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For the last two years, we’ve included a few questions in our Enterprise Connect post-show survey that try to gauge how our attendees’ worlds are changing. This year’s responses seem to indicate that the pace of change—and the need to respond to it—is only intensifying.

For example, we ask respondents to complete this statement: “My main reason for attending the Conference this year was….” Last year, the leader among the choices offered was, “To prepare for new/emerging technologies that will impact my enterprise soon,” garnering a 52% share of the responses. This year, 62% chose this option. The biggest decline we saw was in the response, “Personal professional development/To keep my skill set current”—that one fell from 23% last year to 18% this year. The theory would be that maintaining your current skill set is less pressing than understanding what your future skill set is likely to be. Taken together, this looks like a market that knows it has to get ready for change.

In fact, respondents said as much on another question. Asked to respond to the statement: “The Skills Required to Do My Job are Changing Significantly and Rapidly,” 49% “strongly agree[d]”,up from 38% last year.

I thought about these results as I was reading my colleague Beth Schultz’s No Jitter recap of her EC18 general session panel discussion with enterprise end users. The overarching theme was the inescapability of the cloud for communications professionals. That in itself represents a major shift, especially when you consider the fact that “cloud” is meant in the broader sense here—not just “Are you moving from CPE to UCaaS?” but, “How are you using cloud-based capabilities wherever possible to improve your communications and collaboration, whenever possible?”

Beth’s panelists make clear that this isn’t the old build-vs.-buy, PBX-vs.-Centrex argument. It can’t be, because enterprise communications organizations are squeezed between two imperatives: You still can’t forklift out your PBX just because it’s old; but at the same time, you can’t respond to the need for new functions by saying, “Sorry, we can’t support that.”

The panelists’ stories centered around IoT applications, CRM, and the vision they’re creating for ongoing innovation to respond to business needs. For one panelist, Jason Kasch, CIO of the Structural Group, the vision is completely tied to the cloud. If you have to build a new capability yourself—which is itself a radical departure from the old-school mindset of passively waiting for the next software release—you should still be eyeing how quickly you can offload that capability to a provider, Kasch maintained.

"You really should be thinking, 'Can I buy it?' 'Can I buy it and tie it together with these microservices-type capabilities?' And, as a last resort, 'Can I build it for my organization?'" he told our EC18 audience.

Again, he’s not framing the build-vs.-buy decision as cost-driven, as in the PBX/Centrex days; he’s framing it as opportunity-driven, or agility-driven: What’s the quickest way to deliver the feature, and how soon can you free up your teams to move on to the next thing that they should be innovating for the business? That also makes sense; we saw in several sessions at EC18 that agility, not cost, is becoming the real driver for all cloud communications—including, but not limited to, UCaaS.

Things are changing fast. I’m a little frustrated that we don’t get to do another Enterprise Connect for 11 months. (I’m also extremely relieved about that, too.) That’s why the same folks that bring you Enterprise Connect—Beth, along with Michelle Burbick and our team of outstanding independent subject matter experts—will be going full-speed ahead covering the industry on No Jitter between now and next March 18—when I hope we’ll see you in Orlando for EC19.