The biggest industry event for enterprise communications has come and gone—but the memories remain. Reconnecting with friends and colleagues, hugging or elbow bumping, and catching up on the last two years was the highlight of Enterprise Connect. Industry analysts, consultants, subject matter experts, and end-users all attended for the content and exchange of knowledge, and EC22 didn’t disappoint.
Three key themes and hot topics quickly emerged from the sessions, show floor, and in my many, many vendor briefings. Here’s a brief recap of what I saw and heard.
1. Hybrid Work – The Hottest Topic of the Hot
If we could create a word cloud based on the keynotes and sessions at Enterprise Connect, the most prominent word or phrase by far would be “hybrid work.”
Cisco, Microsoft, RingCentral, and Zoom each highlighted their offerings for the new hybrid workforce and workplace, emphasizing the need for democratizing meetings to provide equivalent experiences for in-office and remote participants. Cisco touted the ability for remote participants to view each meeting participant individually, even if they’re sitting all together in a conference room. Meanwhile, Microsoft showed off its Front row screen layout to provide a better sense of connection with attendees. RingCentral also announced Advanced Meeting Insights for AI-based Meeting summaries, topics, video highlight reels, and keywords to help people catch up on meetings they missed. Zoom introduced several new features, including video messaging for Zoom Chat to enable users to record and send video messages within Zoom Chat. It also added a new Avatars feature to let users select an avatar to represent themselves during meetings and webinars.
As vendors (frantically) tried to outdo each other with new capabilities catering to the hybrid workforce, there was a plethora of updated meeting room devices, AI-enabled enhancements such as real-time translation and transcription, and more from traditional vendors and newcomers.
2. All Things Customer Experience (CX) Related
Another hot topic at Enterprise Connect was CX. It’s no secret that while unified communications (UC) and unified communications as a service (UCaaS) are still healthy, growing markets, the real excitement, and innovation is taking place in the customer engagement and customer experience world.
The exhibit hall was a mix of leading CX players, including many new contact center players participating in their first Enterprise Connect. Attendees saw technology demonstrations and heard about the latest and greatest AI capabilities, including natural language processing, agent assist, conversational AI, sentiment analysis, enhanced analytics tools, and much more. While I didn’t have a chance to visit as many exhibitors as I would have liked, I was particularly impressed with Balto and its real-time guidance platform, leveraging AI to listen to conversations and prompt agents with the appropriate responses to customers.
I expect many smaller contact center ecosystem players scattered around the exhibit hall, particularly those with specific AI capabilities, to be acquired by the larger players by Enterprise Connect 2023. And many of them will likely be in much larger booths next year as these companies gain momentum and revenues.
Speaking of the growing role of CX, perhaps the biggest announcement made at Enterprise Connect was the new Google Contact Center AI platform based on Ujet’s contact center as a service (CCaaS) technology. This partnership helps Google get to market faster with a leading CCaaS offer, while providing Google with Ujet’s innovative mobile and automation capabilities. Thanks to its contact center AI capabilities, Google has been a key contact center and CX player. Google’s AI functionality is being used under the hood by many of the CCaaS vendors. With its own end-to-end CCaaS offering, Google can become a major contact center player, although the company is now competing with its partners. This will most likely open the door for smaller players that don’t offer competing offerings. Let the bidding wars for these players begin!
The other major CX-related announcement came from Amazon Web Services (AWS). Amazon Connect debuted at Enterprise Connect 2017 as the company disrupted the contact center industry with usage-based pricing and a highly-customizable platform. At Enterprise Connect 2022, Amazon announced native workforce optimization (WFO) capabilities for Amazon Connect with new machine learning-powered forecasting, capacity planning, and scheduling capabilities. Over the past few years, more and more CCaaS providers have added their own native workforce engagement management (WEM) capabilities, and this was a natural step for AWS, which continues to enhance its offering.
The focus on CX brings us to the next hot topic—the integration of UCaaS & CCaaS. While all things related to CX and contact center were hot, the integration of UCaaS & CCaaS brings the conversation to a whole new level.
On the first day of Enterprise Connect, I moderated a panel on UCaaS & CCaaS. It featured Dhwani Soni, VP product and UX design 8×8; Fabrice Della Mea, senior director product, Dialpad; Jack Nichols, VP product management, Genesys Cloud CX, Genesys, and Sanjay Srinivasan, SVP & chief technology architect, Vonage. This topic has been near and dear to my heart for many years. With such a long line to get into my session (see image below), it was heartening seeing that the topic resonated with both the many vendors touting their integrated solutions and conference attendees.
A line forms outside “UCaaS Plus CCaaS: What’s Real, What’s Hype, and What’s Next” at Enterprise Connect 2022. UCaaS and CCaaS integration floated about in several sessions on the big stage and multiple keynotes, with a large number of UCaaS vendors on the show floor promoting their integrated or all-in-one solutions (8×8, Cisco, Dialpad, Edify, GoTo, Mitel, RingCentral, Vonage, Zoom, etc.). As I’ve written many times over the years, UCaaS/CCaaS integration brings customer engagement and customer experience capabilities to everyone in the organization, creating better experiences for customers and employees. This subject will continue gaining traction, especially as the use cases and benefits continue to grow.
3. Low Code/No Code – Developers Not Required
Lastly, low code/no code and composability were another hot topic. Multiple vendors demonstrated the ability to easily create workflows without the need for developers or programming skills. One of the best examples of this was Edify Labs, which introduced Edify Workflows, a no-code, drag-and-drop design tool for Edify CX. While watching CEO Cameron Weeks demonstrate the no-code tool, I exclaimed that even I could create a basic workflow, despite my lack of programming capabilities. As organizations try to provide differentiated customer and user experiences, low code/no code capabilities and communication platform as a service (CPaaS) tools from companies like Twilio, Vonage, Avaya, Bandwidth, 2600Hz, and others will play increasing roles. Expect to see even more demos of low code/no code at Enterprise Connect 2023 as vendors continue to drive the adoption of these tools.
Of course, there were many more trends and common themes—video and video devices, team collaboration, and security to name a few. Expect these hot topics to get even hotter over the coming months, especially as we learn what works and what doesn’t work in the emerging hybrid workplace. For Enterprise Connect 2023, I expect augmented and virtual reality to play an increased role, along with more examples of UCaaS/video/collaboration for various vertical applications. As the lines between CCaaS and customer relationship management, as well as between customer service, sales, and marketing blur—I expect to see new capabilities highlighted and new vendors demonstrating these merged capabilities on the show floor.