration is also supported.

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o Call Pick-up

o Admin can forward to Boss' voicemail without picking up Boss' line

· HotDesk feature for enterprises that operate according to the 'touch-down desk' concept. Employees in these enterprises typically travel frequently to remote branches, or work in shifts. They can now sign in to a phone that is already signed in by another (CAP or regular) user without signing out the original user to whom the phone was assigned for primary use.

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· AudioCodes' IP phones support Lync AutoDiscover Web Service Protocol [MS-OCDISCWS]. This feature improves discovery of the phone's SIP home server after signing in. Using the AutoDiscover procedure the phone is capable of finding its home server URL for a specific Skype for Business account, based on user credentials. It is specially efficient for Skype for Business online and hybrid environments, when phones must sign in to a different Skype for Business server according to the user’s account. Previously, the home server was found using DNS SRV records based only on a SIP account domain [MS-CONMGMT]. If AutoDiscover is unsuccessful, the phone falls back to SRV DNS.

· The phone's Call Log is synchronized with Microsoft's Exchange server. All devices that a user signs into are fully synchronized with the server. Each device reports every call from | to that user to the server. Each device then pulls the last 20 reported calls and performs synchronization. All lists in each device's Call Log except the Missed Calls list are synchronized.

· New screen theme reflects Skype for Business 2016 client look & feel | New softkeys match the de facto Skype for Business standard. This new feature ensures uniformity across all devices used by the same user, for Unified Communications. The following figure shows the new-theme idle screen:

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· Dial Plan Normalization. Network administrators can enable and configure dial plans on the Microsoft Skype for Business server. Normalization rules can be downloaded from the server via in-band provisioning. The feature was fully certified and tested with Microsoft in this version. It was supported in previous versions, but without Microsoft certification.

· Multiple Emergency Numbers. A caller can select an emergency number from a list of emergency destinations. A dedicated number for the police, ambulance service, fire fighting service, etc., can be selected from a list of options. If the phone locks, emergency numbers will still be available and dialable via a new Emergency softkey that is displayed after the lock takes effect.

· Power Saving mode. When a phone enters Power Saving mode, the screen's brightness is reduced, lowering power consumption. The phone enters the mode after being inactive for a configured period (timeout). Any user activity returns the phone to regular Active mode.

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· Malicious call tracing. Users can report a malicious call. If a user gets a call and wants to report it as malicious, the phone allows them to send a report to the Skype for Business server. To allow malicious call reporting by the phone, the feature must be enabled by the network administrator on the Skype for Business server (the option 'Enable malicious call tracing' must be selected).

· Sign-in can be cancelled during the signing in procedure. Users can cancel signing in after starting the sign-in process.

· Voice Quality Check. A new option to check IP phone voice quality has been added to the phone's Device Status menu.

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Things seem to be moving forward very nicely at AudioCodes.

YMMV

2017/10/31

Force Multiplication

Our little vignette opens in July 1976, segues neatly to November 1977, and fades to black at the bottom of this article.  I had just been assigned to be the fourth person in a team, and I was junior by a long shot.  My job was to do whatever I was told.  Literally.  It was about a 1/2 mile to the flight line, and generally us maintenance types tried to lump many trouble tickets into one trip.  But that still meant a bunch of running back and forth.  You can imagine who does the running.

Team members came and went, but apparently my willingness to do whatever lead to Tom Larson (the big bad sergeant) teaching me way more than I ever realized.  In some cases, it would be years – and in this case decades – before the lesson jumped up and smote me about the brain housing group.  There are time I can be incredibly dense.  And further analysis would indicate that the denseness is… well… dense.

Today’s BFO:  people are tools.  Wow.  Really? But not in the negative semantic sense.  More in that they are an asset that needs nurturing and developing.  But what am I tool of?  Whose tool am I?  I submit that those questions are self-defeating.

Instead, make your question be about “Force Multipliers” – I was a force multiplier to Sergeant Larson.  And in time, others were to me also. 

Let’s define a few terms before we go too much further:  Here is a nice business-related definition.  This example here is a purer definition.  For those who really want to know where the terminology as used today comes from, you can read up on this here.   Forbes.com has a nice little outline complete with examples.  If you find yourself seriously interested, take a look here.

But those are the bright folks talking – full of big words, university and big business language, esoteric theory, and sometimes a more than pedantic viewpoint.  What is some proletariat type such as myself to do with this definition?  And, pray tell, how can this possibly affect me on a day to day basis?  Clearly we are not electricity, the steam engine, artillery or some other military “force multiplier.”

Let’s see if I can successfully tie both sides into one pretty bow.  Unless you have been living in the same cave as me, you should be somewhat familiar with the message found here.

Teams Work

We work as part of a team.  Not one of us is standalone.  You might think that your manager is on his/her own.  But that is not the case.  The newest engineer on my team might see me as being a standalone resource; but that would be mostly wrong as well.  We all have a place in the larger team.  We all need support at some point about something:  admin, technical, sales, PTO, whatever.  Notice that the technical part is only ONE piece.  For someone else on the team, maybe the admin is more important, and the technical gets sent to the background.  What I do know is that I don’t know everything.

