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The AI-Free View from Enterprise Connect 2024


Picture of young business professional on phone call
Image: Bojan -

Attendees of Enterprise Connect 2024 were “Absolutely Inundated” (AI) with announcements, discussions and demonstrations ab out Artificial Intelligence. I, for one, have a bit of AI fatigue. I wanted to highlight three non-ai related announcements that I found really interesting. 

Microsoft Teams Calling Announces 99.999% Reliability

One of the most important reliability standards in the telephony world for decades has been 99.999% reliability. This guarantee means that a telephony solution will not have more than 6 minutes of down time per year. Most UCaas and CCaaS providers pride themselves in having this high availability commitment. Not only have they based their service level agreements around this standard, but it has also been their selling point against Microsoft, the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Until this announcement, Microsoft would only guarantee 99.9% reliability. 

According to the announcement, beginning April 1, 2024, Teams Phone service promised 99.999% uptime, and Microsoft is offering a financially backed SLA that covers Microsoft Teams Calling Plans, Teams Phone and PSTN audio conferencing. Microsoft Teams has had several notable outages over the last few years that have called into question its reliability, so this announcement shows a new dedication to quality from Microsoft which is really refreshing. They are putting their money where their mouth is, and I hope they can gain the confidence of their customers by making this move. 

Ironically, when I asked other EC attendees about the announcement, most were very skeptical. Many said they would believe it when they saw it and yet others thought it might be a cruel April’s fool’s joke. Honestly, I think that this is a bold step from Microsoft to showing their customers that they care about voice services and the understand the pain these outages have caused.

Zoom and Avaya Announce a Strategic Partnership

Avaya selected Zoom Workplace — Zoom’s AI-powered collaboration platform that will include meetings, team chat, scheduler, whiteboard, spaces, and more — to integrate with Avaya’s Communication & Collaboration Suite, providing customers with a new, streamlined way to manage their communications environments and workflows.

This is interesting because this partnership helps Avaya users to protect their investment while gaining access to Zoom’s innovative collaboration solutions. Avaya users can integration their existing telephony environment with Zoom Workplace. This allows Avaya users to have access to all of the Zoom features (including meetings, chat, screen sharing, white boarding, etc) with minimal or no disruption to their current functionality. Another reason this is important is that there is recognition that Avaya is still considered a major player in this space and by forming this relationship, their clients have a recognized innovation partner to work with. Although pricing has not yet been announced, the solutions should be available worldwide in a few months.

Webex Announces “Light” Agent

Webex announced the introduction of a customer Experience Basic Agent. They call this the CX Essentials agent. This feature allows for real-time queue viewing, and screens pops on inbound calls. 

I love this idea. As an independent consultant, I have many clients that have small contact centers. The agents may have many responsibilities outside of the contact center. I find that many end users have staff that are not 100% dedicated to CX calls. Many may serve as back up agents, field interoffice communications or also have in person contact with customers. Having a more casual (for lack of a better term) contact center without all the heavy-duty bells and whistles may be the right fit for a customer that is also cost-efficient.

The thing I like most about this is the notion that UCaas and CCaas can be on the same platform. In the last few years with all of the advancements in CCaas solutions, UCaas has taken a backseat. UCaas has become somewhat of a commodity. I have seen some many end users have a basic UCaas solution and then deploy a separate CCaas solution for their more complex requirements. In my mind, this creates more points of failure, complex trouble shooting and issues resolution. Perhaps, we can actually all get along!

The Customer Experience Essentials agent can still use the Webex App mobile or a desk phone in the same way as a Customer Experience Basic agent. However, some Customer Experience Essentials agent features such as real-time queue view and screen pop on inbound calls are available only in the Webex App desktop client.

AI was definitely the talk of Enterprise Connect 2024. However, there were other announcements that should have gotten some attention as well. Although AI deployment is definitely an exciting emerging technology, it is not the only concern of the end user. Call uptime, partnerships and offerings that serve smaller customers are all equally compelling.