We survey our attendees after each Enterprise Connect Orlando event, both to understand what worked and didn’t work about the show, and to get their perspectives on the industry and their roles in it. One of the questions we always ask is which technology areas they think will play a more important role in their businesses over the next 12 months. Assuming you read the headline for this piece, you can make a pretty good guess about which technology placed first in this year’s survey.
This is the first year we included Team Collaboration on the list of choices for this question; last year’s show, Enterprise Connect 2017, was the first year we had a full track on Team Collab, and while it was well attended, it wasn’t a blowout. This year, all of our Team Collaboration sessions were among the best draws in their time slots, and in the post-show survey, 66% of respondents said Team Collab would grow in importance over the next 12 months -- edging out Cloud Communications at 64% and Unified Communications at 61%.
Team Collaboration software isn’t new, of course. We’re now several years into the Slack Revolution, and this famously user-friendly and just plain useful model has been emulated now by all the big enterprise players. Users have had time to warm up to the concept, and to gradually acquire an understanding of why it might be useful to them.
The products themselves also seem to be getting better. Cisco Spark boasts a strong security story, while Microsoft seems to be outdoing itself when it comes to Teams-- and I mean that literally. The old maxim was that with any product Microsoft gets it right on the third try, but we’re on essentially version 2 of Teams, and I talked to several people at Enterprise Connect who described it in almost identical words: “It’s… pretty good,” they’d say. It was like they were trying to come up with the criticism that would validate the old conventional wisdom about Microsoft, but came up short. In fact, these enterprise execs told me their end-user populations are taking to the new app, and liking it.
I think another thing that will continue pushing Team Collaboration ahead is its strong association with the larger issue and evolving culture of corporate meetings. In his Enterprise Connect 2018 keynote (watch on demand), Jonathan Rosenberg of Cisco emphasized how much more crucial it’s becoming for workers to collaborate, and now that we seem to be entering a period where the physical, office-based meeting room is getting renewed attention, Team Collaboration has an even more important role to play.
Team Collab apps offer the promise of a single interface for all devices and situations. Spark or Teams or Slack can all be used in the meeting room -- and also by workers from their mobile devices while sitting in a coffee shop, or from their workspace in the middle of a gigantic open-office hellscape. The vendors are building functionality like speech interfaces and room video connectivity into Team Collab apps, which for the first time gives the meeting room a front-end system that’s recognizable to folks who spend part of their day working from other devices.
This ability to fold the meeting room experience into the same interface that the worker uses in other contexts is important, and will help drive Team Collaboration use. Enterprises are refreshing their video conferencing estates and are implementing new configurations like small huddle rooms and multimedia ideation systems. They’re getting used to new levels of interoperability with external systems, connecting over cloud-based video services like BlueJeans or Zoom, and now may even be able to connect from one vendor’s software to another’s natively, as Cisco’s Rosenberg demonstrated at the end of his EC18 keynote.
Folks who were in the industry when 1996 was the “year of video” might find it hard to believe that one day video conferencing might be held up as the paragon of interoperability. But it’s starting to seem possible, and that could further boost Team Collaboration.
What’s your enterprise’s Team Collaboration strategy -- and if you don’t have one yet, are you planning to develop one? We’ll be digging into these questions and more over the next few months, as No Jitter fields the first of its annual research surveys to our audience. The survey will ask enterprise end users about their Team Collaboration usage and plans. Watch No Jitter this late spring/early summer for the results and analysis.
General Manager and Program Co-Chair, Enterprise Connect
Publisher, No Jitter