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With the conference program having kicked off this morning and the Expo floor now officially open for business, Enterprise Connect 2019 is in full swing – and already a few big questions and themes have bubbled up that will no doubt keep percolating throughout the week. One of them took center stage in our opening day general sessions: Where are we headed with all this talk of communications APIs and open development platforms for communications?
Industry executives who participated in our first general session today batted around the topic in a discussion about which model would prevail: communications-first applications that integrate business and productivity capabilities, or business applications that integrate communications and collaboration as commoditized features and functions. This has become a perennial question, once reflecting a pipedream of a concept and now, increasingly, a business decision.
Particularly spurred by the team-oriented, workspace-centric collaborative hubs such as Cisco Webex Teams, Microsoft Teams, RingCentral Glip, Slack, and so many others, business and productivity capabilities are becoming common fixtures with communications and collaboration applications. On the flip side, depending on use case, embedding communications into a business application – think Salesforce -- has become equally as appealing -- a commoditization, if you will, that doesn’t always sit so well with folks that have built their careers around the communications stack.
But, as we heard from industry leaders participating in our kickoff general session, focused on exploring the way forward in communications and collaboration, communications as a standalone category is here to stay. After all, communications -- particularly voice -- is the single application that spans the corporation, as we discussed during the session. Regardless, panelists agreed, whichever way ends up dominating – if such an end state is ever possible – shouldn’t matter. What’s important is that a decision, whatever it might be, is made with the goal of better serving the business.
This “API-zation” thread continued in the second general session of the day, but this time we tackled the topic with enterprise IT professionals and from an organizational perspective. With communications essentially available as digestible chunks of code, what changes does that bring upon traditional IT structures? Certainly, the need to deliver and support real-time communications (the traditional stuff) doesn’t disappear. But being able to leverage communications APIs and bring the company forward digitally is becoming a requisite skill set, too.
As CIO at Lazard, an asset management firm, Carmine Lizza is seeing his organization through such a communications rethink; and our other panelists -- Darryl Jackman, a business automation developer at Marine Rescue Technologies, and Benn Wolfe, team lead for communications technology at Quicken Loans -- are helping to foster and expand a developer-oriented mindset at their companies, too. The consensus among them: Such efforts are well worth it for the agility they allow.
The discussion around programmable communications continued this afternoon, in our breakout session spotlighting winners of our third-annual TADhack-mini, which took place this past weekend. Sponsors for this year’s event were Flowroute, a West company; Apidaze by VoIP Innovations; and TeleSign. Each sponsor awarded prizes for developer teams that created a variety of communications-fueled applications that spanned use cases in healthcare, emergency services, tourism and travel, and dating/connecting socially with others. These winning apps used communications APIs to solve a variety of real-world problems like bringing efficiency to hospital room and patient management and getting real-time translations via SMS when communicating abroad.