About 5-7 times a week, it is impressed on me that the junior engineers on my team know more than I do about something.  And I hope that never quits.  It drives me a little further down the road, and hopefully I am pushing them ahead of me.  I need my manager, my PM’s, the sales dude/dudette, and all the myriad supporting cast members to accomplish my job.  They are the human tools that delivery uses.  They are my force multipliers.  Think about that.  I think you will agree that without them, delivery is sunk to doing one thing at a time instead of being able to keep (at last count) 6 projects going at once.

So here is the introspection question:  Am I doing everything possible to assist all those other team members?  Am I a force multiplier for them?  What can I be doing to make their job, and mine, easier or more effective.  Are there actions I can take that will positively affect my immediate team members? 

whaaaaaat?!

OK, so we all work in a team of some sort, and I assert that we are all co-dependent and that furthermore, a high-performance team will exhibit diversity in all aspects.  Each team member is not only dependent, but also creates dependencies and support trees that enable a synergistic environment that outperforms traditional solo-efforts.

But you have to want it and work for it.

How does November 1977 work into this?  November 9th, 1977 is the day I was given my first team, and I remember all the angst that went with that team.  However, enter Sergeant Tom Larson – he taught me that (a) you are only as good as your team, that (b) the two person team can accomplish much more than an individual, that (c) the four person team can do more than the two person team but it needs coordination, and (d) that the leader teaches, supports, drags members along if need be, carries you if that is what is needed , and that the follower learns and supports and does all things pertaining to being a leader in training. Jobs and tasks all are taught one layer above and one layer below – more if there is time. And finally, together the team succeeds, but apart they fail.

Are you in this with your team?  Really supporting or leading?  Are you a tool for others to use?  Are they a tool for you?  No other way works.

YMMV

2017/10/12

Coaching


Have you ever considered getting some help with professional development? Have you ever had someone, a co-worker perhaps, or a friend or family member ask for help with life? You got kids?

Each of these is a coaching relationship. I gave this subject some thought over the last few weeks. Both of my brain cells hurt. My spare brain cell was in sympathy pain. But in the end, I managed to separate mentor from coach.

A mentor gives general advice/guidance; a coach is focused on one or two specific items that need a change/improvement. For a more concise explanation, see this and this; followed by this and this.

If you walk away from that light reading with a puzzled look on your face, join the crowd. When I started down this path, I thought I had a good handle on the difference, the similarity, and the relative importance of each.

Now I see the need for constant re-construction of my viewpoints on each, and how mentoring is sort of the roof over many different coaching points. One of the critical pieces I consumed was a little video by Robert S. Kaplan. 

Robert S. Kaplan is somewhat successful, and even if you don’t agree with his success, his words about coaching really hit home for me. Specifically, he states that that it is 100% the responsibility of the junior to get coaching. He then follows that up with the statement that it is 100% the responsibility of the senior to provide or perform the coaching that the juniors need. The individual is completely accountable for knowing their own strengths and weaknesses, and then to go get the coaching needed. The senior person is 100% accountable for knowing the juniors’ strengths and weaknesses and providing the coaching.

This 100% thing creates a coaching environment. Your job is not to sit and wait for it, it is your job to go out and get it.

I see how that applies from the Cxx level down to the ACE level. And when you look at it from that perspective, it makes the entire process very palatable. I know that I can surely use some coaching in an area or two. I try to help my team as I note issues. I sure hope they look to me or someone else for coaching.

Kaplan continues on by saying that coaching should be focused on one or two things the coachee can improve on over a set period of time. Coaching requires the coach to KNOW the coachee, or go discover the coachee by interviewing all the other co-workers. But either way, the coaching needs to be about specific skills or attributes that can be improved or accomplished over a set amount of time. Sounds just like a S.M.A.R.T goal, yes?

So, to sum this all up… Are you getting the coaching you deserve? Are you providing the coaching others deserve? Do you ask for help? Do others ask you to help? We are all in this together, and we can either fail together, or we can succeed together. I like the succeed option.

2017/10/06

15 Questions for Leaders to Ask


I got this from here:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/10/03/15-questions-to-ask-as-part-of-your-own-leadership-audit/#4903bbdc6255

I think this is some good stuff.

