#UCExpo Series: A Q&A with Michael Affronti

This was originally posted on the Fuze corporate blog on Tue Apr 19.

We sat down with Michael Affronti, VP of Product for Fuze, to dig deeper into the michael affronti“appification” of the enterprise ahead of his upcoming session at the UC Expo in London.

Attending the show? Click here to check out Michael’s conference session.

How have you seen the industry shift to address more user-centric technology? What have companies gotten wrong when it comes to applying this thinking to new innovation?

Several years ago the phrase “Consumerization of IT” caught on as early-adopters inside of companies were pushing IT to adopt new products and services. It then became “Consumerization of the Enterprise” as it extended beyond the IT function and into the everyday apps and services used by every information worker (IW). IWs spend nearly 65 percent of their time at work communicating and only a fraction of that time (20 percent) creating and editing content.

Smart companies embrace a BYOD philosophy, while picking the right tools for core collaboration scenarios. It is great to allow your teams to bring their own mobile phones to work, but having their work communication scattered across a smattering of consumer tools is both inefficient and dangerous. The smartest companies look at what and why their employees are doing with consumer apps and then bring in the right enterprise-grade tools to be used in place of them.

Fuze recently conducted research in Europe, indicating that two-thirds of those surveyed thought workplace technology needed to catch up with personal technology. What can businesses learn from user preferences outside of work?

The “appification” of consumer services has now fully bled over to the enterprise. The pattern that a user employs at home is what they expect to happen at work: if their work tools don’t provide the right functionality, they will just find an app in the app store that does the job. It used to be the case that only a handful of companies, usually small/medium-sized businesses, allowed for users to bring their own devices and use their own apps. We’re now seeing financial firms and healthcare companies moving services to the cloud and allowing for their teams to use more and more modern apps. This is often in conjunction with a mobile device management strategy.

This sounds like a BYOD issue. What should employers keep in mind when navigating unsanctioned app usage in the modern workforce?

Having a clear and enforceable BYOD strategy is important. Even more critical is deploying apps and services that your employees actually want to use. If you roll out poorly designed apps, your users will vote with their feet and find a way to use the apps they love (even if they’re consumer-based and insecure). I’ve even seen users rubber-band two iPhones back to back – one locked down too tightly by their company, the other a personal device where they use WhatsApp to talk to their co-workers!

How can companies support the modern worker to be more collaborative by using technology?

Listen to your workers! Ask them about their favorite apps and find out why they’re using them. This will directly impact your rollout plan for introducing new apps and help you communicate it in a way that will be receptive to teams. Next, find out what line of business apps they want linked into their new apps. A critical part of rolling out new collaboration tools is having them connected into the important systems they use on a daily basis.

If you’re heading to UC Expo, come visit us at stand H805 and learn more about our presence here.

Why I’m Teaching

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It was 10th grade in high school and I was taking a class called “College Marketing.” It was a college-level course being taught as a part of a business program our school was piloting. The teacher, Mrs. Stein, pushed our class to explore potential career paths through cool projects and presentations. Mrs. Stein was always encouraging me to explore fun side projects and to network with everyone that I met. She eventually gave me advice when I started “MicFlash Enterprises” that fall (my 1-person desktop publishing ‘company’), and through our conversations that year she helped me understand what a career in business and technology could be. Mrs. Stein later introduced me to her husband at a class field trip to his office at Viacom in NYC, and some follow-up conversations with him led to my first internship at Viacom headquarters in Times Square. I can trace almost every job (and a best friend) since then back to the people I met at that first internship.

Mrs. Stein played a seminal role in my life. As an educator she taught me skills about business and professionalism that I still remember and use today, and as a mentor she gave me guidance about my career and connected me to my first job. I can never thank her enough for the path she showed me.

Twice a year for the last nine years, I have been going back to my old high school on Long Island and giving a talk to the students in Mrs. Stein’s classes. I call the talk “You Don’t Have To Be The Valedictorian To Have A Career You Love,” and it’s my attempt to show them how important the experiences, people, and relationships they make will be to their life. I do this by walking the students through a bit of my career journey: building web pages at a leather gun holster manufacturer in New Hyde Park when I was 14, DJ’ing, building web apps for Viacom, being a personal fitness trainer, then mainframe programming for insurance companies, eventually going to Microsoft, then Contactive, and now ThinkingPhones. I share how every opportunity, every job, and every success (or failure) was the result of a relationship I had made with a key person in my life.

Throughout my career I have continued to look for ways to coach and mentor others. As a manager at Microsoft I quickly realized and embraced that much of my role was teaching and coaching my team so they could grow and perform as quickly as possible. Working in the NYC startup scene at Contactive was a big change since our team size made it so I had a very tiny team and almost no time to manage. That wound up being a great impetus to jump into mentoring and advising other companies, and it’s something I continue in earnest now at ThinkingPhones.

Recently a mutual connection introduced me to one of the founders of General Assembly, Matt, at an event in NYC. He told me about GA and their mission, and almost immediately I said “Sign me up!” I loved the idea of working with a set of industry veterans to teach and coach others who were passionate about Product Management and design.

I’m now extremely excited to be joining the General Assembly family as an Instructor for their part-time Introduction to Product Management course. You can check out the details here on the GA site.

I can’t wait for the summer. I look forward to learning as much from the students as they (hopefully) learn from me.

Thanks!

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Brilliant. Facepalm.

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