Insider Report February 2020
The Most Important Enterprise Communications News from February 2020
Avaya Engage: Avaya hosted its Engage conference in Phoenix. There were very few new announcements, but there were updates on several previously announced initiatives. The biggest was Avaya Cloud Office (ACO) by RingCentral. Other than the Avaya endpoint, the service looks a lot like RingCentral Cloud Office. ACO is just one component of Avaya’s transition to cloudiness. Other initiatives include subscription licensing, Avaya Spaces (chat and meetings), device as a service, and ReadyNow private cloud bundles. All of these are being pushed simultaneously, which likely means Avaya is going to take a major hit on revenue (recognition). This bold strategy is rare for public companies, but recurring revenue drives valuation more than anything else. For more information, see this post: 27 Hours in Phoenix.
Cisco Collaboration Analyst Summit: It was time for a Cisco Collab analyst event. In the past year, Cisco Collab has made two acquisitions, launched several products, and made additional leadership changes. The Cisco Collab team had a lot of splainin to do, and it consumed every waking hour during its event doing that. The Cisco Collab strategy can be summed up in one word: Webex. But don’t confuse that for a meetings app. Webex represents a cloud-first strategy for a unified application for meetings, telephony, messaging, devices, and contact center. Webex also refers to cloud-enabled security, analytics, management, and perhaps most importantly, cognitive capabilities.
Cloud and AI are the common threads across its roadmap and vision. Regarding AI, Cisco Collab partnered with Google AI for CC, and also acquired MindMeld, Accompany, and Voicea. All of those are being leveraged in its contact center vision along with CloudCherry, a voice of the customer acquisition. Contact center is the highest priority. I got a private demo of the Voicea technology during a Webex meeting, and it’s the first voice assistant that impressed me.
One of my takeaways from the event is Cisco’s tremendous advantage with hardware. This is often overlooked because hardware is not cool — an unfortunate misperception. Apple showed us the way with the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Despite software eating the world, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft are all experimenting with hardware. Cisco has a head start in hardware design, manufacturing, distribution, and enterprise sales. The portfolio is expanding. In San Jose we saw the Room Panorama, the Desk Pro, and BT headsets. We also got a glimpse of some upcoming devices.
The Chang Cisco Collab has arrived. It intends to use AI, devices, and its enterprise influence to expand its reach into enterprises with cloud-delivered, cognitive experiences. Post-event video.
Integrated Systems Europe (ISE): ISE still remains a major conference for A/V topics. Attendance was down (Coronavirus and Storm Ciara), but the 2020 event in Amsterdam drew some 35K attendees. Several meeting room related announcements are covered in the following section.
Surface Hub 2: Microsoft reconsidered the 2X professor upgrade for its Surface Hub 2. It had planned to offer Surface Hub 2S owners a physical upgrade of the processor and GPU that leverages its modern Windows Core OS platform. Now the company is thinking of a pure software approach to tiling and rotating. Microsoft still expects to enable the Surface Hub 2 to act as an HDMI monitor for other systems. I thought it was strange that Microsoft demonstrated the new Surface Hub almost two years prior to its expected release. Of course, plans can change in that time. I’m torn on mixed OS/display boards. They have a shorter lifespan than simple televisions, but offer more. The compute cartridge was supposed to fix that.
Sennheiser and Bose: Sennheiser and Bose Professional announced a new conference room bundle of the Sennheiser TeamConnect Ceiling 2 microphone and three Bose products: the ControlSpace EX-440C conferencing digital signal processor, the EdgeMax EM180 in-ceiling loudspeaker, and the PowerSpace P2600A amplifier. Both are legendary brands, though neither has strong brand awareness in UC and conferencing.
Webex Security: Cisco announced several new features within the Cisco Webex Control Hub Extended Security Pack (ESP) this month. The updates strengthen security and compliance of Webex Teams. ESP now has malware protection and improved bot management. Inter-company communications also got improved controls. These additions highlight two of the biggest differences between Webex Teams and other messaging services: security and inter-company collaboration.
It’s important to understand that Team Chat and chat-based platforms are different. MS Teams and Slack are really more than team chat and want to be viewed as a platform. Webex Teams and most other UCaaS-related Team Chat apps are better viewed as applications that are optimized for team communications and collaboration. Cisco is doubling-down on positioning Webex Teams for environments that value or require strict security and compliance measures. Webex Teams also uses a single-instance user base model making inter-company collaboration simple. So simple that new compliance tools were needed to restrict it.
ALE Launches Rainbow Rooms: ALE has released a new room solution for Rainbow-powered meetings. The Rainbow Room uses an Android-based TV (either a TV that runs Android Apps or a separate Android controller that connects to the TV via HDMI and USB) and USB camera and audio peripherals (ALE bundles Konftel devices). Users can join or start a meeting via touch or remote without the need for a separate computer. Rainbow Rooms can be added to Rainbow “bubbles” (conversations).
