The History Of Enterprise Connect
Enterprise Connect of today not only looks and feels different from Enterprise Connect of old, but it also has a different name, location, and focus.
In this post, we walk through how (and where) it started, through some fundamental changes, and introduce what is a fantastic spectacle today.
1 — The beginnings (The PBX Conference)
The history of the Enterprise Connect conference, in many ways, reflects the history of the industry that it serves.
The Enterprise Connect conference origins are in “The PBX Conference” from the 90s, just as today’s business communications evolved from the PBX-centric networks in the 90s.
A PBX (Private Branch Exchange), in those days, was a physical device that would be used like a private phone network for your company. All the company phones would be connected to the PBX, which would then connect to the outside world.
The PBX supported call transfers, forwarding, voicemail, call waiting, and all the other business phone features of that era.
Since that time, the industry has gone from the phone/PBX-centric 90s to the voice/data-focused 2000s, to the unified communications dominated 2010s, to today’s interest in “platform” based communications services.
Similarly, Enterprise Connect has had different phases (with different conference names) as it supported these industry trends.
2 — The rise of VoIP (VoiceCon)
At the turn of the century, the phone was still king, and audio was often the solitary means of day-to-day business meetings and communication. The PBX, however, was no longer the only way to support business audio.
The emergence of voice over IP (VoIP) was beginning to change the game, and it was time for a new conference.
The first VoiceCon conference, (the true predecessor to the modern-day Enterprise Connect conference) was held in 1999 and focused heavily on the anticipated transition to VoIP.
Over the next decade, the business world started seeing VoIP as just one of many types of data communications shared over business IP networks. All of which are managed by the same experts and users that were regularly attending the VoiceCon conference.
As a result, VoiceCon catered to its attendees by expanding coverage to other forms of data communications. Notably, the rise of “unified communications” products and services became a big trend and focus of the conference towards the later half of the aughts.
By 2010, the VoiceCon community was interested in supporting a new kind of multimedia business communications network. It wasn’t just about voice anymore, but data, and even video, were seen as crucial elements of enterprise communications.
It was time for another name change.
3 — A new name and bigger vision (Enterprise Connect)
In 2010, the show was officially renamed Enterprise Connect.
The first Enterprise Connect was held in 2011 at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, which has been its home ever since. Previously, as VoiceCon, the show would rotate among several cities, including Orlando.
The chairs of Enterprise Connect released the following statement at the time:
“In Enterprise Connect, we believe we have a name that expresses the essence of what our audience and sponsors are all about — and indeed what our event is all about. Terms like “Unified Communications” or “Collaboration” — while essential in characterizing important industry developments and goals — do not adequately encompass the vision that we believe our industry is striving to fulfill with the next generation of technology. We believe the technology and products must Connect people with each other and with business processes, so that they can communicate, collaborate, work, and fulfill business objectives anywhere, anytime.”
Fred Knight/Eric Knapf, Enterprise Connect co-chairs.
The newly named show was clearly embracing and welcoming a community much different than the voice-centered attendees of the 90s.
This show was for those ready to see enterprise communications in a new way. Management of a multi-media network included an ever-increasing number of tools and capabilities. Enterprise Connect soon became the place to be in the know.
A quick look at the conference tracks gives us a perfect snapshot in time of the show’s focus.
2011 Enterprise Connect conference tracks were:
- Unified Communications
- The Cloud and Virtualization
- SIP and SIP Trunking
- Video and Collaboration
- The Social Enterprise
- Planning/Implementing IP Telephony
- Managing Technology, Costs, and People
While VoIP was still a major focus, it is now but one of many tracks. Its thunder was stolen in this era by unified communications.
The enthusiasm behind UC was understandable. Combining voice, text, data, and video all in one app would greatly simplify the business communications world.
But early UC solutions struggled with implementation, adoption, and acceptance. The phone was still king, out of habit if nothing else.
4 — The eruption of team chat changed everything
Team chat was a self-adopting business communications technology. When Slack exploded in 2013, it was because people were choosing to use it, rather than being forced to by their bosses.
As a result, team chat quickly became the base of the new UC stack. Team chat would be the catalyst to finally get workers to shift to UC.
