Heads In The Cloud
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Join two telecom industry leaders as they discuss tips and tricks in the Unified Communications world. Plus, meet their expert guests who share their own unique perspectives on the industry.

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    034: The Demands of Building a Communications Company with Kevin Cox

    In this episode, David is joined once again by John Roth as co-host to interview Kevin Cox, President of GulfTech IT. Kevin's relationship with Star2Star began in 2013 when he was hired as an account manager. He discusses his hiring experience and how he and fellow Star2Star employee, Brian Kummer, later started their own company, GulfTech IT. As you will hear, starting and running your own business requires many steps and components which Kevin had to learn through his transition from Star2Star employee to Star2Star Partner. He talks about the dynamics of running a business, GulfTech IT's milestones so far, and how he leverages Star2Star's Partner Marketing Hub, Co-op program, and other marketing tools. Tune in to hear more about GulfTech IT, their 2019 outlook, and how they adapt to the changing needs of their customers. Bonus content: Find out what color Kevin would be and John Roth reveals one of his bucket list items which involves an 8-hour adventure expedition!

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    033: Finding Your Path In The Communications Space with Dave Gilbert

    In this episode, David and guest co-host John Roth chat with Dave Gilbert, lifelong entrepreneur and currently a communications Sage with Refire Advisors. Dave began his career journey as Founder and CEO of SimpleSignal, an innovative UCaaS startup that played a pivotal role in making Voice over IP an industry standard in communications. He describes his experience with SimpleSignal and how growing the company helped shape the rest of his career. After several years of incredible growth and development, Dave realized that the time had come to sell his startup; through this experience, he realized his passion for coaching executives and their teams on how to achieve success in their respective fields. Tune in to hear more about Dave's adventures in the communications space, his thoughts on why a work culture of embracing weirdness is an advantage, his extensive hat collection, and more!

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    032: The Communication Protagonist's Journey with Dave Michels

    In this episode, David and Graham chat with Dave Michels, independent industry analyst and consultant focusing on IP PBX UC strategies and solutions as well as an avid blogger on telecom and related topics on his site: www.TalkingPointz.com. Dave identifies himself as a "Communication Protagonist" and describes how he has always had an interest in the communications world, from the early days of PBX to the transitions to UCaaS and beyond. He takes David and Graham on his journey throughout his career and discusses how his blog has been a place for him to share direct opinions about the world of communications. Some of his talking points include remote work, today's collaboration experience, and security and privacy with AI devices in the home. Tune in to hear about Dave's take on these topics as well as his advice for how to transition to working from home!

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    031: SD-WAN & UCaaS: Match Made in the Cloud with Jeff Burchett

    In this episode, David and Graham are joined by Jeff Burchett, Vice President of Sales and Co-Founder at Bigleaf Networks. Jeff has spent his entire career in the Telecom industry, and started Bigleaf with Founder and CEO Joel Mulkey in 2012. Bigleaf offers cloud-first SD-WAN technology services that help customers to optimize their network usage. Jeff, David, and Graham deep-dive into the business of Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN), Bigleaf's origin story, and the start of Star2Star and Bigleaf's relationship. Jeff discusses how the technology really works, the best way to sell SD-WAN, and why UCaaS and SD-WAN are truly a match made in the cloud. Tune in to this episode to also hear about Jeff's first adventure on SilverStar--Star2Star's private jet--, Graham's instagram doppelganger, Jeff's pets, and more!

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    030: The Secrets to VoIP Success with Kevin Emahiser & Jeff Donatini of Propel-U-4-Ward

    In this episode David and Graham interview Partners, Kevin Emahiser and Jeff Donatini from Propel-U-4-Ward. As Star2Star's #1 Partners in lead generation and most active users on the Partner Marketing Hub, Kevin and Jeff have many insights to share about how to successfully identify, attract, and convert customers. They discuss how they met over 20 years ago and started their successful business, the evolution of "Hybrid" architecture, and how Star2Star's unique solutions help them convert customers who are wary of VoIP. This episode also includes shoutouts to several Star2Star employees and a discussion about the importance of the Provider/Partner relationship. Tune in to hear even more fun topics ranging from Honeybaked Ham to old school switchboards and the truly unique pet living at Jeff Donatini's.

