As you may know, we’ve postponed Enterprise Connect 2020 from March 30-April 2 at the Gaylord Palms Hotel in Orlando, Fla., to August 3-6 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. But we are putting together a virtual version of some of the content that we were planning to share in Orlando. This virtual event is still evolving, so please watch for our emails and follow us on twitter for more updates to get the details as we nail them down.
Two things are foremost in my mind right now: One, it’s hugely disappointing not to be able to host the event that we spend all year working toward, and not to get to see all the people we look forward to seeing in Orlando. And two, our disappointment and concerns pale beside the larger concerns; our thoughts and support are with those even more directly affected by the much larger crisis that drove our decision — and similar decisions by so many others.
The coronavirus crisis has put our industry in a unique position. The technology that our industry builds and deploys is also the underpinning of enterprises’ efforts to retain as much of a semblance of normalcy as our working lives can have in this situation. That’s something to be proud of, and it’s something to build on.
My first job in B2B media was with a magazine called Telephone Engineer & Management, and this publication was just as buttoned-down and sober as the industry that it served. As the name suggests, we wrote for the people who built and maintained the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) — primarily the Bell System, along with various independent telcos.
They used to call telco people “Bellheads,” and this was not meant as a compliment. It connoted an attitude seen as ossified, wedded to outdated technology, and mired in “not invented here” mentality. The characterization was not altogether inapt, but like all blanket statements or characterizations, it was more often unfair, ungenerous, and short-sighted.
As a regulated monopoly with a guaranteed rate of return, the PSTN wasn’t highly innovative. The benefits from deregulating that monopoly and unlocking the creative potential of technologists have been immense, and have fostered the revolutions in communications that make possible the tools like remote work, videoconferencing, and team collaboration that allow enterprises to send large numbers of employees or students home to carry on their work with as little disruption as possible.
But one thing that many Bellheads retained was a sense of mission. The heritage of the Bell System was of bringing the miracle of remote communications to almost every American home — one “last mile” at a time. Many so-called Bellheads were justifiably proud to be part of an industry that had accomplished so much — and had done so at a time that, like today, was full of a wider uncertainty in our country. Finding a way to connect people to each other can transform a society for the better.
That’s where we are today, once again, with a technology that’s newer but just as miraculous as the party lines that let my rural grandparents talk with friends and family in a way they never could. Times may be troubled, but we’re fortunate to have a hand in doing our small part to cope with whatever comes next.