Innovation is Alive
It's imperative to give the next generation more attention--all they have is innovation. More important, they don't have baggage associated with an installed base.
At the upcoming Enterprise Connect, be sure to check out the inaugural Innovation Showcase. It will feature four young companies, each with an innovative communications solution aimed at the enterprise. Innovation is alive and well.
Enterprise Connect is an enterprise communications show, and as a result the show attracts large vendors and customers. There is even a prestigious juried best of show award given each year. And although there is plenty of innovation with this arrangement, there is could be more: young innovative vendors. Many argue the smaller younger vendors have the most innovation. We set out to find some.
Enterprise Connect invited young companies to share how they are delivering innovative communication solutions to enterprise companies; and they did. The response was greater than expected. A panel of judges examined the applications from various angles and disciplines and picked the top four which will be announced at Enterprise Connect on Feb 28. Additionally, there will be an Innovation Showcase in the exhibit hall where these four companies will be on hand to demonstrate and answer additional questions.
To judge the applicants we created a panel of five judges. I tend to look at things from a UC perspective with a critical eye to actual usability. We had three judges representing the enterprise IT angle: Jamie Libow of Travelers, Mike McLaughlin of Books are Fun, and Larry Riba of Brocade. Larry Lisser of Embrase brought experience with startups. The five judges convened multiple times via email and conference calls to select the top four.
These companies will each be given the opportunity to present an "elevator" pitch to a general session audience. Two companies will be presented each day on Tuesday and Wednesday at the 9 AM general session time periods (March 1-2). Each of these companies has products or services available today with existing enterprise customers. They deserve a look.
An interesting observation from the application review process is how diverse communications have become. Not long ago, the solutions would have been limited to traditional voice technologies; interactive voice response, fax, hi-speed modems, dialers, etc. Today, the IP network and general workflows become the communications playground. It provided confirmation of the show's name change from VoiceCon to Enterprise Connect--as none of the applicants were voice-only technologies. Some of the applicant companies don’t associate with voice at all.
The term "enterprise communications" now includes synchronous (voice, IM, video), asynchronous (voice mail, email, fax), collaboration (conferencing, sharing), and development (APIs, SDKs) products and services. Even the word "communications" may not be a reasonable category either. More and more categories just don't work anymore. Voice is becoming data and data is becoming video. Equipment makers offer services and service providers make equipment. Vendors court the CIO, but the general population are making the tech (consumer) decisions.
It is all this change that necessitates the need for the Innovation Showcase at Enterprise Connect. VoiceCon always provided excellent exposure for large and medium sized vendors, but at times of transformational change, it's imperative to give the next generation more attention--all they have is innovation. More importantly, they don't have baggage associated with an installed base. These companies don’t stand a chance with just another version of what's already offered--if it's not innovative they don't stand a chance.
Eligibility for the Innovation Showcase required the applicants already have at least one enterprise customer. The intent was to create a filter of sorts, to ensure both that their product or service was suitable for large organizations and also to separate the bright ideas from actual products and services available today. Conferences such as Enterprise Connect are not typically in the plans or budgets for such young companies, as a result there were no fees to the applicants or winners to apply or exhibit.
This is the inaugural Innovation Showcase. I hope and believe there will be many more--a new tradition for Enterprise Connect.