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    029: The Challenges Of Running A Cloud Business with Michael Cromwell

    In this episode, David and Graham are joined by special guest and Heads In The Cloud fan, Michael Cromwell, Founder and CEO of EagleTEQ Solutions, a technology business advisory firm. With over 27 years of experience in the field, Michael spent most of his career leading sales and marketing teams, and now channels that experience into advising growing companies on how they can increase their sales, create standout marketing campaigns, and maximize their growth potential. Michael shares his knowledge on all things cloud and tech, hitting on the challenges of running a cloud business, digital transformation, and why CIOs have become one of the most important executive leaders in the last five years. Tune in to hear his expert insight on why businesses must create their cloud strategy now and all of the new technology you need to thrive. This episode also features a few fun animal cameos, from screaming goats to Michael's Instagram pets.

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    028: Embracing New Technology In Healthcare with Jonathan Edwards

    David Portnowitz and Graham Potter are joined by Harvard and Oxford grad, Jonathan Edwards, live from the suburbs of London. Jonathan, a Healthcare IT expert, spent 14 years at Gartner as a Research VP on the healthcare team. He is a highly experienced advisor with expertise in building a global research practice serving technology vendors and users. Currently, he is the Senior Analyst at the Skills Connection and Managing Director of his independent consulting firm that provides advice to IT vendors and service providers. In this episode, we discuss the challenges in the evolving healthcare IT space and the business value in embracing new technology. Listen in to hear us discuss additional topics including: the downfall in the hype of new technologies, the origins of the fax machine, moving to the cloud, which languages Jonathan has studied, and more.

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    027: An Authentic Look Inside The Restaurant Business With Chef Christopher Covelli

    David Portnowitz and Graham Potter interview Graham’s next door neighbor, celebrity chef Christopher Covelli. Chris specializes in Classic French, Italian, and Spanish cuisine and is currently the senior chef instructor at Toscana Saporita Cooking School in Lucca, Italy, where he has been teaching for 18 years. Join us as we discuss communication and sales within the restaurant business, get insider details about Chris’ new restaurant, Sage, that will be opening in downtown Sarasota in the next few months, and learn why Chris decided to become a chef. Chris also reveals his favorite food cities, shares his experience on the Food Network show Beat Bobby Flay, and explains the difficulty in cooking and being a TV host. Stay tuned for a fun discussion on the comeback of a certain wine and to find out which instruments Chris, Graham, and Graham’s family play.

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    026: An Expert's Guide To Successful Sales With Colin Johnston

    David Portnowitz and Graham Potter are joined, in-studio, by Colin Johnston, industry expert and Executive Vice President of Strategic Channels at Star2Star. Colin details the history of his telecom experience from his start with voice systems, to owning his own interconnect company, and working a variety of sales channels at Star2Star. We keep an eye on the second half of the year in the UC space; discussing SD-WAN, security, predicting what we should expect from future mergers in the industry, and explaining why and how businesses can differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Tune in to hear Colin share his opinions on the successes of Star2Star's business model and what it uniquely provides to its customers. From David's discovery of the what the Starfish desk phone actually looks like, the latest on Colin's golf game, insider info from David on which Florida restaurant offers the biggest selection of wine in the world (next to that of the Vatican and the Queen's collection), to Colin's pets, and more, there's a lot you won't want to miss in this episode of Heads in the Cloud!

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    025: The Future Of The Telecom Industry With Agustin Argelich

    In this episode, David Portnowitz & Graham Potter are joined by Agustin Argelich, live from Barcelona. Agustin is the Founder, President, and Principal Consultant at Argelich Network, an independent telecom consultant company that helps enterprises and government agencies use IT tools and networks to improve their business, create welfare, and improve societies. Agustin is also a Board Member and Chairman of The Society of Communications Technology Consultants International, Inc. and an associate professor at Universitat de Lleida. Agustin discusses the differences between business operations in the U.S. and Europe in digital transformation and cloud adoption. Agustin notes the importance of project management and leadership in business, topics which his book: "Analyze, Act, Advance", written from his 30 years of experience working and leading projects in the industry, tackles. Join us in this podcast to hear Agustin's opinion on the future of the telecom industry, travel, wine, and what it's like to live in Barcelona. Make sure to listen in to hear about Agustin's children, hear David speak a little Spanish, and to figure out how exactly David and Graham plan to get an autograph from Agustin on a digital copy of his book.

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    024: Workplace Productivity, IT, & Travel with Chuck Lear

    In this episode David and Graham interview Chuck Lear, Founder and Managing Partner of Lear360. They discuss workplace productivity collaboration, the current rundown on IT Enterprises, and their experiences with international travel. With 30 years of experience in the IT Strategy and Organizational Change field, Chuck shares valuable insights on company consolidations in the marketplace, Google's expansion into their version of Slack, and other up-and-coming technology applications. Stay tuned to hear about Chuck's pets, labradors Coco and Bella, his interesting background in the film industry, and which Italian cars Graham is considering to rent for his upcoming trip. Also, as a fun bonus, make sure to listen in for exclusive audio of David's attempts at different accents!

