Centre stage with Tom Arbuthnot, Principal Solutions Architect at Modality Systems

Centre stage with Tom Arbuthnot, Principal Solutions Architect at Modality Systems

A topical Q&A with a leading light within the unified communications community.


Born – I was born in Hertfordshire in the UK, a little north of London.

Studied / Education background – I took a non-typical route into IT. I was always interested in computers and technology, but didn’t want to box myself into one path. I completed a Business with Retail degree at Loughborough University. After this went into working for a Cisco partner, one of the first 10 partners to launch Call Manager, my first taste of UC, then on to Modality Systems focused on Microsoft UC and Collaboration, giving me the opportunity to work with some of the biggest enterprise brands in the world.

Current role / bio – My title is Principal Solutions Architect. This is quite a varied role, which I really like. It spans offering strategic guidance to some of our largest customers as well as a product owner role for our Microsoft Reporting and Diagnostics products. I feel that the mix of working directly with customers and on products gives me a good balance of understanding real world customer requirements. I work hard to keep on top of the Microsoft UC and Collaboration space. I blog regularly at TomTalks.Blog, have a news email list, TomTalks.email, with over 2,000 subscribers, co-run the Microsoft UC User Group London, and do a monthly Microsoft Teams focused podcast with UCToday.com


Who do you work for and what does your role entail?

I work for Modality Systems, a global Microsoft partner focused on Unified Communications and Collaboration.

What made you choose a career in UC?

I really enjoy working in UC and Collab as it can have such a measurable positive business impact when deployed correctly. Even simple abilities like chat and video meetings can really improve people’s day to day productivity and flexibility at work.

What do you think is required to be successful in the UC industry?

It’s a fast moving space. I think you have to have a bit of a passion to want to know what’s going on in the industry. I think it also helps to make sure you spend time hands on. There is the marketing and then the hands-on reality.

What’s been your biggest work achievement of the last 12 months?

That’s a tough one. I love working with our development team on our products, we recently launched a Microsoft Teams reporting product, Teamwork Analytics, that I am really proud of. It’s great to take the data from Microsoft Office 365, use it to drive business value and adoption. We now have bots that trigger messages to users based on the data, which I think is a really cool way to scale user training/coaching.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Not specifically advice, but the level to which the Modality Systems leadership team support us spending time contributing to the community and industry (blogs, speaking, events etc) has really shaped my career. I’m fortunate to be a Microsoft MVP and have had the opportunity to speak all over the world, that all stems from spending time sharing news and my perspective on the space.

What are your predictions for the UC industry for 2019/20 or beyond?

It feels like UC is being consumed into the wider collaboration story. I think that will continue as people adopt to working in new ways, for example through collab workspaces. The other area that is really interesting is seeing how larger enterprises deal with the pace of change from cloud vendors. For many its still quite a new model compared to their traditional approach to enterprise I.T. I expect there to be a continued tension between wanting the new abilities and features, but having to adapt to the pace.

Join Tom at UC EXPO at ExCeL London, 15-16 May 2019

Want to hear real world experiences with Microsoft Teams? Want to cut through the marketing and understand the reality and options? Check out my Microsoft Teams in the Real World Session at UC EXPO!

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