Enterprise Connect and Innovation Showcase

by Dave Michels

Coming up is the Enterprise Connect Conference  (March)- unquestionably the biggest UC event of the year.

The conference, used to go by the name VoiceCon, takes place every Spring at the Gaylord Palms Hotel in Orlando. The conference is put on by TechWeb, the same masters of conversation behind NoJitter.com.  I typically don’t leave the hotel for the duration (in this case:  Sunday – Thursday), so I appreciate the Gaylord’s illusion of being outside between meetings. It’s actually a great venue. I know several that sleep for a few days directly after the event.

This year the keynotes were reduced to 30 minute sessions – a somewhat controversial decision. The negative I see is that it is hard to move a large group of people around, and once you get them in the ballroom keeping them for only 30 minutes seems foolhardy. But all options have some downsides and I think the move makes sense. Unfortunately  the vendors don’t like back to back keynotes because no one wants to go second, and the longer format isn’t appropriate in our ADD world. Glenn Engler recently advocated that 15 is the new 60. “If you embrace the concept of tight agendas, prepared, and solutions-focused, we can go faster.”

Too much of the keynotes last year turned into overlapping visions of the future: iPads, video, mobility, rutebaga, rutabaga, rutabaga. I think this shorter format will force a more crystallized message. It should allow the differences to stand out more than the similarities. The Keynote lineup includes Cisco and Avaya (market share leaders), Microsoft (mind share leader), and a mystery keynote. I have no inside knowledge on the mystery presenter, but here’s my suggestions:

  • OJ Winge – he spoke last year and it would be interesting to hear how his views changed since leaving Cisco.
  • Michael Tessler – I think BroadSoft is doing some impressive things, and impacting the enterprise in many ways – though largely off the radar since it only sells directly to service providers.
  • A major service provider like AT&T or Verizon. Not sure who specifically, but as these firms are embracing Cisco HCS, Microsoft Lync and BroadSoft now so they are clearly looking at the enterprise as more than a place to terminate trunks.
  • Amit Singh – President of Google Enterprise probably would have something interesting, but we may all have to sign NDAs.
  • Shinsuke Takahashi – I have never met him or heard him, but he recently became the new CEO for NEC America and NEC is typically considered #3 UC equipment vendor worldwide.
It’s a stand out event – and I should know as I attended about 20 conferences last year. The UCStrategies team will be there in force. Marty Parker posted a summary of our events at Enteprise Connect.  I’m already booking meetings, and this year the UCStrategies team are setting aside some blocks for group briefings.

My favorite event at Enterprise Connect is the Innovation Showcase. I created it three years ago, and they keep on allowing me host it. The actual showcase is a booth on the floor that features four selected young innovative companies. Each of these companies also does a pitch to a live audience. Because of the shorter keynotes, the schedule got changed  around, so the Innovation Showcase presentations will be at the beginning of the Summit sessions (11:00 AM and 1:00 PM) on Monday. At each session, two of the four companies will quickly present their story – then the Summit starts.

Only companies that apply to the showcase are considered, and the deadline is approaching. Rules and details are here. This is a very good opportunity for the selected companies to reach a broader audience. The companies are selected for an innovative approach to communications suitable for an enterprise.