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2022 Best of EC Finalists Revealed, Judges Highlight Speed of Innovation

Each year, the Best of Enterprise Connect Award program not only serves as a moment to celebrate the innovation and advancements in the communications and collaboration space, but it is also a reflection point on where the industry is now and, more importantly, where it's heading.
This year's Best of Enterprise Connect, which will bring back in-person components for the first time in three years, will illustrate two key factors that provide insight into where the communications industry has been going.
First, we’ve seen some products and services become so ubiquitous that we almost take them for granted now. Before the pandemic, video meeting usage was relatively low: a 2019 Lifesize survey found that just 25% of workers aged 18-29 were using video conferencing daily. And it was pretty much unimaginable for a contact center agent to work outside the office. Today, agents are happily (and productively) working from home, and video meetings have become a new norm to the point where there are now emerging hardware categories to accommodate them and the hybrid in-person/video meetings.
The second is the pace at which the enterprise communications and collaboration industry is innovating and reinventing itself, as reflected by this year's finalists. AI has made so many varied office processes, such as scheduling meetings, easier and more efficient, while cloud advancements have made it possible for enterprises to react to ever-evolving workplace challenges without sinking in significant on-premises resources and talent.
So, with this context in mind, here are the finalists for this year’s Best of Enterprise Connect Award program, broken down by category:
Overall Best in Enterprise Connect
  • Amazon Web Services: Recently launched, Automated Chatbot Designed allows AWS customers to design conversational bots using existing transcripts.
  • IntelePeer: Atmosphere Marketplace is a multi-application service that features no-code and low-code tools.
  • Zoom: Zoom Events is an all-in-one platform for creating a range of virtual events.
  • Five9: The company was nominated for a product that’ll be announced in March.
  • RingCentral: The company was nominated for a product that’ll be announced in March.
  • Ujet: The company was nominated for a product that’ll be announced later this month.
Best Innovation in Customer Experience
  • IntelePeer: Atmosphere Marketplace was also nominated for this category.
  • LiveVox: SpeechIQ with Quality Management is a multi-channel interaction analytics platform.
  • 8x8: The company was nominated for a product that’ll be announced in March.
  • Journey: The company was nominated for a product that’ll be announced later this year.
Most Innovative Use of AI
  • Thrio: ThrioRedact is an AI-based data loss prevention capability that finds and redacts personally identifiable information in customer-facing interactions, per this press release.
  • Virsae: VSM Everywhere is a cloud-based dashboard that captures and analyses performance and technical data in work-from-home environments.
Best Innovation for Virtual Meetings
  • BlueJeans by Verizon: BlueJeans Studio is a web-based event production tool that allows hosts to mix video, customize event branding, and add other interactive features to their event.
  • Vonage: The company was nominated for a product that’ll be announced in March.
Best Innovation for Meeting Rooms
  • Zoom: Zoom Events is an all-in-one event platform, which provides with a range of capabilities to host virtual events.
  • DTEN: The company was nominated for a product to be announced in March.
To determine this year’s finalists, Enterprise Connect comprised a judging panel of leading communications and collaboration consultants and analysts, to review products and services based on three categories: technology advancement, innovation, and business impact. This year, the judges are:
  • Robin Gareiss, CEO and principal analyst, Metrigy
  • Robert Harris, president, Communications Advantage
  • Steve Leaden, president and founder, Leaden Associates
  • Elka Popova, VP and senior fellow, Frost & Sullivan
Judges Weigh-in on Trends Among Finalists
Certain themes and trends were a common thread among the finalists, indicating where the communications and collaboration industry is heading and the capabilities that enterprises are looking for to boost communications and collaboration across their organization.
“We saw some really great innovation in several areas of both employee and customer experience technologies this year,” Gareiss told No Jitter. “The finalists generally focus on using technology to improve the quality of customer interactions, or automate functions for IT staffs and employees. Even though they focus on similar high-level goals, their approaches toward achieving them are quite diverse, ranging from application development to analytics to integrations to automation.”
One area that has been ripe with innovation and enterprise attention in recent years has been the contact center, as enterprises look for ways to foster brand loyalty and meet customers in the moment that they have a request. Commenting on the business impact on not embracing customer experience, Leaden told No Jitter, " You have to embrace the whole idea of customer experience; it's just ... a requirement for doing business."
To ensure they stay on top of their customer experience, many enterprises are leveraging cloud-based platforms and a range of AI-based capabilities, from conversational AI chatbots to customer sentiment analysis, that are either baked into their cloud service or available by third-party integration. During the pandemic, we saw a clear trend towards moving from on-prem to cloud-based solutions, as contact center agents shifted their working style. They are now facing a common future-of-work question: whether they’ll be working in an office, remotely, or in a hybrid fashion moving forward. (See related: Future of Work: Considering the Contact Center)
While some of the Best of Enterprise Connect finalists highlight the innovation that is happening in the contact center, a bigger trend is forming: The communications and collaboration industry itself is undergoing an evolution, one that was underway before the pandemic but accelerated by it.
"I think the collaboration space in general is getting smarter," Leaden said, sharing that he thinks we are entering the "next-gen” in this space. Similarly, Gareiss said, “The pace of innovation is definitely accelerating, and I think there will be a lot of buzz this year around the way these new offerings raise the value of technology.”
To learn which company will take home the gold, tune in to the “Best of Enterprise Connect Awards” announcement at Enterprise Connect, where the winning company and product will be announced. The announcement will be made on the second day of the event (March 22, 2022), just ahead of the Microsoft, Cisco, and Amazon Web Service keynotes. We hope that you’ll join us for four days of networking, education, and insight, whether that’ll be in-person or virtually. No Jitter readers can also take $200 off your full registration by using promo code NJNews22. Register today!