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Wow! Reflections on Enterprise Connect 2019: Page 2 of 2
3. Contact centers were a big, big deal at EC19, with the highest count of exhibitors associated with this category. The top points of emphasis were 1) moving to the cloud for flexibility, 2) expanding to multichannel capabilities, which would then 3) expand the ability to provide optimal customer experiences (CX). Clearly, the existing vendors and the many disruptive entrants, such as AWS with Amazon Connect and Twilio with Twilio Flex, believe there’s a lot of money to be made in this area now and in the near future.
4. CPaaS was a very present, yet sub-surface trend. The leading CPaaS providers, such as Twilio and Vonage Nexmo, are growing amazingly quickly and have hundreds of successful customer cases. Yet much of this success is embedded in business applications or workflows rather than marketed as product. Vendors collectively claim to have millions of developers signed up with the their platforms, so the future of enterprise communications may be much more customized and differentiated and economical than may be imagined. CPaaS is not to be underestimated.
5. Rock-solid, competitive traditional telephony still has a presence. For sure, Mitel and Avaya were quite present on the Expo floor and on panels. There are plenty of customers that still value their incumbent vendors or that want the control and security of on-premises communications platforms.
6. Discussion of user acceptance and technology adoption were threaded throughout EC19, both in specific sessions such as Blair Pleasant’s “User Adoption Success Stories and Best Practices” session and in no-charge offerings introduced by some vendors. An example of the latter is Microsoft’s Teams migration programs, to assist the enterprise in supporting both IT and the users in all phases of a rollout.
At the same time, the show raised many questions about the future for communications in the enterprise.
7. AI and ML are definitely in a hype cycle. Vendors are making fantastic claims, yet offer little yet to show as proof of the value. It may even be that AI/ML will be delivered into enterprise communications by the companies that have already mastered big-data analytics. Almost all of the contact center companies have linkages to AI and ML engines operated as cloud services by the big data or advertising or cloud platform companies such as IBM Watson, Google AI, AWS, or Microsoft Azure.
8. CX and even “employee experience” were big buzz phrases at the event. The challenge, however, is that most enterprises are already driving their CX through their marketing departments using sophisticated data analysis based on CRM and ERP systems and primarily using Web, mobile app, email, and chat interactions. Uncertain is whether the contact center vendors or even the UC&C vendors will be able to develop large and rich enough data sets to enable them to be CX drivers rather than simply valuable channels in the overall enterprise CX strategy.
9. Digital transformation was also thrown around, with the conversion to digital media such as VoIP, video, and IP endpoints continuing to define this major trend. However, digital transformation is much more than that, with transformations as radical as Amazon shopping, Uber transportation, Airbnb lodging, Apple Pay, and so much more being the types of digital transformations that keep CEOs awake at night.
10. Mobile communications is top of mind for many attendees, with Michael Finneran’s Thursday morning session “What You’ll Wish You Knew About 5G” standing room only. But otherwise, real mobile solutions were most notable by their absence from the Enterprise Connect conversations. Sure, the UC&C vendors continue to make software clients or apps to run on mobile devices, but there was very little attention to the ability of the native mobile device infrastructure to do all that’s needed by a huge percentage of the workforce without any UC&C software. Will iPhone users prefer to start up their Cisco Webex or Microsoft Teams apps or simply jump into FaceTime calls? Do users still care if a customer sees their mobile numbers when texting them, or is the enterprise direct-inward-dial number and the UC&C system that manages that number just a thing of the past for mobile workers?
In summary, Enterprise Connect 2019 was the best-ever in my 35 years’ experience in the industry. The pace of innovation seems never to have been greater, the number of participating vendors was at a record level, and the customer interest was maxing out the space. The visions and the future potential are very exciting, producing a great “wow” factor. Yet, the scope of change knows few boundaries, so all who participated will need be careful not to drink too much of the hype-cycle Kool Aid and rather to make their investments skillfully with lots of attention to the disruptive factors from adjacent market spaces.
It should be be totally exciting to come to Enterprise Connect 2020 -- the week of March 30, 2020, in Orlando -- to see how these amazing journeys have unfolded over the year.
BCStrategies is an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.