In other words, UC was already one of the hottest topics of the era, and team chat arguably made it the central focus of the Enterprise Connect community at the time.
The other elements of the UC stack, including video, saw a lot of growth and advances, often announced at the Enterprise Connect show itself.
Business video has had a track throughout the history of Enterprise Connect. Even in the early years, when business video was almost prohibitively expensive, and very high maintenance.
Despite these shortcomings, it was already providing enough ROI in the workplace to justify its own track.
Other tracks reflect the challenges at the time. For example, dealing with mobility was still a new thing for many IT departments. The advice shared at panels and sessions on topics like these over the years had benefited literally thousands of IT professionals.
One of the biggest trends/challenges of the era was the transition to the cloud. It’s not surprising to see that it had its own track as far back as 2011.
The knowledge shared at these events cannot be overstated. Those who followed the expert advice from the time regarding the cloud at early EC sessions are still seeing the benefits.
On the flip side, many companies no longer exist because they didn’t heed the Enterprise Connect community, and fumbled their transition to the cloud.
While the conference tracks have gradually changed over the years, the overall focus on the bigger picture of enterprise communications remains.
It’s fair to say that the vision behind the 2011 Enterprise Connect conference has remained consistent through the modern era.
5 — Modern-day Enterprise Connect
“Communications and collaboration are always changing. When I started attending Enterprise Connect (I recall it being called VoiceCon), it was voice equipment-dominated, a far cry from the cloud-dominated event of today. Many of the communication industry’s solutions, products, and vendors have changed.”
Dave Michels, Founder & Lead Analyst, TalkingPointz.com
As business communications are constantly changing, the show that covers it must be constantly changing as well.
For the show to stay relevant, it must continuously adapt to include what is relevant to its community.
The show’s high-level focus remains consistently set on business communications and collaboration. The specific elements, however, have gradually shifted over the years.
2023 Enterprise Connect conference tracks are:
- Contact Center & Customer Experience
- Video Collaboration & A/V
- Collaboration Platforms
- Communications & Collaboration 2026
- CPaaS & APIs
- Unified Communications & UCaaS
- Workplace Strategies
- Management & Networks
- Security & Compliance
Not surprisingly, video and UC continue to be a big part of the discussion. Even before the pandemic, video and UC appeared to be on a boom. Today, these technologies have replaced the office for many workers.
As a result, some of the biggest and most well-known companies in the world are exhibiting video and UC solutions at Enterprise Connect year after year.
At some point, contact center technology and services became interesting to the community, which is reflected in a contact center track at the show. This may seem unrelated to business communications at first. However, you must consider that these services use the same underlying data/network technologies. Also, they are managed by the same experts/users.
One of the more controversial new tracks is collaboration platforms. Think of this as a meta-level higher than UC.
Whereas UC specifically handles employee communication and collaboration, Enterprise Connect defines a platform as an entire employee portal. UC is merely one element of a collaboration platform.
The controversy among press and analysts is whether collaboration platforms are just a marketing tool that UC providers use to sell related services, or whether it actually benefits the customers.
Enterprise Connect provides a unique opportunity for the community to hash out exactly this type of controversy. The relevant panel discussions, and even hallway conversations, aren’t just informative but can help shape future trends in our industry.
Beyond the tracks themselves, key industry trends and topics are the subjects of interactive and informative content at every Enterprise Connect show.
It is the place to go to learn about and discuss best practices for hybrid working, meeting equity, message interoperability, AI, machine learning, and all other workplace technology trends.
Now gearing up for its second show after the pandemic hiatus, Enterprise Connect continues to be one of the few events that collaboration professionals simply can’t miss. It’s focused on our industry, it changes with the times, and the experts in the field show up with great content and presentations.
Mio at Enterprise Connect
Mio has been attending Enterprise Connect for the last five years, collecting nominations for Best of Enterprise Connect and winning awards like Best Innovation for Collaboration and Best Innovation for Virtual Meetings.
Don’t forget to visit the Mio team at booth 801 and chat about how you use collaboration apps.
Mio is conveniently just down the hall from Microsoft and Zoom.