1. When Did I Last Look In The Mirror?

As leaders, let's encourage a culture of accountability, creativity and innovation by continually looking in the mirror to develop solutions for moving forward, particularly if something didn't go as planned. Rather than blaming or pointing fingers, we should reflect on how we'd like to be treated, roll up our sleeves, anticipate risks and leap forward to help. - Joanne Markow, GreenMason

2. Where Are My Blind Spots?

It's no surprise that leaders are extraordinarily talented and experienced professionals in their respective fields. Even still, no leader can attest to knowing everything. Everyone has blind spots and knowledge gaps, and when discovered, they must be addressed. No matter their achievements or the laundry list of recent wins, leaders should be eager to uncover their weak areas and improve them. - Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq., WordSmithRapport

3. Am I Being The Change I Want To See?

The famous quote by Gandhi, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world," is very applicable for leaders. This first requires clarity on the impact you want to have as a leader, then ensures your actions and words role model that impact. If you are not successfully doing what you ask of others, you can't expect them to follow with enthusiasm. - Bonnie Davis, Destination Up

4. What Are My Reactive Triggers?

We all have reactive triggers. Knowing your reactive tendencies will allow you to shift to using these strengths in a creative and strategic way. Not asking this question keeps you reacting to day-to-day fires and situations and will dig a bigger and bigger hole. To step into strategic leadership, you must continually raise your personal awareness of how you react. Do you protect, comply or control? - Jenn Lofgren, Incito Executive & Leadership Development

5. Who Do I Need To Get Feedback From?

The question leaders need to ask is not to themselves, but to every single person who works for them. The best leaders are those who have developed relationships where the answers they get are genuine and honest. "What am I doing well, and what's in the way of my being the best possible leader I can be?" Getting feedback from others is far more important than any question you ask yourself. - David Butlein, Ph.D., BLUECASE Strategic Partners

6. What Don't I Know That I Need To Know?

And who from my team can fill in the gap? This is a great way to grow people around you, as you're paying attention to the fact that everyone knows something you don't. It shows respect for their knowledge, gives you a sense of how they think and can support you, and how you can help them grow, as well. - Donna Karlin, No Ceiling, Just Sky™ Institute

7. How Well Do I Listen And Connect With Others?

As a leader, do you really listen to others? How do you know and how do you demonstrate that you really heard the other person? When we actively listen to another person, trust develops, the other person feels valued and important, and miscommunication, misunderstandings, and misinterpretations decrease. Listening slows down the conversation where each individual feels more connected. - Melinda Fouts, Ph.D., Success Starts With You

8. Have I Made An Impact?

As part of a leadership audit, one must ask oneself if they are making an impact in the people they are leading. Yes, you may start out with a goal or mission, but ultimately a check-in is required to see if your approach needs to be adjusted based on your impact, to support your initiatives or lack thereof. - Niya Allen-Vatel, Resume Newbie

9. Am I Focused On My No. 1 Goal?

The key to leadership is to motivate others and oneself to doggedly pursue a specific goal. Often, in the heat of putting out fires and working on the business, instead of in the business, the pursuit of the primary goal (whether revenue, getting top talent, building a great product, etc.) gets pushed to the side. A "leadership audit" should recalibrate whether the pursuit is on track. - Yuri Kruman, Master The Talk Consulting

10. Am I Growing As A Leader?

We often reach a point in our leadership journey where we feel that we have found a groove and don't step outside our comfort zone. Instead, audit your leadership knowledge, management skills, strategy and innovation. Ask for on-the-spot feedback and conduct a 360-degree assessment with your team. By continuously expanding, you drive your own performance and engagement, and that of your team's. - Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC

11. Is My Ax Sharpened?

The saying "sharpen your ax" comes from the parable of a woodcutter who chopped less wood because his ax was dull. Leaders get dull too. Without continuous learning and professional development, leaders can become less effective. So, while cultivating others, don't forget to sharpen your own ax. You'll then work smarter and not harder. Great leaders take the time to invest in themselves. - Tamiko Cuellar, Pursue Your Purpose LLC

12. How Do Unconscious Biases Impact My Decisions?

Unconscious bias affects decisions. We’ve developed many kinds of biases to help us navigate the world with a minimum effort, but they can also hinder someone from considering different options when making decisions. Leaders should learn to accept that we are all biased before we can begin to take positive action to identify them and to mitigate bias with specific strategies. - Maria Pastore, Maria Pastore Coaching

13. What Do I Get Paid To Do?

That's the question I find many leaders are stumped by, or the answer they provide is a template response. What are you paid to do? Generate revenue, build products, engineer solutions? Nope. You get paid to be a leader. What that genuinely means varies notably based on the leader and organization. True clarity on what being a leader is remains one puzzle piece I find many people struggle to find. - Leila Bulling Towne, The Bulling Towne Group, LLC

14. What Fears Am I Not Facing?

Each leader has their own set of fears. Each context brings new permutations for activating those fears. Seasoning can often mean developing skills to work around fears rather than facing them directly. A leadership audit that includes surfacing fears, along with how and when they manifest, is the first step to diminishing their hold. The second is holding yourself accountable to new behaviors. - Maureen Cunningham, Up Until Now Inc.

15. Am I Pushing Or Pulling?

Leaders often share their vision and then tell their reports how to execute. These leaders are "pushing information" out and expecting folks to "snap to it." Evolved leaders work to pull information from their teams. When individuals are asked what their greatest aspirations are, not only does the goal become more compelling, but the team is all in, as they helped to create the vision. - Deborah Goldstein, DRIVEN Professionals


YMMV

Skype for Business and Teams features Comparison

Fellow MVP Luca Vitali crreated a great feature comparison chart.  You can see it right here. YMMV