Many organizations have established new workplace norms, from supporting a hybrid office to adopting emerging technology to enhance communication and productivity. IT buyers and decision-makers must explore how to blend different communications components securely to support collaboration across the business. They, too, must consider how emerging technology, like generative AI, will influence business processes and vendor offerings.
At Enterprise Connect 2023, which takes place March 27-30 in Orlando, Fla., and virtually, conference attendees will explore how to navigate a converging unified communications (UC) and contact center market.
In this Q&A, Metrigy analyst Irwin Lazar discusses the trends that drive UC and contact center buying decisions as IT leaders look to support their current and future communications and collaboration needs.
Editor's note: The following interview was edited for length and clarity.
What will be the key topics at Enterprise Connect 2023?
Irwin Lazar: Obviously, Microsoft. In our research, we see a lot of companies at an inflection point where they're using Teams and trying to figure out what to do about voice. The battle line on the UC side is: Do they go with Teams calling or go with someone else? And, if they go with Teams calling, what's the best way to connect to the PSTN [public switched telephone network] -- is it Operator Connect or Direct Routing?
A lot of the focus among the clients we talked to is how reliable Teams calling is. Do they really want to put all their eggs in one basket -- if there's a Microsoft outage and they lose everything? I think that's going to be one of the biggest areas.
Also, what's the best way to build a meeting room? How do I have interoperability in my meeting rooms? How do I deal with hybrid meetings? I think all of those are still going to be interesting topics to talk about.
And then, I think, the overall state of the industry. Are the days of insane growth rates over, and what's the industry going to look like a year from now?
Security's also an area that's become increasingly important, especially as companies lose control over the different ways that people are collaborating. [Video game publisher] EA got attacked through Slack a couple years ago, and you had the fines of Wells Fargo and others for people using WhatsApp for customer communications. People are getting a little more concerned about ensuring that the apps they have are compliant, governed and secure.
What else might interest IT buyers as they evaluate their current strategies and look five years down the line?
Lazar: AI will be important and how their providers are using AI. The mindset of the person responsible for communication and collaboration is much more of a business mindset now than an application performance mindset. Yeah, the application has to work, and I want to make sure people are using it. But, at the end of the day, I'm going to be evaluated on the impact I'm making to the business.
I'm going to work with partners and providers that can come to me and say, 'Hey, deploy my solution, and your agents will be 25% more efficient. Your customer satisfaction scores will go up by 15%. Your operating costs will reduce by X. Employees will be more productive, they'll be more engaged, they'll be happier, their turnover levels will go down.' I think people are looking more strategically at which vendor not only provides a solution they need today, but where are they heading.
That's been a strong point for Microsoft, whether it's Copilot or Teams Premium. You're extending [the platform] so you're not thinking about Teams as voice, video and messaging. You're thinking about how Teams fits into other components. What's the business value you can deliver, and how can you integrate your communication environment into contact center and other applications? I think that's where people are going to be looking over the next few years.
What are you most interested in seeing at the conference?
Lazar: ChatGPT and generative AI is really interesting, both in the solutions people are bringing to the market and how they're going to deal with the quality of the data. And a lot of the issues with ChatGPT, for example, are because the data is good, but anybody can feed data into it. How much do we trust it? How can we use it to look into our own data?
I think some of the customer service examples are interesting. If I'm a customer service rep, I can use ChatGPT to quickly summarize conversations or monitor a conversation and make suggestions to me.
I can also use it as an intelligent chatbot where I'm having a problem setting up a new bike. I can go into the company website that sold me the bike, and I can conversationally tell it that I can't get the derailleur to install properly. And it can suggest videos, or using the GPT-4 engine, it can look at a picture I provide and figure out what's wrong. That's revolutionary from a self-service and customer support standpoint.
I think there's some value to making it easier to go find data. I can take a data set and say: 'I need to write a Word document covering X, Y and Z' and have it automatically created. And then I just go in and edit it. I'm not sure how much that matters from a tactical standpoint. But I think people are going to have an eye toward it because I think they understand that it's probably the biggest disrupter to come into the tech space since we saw video conferencing become so prevalent.