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Enterprise Connect 2018 - Executive Summary

Came to stay - why Enterprise Connect is THE place to be!

Last week, Enterprise Connect opened doors in Orlando, Florida – and was once again THE place to be for IT, AV and UCC experts alike. This year, the leading conference made its mark: with more than 120 company announcements, several dozens of keynotes and hundreds of presentations from analysts, consultants, vendors and customers. After diving deep into all the content we have seen and heard, people we have met and new products we have experienced – here are our exclusive takeaways from #EC18:

Change is Here

(Digital) change has been one of the phrases most often used and presented on the main stage und during several breakout sessions. We’ve collected some of the most inspiring quotes of this year`s keynote speakers: Eric Krapf, Enterprise Connect General Manager and Program Chair, said: “There’s a lot of change taking place in the enterprise communications industry at large.”

This has also been underlined by several other industry leaders, including Vik Verma, CEO of 8x8, calling out the “third wave of enterprise communication” taking more and more companies from an on-premise environment to the cloud. Verma linked what’s happening today in enterprise communications to what happened when Apple released the iPhone in 2007. Intelligent communications enable people to engage with other people wherever and however they want – with a cloud infrastructure providing access to everything they need. “This is no different than what the iPhone did in 2007. We’re finally getting there today in 2018 in the enterprise.”

The Future Speaks Cloud

We got some very interesting findings from former Cisco company Broadsoft that introduced its brand-new Cloud Collaboration survey. According to this:

  • A large majority (80%) of businesses are considering cloud Unified Communications (UC) with 92% of buying decisions expected in next 24 months.
  • Cost, functionality, and risk are the migration drivers
  • Cloud UC addresses core business priorities of productivity, mobility, agility, and operation
  • Many users seek a complete and integrated solution with communications, team collaboration, and contact centers

This also goes in line with what Jonathan Rosenberg, vice president and CTO of Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group claimed during his key note at the first day of Enterprise Connect: “We all want tools that users love, but there’s a role for IT, too. Too often today, each pocket selects its own thing, and the business winds up with a little Slack, a little Stride -- and frankly, it’s a mess.” With that said it`s the job of us IT and UCC experts to guide organizations on which strategy to plan and which solution to use. Standardizing on a single solution should be the goal!

Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning are taking over

Many vendors used Enterprise Connect to present their chat bots and developments they have made into Machine Learning and AI. No doubt, both trends will also shape modern businesses going forward. Following Diane Chaleff, working in the office of Google CTO, Google Cloud Suite is clearly seeing bright days for the transformation that Machine Learning (ML) is bringing to enterprise communications. Google`s Jamboard is now able to translate handwritten notes to plain texts and clean up drawings, all based on ML. Google is continuously working on improving speech-to-text capabilities, meeting functions based on bots, and achieving better audio in calls with the help of ML. “One final note, it’s critical to remember what doesn’t change. The key in all forms of communication is to maximize human ingenuity. Get the junk stuff out of the way and leverage machines so people can do what they do best -- be creative.”

Microsoft Teams is Revolutionizing Modern Enterprise Communication

Last but not least, it was all about intelligent communications – a phrase that Microsoft has filled with life over the past several months. With its effort of uniting Skype for Business and Teams in a single hub for modern teamwork Microsoft has not only won Best of Enterprise Connect 2018 but also set the course for higher productivity and engagement in enterprises worldwide – and simply put - “getting the stuff done”.

Bob Davis, Microsoft’s corporate VP for Office 365 Engineering brings it to the point: “We have seen what happens when things get smart – we save time, we know more, we accomplish more. Simply put – life gets simpler.” Just like Windows Hello – new AI based on face recognition and allowing users to sign in into their PCs, or digital assistance Cortana giving you an overview of your working day while on your way to work. Or even Office 365 analytics providing insights on how you work. “Everything around us is becoming more and more intelligent.”

Amidst all the excitement around intelligent communications – one thing stood out: Microsoft Teams celebrated their 1st anniversary at Enterprise Connect! Almost exactly one year ago, Microsoft announced general availability of the “hub for teamwork” combining contextual voice, video & collaboration in single dashboard. Since then, Microsoft has paved the way in intelligent communications by integrating AI, enterprise voice, video and a variety of Office 365 apps all in one place. And the success of it has been remarkable to say the least:

  • 200,000 enterprises are using Teams already
  • Teams is available in 39 languages
  • Teams users span 181 markets across the globe
  • 3 million Teams have been created in the past year
  • 70 % of Skype for Business enterprise customers are using Teams
  • 60 % of Teams users reside outside the United States

With much more to come! During his keynote, Bob Davis also took a moment to reflect on some major changes brought to Teams in the past months and introduce some new features:

  • Spontaneous video meetings: Blur your background while having important meeting so no one gets distracted and remote workers can keep their privacy
  • Share your content directly in the meeting
  • Call recording: Capture an entire meeting so you never miss important content.
  • Teams search: Search for keywords, names to find all the content within your channels.
  • Complete Cloud PBX capabilities: Take and make inside and outside calls and benefit from our Enterprise Voice functionalities.
  • In line message translation in Teams

For more information kindly visit the updated Microsoft Teams roadmap.

Furthermore, Microsoft showcased some very exiting hardware solutions to help you bring Teams to every device in your working life:

  • Microsoft is planning on bringing the whole native Teams experience to a new generation of IP phones, featuring new products of AudioCodes and Yealink – scroll your calendars and contacts in Teams on a crisp screen and enable natural language transcription powered by Cortana, e.g. starting a conference call by just saying the names of all participants you`d like to attend.
  • Plantronics is going to launch its new “mobile phone station” serving much like a docking station for smartphones featuring wireless charging and an integrated “Teams” button for single click-to-join Teams via mobile interface.
  • Microsoft is bringing Teams to every Skype Room System, providing each user with a native Teams experience, this will be rolled out over the next month. With that, attendees can join and participate with a single touch. The new Logitech MeetUp will be released soon with exciting features, such as automatically scanning how many people are in the room, adjusting the video range accordingly, and feeding the information back to your applications for better reporting on the number of participants in a call, as well as, reporting on conference room usage and utilization.

For more information, we recommend watching the selection of all keynotes, including Microsoft deep dive into Teams, here.