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    023: Our Interview With Dr. Disruptive a.k.a. Jonathan Yarmis

    In this episode, we talk tech with one of the leading experts in Advanced, Disruptive, and Emerging technologies and a veteran of 30 years in the tech industry. Jonathan Yarmis, also known as "Dr. Disruptive", is one of the earliest adopters of PC, internet, social networking, and a myriad of other groundbreaking innovations. Jonathan was one of the first Gartner analysts to help grow the company and has worked as an end-user for Deloitte, communications professional for Waggener Edstrom and Hill & Knowlton, and today provides analyst insights with The Skills Connection. He shares many exciting stories from his career on the cutting-edge, including infamous interviews with Tom Brokaw, Bill Gates, and James Barksdale, playing chess with Howard Stern, and how he got the nickname "Dr. Disruptive".

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    022: From Mainframes to the Marketplace: An Analyst's Memoir with Joel Wecksell

    In this episode, David and Graham welcome expert analyst and possible X-Men, Joel Wecksell from The Skills Connection. Joel is the Founder of The Skills Connection, an industry advisory company that specializes in helping technology businesses prepare for and build relationships with analyst firms such as Gartner and Forrester. Joel and his expert team help companies communicate their strategic vision and demonstrate credibility in the marketplace using their extensive prior experiences as senior Gartner analysts. Joel discusses his 35 years of experience in the technology realm, from programming and selling mainframes to working at Xerox and then Gartner for 18 years of his career. He provides front-row insights into the innermost workings of being an analyst--from both sides of the desk. Tune in to learn everything you ever wanted to know about the secret life of analysts, and hear the surprising shared experience Joel has with one of the Heads In The Cloud hosts!

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    021: Wining, Dining, & All Things Consulting with J.R. Simmons

    In this episode, sponsored by VTech, DJ Potter brings in the beat and David gets to the meat of their interview with J.R. Simmons, President and Principal Consultant for COMgroup, Inc. COMgroup is the largest and most influential independent telecommunications consulting firm in the Pacific Northwest. With over 33 years of experience as an independent consultant, J.R. has expertise in a range of areas including telecommunications planning, design, analysis, and implementation, data networking design, and much more. He discusses his experience, love for consulting, and some of the industry's burning questions such as how to identify decision makers and how to keep up with the increased rate of change. You'll also hear about his current projects, involvement with BC Strategies, and his role as an expert witness on the stand.

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    020: 🤓 Catching Up On The UC Headlines with Tracy Venters

    In this episode, sponsored by VTech, David and Graham talk with Tracy Venters, Chief Strategist for Town Crier Consulting. Tracy's firm specializes in helping high-tech companies grow their brands and their revenue. She and Graham recount how they first met at Enterprise Connect for a meeting, followed by a discussion of Tracy's background in software engineering, marketing, and communications which culminate in her role at Town Crier Consulting. Also in this episode, you'll get exclusive hints about new products and events from Star2Star, hear about the technology trends on Tracy's radar, and the pet situation in her skyrise residence. Hint: this family member isn't fuzzy and also isn't afraid of heights.

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    019: Exploring The Deskphones Of The Future With VTech’s C.H. Tong

    In this episode, David and Graham interview C.H. Tong, President of VTech Telecommunications. Star2Star and VTech have been providing high-quality communications solutions and products together since 2016. C.H. discusses his role as President of the Telecom division and how VTech made their breakthrough into the SIP market, eventually leading to the Star2Star/VTech relationship. David, Graham, and C.H. also discuss the future of the desk phone, what the “cool” trends will be, and C.H.’s perspective on industry drivers in telecom. Also in this episode, you’ll hear about C.H.’s school adventures at King's College, London University, the running culture at VTech, the struggles of humidity, and much more.

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    018: Talking Security With Harold A. Logan From Star2Star

    In this episode, David and Graham invite Hal Logan, Star2Star's very own Director of Professional Services. They discuss Hal's career and experience in the world of professional services and security where he directs the engineering team responsible for custom development projects. Hal describes his career from beginning as a paratrooper in the Army to working in municipal government and then joining Star2Star. Tune in to this episode to hear about how Hal started in security, his take on the current trends in the industry, and how Blockchain works from a security standpoint. Bonus content: This episode comes to you live from outer space (courtesy of the Gen X-1 stylophone) and evolves into an entirely different podcast, touching on topics including the Oxford comma, how to train for jumping out of planes, and Hal's Yorkshire Terrier, Jocko.

