Enterprise Connect is North America’s premier conference for advances in communications, collaboration, and customer experience technologies. In this note, I provide my trends and keynote highlights for Enterprise Connect 2021, held September 27 to 29. Three main themes encapsulate my Enterprise Connect experience: the future of hybrid work, trends in communications technologies, and important product announcements from vendor keynotes (including Microsoft, Cisco, Zoom, RingCentral, and Amazon). Please find a full list of references at the end of this note, available on demand from Enterprise Connect until December 2021.
Several sessions emphasized how central hybrid work will be in a post-COVID world. This was a nascent theme touched upon at last year's Enterprise Connect, and the jury was still out for whether organizations would instruct workers to return to the office. This year, the latest reports confirmed a steady trend toward permanent or fluid remote work:
What this means is that organizations now must proactively manage how their communications and collaboration systems will function. Whereas 2020 and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic saw organizations reactively enabling applications to ensure employees could work together remotely, 2021 onwards requires a strategic look at how organizations manage their space needs, such that employees can work together effectively both in and out of the office. That is, we should be asking: beyond mere communications, how can virtual workspaces and in-office infrastructure bring together employees to work-from-anywhere?
There are interesting data points that support organizations’ need for such a strategy:
Into 2022, we expect to see organizations investing in how their conference and meeting room spaces are used to reflect fluid interchange of people in the office (perhaps even selling off unused real estate to consolidate space), and how employees can meet in the virtual world to collaborate.
A notable trend for Enterprise Connect 2021 was recognizing that communications and collaboration technologies are increasingly entwining with customer experience platforms. Over the past year, the top three communications applications purchased were unified communications, CRM, and CCaaS, in that order. The top three purchases anticipated in the coming year are CCaaS, CRM, and unified communications, in that order (Vichhivora & Chadinha, 8x8). This change in order is interesting: whereas in 2021 organizations have invested in their unified communications systems to enable remote work, they are now planning to join those systems to their CRM via a CCaaS extension in 2022. Organizations can thereby benefit from unifying their customer experience platforms with internal communications systems, building a platform for ease of data transfer and customer journey tracking.
Several vendors are responding to (and reinforcing) this trend, demonstrating new products that tie together UCaaS, CCaaS, and CXM. One major example includes 8x8’s XCaaS platform, that not only unifies employee experience and customer experience on one platform but now offers a call management system for operators and receptionists, too, with their newly announced Frontdesk solution. Furthermore, the combination of AI-driven technologies to enhance communications systems is also becoming much more mainstream:
As such, the business case for leveraging
AI technology has strong traction, with fewer detractors year-on-year. For
customer experience management, for instance, key uses cases include
identifying meeting highlights and next steps, agent assist, and conversational
Several vendor keynotes occurred throughout Enterprise Connect, including Microsoft, Cisco, 8x8, RingCentral, Zoom, and Amazon. All had significant product updates, detailed below.
Much of Zoom’s keynote were highlights from their fifth annual Zoomtopia conference, held September 13 to 14, 2021. Please see Info-Tech’s coverage of that conference for more details.
Note: Sessions are available on demand from Enterprise Connect until December 2021.
This note highlights the top three trends to watch for in the 2022 UCaaS marketspace: AR/VR digital workspaces will see sustained investment; UCaaS and customer experience management technologies will continue to blend; and speech functionality will become more sophisticated through AI-driven technology.
On August 24, 2021, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise briefed its Q2 performance for FY21. Q2 saw positive revenue growth of 11.4% YoY, delivering 20% against the previous year.
On July 14, NEC and Intermedia briefed Info-Tech about their ongoing partnership and continuing global rollout of UNIVERGE BLUE.
On May 24, 2021, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) briefed on its Q1 performance for FY21. FY20 saw ALE’s global revenues impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and these effects continue to ripple into FY21. While global cloud sales continue to dominate, alongside a strong quarter in China, global revenue was down 5% year-over-year (YoY).
On April 28, 2021, Windstream briefed Info-Tech on its UCaaS portfolio, which includes their primary pure cloud offering, OfficeSuite UC, alongside their other solutions powered by Avaya and Mitel.
On April 20, 2021, Nextiva briefed Info-Tech on its Nextiva One suite, with a focus on its communication applications: Business Phone (voice) and Cospace (videoconferencing and collaboration). Nextiva plans to expand beyond the US later this year.
On February 22, 2021, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) released its Q4 report. While overall global revenues were down on last year’s Q4, ALE’s cloud-based solutions continued to surge. These surges are in part explained by mid- to large-sized organizations beginning significant investments to prepare for a post-pandemic world.
On December 8, Masergy – a software defined networking services company – briefed Info-Tech on its UCaaS solution. Masergy UCaaS is built on the Cisco collaboration platform, providing a value-added service through Masergy’s SD-WAN solution and Secure Edge Network.
On January 14, Revation Systems – a provider of cloud-based compliant messaging and communications – briefed Info-Tech on its unified communications as a service (UCaaS) solution, LinkLive. LinkLive encompasses several UCaaS solutions that are primarily aimed at industries with high security and compliance requirements. These industries especially include banking and healthcare.