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Enterprise Connect 2015: Change, Disruptive Change

From the keynote stage to the show floor, change was in the air at this year's annual enterprise communications extravaganza.

What a great week we had in Orlando! The 25th edition of Enterprise Connect, held March 16-19, celebrated a quarter-century of amazing progress, with the main stage over the years often witnessing the arrival of everything from VoIP to software-based communications, new architectures, new industry leaders, and the cloud.

Even more, this year's conference clearly pointed the way to an amazing future. The show floor seemed to be twice as big as ever with dozens of new solutions and ideas and all varieties of delivery options. And the keynotes and the breakout sessions were even more compelling.

Thought Leaders Herald Industry Change
On the theme of change, all four of the keynotes emphasized the accelerating pace of change. Cisco's Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager, Collaboration Technology Group, told us that 40% of the Fortune 500 companies would no longer be on that list in five years' time. Avaya's Gary Barnett, senior vice president and general manager, Engagement Solutions, reminded us that the average time a company spends on the S&P 500 is down to just 15 years from a 65-year term in the early 1900s. Google's Adam Swidler, technology evangelist, Google for Work, emphasized the pace of change in the way that organizations work and succeed.

Zig Serafin at EC 2015

Microsoft's Zig Serafin, corporate vice president, Skype Business Services, didn't tell us what was going to happen, he just showed us what is already happening by presenting facts about the adoption rates of Skype and Lync (now Skype for Business). For example, he said that Skype now carries 50 billion (with a "b") minutes of voice and video traffic per month! And, he went on to announce that Office 365 will have a comprehensive set of Skype for Business enterprise telephony features as well as PSTN connectivity later this year (read related post, "Skype for Business Gets Real."

Tools Tell the Tale
Also, on the theme of change, not a single traditional desk phone – you know, black, handset, dial pad -- was shown in any one of the keynotes. The communications future seems to be software on devices.

Change was visible in the tools being rolled out as the "new" way of doing communications, too (read related story, "Any-Time Communications Emerges at EC 2015"). We'd already seen this from Unify, which had released its Circuit product as the "new way to work" for collaborative teams. Then at EC '15, Cisco moved its beta Project Squared into release status as Cisco Spark, with a cloud-based freemium model. And, Interactive Intelligence announced the release of its new PureCloud Collaborate collaborative workspace user experience, which is an unlimited free service. PureCloud Communicate, which includes sophisticated telephony functions, will follow next quarter. This seems to put Interactive Intelligence out in front with the first of this type of collaborative work application to include full telephony capability.

Change, and Then Some
Yet the word "change" alone isn't bold enough for what we saw at EC '15, because what we really saw was disruptive change. The symbols for this disruption came from two directions -- WebRTC and the cloud.

On the WebRTC theme, in a Monday morning session titled, "The Business Value of WebRTC," Brent Kelly, president of KelCor, showed a summary of a thorough WebRTC market review. The report shows 745 instances of WebRTC capabilities in the market right now. Wow! Of these, 281 companies offer complete packaged products; the other 464 providers are in 17 categories of "Development Solutions, Platforms, Tools, and Code." If you don't see this as the seeds of disruption, I'd recommend you add disruptive innovation to your reading list.

As to the cloud, clearly innovation is now going to happen in the cloud first, with hybrid options when needed. Many cloud options are already listed above, and cloud opportunities were all the buzz in the show. We even heard some interesting examples of cloud adoption from the enterprise IT leaders who spoke up in the conference's Locknote/Town Hall closing session. Cloud options are here to stay, and enterprise organizations will use them for new projects as an alternative to on-premises solutions and as a platform for even more innovation.

So, change, disruptive change, is my summary of Enterprise Connect 2015. What a show!

Finally, let's take note that Fred Knight, the outstanding co-chair and general manager of Enterprise Connect who has been a key part of this major event since the outset, is moving to a new role in the UBM organization. This was his last year leading the EC charge. Thank you, Fred, for all that you have provided for us over all these years! We wish you great continued success and look forward to seeing you with all of us at EC 2016!