Enterprise Connect 2017: The Winners and the Leaders
By Jim Lundy
(Aragon Research) – I attended my 10th Enterprise Connect at the Gaylord Convention Center in Orlando. This event had good buzz and traffic seemed higher this year. The one interesting thing I noted is that many of the providers are saying the same things, often repeating each other. How do they rise above the noise?
This blog provides some of the inside scoop of what we saw at #EC17.
Best Keynote: Tie Between Cisco and Microsoft
Cisco showed how to talk to the Cisco Sparkboard and it also unveiled the Room Kit and RoomKit plus. Jens Meggers, SVP and General Manager of Cisco Collaboration, delivered the Cisco Keynote and he personally did most of the demos with help from others on the other side of the video screen.
It was smooth, professional, and highly interactive. Cisco was highlighting the Spark Board (see Aragon First Cut) and the new Spark Room Kit and Room Kit Plus, which are intelligent video room systems with embedded AI. The Spark Virtual Reality (VR) demo at the end was the icing on the cake.
Microsoft: Teams and Skype for Business
Microsoft was more reserved, but threw down its stats about the growth of Yammer, the launch of Microsoft Teams, and most importantly, Skype for Business. Microsoft demoed some of its voice recognition capabilities in Skype, but the highlight was the crisp demo of Skype for Business Video Meetings, powered by the Polycom Video Interoperability Service.
Most Discussed Announcement: Amazon Connect for Contact Center
Amazon splashed its Amazon Chime Service well before #EC17, but the major news was Amazon Connect – its new Contact Center offering, which while new and not yet Omni-Channel, looks to disrupt the legacy Contact Center providers. Salesforce’s announcement that it was partnering with Amazon caught some off guard.
Weakest Keynote: Twilio
Jeff Lawson, the Founder and CEO of Twilio, went out of his way to slam a few competitors (Avaya and Cisco), but after five attacks on Cisco he just didn’t stop. It went further downhill when the Wifi didn’t work for his demo (it took 8 minutes to reconnect). He blamed it on Cisco. There was general agreement among Industry Analysts present that it was out of line and not appropriate at a venue like Enterprise Connect. My take is that quality, such as Voice, is always situational. I tweeted about being willing to moderate a debate about quality between Cisco and Twilio. So far, no takers.
Hardest Working Senior Execs: Tie Between BlueJeans, Cisco, Fuze, Five9, Polycom and Zoom
While I personally had a large number of meetings at #EC17, I also spent time at events observing, particularly the level of engagement from Senior Executives at major providers. The ones we selected stood out to us; it doesn’t mean that everyone didn’t work hard at what is one of the larger networking events in the UCC Industry.
BlueJeans – Frank Vella
Frank Vella, the new Chief Revenue Officer at BlueJeans, was present at #EC17 for the entire show and was also working the booth. You just don’t see that as much these days and the energy Frank brings to BlueJeans is what it needs. Frank’s work ethic helped to propel him in previous jobs at Microsoft and Xerox.
Cisco – Jens Meggers
Jens Meggers, the GM of Collaboration at Cisco, was everywhere. He gave a compelling keynote and demo, and was doing press events and meetings and hosted a great client party. Clearly, Jens has picked up the Collaboration Baton and with the rollout of the Spark Board in full Swing, Cisco is pushing the Spark story hard. The new Voice User Interface for Spark Board is compelling. We see an intense focus from the Collaboration Team at Cisco and it is showing up in their products and services.
Fuze – Steve Kokinos and Colin Doherty
Fuze Founder and Chairman Steve Kokinos was making the rounds with newly appointed CEO Colin Doherty who had his dance card extremely full with meetings. Fuze has been growing, particularly for larger UCaaS and UCC Platform deals. It was the right time to bring in a seasoned Operations CEO and Colin made his mark at #EC17.
Five9 – Gaurav Passi
While Five9 CEO Mike Burkland and most of his executive team, including VP of Corporate Marketing Niki Hall, was at Enterprise Connect, we saw EVP of Product Gaurav Passi working the show hard. He was at keynotes and on the show floor working the crowd. Five9 has been gaining traction in the market due to its Cloud-based approach to Contact Center and partnerships with Salesforce.com.
Polycom – Mary McDowell
Mary McDowell, the new CEO of Polycom, doubled down with both customer and analyst meetings at Enterprise Connect. While most of her Executive team was there as well, we were struck with her focus and overall activity. Mary has a strong operations background (HP and Nokia) and given the number of meetings and her active presence at #EC17, her work ethic and her push for growth at Polycom was evident.
Zoom – Eric Yuan
Eric Yuan, the founder and CEO of Zoom, was here, there, and everywhere at #EC17. There is a reason that Zoom is doing well and one of them is that it’s outworking many of its competitors.
#EC17 is a wrap and the battle is on to own UCC in the enterprise. For buyers, the great news is that products and services keep getting better. The challenge is sorting through the noise. That is where we come in. Check out all of our UCC and Collaboration Research.