A few weeks ago, I attended Enterprise Connect. I hadn’t been there in 10 years. At my old job, as we drifted more towards the service provider business model, Enterprise Connect became less of a focus, and I stopped attending.
So I wanted to go check it out because this really is the mecca of Unified Communications. By the way, if you want to listen to the podcast I did with Telecom Reseller News, please go here. (Transcript available here.)
On the surface, the event is pretty similar to the ones I attended in the past.
You’re at the Gaylord Palms Resort, walking the exact same steps to the exact same places, and the people in the industry are the same. (I literally stayed in one place on the first day, just saying hello to people I hadn’t seen in a long time.)
And there were big announcements. (Polycom, for example, made a big deal about changing their name to Poly, but when I saw the new logo— Poly with an icon to the left that looks like a speakerphone—I just said to myself, “Oh, they just changed their name and logo.”)
Under the surface, though, there are some huge differences.
First of all, it’s all about Cloud now. That is not a huge revelation. (RingCentral comes across as a monstrously big spender now, given their signage every 4 inches.)
Second, Enterprise Connect used to really be about PBX, Contact Center and UC. Now, there is hardly any PBX mentions (none that I recall actually, but if you looked hard enough, I’m sure you’d find one) and hardly any stand-alone Contact Center per se (Contact Center as part of UC is now the norm). But collaboration and how to use AI to enhance your enterprise communications are what this event is about now.
And this makes the show vibrant. The last time I was there, the show was not vibrant. It was gray. That might have something to do with just emerging from the Great Recession, but, really, I think it had more to do with this being a space that was just about Unified Communications. (At the time, adding video to it was “the big deal.”) But I could feel the difference in energy, and it’s really about the promise of things to come in this industry.
AI is the lynchpin of that. AI makes a lot of sense given UC systems and Contact Centers process a lot of data, and AI helps make large amounts of data more manageable. Yes, there were quite a few AI add-ons. So I’m sure we’ll be seeing these elements pop up even more in UC offers. Like what? Well, Google and Amazon Web Services are becoming players now because they have AI engines in the cloud to connect to and use. There are a myriad of options there. Speech navigation and enhanced additional language search capabilities upon calling in were also a theme. These exist today, but understanding your likely action based on past information (data) will make this much better. Makes sense.