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    017: Looking Out For The Latest UC Trends with David Mario Smith

    In this episode, David is joined by special guest host, Frederick Philip von Weiss, Executive Producer of Heads In The Cloud and Creative Director at Star2Star. David and Frederick interview David Mario Smith, Founder and Principal Analyst at InFlow Analysis. They discuss David's illustrious career as an analyst in the communications space. From starting at Gartner right out of school to founding his own company in response the digital disruption. David has seen the ins and outs of the industry from a perspective trained to look ahead. He provides his take on Net Neutrality and some of the trends piquing his interest right now including chatbots, machine learning, and the conversational enterprise. Tune in to this episode to hear about the adventures of David, David, and Frederick, and learn more about UC from an expert industry insider. Bonus content: Frederick's other podcast, Thunder Nerds, and the story of Biscuit the Dog, David Mario Smith's family pooch.

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    016: Welcome To Our (Master Agent) World with Chris O'Brien, & Phil Keenan

    In this episode, David and Graham talk shop with Chris O'Brien, Head of Sales, and Phil Keenan, President at MicroCorp. As a business with 30 years in the communications space, MicroCorp has seen everything from the days of selling long distance to the value-added recurring revenue services of today that are better known as VoIP and UCaaS. Chris and Phil discuss the world of Master Agents, what SD-WAN means to their business, and what they are looking forward to in 2018 as the field continues to evolve.

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    015: In A Podcast Far, Far Away... with Paul Hoffman

    In this episode, we travel to a galaxy far, far away to interview Paul Hoffman, President of SouthTech IT, a long-term Star2Star partner. Paul takes us back through SouthTech's founding, originally started within a CPA firm, and tells us how a few SouthTech employees eventually branched out to become an IT company. We also discuss the trends Paul currently sees in the industry, his customers' #1 concern for communications, and how SouthTech is really more of a "people business" than an "IT business". Tune in to hear more from Paul plus a bonus debate about Sarasota's local brewery scene and Star Wars sound effects (no spoilers).

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    014: Breaking News! Alan Foy On The Star2Star & Blueface Merge

    Get to know Star2Star's new CEO, Alan Foy, as we host him on our breaking news episode of Heads In The Cloud. We recently merged with Blueface, a pan-European UCaaS company, which Alan also directed as CEO. Hear how this all came about from Alan himself, where the new Star2Star/Blueface Group is headed, and some other details about our new Group CEO in our new segment, Rapid Fire With Graham Potter. We discuss what his favorite drink is, music taste, and more!

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    013: Why Blockchain Is 'Off The Chain' In 2018

    Happy New Year, friends of the pod! For our first podcast of 2018, we speak with Joseph Williams, an analyst and consultant in the UC industry. With specialties in the channel and UCaaS, Joseph provides us with his take on the top trends from 2017 and what to look forward to this year.

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    012: Extra, Extra, Read All About It! UCaaS & CPaaS Are On The Front Page Of The Internet

    In this episode, we interview Doug Green, Publisher at Telecom Reseller. As a leading news service since 1989 with over 40,000 readers, Telecom Reseller continues to connect key players with the latest updates and trends in the industry. The team reports on unified communications (UC), cloud, and collaboration technologies. Doug shares in-the-know insights about the most-read stories, market changes, and how hardware companies are adapting to increasing rates of cloud adoption. Tune in to hear The Pomeranian Analogy for these UC trends. BONUS: We also travel through time in this episode.

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    011: Heads In The Game

    In this episode, we speak with Steve Shenbaum, Founder and President of Game On Nation, an interpersonal communications and leadership training firm. Game On has worked with small-to-large companies including big names like Honda, Gatorade, NASCAR, the NY Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, LA Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, NFLPA, ACC, and SEC teams, among many others. Steve's name may also sound familiar to you because he acted in several well known films including Space Jam, American Pie 2, Big Fat Liar, and EDtv. Steve's passion these days, however, is helping people create connections and communicate on a more personal level in the digital age. He discusses some of his tips and training exercises for helping others discover common ground in order to connect more authentically

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    010: We're Not Here For A Long Time, But A Real-Time

    In this episode, we switch bodies to greet HITC's first international guest--but only one part of that is true. Our guest, Tsahi Levent-Levi, calls in from Israel to discuss his passion, Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC). Tsahi is an Independent Analyst and Consultant for WebRTC with over 15 years of experience in the telecommunications space. He discusses the advantages of WebRTC and how it accomplishes so much with all the things it doesn't have. Tune in to hear about how WebRTC touches every aspect of the communications space and what new and exciting developments to expect in the near future!

