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3 Top UC Trends Highlighted With 2021 Best of EC Finalists
The finalists for our annual Best in Enterprise Connect award offer a glimpse into the future of communications and, in the era of hybrid teams, into the future of work as well. Based on this year’s crop, the words that characterize that future seem to be: intelligent, secure, and virtual.
We started the awards several years ago to recognize the accelerating pace of innovation in enterprise communications/collaboration, and this year’s program is the first one to take place entirely within the COVID era. (Our 2020 process launched in late 2019.) So, it was inevitable that this year’s entrants would all be responding, in one way or another, to the altered reality that the pandemic has presented to enterprises.
Here’s how those key concepts find expression in the products our judges shortlisted as finalists (you can see the complete list here):
1. Intelligent — This one wouldn’t have been hard to predict. AI continues to be one of the hottest topics in our industry, and technology providers are competing furiously to enhance their products (and, of course, their marketing) with AI and its related technologies. One of our four sub-categories in which we’ll present awards was “Best Application of AI,” and the finalists here apply AI in a variety of innovative ways.
Not surprisingly, several target the contact center: Five9 reached the finals for both Overall and best use of AI, for a virtual agent platform; VoiceInteraction made the Best Application of AI finals for an “AI-driven insight-gathering application that receives, automatically transcribes, and analyzes every customer interaction.” Uniphore also made the finals in the AI category for a product suite that “uses a unique voiceprint to authenticate agents,” and “protects sensitive customer data.” Which brings us to…
2. Secure — Security is always a hot topic, and it’s increasingly turning up in the innovations represented in Best of Enterprise Connect; our 2020 Overall winner, Journey, is a security product.
This year, security manifested itself as a value in different ways among our finalists. The aforementioned Uniphore product not only addresses a long-standing security concern—protecting sensitive customer data—but its agent-authentication aspect clearly seems built for the pandemic era of remote agents, and the new set of security concerns this new world has presented.
Other finalists seek to solve different security challenges. TSG Global, which made the Overall award shortlist, uses blockchain to secure IoT devices. Similarly, Wahsega made the finals in the “Best Innovation for the Post-Covid Workspace” category with an IoT-related product that aims at physical security: a “mass notification and safety IoT platform designed to protect people and buildings.”
3. Virtual — The pandemic forced most enterprises to adopt a virtual way of working and interacting with their customers. Some of the ways this comes out in Best of Enterprise Connect include:
- A telehealth solution from BlueJeans by Verizon (shortlisted for Overall and Post-COVID Workspace)
- An interoperation solution from Mio that connects different collaboration platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Webex, and Zoom, for the multi-vendor enterprise (Overall finalist)
- A virtual events platform from Zoom (Best Innovation for Virtual Meetings finalist)
- A product from Slack that enables users to create short voice, video, or screen recordings that can be shared in Slack channels, promoting asynchronous communications (finalist for Post-COVID Workspace).
- An immersive meeting solution from X2O Media (finalist for Post-COVID Workspace)
In addition to intelligence, security, and virtual, there are other common threads. Finalists addressed the return-to-office and the need for a new generation of end devices: Poly is shortlisted for “Best Innovation for Virtual Meetings” for a new intelligent camera (also showing the pervasiveness of intelligence in product innovation); Crestron made the finals in Post-COVID Workspace for a line of desk phones (yes, desk phones) optimized for Microsoft Teams; and a touch-screen monitor from Newline Interactive, aimed at desktop collaboration, is a finalist for post-COVID Workspace as well.
I want to congratulate all of the finalists, especially those competing for the Overall Best in Enterprise Connect award:
- BlueJeans by Verizon
- TSG Global
I’d also like to thank our judges:
- Elizabeth English, principal and consultant, EE and Associates, LLC
- Irwin Lazar, president and principal analyst, Metrigy
- Dave Michels, principal analyst and founder, TalkingPointz
- Blair Pleasant, president & principal analyst, COMMfusion LLC, co-founder, BCStrategies
The awards will be presented from the main stage at Enterprise Connect 2021 in Orlando on Sept. 28. I hope you can be there with us to see who takes home the top recognition!