Reflections on Enterprise Connect 2016

Matt Christopher

March at the Gaylord Palms, Orlando

I have honestly lost track of how many Enterprise Connects I have attended. Actually, I lied.  Sorry about that.  I have been to every Enterprise Connect.  I have lost track of how many VoiceCon’s I attended. Over the years, it has been interesting to see the names change, booth sizes change, and the keystone technology evolve.   Sometimes it’s subtle: Siemens becomes Unify.  Sometimes it’s magnified: Microsoft bursts onto the scene and voice becomes unified communications. Though I did not see any market revolutionizing announcements, I did notice 4 themes at Enterprise Connect 2016.

Cloud (Thank you, Captain Obvious)

The cloud is still ubiquitous. Whether it was 8×8 owning the breezeway marketing or RingCentral, Vonage, and 8×8 occupying the big booths up front, it was readily apparent that hosted voice/hosted UC was the big push of EC2016.  As the first major show since Microsoft made Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling, Skype for Business Meeting, and PSTN Conferencing available in December, this was a bit of a coming out party for Skype for Business Online.

Hybrid (The New Black)

Because the cloud is not the answer for every situation and because not everyone is ready to move everything to the cloud tomorrow, “hybrid” is the new black. No matter what the business challenge, if cloud is not the answer, hybrid must be.  Like cloud, hybrid means different things to different people and often the definition is “adjusted” to fit the situation. For many, hybrid means a combination of cloud-based services and on-premises equipment. Even this definition has subtle variations.  Sometimes, it is some users in an enterprise using hosted voice while others use a premise-based server/PBX.  Other times, it is certain UC functions, like conferencing, hosted in the cloud, while all enterprise voice is on prem.   For still others, it means the voice function is hosted in the cloud, but PSTN connectivity is local. In the “confined” world of on premises, hybrid typically means multiple voice platforms.   Cloud aside, few enterprises have completely migrated to software-powered voice, even within their on-premises infrastructure.    Many I talked to have a combination of Avaya/Nortel, Cisco, and Microsoft. The ubiquity of hybrid was perfectly captured in the panel discussion on UC monitoring and diagnostics tools. When a room of 70 enterprise customers were asked who had a single platform, only 4 raised their hands.

If the Cloud Is So Simple, Why is My Environment Complex?

Enterprise Connect 2016 represented a market that is like several 500-piece puzzles, with all the pieces mixed into the same box. If you had all the pieces for your puzzle, and only your puzzle, it would be fairly easy to put together and build a beautiful picture.  Unfortunately, every vendor is telling every customer they are a piece of their puzzle and customers are having trouble organizing everything into the proper category.  To make things worse, no one has produced a box top that helps the customer clearly see what the complete picture is supposed to look like. Enterprise customers want to fulfill the vision of cloud/hybrid, they just need partners and tools that will help them put the right pieces in the right places.

Diagnostics, Please (Confirmation Bias Fully Acknowledged)

Nearly every customer that visited the Nectar booth had bought off on the vision of cloud (or at least hybrid). Most of them had a subset (at least a thousand) of voice users in the cloud.  Some had jumped in with both feet and had all of their voice users hosted in the cloud. The funny thing is that the need for diagnostics/troubleshooting did not go away with a cloud deployment. If anything, the need magnified.  Visitor after visitor arrived at our booth asking, “How can I get real time diagnostics and root cause analysis on my hosted calls?”

Piece of Advice to Cloud Providers (Unsolicited, of Course)

Enterprise customers want to migrate to the cloud for Enterprise voice. You can help them get there:

  1. Embrace hybrid. It’s the comfortable path from on-premise to cloud.
  2. Simplify the puzzle. Tell the market which pieces best fit your respective model and their environment.
  3. Enable Diagnostics. Cloud does not automatically solve voice quality issues. In fact, it adds more variability.  Give tools, like Nectar, the access we need to help your users troubleshoot, diagnose and gain comfort with your solution.