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    009: The Wheel, The Telephone & 5G: The World's Greatest Inventions

    In this episode, we discuss the latest advancement in wireless technology, 5G, with Gregory H. Collins, Founder & Principal Analyst at Exact Ventures. Exact Ventures is an independent market intelligence firm who focuses on developments in technologies such as telecom, wireless, and networking. In our discussion, we touch on the advantages of 5G, how it will roll out, and what that means for current networks and the future of wireless technologies. But the real question we want answered: will 5G finally improve airplane wi-fi? Gregory has all these answers and more. Plus, we also discuss Session Border Control (SBC) and how it relates to our new platform, Hybrid Connect. Episode 9 of Heads In The Cloud has much to offer!

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    008: This One's All About Marsha, Marsha, Marsha--And Media Management

    In this episode, we interview one of our very first customers, Marsha Friedman from Event Management Services (EMSI), the guaranteed media firm. Marsha's relationship with Star2Star goes back to September of 2007, when she first met our Chief Knowledge Officer, Graham Potter. She describes her experience with Star2Star since day one and why she has stayed our customer for the last 10 years. Our hosts also get the inside scoop on what it takes to get noticed by the media, how the Heads In The Cloud podcast can "celebritize" itself, and the professional profile of EMSI's furry Chief Security Officer.

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    007: Chaos Is A Ladder

    In this episode, we talk shop with one of our very own--a first for the Heads In The Cloud podcast. As our first ever in-studio guest, John Roth, VP of Established Channel Sales at Star2Star, discusses what we do and how we do it. John's career has focused exclusively on the channel, from selling door-to-door in the 80s to when he first heard about our one-of-a-kind Hybrid Architecture in 2009. Industry developments and the exciting dynamics of a 100% Channel Partner sales model await in this installment!

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    006: Keep True To The Dreams Of Your Youth (Pumpkin)

    In this episode, we chat with Evan Kirstel, renowned social media influencer and 5th most influential B2B marketer in the US. Evan shares his expertise in digital communications to shed light on some of the most forward-thinking trends in UC. We discuss the fortunes and futures of today's groundbreaking UC developments, including voice-first, mobile-first, cloud-first, and omnichannel technologies that are reshaping how we communicate. And if we're lucky, these industry changes will fulfill the dreams of our youth. Post-script: we also discuss everything pumpkin spice.

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    005: Collaboration Innovation, What's Your Implication?

    In this episode, we chat with Shawn Puddester, VP of Global Service Providers at Polycom. Star2Star has a long-standing relationship with Polycom and Shawn going back to our founding in 2006. Since then, the market has seen many shifts and game-changing developments. Shawn shares his experience with Polycom and how they have handled these developments in terms of innovation and staying competitive in an increasingly commoditized marketplace. Among our discussion points: Shawn's marketplace analysis of the communications space, tips for staying ahead of the competition curve, and Area 51...

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    004: Digital Transformers, More Than Meets The Eye

    In this episode, we chat with leading UC analyst and strategic consultant, Sheila McGee-Smith. Having covered the industry since 1990, Sheila provides storied insight into how contact centers address digital transformation. She describes the importance of tracking the customer journey, and how a younger demographic has changed that path with new technology. We share great examples of companies using artificial intelligence to better serve the consumer. Graham also gives a sneak peek into Star2Star’s new contact center experience.

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    003: We Like To Merge It, Merge It

    In this episode, we chat with VP of Digital Transformation at Frost & Sullivan, Elka Popova. We discuss changes in the UCaaS space including the Mitel/ShoreTel merger and hypotheses for future M&As. Elka shares her insights regarding churn in the partner community, embedded communications, and the factors driving these industry changes.

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    002: Mobile Killed The Desktop Star (Maybe)?

    In this episode, we chat with VTech’s Director of Sales Service Providers North America, Matt Hickey. We debate whether the deskphone is truly “dead” as sales remain steady and smartphone integration continues to grow. Matt shares how companies like VTech innovate in the device market while addressing mobility.

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    001: If You Build It, Will They Come?

    In our inaugural episode, we chat with President and Principal Analyst at COMMfusion LLC, Blair Pleasant. We discuss user adoption in the rapidly expanding UC space. Blair shares her six-step strategy for engaging customers before a new service rolls out, and how to achieve the best ROI.

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