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I don’t do predictions, but each year just before Enterprise Connect I try to put down a few thoughts about what I’m looking for at the show, what questions I hope to get answered, and what I hope to learn. As we pack our bags for the 2018 event, here’s what I’m thinking about:

* The Cloud Migration -- New data just out from Synergy Research shows the UC-as-a-service (UCaaS) global installed base growing 29% year-over-year -- and this market may just be getting started, according to Synergy President Jeremy Duke. “UCaaS is gaining market acceptance momentum with large businesses and enterprises. Given the sheer scale of PBX installed base and the low penetration of UCaaS into those segments, this bodes well for continued strong growth,” he said in a statement accompanying the data’s release.

What this means for your enterprise is, of course, another matter. It doesn’t mean you have to move everything to the cloud now, or ever, necessarily. On the other hand, if your communications infrastructure is in flux—as it likely is or soon will be—you’ll probably be confronted with a buying decision that involves the cloud in some way. Our Cloud Communications track provides a wealth of deep, detailed information to help you make this decision, and four of our six Industry Vision Addresses are from companies either heavily or entirely UCaaS-focused (8x8, Mitel, RingCentral, and Vonage). Plus, I strongly suspect we’ll be hearing about the cloud when core vendors like Avaya, Cisco, and Microsoft, also take the main stage.

So my question is simple: Are we now in the post-PBX replacement cycle? If so, that doesn’t mean Cloud Communications “wins”—but it does make Cloud a major player and one no enterprise can ignore. If this market is on the move, we could be entering its next chapter.

* What to Make of Slack and Facebook? Two of our keynoting companies—Slack and Facebook—take a fundamentally different approach to communications than previous generations of large vendors that entered this space (think Cisco with VoIP or Microsoft with UC). Facebook and Slack are leading with a new model; they see collaborative workspaces and asynchronous messaging as the foundation of enterprise communications, and real-time services as add-ons to the platform—potentially important add-ons, but features nevertheless.

To me the question at EC is whether enterprise decision-makers buy this as a new model, or not. And if they do buy it, are they prepared to buy it?

* Speech Technologies: Amazon Web Services’ keynoter is Collin Davis, who’s GM of the Alexa for Business group. So we know he’ll be focusing on speech interfaces and technologies. In addition, we have an Industry Vision Address from Diane Chaleff, from the CTO’s office at Google, whose focus is on machine learning, a key element of speech technologies (though of course ML has many other applications in communications). Our Innovation Showcase also features speech technologies, and Showcase honcho Dave Michels of TalkingPointz got a wave of interest in this year’s topic, from new and more established companies alike. I don’t think there’s any question that speech technologies are going to be getting a look from the EC crowd, but I’m curious to see how intense the interest is, and how ready folks are to start making investments.

I could go on. Contact Centers are a growing area of focus, especially in connection with digital transformation and customer experience issues gaining prominence in the enterprise. Also, video’s definitely going to be a hot topic and is heading in some interesting directions. And the whole issue of Team Collaboration seems to be established as a factor for all enterprises to consider, whether you take the Slack or Facebook approach, or look to UC vendors like Cisco and Microsoft to incorporate Team Collab into a UC platform. Then you’ve got topics like AI, IoT, SD-WAN, and more.

You know…you can still register and attend Enterprise Connect 2018 in Orlando. And if you really can’t make that work this year, you can catch our General Sessions on livestream Monday through Wednesday. One way or another, I hope you join us next week.