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Enterprise, Cisco and Avaya Execs Take Center Stage at EC

Software Rules
Kicking off Tuesday morning, Enterprise Connect GM and Co-Chair Fred Knight warmly welcomed a packed room of attendees to the End User Summit with a swig of Guinness and good cheer - a fitting welcome for St. Patty's Day.

In his typical style, Fred offered up a few gems of wisdom to start. First, the newly emerging reality is that software rules. Further, if centralized IT does not adapt to the new reality, it is setting itself up for a fall.

"You don't have to be paranoid to be concerned about cyber attacks - you merely have to be conscious," Fred quipped. We are at a time where computer literacy is low and computer lunacy is high, he said. End users want the flexibility to use the applications and tools they like while enterprise IT is resistant to accept the challenges that come with enabling that flexibility.

Joined on stage by five panelists from companies including Marriott International, USAA, and YMCA, much of the discussion focused on the question of whether cloud and newer technologies are replacing traditional enterprise communications architectures. As Bob Galovic, VP of IT Delivery Network Services for Marriott, said, "Our whole IT world is going to the cloud." If that's any indication of the direction we are going, it would appear the answer to the question is, "Yes!" Time will tell.

Living on the Edge with Cisco
Here's one of my favorite quotes from Tuesday's morning keynote by Cisco's Rowan Trollope: "If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space." This really seems to embody the approach Rowan has taken since taking the helm of the company's Collaboration Technology Group as VP and GM a little over two years ago.

Rowan's keynote was chock-full of announcements, updates, and demos - almost too much to fit into a 30-minute presentation. Cisco WebEx use is up 25% year over year, the number of telepresence units sold is up 60%, and total revenue for the collaboration business is up 10%, he said. He breezed through announcements of Cisco's new Context service, which leverages the cloud to deliver omnichannel capabilities, while showing off Cisco's new MX800 dual-screen telepresence system, which he believes will transform the way meetings are done. To better support all that increased video Cisco is expecting, it has updated its infrastructure to increase scalability by up to 500%, he added.

During the keynote Rowan also officially released Cisco's collaboration app - debuted as Project Squared back in November 2014 but now called Cisco Spark.

He focused mostly on the company's concept of "making collaboration simple," which he says is done by delivering a technology that users love. He gave a great deal of attention to user experience, with Rowan giving out his personal email to emphasize how important it is to the company to gain user feedback - because as he said, "it's feedback from all the people like you that have really helped us figure out where we're going."

Avaya: The Clock Is Ticking
Gary Barnett, Avaya's SVP and GM for Engagement Solutions, started his keynote presentation with the sound of a clock. "Can you hear the clock ticking?" he asked. He noted that today's businesses are in crisis, whether they know it or not. Noting that for many businesses, the crisis is meeting customer expectations, and the enterprise is in a race to keep up.

Barnett focused his keynote on the importance of engaging with customers. The big announcement came when Google exec Murali Sitaram joined him on stage to discuss the expansion of its partnership to a service, Customer Engagement OnAvaya Powered by the Google Cloud Platform. This enables the full contact center to be up in the Google cloud, and through Avaya distribution, Chromebooks will be delivered that come with everything administrators, agents, and supervisors need to open the box and simply use it. It doesn't get much easier than that.

Gary predicted a number of things moving forward. First, video will be the new standard and we will see it everywhere, embedded into virtually every application. There will be no more hard-coded apps, as we see a shift to a focus on development platforms. This means platforms will need to be able to support extensive and rapid development, and deployment will need to happen at the "speed of need." Finally, convergence-enabled engagement will be everywhere, Gary concluded. With its Google partnership, Avaya is on pace to meet the reality of these predictions.

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