What Did we Learn from Enterprise Connect 2019?
We review this year's Enterprise Connect event, summarise all the big news and analyse the main trends
As one of the biggest events on the unified communications and collaboration calendar Enterprise Connect never fails to catch the imagination. The 2019 conference concluded this week, so we take stock to review the biggest news stories, check who took the awards and analyse the emerging trends.
Well, as always there was quite a bit of event related news and announcements. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest stories.
There is only one place to start really and that was at the Poly booth. Poly was unveiled as the new identity of the combined Plantronics Polycom businesses on Monday and the news stole the show. The unveiling process was not understated, as one of the largest booths in the expo hall, engulfed in the new Poly branding, was unmasked once some large digital signage reached the conclusion of it’s countdown. Canvassing opinion of those in attendance yielded generally positive analysis, general consensus was that it was a bold move to leave the old brands behind and by the end of the week Poly seemed to be part of the furniture.
LogMeIn also joined in with the branding news by launching GoTo and GoToConnect as part of their new UCC brand. There had been some query, within the industry, as to what their plans were for Jive, since acquiring the business last year, but now that all seems clear. GoTo will be their new Unified Communications & Collaboration suite of solutions, including Jive. Alongside their flagship meeting and webinar solutions, GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar, the new product portfolio will feature the company’s first ever, truly integrated UCC solution, GoToConnect, as well as their new out of the box conference room solution, GoToRoom.
Collaboration innovation was high on the agenda. The three market leaders; Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex Teams and Slack were front and centre at this year’s show and all three bought a host of updates. Microsoft announced eight new features for Teams included custom backgrounds, private channels and, the warmly received, whiteboard meeting optimisation feature. Cisco’s focus was on the cognitive, bringing additional context to their meeting solutions with artificial intelligence tech offering facial recognition, framing and additional meeting simplicity features with Webex Assistant, there was also the promise of much more to come. Slack launched Enterprise Key Management, an additional security feature where customers manage and apply message encryption keys, so all of the key players bought something to the table.
There were also some hot new industry partnerships announced. Zoom upped their UC game by allowing integration between Zoom Phone, their cloud PBX, and contact centre products from Five9 and Twilio. Three of the most rapidly growing tech businesses around, the partnerships might prove seriously disruptive.
We also saw various vendors announce closer links with Google. The behemoth of the tech world is offering vendors the chance to leverage its artificial intelligence engines to enhance their own offerings. Both 8×8 and Avaya announced that they are strengthening ties and deepening integration, with Google, to that end. With AI in mind Talkdesk launched their own Workforce Management platform which they promise, with the help of their Talkdesk iQ AI enhancements, will outperform the existing market players with its microservices modern cloud native architecture. We also saw, first hand, Masergy’s new AI-driven Intelligent Virtual Agent which unites its UCaaS and CCaaS solutions with chatbot and smart queuing functionality.
2019’s EC also bought a host of other announcements. BlueJeans, with their partner Dolby, will be launching the first cloud service to connect desktops, mobile devices, and room systems in one video meeting, BlueJeans Rooms-as-a-Service, featuring Dolby Voice Room. Poly also didn’t stop with the branding as they announced a host of new products and probably most interestingly the first set of IP phones certified for Google Voice, the VVX 250, 350 and 450 OBi Edition, a sign of things to come? Konftel gave us sneak preview of their new K800 conference phone that will be launching later this year, the device offers daisy chain capabilities and some impressive audio stats.
Who took the awards?
The organisers of this year’s show compiled an esteemed panel of industry analysts and experts to crown winners in various categories across the event’s focus areas.
The grand prize is the Best of Enterprise Connect Overall Award and for the second consecutive year Microsoft took the crown, this year for their focus on Microsoft Teams and its specific development focus for frontline workers. They beat off stiff competition in the top category, with Cisco, Poly, Mio and others also reaching the final.
Industry theme favourite, AI, has its own category and best innovation in that sector was shared by AWS and Optanix as they took the Best Application of AI Winners. You couldn’t escape Poly at the event as they took home the Best Communications/Collaboration Device Award for their Polycom Studio, which was justified as there seemed to be one in nearly every booth across the show. Newcomers Mio had a memorable event as they claimed the Best Innovation for Collaboration Award. Their software appears to remedy an age old industry problem by linking together team chat apps Slack, Webex Teams and Microsoft Teams. The final winners were two giants of the show as Microsoft and AWS shared the award for Best Upgrade to an Existing Product, for Amazon Connect and Teams respectively.
What were the big trends?
Contact Centre environments are providing the leading platforms for technological innovation
People realise that artificial intelligence relies completely on data sources and nowhere provides better sources of data that contact centres, especially those based in the cloud. Traditionally these data hubs might have been concealed internally but now they can be leveraged in the cloud their data mines can open doors to previously unconsidered potential. The most interesting innovations discussed at the event tended to be put forward by vendors in the CCaaS space. Companies like Five9, Talkdesk, 8×8 and RingCentral are all pushing themselves to be one step ahead and this competition is leading to next generation development of technologies such as natural language processing, speech and sentiment analytics but then talking it further with prediction and forecasting capabilities. Advances we see in the CCaaS space will proliferate down into UCaaS and collaboration tools in time.
Interoperability may finally be gaining real traction
In almost all of the keynote speeches from the likes of Microsoft, Google, Cisco and Amazon interoperability was mentioned. We know there has been much promised for a long time, with little delivered, but it appears that finally we may be reaching a point where the biggest players in the industry start to realise that the threat of not co-operating is greater than that posed by working together more closely. We have seen specific examples from Cisco, with their Microsoft OneDrive integration for example, that the tide may be shifting. Even if the industry giants don’t play ball the industry itself will automatically correct. Reward and recognition for companies like Mio, who offer the ability to synchronize rival team chat apps, implies that the industry will solve lack of unification itself if the leaders can’t play nicely.
The giants are coming, as Google and Amazon’s presence is increasing
The industry is already dominated by two huge players in Microsoft and Cisco so the looming presence of two more tech giants might not seem so unusual. However, in contrast to their dramatic success in the consumer world, Amazon and Google haven’t quite cracked the professional UC&C market, yet. Over the next few years you might be wise to expect their presence and influence at Enterprise Connect, and industry events in general, to be amplified considerably. Once their offerings are honed and their considerable capital resources flexed their impact on the market will be considerable, whether that’s as industry partners or with their own products gaining much greater market share.
As always, this year’s Enterprise Connect provided no shortage of talking points. One single topic didn’t dominant the agenda, despite the continual bluster surrounding AI, as there was a good balance between the different technological areas. For the industry, the event’s value can’t be understated with the networking, thought provoking platform that it provides.
Did you attend Enterprise Connect 2019? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.