Enterprise Connect 2014 Recap

As I boarded my flight home from Orlando last Thursday I sifted through all of the great things I saw while at Enterprise Connect as well as the fantastic customer and partner interaction I had. Enterprise Connect continues to grow in its size and scope and is quickly becoming THE show for unified communications and collaboration.

Looking back at all the sessions, keynotes, and vendors there were several key trends that emerged from the show that are worthy of discussion.

Lync Domination
The adoption of Microsoft Lync as a full unified communications solution continues to accelerate. At IVCi’s booth this year there were so many companies looking for guidance on how to integrate Lync into the rest of their technology stack (room video conferencing, mobility, etc). Nearly every conversation we had in the IVCi booth focused, at least, partially on Lync. In Gurdeep Singh Pall’s keynote he revealed that 60% of enterprises have deployed or are planning to deploy Lync. Based upon the interactions at show, this does not seem unrealistic. Beyond the countless deployments, it was clear from the number of solutions on the show floor featuring Lync integration that its presence is ever expanding.

Single Solution, Not So Fast…
Manufacturers have been touting the concept of a single solution for many years. They wanted users to implement their solution across the board and rely on one source for everything, namely because it would lock their users in. However, it was clear that this trend is just not happening. In both my own interactions as well as in numerous panel discussions, the topic of single source came up. Ultimately, organizations are implementing multiple solutions for a myriad of reasons. The end result is a lot of technology that simply does not talk to each other properly. Providers like Acano are looking to be the connection between many of these environments and help to provide a more, pardon the pun, unified solution.

WebRTC…Getting There
This year’s WebRTC conference within a conference was another sell out with standing room attendance for most sessions. More and more vendors are turning to WebRTC to help solve interoperability challenges and to create a single click solution. Many manufacturers are embracing this technology (Unifiy’s Project Ansible is entirely WebRTC) but challenges continue. Browser ubiquity is not there yet, Chrome, Opera and Firefox are supported, but others are not (Internet Explorer, Safari). Even within the browsers supporting the standard we are seeing a bit of a fork in terms of functionality. Chrome now supports two-way content sharing, which is a big development, especially for content centric collaboration sessions. This functionality is not yet available in other WebRTC implementations. WebRTC is making major strides but it has not truly arrived at the level of ubiquity it needs. The next year should be interesting to see how this develops.

It’s All About the Experience
From the keynotes to the show floor; many were speaking less and less about the thechnology and more about the user experience. This is perhaps the most promising trend in the industry as manufacturers are really starting to focus on the user and not whiz-bang features. The proof will be in the pudding, but this is an exciting trend that I certainly hope will continue.

For someone who has worked in the world of collaboration and unified communications for a number of years it is easy to get carried away by the latest cool technology but this year I was just reminded by how “cool” collaboration technology is and how much it has become a part of business.  I look forward to this year’s developments and Enterprise Connect 2015. See you there!

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Enterprise Connect 2013 has come to a close and what an event it was. This was IVCi’s first year attending and exhibiting at the show and it was a fantastic experience that provided many opportunities for us to connect with our current customers as well as future prospects. In addition, the opportunity to see the latest technology and offerings from our partners was great. The event was jam-packed with great sessions, keynotes, exhibitors, attendees and more. Here is an overview of some of the key takeaways and messages from the event.

WebRTC
WebRTC (as previously covered here on Collaboration Insight) is a new browser based protocol that allows for real-time voice and video communication to occur right inside a web browser. WebRTC has gotten to be so big; the conference dedicated an entire track to the topic and every session was full. The reality of WebRTC is that not all browsers currently support it (only Google Chrome and the developer builds of Firefox) but the potential for it is endless.

At the end of the day, WebRTC will enable any browser to be a video client or endpoint on a communications network. In Cisco’s keynote, the example of a shopper on a website was used. They were looking for accessories and information on a his store  purchases. They simply clicked a link and a video session was initiated with an expert back in a video call center. No wait to download a client and no security issues with the install; it simply happened in the browser. When the standard is ratified and included in all browsers, the potential will be limitless! Cisco demoed a Jabber client built entirely in the browser, contact center agents could access their voice services right within the browser and more. It has to the potential to breakdown interoperability issues and extend enterprise collaboration to an organization’s customers.

Unified Communications
Frost and Sullivan presented a session at the conference in which they defined unified communications as “an integrated set of voice, data and video communications applications, all of which leverage PC- and telephony-based presence information.” UC was in full force at the conference with all major players showing their latest innovations. Both Cisco and Microsoft came with their entire vision. Microsoft presented their total solution from mobile devices (Android, iOS, Windows Phone) to tablets (Surface, iPad) to desktops and even room systems. The solution was elegant and worked as advertised. Microsoft has been pitching this vision for a while and it was great to see it fully realized. At the same time, Cisco showcased their Jabber solution which offers interoperability across all platforms and seamlessly integrates voice, video, data sharing, and more.

The key takeaway about UC is that the technology is very real and organizations are definitely implementing or looking to implement it in their current short term roadmap. Voice, video, and everything in between have converged!

The Cloud and Mobility
There was not a session that didn’t include a discussion around how cloud delivery and mobile devices would influence employees and technology. Even sitting in the sessions themselves one could see dozens of attendees taking notes on their iPads, checking email, and ultimately staying connected. The discussion of cloud, however, must be secondary. The user of the technology, how it can impact user productivity must be first. How it is delivered (on-premise, cloud, etc) is a decision that comes after.

Business Case
Perhaps the most exciting trend seen at Enterprise Connect was a focus on making the business case for the technology being presented. Certainly there was a large amount of discussion around the technology itself, the features, etc. But in many of the sessions, the business case for collaboration technology was continually presented. Some of the key messaging was around how these technologies can help move a business forward and help fulfill strategic goals. Additionally, simply deploying technology does not equal success. Organizations must see widespread adoption and employee satisfaction to really judge if the technology implementation was a success.