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The enterprise communications industry is fragmenting, a dynamic we’re seeing play out on the show floor at Enterprise Connect. The old CPE-focused platform just isn’t flexible enough to accommodate the pace of this change, so we’re seeing enterprises turn to cloud-based services to get the sort of quick wins that they hope will provide an immediate business benefit.

Take video conferencing. If your enterprise sees the opportunity for a quick business benefit by deploying video to dozens of offices, a cloud video provider like Zoom or BlueJeans can respond with a pretty appealing solution that lets you focus on that particular need, without you having to deal with the other elements of your communications environment—all of which may be developing (or stagnating) at a completely different pace.

The same goes for contact centers, which have been the leading application to move to the cloud; and also for discrete communications functions, which have driven the impressive growth of Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) providers like Twilio and the Nexmo subsidiary of Vonage.

That’s why the “traditional” Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) players—RingCentral, 8x8, Vonage, Fuze, and many others--have made intensive efforts to diversify their service offerings. (And yes, it does seem remarkable for an industry as young as UCaaS to have “traditional” players.) If you need to ditch your old PBX, these companies will sell you a straightforward cloud-based service that provides equivalent capabilities, to ease the transition. But all of them, to one degree or other, have expanded into contact center, CPaaS, and video, and can sell you any or all of these functions. They’re no longer just a PBX in the cloud.

The transition to the cloud has other implications for enterprise decision-makers. My colleagues Beth Schultz, Michelle Burbick, and I were talking with a consultant recently who described the changing nature of the vendor relationship he’s observing in the cloud transition. In the days when you selected a CPE platform vendor, it was critical to select a company you could truly work with as a partner—after all, if the thing lasted 20 years, that meant you could be shackling yourself to this company’s product and vision and business model for the better part of your career.

With a Cloud Communications provider, the equation is different. In theory, if you don’t like the service you’re getting from the first provider you chose, you can just switch to another. Our consultant friend noted that, in practice, it’s not that simple—though you probably still can extricate yourself from the relationship in far less time than you could with a CPE vendor. The overriding point is that the relationship will be different, and so you need to realistically assess what you’re getting into when you “partner” with a cloud vendor.

Every company’s experience with cloud-based communications is going to be different, but we wanted to see what the overall trends look like. That’s why Enterprise Connect’s editorial website, No Jitter, is surveying our audience to see what you think about cloud-based services, and how the cloud is affecting your enterprise communications and collaboration strategy. If you’re an enterprise decision-maker, we’d love to get your input. Please consider giving just a couple minutes of your time to take the survey. We’ll publish the results on No Jitter and also use them to help us make decisions about the program for Enterprise Connect Orlando 2019 (for which registration is about to open!).