ITEXPO, and the co-located MSP Expo, are two of the most exciting events in the Unified Communications industry. This year saw more than 3,000 managed service providers come together at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
ITEXPO offers MSPs a three-day extravaganza spotlighting our industry’s most groundbreaking innovations, services, and trends. The event attracted some 200 technology providers who showed off their most cutting-edge solutions, and compelling presentations from more than 40 speakers.
Keynote topics included content from industry giants such as Cisco, Google, ConnectWise, AT&T, IBM, and Poly. A comprehensive range technology tracks marked the show’s agenda, exploring areas like contact center, VoIP, cloud services, AI, IoT, cybersecurity, automation, and workplace transformation. Let’s look at some of the biggest talking points of the event, including the keynote on Elevating the Partner Experience by our own CRO, Ken Lienemann.
The Wide World of AI
One of the most hotly-discussed Unified Communications market trends coming out of the conference was the potential of Artificial Intelligence or “AI,” within UCaaS and CCaaS, which some industry pundits are hailing as the next “big thing.” But according to many speakers, businesses are still kicking the tires on AI, and trying to determine the role it plays in various sectors of the business communications market.
According to many influencers and speakers, there doesn’t seem to be a standard definition among providers as to what “AI” actually is. Some equate it with machine learning, others consider automation a type of AI, and still others see it as an analytics application. The concept of AI and its role is still evolving, and this could eventually translate into substantial opportunities for providers, channel partners, and end users.
Chatbots are Leading the Way in AI Use Cases
Although AI received tons of attention, speakers had a difficult time identifying real-world use cases for it. One notable exception: Chatbots are being shown as an example of how artificial intelligence can be successfully leveraged in a contact center environment. But despite all the enthusiasm and promise AI generated, there was still a consensus among attendees that widespread integration of AI in UCaaS and CCaaS solutions is still years away.
SD-WAN's Time is Coming
Conference-goers noticed that SD-WAN solutions are rising to the forefront as a means to improve network performance and optimize bandwidth. SD-WAN-oriented sessions were typically packed, and several analysts and influencers cited the technology as a perfect solution for optimizing network performance.
5G is On the Rise
The roll-out of 5G technology was another hot topic, centering around potential use cases of this next-generation wireless connectivity model. Advocates claimed it will reduce latency compared to 4G (and LTE) and create an enhanced user experience. Some analysts were less enthusiastic about 5G, stating that while the technology is faster than legacy 4G wireless networks, there were few use cases that justified the enormous capital expense necessary for rolling out a 5G network.
Elevating the Partner Experience
Although topics like AI and User Experience were certainly on everyone’s minds, CoreDial’s own Ken Lienemann took the opportunity to remind MSPs that their success is essential to the viability of the industry, and they should seek out technology providers who create programs and services that help increase revenue, expand their customer base, and improve profitability. His keynote pointed out something that many technology providers have let fall by the wayside: Providers need to do a much better job supporting the needs of the channel. As Lienemann noted, technology providers must empower—not hinder—their partners by delivering integrated tools, resources, and programs that will position them to thrive.
“We hear a lot of talk about creating superior user experiences,” Lienemann remarked during his presentation, “but little attention is given to optimizing the partner experience. In fact, to many vendors, the needs of MSPs become secondary.”
Acknowledging the Value of the Trusted Advisor
CoreDial’s team met with scores of partners during the show, many of which visited the booth to learn about the company’s robust UCaaS and CCaaS services, as well as powerful mobility tools and SD WAN solutions. CoreDial CEO Alan Rihm was present throughout much of the conference, meeting with many partners, industry leaders, media, and analysts.
“From the conversations we had at the show, it’s obvious that partners want to build more sustainable businesses and not just function as agents,” he said. “Too many technology providers view MSPs merely as a source of leads. They’re convenient until they become inconvenient, at which point vendors start to begrudge paying commissions or providing support. We take a different view. MSPs are trusted advisors to the business customer, and are the ones who insure delivery of our solutions in the most professional manner. They make sure the implementations are correct, and are there to help their customers every step of the way. We understand their value, and that’s why we’re completely focused on empowering MSPs. Our affiliation with them isn’t just about features and feeds. It’s about nurturing long-term relationships where we actually help these Partners succeed.”