Cloud, technology populism, video, and integrated solutions were in evidence throughout the show. Here is what I learned or conformed at Enterprise Connect 2012:

  • Cloud is happening. Buyer interest is and has been up, service providers are investing, and OEMs are enabling. At the show, SPs from 8×8 and M5 (now part of ShoreTel) to AT&T and Verizon were demoing capabilities. SIs, including well-known names from BlacBox to Presidio to HP, were talking about cloud too. Many OEM vendors did not discuss the channel implications made obvious by SI and SP discussion of cloud services — although NEC made ease of doing business for the channel one of the tenets of its cloud discussion. If I were a solution vendor, I would spend more time discussing where my solutions could be purchased and the role for my sales force, since buyers who attend Enterprise Connect in droves want to know where and how they can buy cloud solutions.
  • The real story here is consumerization or technology populism. Personal cloud services have enabled information workers to be a decision AND buying center for all types of communications and collaboration. Although we talk about smartphones and tablets in discussing technology populism, unified communications and fixed mobile convergence were the examples on display at this show. Buyers (including information workers and traditional technology managers) today need to know how to integrate Box, Google Docs, SalesForce, and other services into their business processes that depend on communications.
  • BYOD is here to stay. Android devices, iPhones (or iPads), and Windows Mobile devices are taking up the consumer’s cause and selling directly to mobile information workers to outstrip RIM in smartphones and tablets. It’s a direct reflection of market trends that much less was said about Cisco Cius and the Avaya Desktop Video Device and much more was said about Cisco’s Jabber client and Avaya’s Flare Experience running on multiple consumer smartphone and tablet devices over the past four days. ShoreTel’s mobility solution still seems to be the only one that openly and easily supports all the major options — Blackberry, IOS, Android, Windows, and Symbian.
  • A single communications client is table stakes in UC&C. Everyone — Avaya, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, Mitel, NEC, ShoreTel, Siemens, and more — had IM and presence integrated into its solutions and discussed connections to business processes. Some stressed horizontal solutions like “How do I get into meetings faster?” I saw demos from at least four vendors about one-touch web conferencing, and they all seemed to think I wanted to be on more web conferences while driving my car! Others stressed business solutions, serving verticals such as healthcare, government, education, or financial services. The promise of CEBP may finally get delivered!
  • Video is becoming pervasive. Video is clearly just as important an attribute of a corporate collaboration strategy as mobility, and no one ignored either of these communications modes. Vendors discussed the unique way video and mobile address connecting enterprises with their employees. Vidyo and Glowpoint highlighted the value of open interconnection for B2B communications — and enabling personal video devices to exponentially increase the value of video infrastructure by connecting more people to it. They stressed cloud- and software-based video solutions and the ability to deliver video to any endpoint — and everyone I talked to at the show was aware and interested. Siemens showed a personal-sized video connector (turning any HD display into a video endpoint), while Cisco announced a new telepresence endpoint (allowing the collaboration screen to take an equal position in the room with video, expanding the breadth of supported use cases). 

The least mentioned term this week? Social! IBM is stressing the use of and need for enterprise social software, but few buyers seem to get it yet. I predict that the term “social” will be used as often at Enterprise Connect next year as “Cloud” was this year.