New Era at Enterprise Connect 2013

What a week! Enterprise Connect 2013 was a milestone event, for sure! Here are some highlights:

The PBX Era Is Officially Over: All three of the Enterprise IT/Communications executives in Tuesday's opening session on "New Models for Enterprise Communications" were not going to buy another PBX. One was already moving to cloud-based services; the other two were investing in UC Systems. All three still think voice is important, but it's not the determining factor.

UC Systems Are the New Platforms: In session after session and in the hallway conversations, there was agreement that the UC systems and solutions, including the desktop and mobile device software clients, are mature and are the new path forward for Enterprise Communications. We really saw that in the results of the RFP: UC Without Buying a New PBX, on Wednesday. Seven leading vendors representing about 2/3 of all shipments last year showed that their UC solutions can score in the high 80th percentile against a demanding industry RFP, thus qualifying them for purchase to match specific Enterprise use cases.

Video Emphasis: Certainly, video is being pushed as the new voice. This just underscores the transition from PBXs to UC Systems, since all of the UC systems have very capable video clients for PCs, Macs, Tablets and Smartphones. With video growing on the desktop, there's a scramble for interoperation with the video room systems, but the UC Interoperability session on Tuesday showed that this is readily available, both directly between vendor systems and through the growing number of cloud-based video interoperation services (think Vidtel, BlueJeans, and Vidyo, among others).

Mobility and Mobile Devices: The mobility sessions were full again this year. In part, the interest is in Mobile Device Management (MDM) for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) demands on the enterprise IT team. However, there is also an emerging theme that the mobile device (laptops, tablets, smartphones) is the preferred endpoint and is rapidly pushing the desk telephone out of the picture, since the big story is really the applications that run on the mobile devices (but don't run on proprietary phones).

E-mail, IM, Docs and Workspaces Still Dominate User Interfaces: This was the moose on the table. With Microsoft, IBM and Google as the leaders in user productivity software (e-mail, IM, documents and workspaces), all the other vendors were scrambling to show how they could integrate with those tools. The Cisco collaboration demo in their excellent keynote even started the collaboration from a WebEx plug-in to Outlook. The message is pretty clear that all of these non-real-time tools must be included in the communications solutions picture.

WebRTC: Monday's conference-in-a-conference on WebRTC was packed! It may be too soon to tell if this new tool set will lead to an explosion of new applications or just to a transference of UC clients to the browsers of the world, but all agree that WebRTC likely signals disruptive change. Personally, I'm hoping for an explosion of innovation--the enterprises and the industry could sure use it!

Applications and Application Tools are Emerging: As a direct result of all that is listed above, the new energy in the industry comes from applications. Applications were visible in the Keynotes, in many of the Expo booths, from the many Systems integrators who were at EC13 this year, and in several important workshop sessions. The CEBP session on Tuesday afternoon highlighted from 2 to 4 fascinating real, actual named customer applications each from Cisco, Microsoft, NEC and Siemens. As telephony line shipments flatten out (plenty of market share reports show this), the growth should and needs to come from applications that solve new business problems.

Biggest Expo Floor in Memory: Wall-to-wall with traditional vendors (with new themes), system integrators, cloud solution providers, gateways, video, specialty devices, and carriers. Wow!

So, what does all this mean? We'll write more about this, but in a word, it means, "Change!"

Enterprise Connect Orlando 2013 was an inflection point in the industry and from now on you will find that the world is changing faster than ever in:

* What you will buy and how you will buy it
* How communication tools will be used in your enterprise operations
* How you manage your career

Stay tuned here for more about how you can succeed in all three of those dimensions at once. Welcome to the new world of enterprise communications!