Key Themes From Enterprise Connect 2015
What a week in Orlando! Enterprise Connect is THE event for unified communications and collaboration – it’s the place to be if you’re even remotely related to this market segment. Like most industry analysts, I was busy running from one vendor meeting to another, in between presenting and moderating sessions. While I didn’t get to spend as much time on the show floor as I would have liked, and I certainly didn’t get to attend many sessions, I packed a month of meetings into three days.
The key themes I picked up were collaboration, cloud, context, video, experience, and adoption. Here are some of my thoughts on what I saw and heard.
Collaboration: Whether through video, new services such as Cisco Spark (nee Project Squared) and Unify Circuit are leading the way in showing us new ways of collaborating and interacting with team members in order to achieve business results. These solutions, as well as others, are all about letting people quickly and easily share information from any device or location with team members and others, removing barriers that previously hampered collaboration, and making collaboration available in a mobile- and cloud-first environment. Speaking of cloud…
Cloud: It’s becoming clear that while companies can save money by moving to the cloud, that’s not the key driver or benefit. During two Cloud Case Studies panels I moderated, the panelists all acknowledged attaining significant cost savings, but noted that agility and flexibility are the driving forces behind the move to the cloud. These organizations were able to easily staff up or down, enable remote workers (particularly useful during snow storms and other acts of nature), and be up and running quickly and easily. It’s not about opex vs. capex or whether premises-based or cloud solutions have the better TCO – it’s about how the cloud enables businesses to more quickly and easily deploy communication solutions, making them more agile and competitive.
Context: Understanding previous interactions and conversations helps to reduce time-wasting activities, whether in a contact center interaction or a team collaboration session. Knowing who was involved in previous interactions and conversations and having access to documents that were shared makes it easier to jump into a productive meeting or interaction without having to waste time catching up on what was done during previous interactions. New solutions from AltoCloud and Cisco (Cisco Context Service) are on the leading edge of context-enabled customer interactions, but we’re also seeing solutions from Corvisa, Five 9, Avaya, CafeX, and others help to put each interaction in context and enabling the omnichannel experience. On the enterprise side, Cisco Spark and Unify Circuit are leading the way, but expect to see context become a key element from all UC&C vendors in the coming months.
Video: It’s finally video’s day in the sun. For years we’ve been talking about the rise of video, but for most, video was relegated to specialized conference rooms. Today, video on the desktop, tablet, or smart device is real. That being said, hardware is still important, as evidenced by Cisco’s new MX800 dual screen with dual cameras, and Microsoft’s new Surface Hub. During his keynote, Zig Serafin, Corporate VP of Skype Business Services, debuted Surface Hub, a large room-based video and white board screen, that is also a platform for large screen apps and includes Skype for Business integration for group collaboration. Other notable video solutions on display at Enterprise Connect were Vidyo’s VidyoWorks on Smart Glasses, which is a bit futuristic but can enable the ability for workers such as field service techs to see what the person on the end sees in order to help diagnose and fix problems. More video demos were on display from Jupiter Systems, which continues to enhance its Canvas “visual solution” to make it easy to access visual information (video and more) to enable teams to view videos and other information and share it easily with operations and team members across locations to quickly react and respond to real-time operational issues.
Experience: I’ve been writing about this for a long time, so it’s nice to see the user experience getting the attention it deserves. For example, Microsoft, with the new Skype for Business, is improving the Lync experience by enhancing the user experience and making it more like the consumer-friendly Skype. Unify is going beyond improving the user experience to “humanizing” it, with the goal of enabling people to work in the way that makes the most sense for them, rather than the way the vendors dictate. During various one-on-one meetings I had with vendors, user experience was a topic that came up frequently, as it’s a way to get more usage of their UC&C solutions. Which brings us to the next key theme –
Adoption: On Day 1 of Enterprise Connect I moderated a panel on driving UC adoption, and based on the standing-room only crowd, it’s clear that this is a topic that is on the minds of many organizations. As with any technology, the early days are spent evangelizing about the need for the technology, focusing on “speeds and feeds” and technical capabilities. Over time, the discussion turns to driving user adoption and getting people to actually use the technology. The panelists provided concrete suggestions, such as involving evangelists and power users, creating internal videos and marketing programs to build up excitement about the introduction of a new UC&C solution, and thinking about user adoption from Day 1 of the UC&C strategy planning process. The importance of user adoption was also emphasized during a “thought leader” breakfast with Unify, which included several analysts, consultants, and Unify customers. The consensus was that if businesses don’t provide the tools that users will readily want to use, users will continue to go around IT and bring in their own devices and solutions, which is what sparked the BYOD trend. Organizations need to find ways to solve end users problems, not just provide shiny new objects.
Some of the more interesting announcements at Enterprise Connect were Interactive Intelligence’s PureCloud Communicate, which builds on the PureCloud Collaborate by adding enterprise telephony (cloud PBX), unified messaging, call recording, and other real-time communication capabilities, based on Interactive Intelligence’s PureCloud platform, resulting in what CMO Jeff Platón calls “Slack, HipChat, and Box combined.”
Avaya continued its commitment to Engagement, announcing Customer Engagement OnAvaya Powered by the Google Cloud Platform (really?). Agents can be fully functional and running in the Google Cloud Platform with just an Internet connection, a Chrome device, and a headset or Avaya IP phone.
My only area of disappointment was in the Google keynote. We’ve all been wondering what Google is up to on the enterprise front when it comes to communications and collaboration, and were hoping to get some insights from Adam Swidler, of Google for Work. Unfortunately he didn’t divulge anything. During a panel session on Integrating UC with Google Apps, two Google partners – Esna and Switch Communications – discussed how they enhance and extend Google by providing communication, conferencing, and integration capabilities, but we didn’t glean any insights as to Google’s view of its role in enterprise communications. It’s hard to believe that Google doesn’t have a plan for enterprise business communications and collaboration, but we still don’t know what that plan is.
As always, my apologies to those vendors I didn’t have a chance to write about or meet with – too much news, too little time.