The Cisco pavilion at Enterprise Connect also featured a few smaller booths to showcase the company’s prominent partners. This was a great gesture by Cisco to give exposure to several of these smaller but value-adding companies. I got to visit two of them: San Jose-based Netformx and Minneapolis-based Calabrio (previously covered at VoiceCon and SpeechTEK 2010).
Netformx turns imagined networks into reality, quickly
Netformx likes to tell its customers to “imagine your network.” If you can think it, Netformx can make it happen with the help of its product portfolio. And it’s not just for engineers, either. Netformx has software to help with the whole sales-to-implementation cycle, from discovery and requirements gathering all the way to printing a detailed order with all the necessary items in place. The time savings are enormous considering the elimination of managing Visio documents, Excel spreadsheets, wikis, or any other method of sharing project collateral.
The solution consists of three main parts: Software Engines, Knowledge Base, and Integration and Collaboration. John Trembley, Director of Product Marketing, spent a few minutes to show me an example of what the software can do, and I can tell you that it will blow your mind (especially if you’ve ever used Visio to draw pages and pages of network diagrams). From discovery to design to validate to quote generation, thanks to the comprehensive storage of design rules and templates in the Knowledge Base, the Netformx solution can spit out everything your project needs with a 99% rate of design accuracy and achieving a 70% productivity gain.
Just imagine: no need to keep revising Visio documents, swapping them with colleagues, and repeat. Even then you may not have gotten it right. Remember the time when you first stepped up from dial-up access to a broadband connection? You’ll never go back to miss that modem handshake whistle. Once you see how effective Netformx is for a network designer/engineer, you’ll never consider going back to using Visio and Excel.
Cisco is the world leader in data networking hardware, so it’s not surprising that Netformx has a very close relationship with the company. However, Trembley stated that the partnership is definitely not exclusive as Netformx also supports equipment from other major vendors like Avaya, Juniper Networks, and Polycom.
Netformx clearly carved a profitable niche in the network design space, and with over 300 customers it’ll be tough for any competitor to catch up anytime soon.
Calabrio rethinks user experience, boldly overhauls flagship product
When I saw Calabrio CEO Tom Goodmanson last year at VoiceCon, he was clearly excited to tell me about the advances his team had made to produce Calabrio ONE, its contact center suite with a unified framework. Back then his team focused a lot of the user interface of the product, and the results were pretty good.
Apparently not good enough to Goodmanson, and it’s only been a year. At Enterprise Connect he shared with me about the rich, personal UX seen in today’s computing environments, particularly in mobile devices like the iPad, and made a bold executive decision — a vision — for his company: we need to be more like Apple when designing software.
That meant Calabrio ONE absolutely needs to have a consistent UI, precise actions, and seamless integration among all its components. Throw away layers of menus (the target he’d set for his developers was 50% on the first iteration, 20% desired subsequently) and rethink the effectiveness of each visual element on the screens.
When the demo was shown to me I was a bit shocked — it looked like a completely different product. The Dashboard took on a Web homepage motif with colorful and easily identifiable widgets. Important and useful data was automatically displayed on the screen without the need for the user to drill down. Most information was obtainable with no more than one or two clicks.
Before the show the new design had been tested on an iPad as well as the Motorola Xoom. The Web-based overhaul proved to be a good direction because of the flexibility and portability of the code, and the consistency of the UX across all devices.
Goodmanson was clearly proud of what his team had achieved in such a short time, and from the twinkle I saw in his eye I believe we can expect even greater improvements to Calabrio ONE in the months to come.