And The Innovation Winners Are...
The feedback on the Innovation Showcase has been very positive as it brings in some young energy and excitement to this enterprise conference.
This week at the Enterprise Connect conference is the inaugural Innovation Showcase: Four young companies showing innovative communications. We set out to find young companies with an innovative product or service improving enterprise communications. That's admittedly a pretty broad category, but that's the nature of communications these days--calendaring, messaging, voice, SMS, collaboration, and more.
Start-ups are known as a source of great innovative ideas, but realistically it was a long time coming to enterprise customers--but that’s changing. The Internet, app stores, consumerization, mobility requirements, and so many other factors combined are creating a very different IT space than just a few years ago, and these younger companies are penetrating the enterprise.
There are literally hundreds of new companies with compelling ideas that improve enterprise communications. We did several things to narrow the field, the first being requiring them to apply for the showcase. Sounds silly, but many truly innovative companies I knew of declined to apply for various reasons; they were too busy, they had conflicts the week of the conference, etc. The second key hurdle to clear was the requirement for an existing enterprise customer reference. Again, there seems to be no shortage of great ideas out there, but we wanted products and services that were available today. So we used an existing enterprise customer reference as a litmus test of sorts.
After the applications were received, we set out about evaluating them with an assembled five person panel with a strong emphasis on end-user organization appeal. Three of the five judges were IT managers from end-user organizations (more on the judges at Innovation is Alive).
The following companies were deemed the most innovative; they are not ranked. Each company presents their solution to a general audience (link) and is staffing a booth in the Enterprise Connect Innovation Showcase on the exhibit floor. The four companies are:
Fonolo: Websites and auto attendants allow customers to self-filter down to the information they seek (such as Consumer, Small Business, Enterprise, etc.). However, sometimes after doing so on a website, it is still necessary to call, and then the caller has to start all over again. Fonolo connects the website’s context to the IVR. Should a caller need to call, they can effectively pick up where they left off on their Web interaction.
Harmon.ie: Pronounced “harmony”, enables “social email” as a means of accelerating collaboration. Harmon.ie uses email to promote the adoption of SharePoint or Google Docs for document sharing, collaboration, and social networking. Email has been the dominant tool for communication and document collaboration for business users for the past 15 years. When most organizations implement collaboration tools, it becomes an either email or collaboration proposition. By integrating email within SharePoint or Google Apps, Harmon.ie improves user adoption rate.
ProtonMedia: The developer of ProtoSphere, a virtual collaboration environment, that integrates with Microsoft Lync and Microsoft SharePoint. ProtoSphere drives real-time communications and collaboration across the enterprise through an engaging virtual environment. Organizations can bring their people and content together in visually appealing 3-D virtual spaces. In these spaces, they can talk, send instant messages, view and interact with presentation and media content, record notes, and access the web—all at the same time, from anywhere.
Radish Systems: ChoiceView, by Radish Systems, allows an enterprise to share visual information during a phone call with smart mobile device users, either from an agent or an interactive voice response (IVR) system. ChoiceView is a "Communications-as-a-Service" platform together with endpoint software and Software Developer's Kits (SDKs). With ChoiceView, callers can both hear and see information such as the menu options, instead of listening to long sequential lists. They quickly navigate the phone tree menus by tapping their selection from a ChoiceView visual menu on a smartphone. Choiceview has real potential for both B2B and B2C applications.
The feedback on the Innovation Showcase has been very positive as it brings in some young energy and excitement to this enterprise conference. It was a pleasure and honor to manage the first showcase and I hope it is a tradition that continues and grows. In the event’s statement on the showcase, Fred Knight, Enterprise Connect GM and Co-Chair, said: "Enterprise Connect is delighted to recognize these start-ups, whose products and services address important areas--Cloud based communications, training and collaboration via virtual reality, visual response systems and the integration of document management, and unified communications and collaboration. We are proud to be able to showcase these companies and the energy they bring to the marketplace and industry."