A couple of years ago, the Enterprise Connect content team set ourselves the informal goal of adding a new track to the Conference Program each year. This year the new track is on Speech Technologies; last year’s addition was Team Collaboration. So by that reckoning, our track on Communications APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) is getting to be an old-timer, added way back at Enterprise Connect 2016. So now we’re on our third year with this track, which we’ve renamed as “APIs and Embedded Communications.”
Many folks in the IT world have become familiar with APIs and the critical role they play in allowing you to integrate communications functions with other elements of business software. Perhaps the highest-profile vendor example has been Twilio, which built a business and a 2016 IPO around communications APIs.
But APIs are just the tool here. The true goal centers around a much broader trend, that of communications systems migrating from being software-based to being hardware-based. Last week, my colleague Michelle Burbick wrote about a recent talk by Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson, where he described the software way of thinking:
"Everything we do in software is measured in sprints; it's measured in weeks, in customer feedback, and we're always shipping. Yet in communications, things take years and millions of dollars before a customer can ever touch a solution or give you feedback and tell you if you're going in the right direction," Lawson said. "And that seemed crazy to me."
Clearly, the transition toward software is going to take time to play out; but the situation is changing, as my program co-chair, Beth Schultz, wrote on No Jitter. She recounted a customer panel from the same Twilio event where Lawson spoke. No less an enterprise than Morgan Stanley had discovered that Communications APIs provided the solution to a challenge in serving its mobile workforce.
After describing the new development’s success, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management chief digital officer Naureen Hassan made a request of Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson in a panel discussion: "Keep pushing our thinking. Give us new ideas; we're eager for them. We're so heads-down in so many things we're trying to do, so bring us new ideas because we're hungry [for them], but it's hard to pick our heads up sometimes and see what else is out there."
That’s a sentiment that I expect many of you can identify with: You can come up with new ideas yourselves, but what you really need is to partake of a broader community that’s sharing ideas about what’s needed and what can be done by leveraging these APIs. That need for a step back, a broader view and a more holistic vision of how your enterprise uses communications, motivated us to add a couple of interesting new ideas for breakout sessions to our 2018 APIs track.
One is a fairly straightforward presentation called, “Building Your UC Developer Community,” led by Irwin Lazar of Nemertes Research. Irwin’s been a strong advocate for Communications APIs and closer collaboration (so to speak) between the business units and the IT/communications folks who want to provide the more agile level of service that Jeff Lawson discussed. Irwin will answer your questions about what leading enterprises are doing now to foster greater cooperation between UC teams and software developers, and he’ll offer tips on what you can do to jump-start this process within your own enterprise.
The other session in this vein is one I’m particularly excited about. Justin Haefner of Medtronic will lead a session called, “Why You Should Embrace the API Movement.” Justin will speak from experience as an enthusiastic proponent of this software approach within his enterprise; he’ll talk about internal hackathons he’s participated in, and give advice about how these and similar efforts can help your communications organization leverage the new possibilities of APIs.
One last thing about Justin—he was the winner of last year’s TADHack Mini Orlando, a hackathon event that took place the weekend before Enterprise Connect 2017. I’m happy to say that TADHack Mini Orlando will be back again, on March 10-11, 2018, the weekend before Enterprise Connect 2018. If you have the chance to come down to Orlando early, I encourage you to consider taking part in this fun event. I also hope you’ll register for Enterprise Connect 2018, and we’ll see you in Orlando!