The Top 5 Takeaways from Enterprise Connect 2022
Conferences have returned. That is perhaps the biggest takeaway from Enterprise Connect held March 21-24 in Orlando, Florida—a show dedicated to people working virtually. I will leave that to sink in.
Of all the conferences, Enterprise Connect should take the lead in reducing the conference greenhouse footprint by leveraging technology to make that show permanently virtual.
Before I get started, I’m going to spell out what CPaaS stands for and then not mention it again: Communications Platform as a Service. CPaaS seeks to put all communications in the cloud, including video, voice, customer response, and messaging in a way that can easily integrate with existing software (apps, services, etc.)—with all of it tied to common analytics.
CPaaS makes complete sense for enterprises, as well as small and medium businesses. Unfortunately, as Dave Mailer of 4C Strategies pointed out in his session, functional groups within many organizations may resist letting go to competing solutions. That will make CPaaS more a topic for a vision board than an active project, except in those organizations that want to engage in hand-to-hand combat to reduce the complexity of their collaboration spending and rationalize the way they work.
The Top 5 Takeaways from Enterprise Connect 2022
We are still seeing way too much innovation from collaboration companies. Now, how can I possibly say there is too much innovation? Because the people using collaboration technology, not the market, need to absorb change. With tools like Cisco’s Webex and Microsoft Teams leading the way with dozens of new features over the last couple of years, and many changes to their UI’s that make relearning and adjusting as common as video conferencing meetings.
Examples of “innovation” include Operator Connect Mobile, new status check-ins, updated gallery layouts, the PowerPoint Recording Studio with Cameo, Teams Connect Shared Channels, and loop components (which integrates Teams with Outlook, though Teams GM Nicole Herskowitz did not really explain what loop meant or where it originated) from Microsoft.
Cisco will be offering new hot desking options and second lines on a personal device, The biggest change for Cisco is the transition of Socio to Webex Events which offers a studio environment for virtual, in-person, and hybrid events including registration, apps, event communities and other features.
The more passive enhancements, including end-to-end encryption from Microsoft and Cisco, and the ability for Microsoft-enabled rooms to manage devices (like turning off their audio when someone walks into a room) look passive, but may raise questions about privacy and personal control.
Microsoft and Cisco aren’t the only ones innovating to meet the perceived needs from surveys that suggest what workers want and need out of technology.
One “simple” new feature, however, adds to the overall complexity of the solution. And most technology companies remain less than committed to the hard work of deployment and deep adoption that would shore up their competitive positions. If people don’t employ the new features, or do so haphazardly, all of this innovation investment will be lost to turnover when a lack of loyalty to a platform results in poor license renewals.
Shared canvases. Microsoft and Cisco are enhancing their whiteboard options considering the success of Mural and Miro. This space has been ripe for a long time, and like video conferencing from Zoom taking off at the start of the pandemic, forcing Cisco, Google, and Microsoft to step up their video conferencing and meeting investments—shared real-time workspaces create a new challenge, albeit at a smaller scale. Still, Mural and Miro offer much richer features than any of the major players, which means even more “innovation” going forward as those platforms seek to catch up to the upstart shared real-time workspace providers.
Employee control. As Microsoft’s Mahendra Sekaran shared in his coverage of Microsoft’s latest trends research, employees are deciding what activities and actions they think are worth their time, including such basic ideas as the commute to work. We are just starting to see employees assert themselves in new ways. The next couple of years will likely bring additional changes in individual-to-work relationships as technology and economics creates new models and opportunities. Inclusivity will expand to incorporate an employee’s work preferences.
AI is here and it’s going to keep coming. From smart cameras to automated notetaking and conversation translation, voice recognition, digital assistants and facial recognition, AI is playing a bigger role in collaboration. As long as AI remains “assistive,” it will probably fit within existing business ethics frameworks. IT needs to start thinking about policies and practices related to AI and where the organization draws the line for how they use AI.
Don’t worry about the metaverse. Some marketing executives may want to dabble in the metaverse, and IT may want to keep related technologies like AR and VR close for certain applications like training, and augmented repairs and maintenance, but the metaverse won’t likely affect day-to-day operations or create new business opportunities for the next several years. Though with big (probably very inaccurate) metaverse forecasts, don’t expect the idea to fade from conference agendas or blogs any time soon.
Enterprise Connect 2022: Work continues to evolve
When I worked at Microsoft, I suggested that the future would include punctuated workdays, in which people were always available, but they decided where and when they worked. Work shifted to being commitment-based. If a team member wants to join a meeting from the U.S. West Coast at midnight to join a team in England, they can do that—without being penalized for not logging in at 8 am the next morning. Systems should offer views into colleagues’ work and help communicate availability expectations more passively, with intelligent services mediating between what people need to and the time people choose to do it.
As Microsoft Teams GM Nicole Herskowitz pointed out, it’s time to move from activity tracking in productivity, to impact tracking. Over a decade ago the Institute for Innovation and Information Productivity (now defunct) that I helped form at Microsoft sought new metrics to reflect the impact of technology on work—and the impact of individuals on their organizations.
Unfortunately, the example of Cameo and Recording Studio provided by Herskowitz didn’t get to the fundamentals of how collaboration technologies make an impact, let alone measure the business impact of collaboration technology (see more on measuring collaboration performance from Serious Insights here).
Zoom’s Gary Sorrentino said what’s more important than him presenting on the third day of Enterprise Connect is that “we are all finally back in person…returning to this level of normal.” That may well end up as a future footnote on Zoom’s Wikipedia entry if they don’t realize the value of continuing to explore how to make virtual work, virtual conferences, and other virtual experiences more powerful and more persistent before the next shift in environmental, social, or political foundations.
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