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What I'm Looking for at Enterprise Connect
One of the ways I try to prepare myself for Enterprise Connect each year is by stepping back and coming up with a list of questions that I hope the show will, if not answer definitively, at least offer some insight on. Here's some of what I'll be keeping my eye out for when the show opens this morning.
The Role of Software
This is a big, somewhat amorphous topic; obviously there's been software running on communications systems forever. But the last few years have made it clear that the dynamics and cost factors of software are in the process of overtaking an industry in which hardware had been the dominant influence. We're trying a few things at Enterprise Connect this year to help enterprise communications decision-makers deal with the changes that software dominance brings. The popularity of these topics will be a clue to me as to how fast the transition is actually happening within enterprises.
Specifically, we've created an entire track on communications software architectures, and we've baked software issues into several other tracks. The aim is to explore some key aspects of the transition, including: integration with business applications; pricing and licensing issues; patching and version control; interoperability; and the role of outside experts -- to name just a few. We're also examining how the legacy platform vendors are trying to be more software-centric, and how new companies are using software architectures to challenge them.
The Role of Google
For the first time ever, a Google executive will be delivering a keynote at Enterprise Connect. I'm very keen to hear what Adam Swidler, Google for Work technology evangelist, has to say about the company's strategic directions for enterprise communications; Adam will also be taking a seat on today's UC Summit, which will give representatives from the likes of Cisco, Microsoft, and Avaya the chance to join moderators Fred Knight and UCStrategies consultant Jim Burton, president of CT Link, in putting Google's enterprise plans through their paces.
The Role of Lync/Skype for Business
Microsoft Lync remains the single hottest topic in enterprise communications, and we see no indication of this slowing down. So to me the big questions center on what's really happening in enterprises: Is Lync voice adoption continuing to grow? How is the Cisco/Microsoft dichotomy playing out in enterprise IT/communications shops? What are the trends in TCO? And finally, what do enterprise folks think about the Skype for Business rebrand? Most rebrands really don't matter at all to customers, but this could be an exception -- are enterprise decision-makers expecting Lync to be an easier sell to end users when it's named Skype? Or do they expect to encounter a set of expectations in which enterprise users perceive the product as more consumer-grade, less enterprise-ready? We'll find out soon enough -- Zig Serafin, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Skype Business Services Group, says in a Facebook video that he'll be officially announcing Skype for Business during his Enterprise Connect keynote on Wednesday morning.
The Importance of Contact Centers
Our track on contact centers/customer engagement has seen steady growth in the last few years -- not surprising, since this has always been the area where the cutting-edge trends tend to come to fruition first (sometimes, as with computer-telephony integration, it's the only place they really develop). The technology here is incredibly exciting, blending multichannel/multimedia communications with big data/analytics-style capabilities that promise real returns on investment and new ways of engaging with your customers. "Customer journey" is still a buzz phrase, but this is an area where video, mobility, agent experience, and WebRTC all are important trends.
Speaking of WebRTC...
For the third year in a row, we're running a daylong WebRTC Conference-in-a-Conference. This program has drawn incredible crowds the last two years, so I'll obviously be watching to see if we have the same response again this year. On the one hand, lots of experts are predicting that 2015 will be the Year of WebRTC, but those of us who have been around a long time are always skeptical about those "Year of..." predictions. Still, WebRTC seems poised to go mainstream -- at which point, does it take off like a rocket, or just kind of melt into the network, an important but relatively straightforward and routine tool in the toolbox? I'm hoping to get some sense about that likely trajectory during today's mini conference.
So that's just the first few things that come to mind. It's going to be a great week, full of learning, discussion, debates, demos... the works. I hope you're here with us in Orlando, but if not, please watch No Jitter for all the updates from the event.
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