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4 Key Themes, Takeaways from Enterprise Connect 2021


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At Enterprise Connect last week, enterprise IT professionals and technology vendors gathered virtually to discuss the issues impacting the industry, all with an eye on what's coming down the pike for communications and collaboration in the year ahead.
Like in years past, the important topics and trends of the day became a through line of the event, this year ranging from discussions on enabling hybrid work to unifying on a single communications platform. Below are four top themes and takeaways from Enterprise Connect that touch on these trends and others:
1. The voice renaissance continues — “Voice is really back,” Phil Edholm, president and founder of PKE Consulting, said during the locknote session. Not only did discussions of asynchronous voice tools like Slack Huddle take place in conference sessions, but voice got the nod during at least one keynote, too. During her keynote address, Nicole Herskowitz, GM of Microsoft Teams, focused heavily on voice services, sharing details on the newly released Operator Connect service and updates to Teams Phone. While video meetings are great tools for knowledge workers to collaborate, voice “has so many other applications,” and it can fit the needs of all kinds of workers, Edholm said.
2. Hybrid work is here, but it’s not a fit for all users — While approaches may vary, enterprise IT professionals speaking at Enterprise Connect indicated that their organizations have embraced a hybrid model of working for the future. "For most of [our] company, we remain, we are, we will be a hybrid company,” Gary LaSasso, director of collaboration experiences and technologies for biopharmaceutical company Amicus Therapeutics, said during the Enterprise Summit. While many employees can work effectively from home, some will never be able to —shipping “a half-million-dollar microscope” to researchers so they can work from home simply isn’t feasible, he said.
Similarly, paver makers at concrete company Oldcastle APG can’t do their jobs from home, Craig Terranova, director of infrastructure and operations at Oldcastle, said during the Enterprise Summit. While Oldcastle is adapting a hybrid work model, Terranova said he appreciates and encourages the importance of in-person collaboration. “If it's going to make the meeting better, let’s get into a room, let’s whiteboard, let’s talk it through,” he said.
3. A unified comms platform is easier said than done — The conversation around adopting a single communications platform was hotter than ever this year. However, not everyone is convinced that a unified UCaaS, CCaaS — and even CPaaS — platform is a great or workable idea. While an all-encompassing platform sounds good on paper, some employees might need specialized applications that can't be integrated, Ted Stodolka, VP and chief care officer for greeting card company Hallmark, said during the Enterprise Summit. For instance, large contact centers often have specific data needs that might take them outside a platform, Stodolka explained.
4. Empowering all users, not just the knowledge worker — Knowledge workers, while so often the beneficiaries of the latest in communications and collaboration, aren’t the only employees in need of good tools. As Edholm noted in speaking of frontline workers, “75% of workers aren’t like us.” — yet they can do their jobs much better when they have access to UC tools like Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex. With applications like workforce engagement management (WEM), for example, contact center agents can realize a more positive experience, too, Robin Gareiss, CEO and principal analyst at Metrigy, shared in a session on the topic. WEM can improve the agent experience through the use of surveys, interactive agent training, gamification, and more, she explained.
With Enterprise Connect 2021 officially in the books, attention now turns to the 2022 hybrid event, which will take place March 21 – 24, at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, Fla., and online. With the next edition of Enterprise Connect just five months away, it’s safe to assume many of these topics will take some form on the program. But what will differ, outside of the event having a physical component again, is where IT decision makers will be in their future-of-work journey — and what type of new decisions they’ll encounter along the way.