Logitech Alliances: Logitech and Crestron are taking meetings so seriously that they now intend to “meet” in the marketplace. The companies announced a partnership that includes room controls, scheduling, management, and conferencing by bundling the Crestron Flex C Series with Logitech MeetUp and Rally solutions. These new products offer configurations for small, medium, and large rooms. Crestron’s use of APIs within Logi’s Sync management solution creates the illusion that its XiO Cloud management solution is a single (customer-facing) management system. The partnership does not impact any of the competing aspects of each company’s portfolio such as the Logi Tap or Flex controllers, but it does give their mutual reseller partners more options.
Logitech also struck an alliance with Lenovo to create pre-configured solutions for Teams and Zoom rooms. The packages combine Logitech meeting devices, the Logi Tap controller, and a Lenovo ThinkSmart Edition M920 Tiny PC (effectively replacing the NUC). The bundles are expected this spring for about $2100.
These are big wins for Logitech (and Microsoft and Zoom) as these alliances expand its paths to market. Last month, Logi struck a similar alliance with Barco. Last year, Logi struck a partnership with Avocor that combined display boards with cameras. Meeting rooms, room automation, and content sharing solutions are all converging. It’s a threat for many, but as a leading purveyor of USB meeting peripherals (the U stands for universal), Logitech appears to be holding a winning hand.
Bose UC: Bose Work, its brand for conferencing solutions, expanded into huddle room solutions. The VB1 is its first USB video bar (clever name). It features a 4K camera, autoframing, a built-in beamforming microphone array, and speakers utilizing proprietary Bose sound. Bose will likely have trouble penetrating huddle rooms with a premium-branded USB bar. It’s taking a similar approach with headsets. The new 700 UC headset appears to be the same as its consumer branded 700 noise-canceling, boomless headset for $400. The Bose Work version, the 700 UC, includes a USB-BT dongle (for PCs).
Poly Lens Sees All: Poly unveiled a new cloud-based insight and management service called Poly Lens (preview) at ISE. Lens combines management, configuration, updates, and insights into a single platform service. Lens gives admins greater visibility and control into Poly devices throughout their organization. On launch, it works with Studio X video bars and the G7500 solutions, with additional room systems and headsets coming. It identifies and prioritizes information through a news feed interface. Poly Lens is available now worldwide for free under “commercial preview.”
While software vendors (Google, Amazon, Microsoft) prioritize hardware, of course, hardware vendors are prioritizing software. Everyone is prioritizing connected services. Meeting rooms of all sizes are going from analog/disconnected to video-ready and connected. Both the online meeting capabilities and room analytics are game-changing. Both post interesting enterprise-wide challenges and opportunities.
Bob Is Back (Poly)! Poly Announced that Robert Hagerty will replace Joe Burton as CEO of Poly. Haggerty is the Chairman of the Poly Board and served as CEO of Polycom 1998-2010. The announcement came not long after disappointing quarterly financials. Poly also kicked off a formal CEO search as a result of “Joe Burton’s decision to step down as President and Chief Executive Officer, by mutual agreement with the Board.”
It was about a year ago, at EC19, when Joe unveiled Poly as the new name of Plantronics and Polycom. The past 12 months have been a blur of releases and launches. Unfortunately, two consecutive disappointing quarters necessitated a head offering to the ticker gods. I think it’s unfortunate as Burton seemed to be on the right track: the company fixed supply issues and released new phones for Teams, the new X Series bars are ramping quickly, Poly has been working to sell its consumer headset business, and a new heavy-weight CRO was recently hired. Timing is a bitch.
New in MS Teams: Live captions is now GA. This was demonstrated at EC19.
WEM MQ 2020: Gartner released its Magic Quadrant for WEM this month. WEM functionality includes recruitment, onboarding, evaluation and improvement, time and task management, metrics, recognition, and voice of the employee. The report features NICE and Verint alone in the Leaders quadrant with NICE being highest and rightest. Colabrio and Genesys are below them in the Visionary quadrant (with Genesys kissing the Niche boundary). WalkMe, Aspect, Jacada, and the other ZOOM are in the Niche quadrant. The biggest change from last year is Genesys moved from Niche to Visionary. Again, there are no Challengers. Jacada and WalkMe are new this year and a puzzling addition. OpenText was dropped.
To many, WEM and WFO are the same. Gartner sees WEM as the next evolutionary step. “The emergence of WEM software characterizes the evolution of the established, multibillion-dollar workforce optimization software market.” While Gartner has evolved its definition, the industry still lags. The report chastises users for using WEM to only drive operational performance and predicts that analytics “will be at the heart” of new functionality. You can hear the frustration in “mobile support for agents has increased but remains modest” or that “agent recruitment and onboarding processes have largely been overlooked by WEM vendors.”
Analysts are usually behind market shifts as we often rely on prior year data, so it’s actually kind of nice that Gartner is ahead in this situation.
Talkdesk 4 out of 20: Talkdesk intends to announce 20 new products and releases in 2020. It’s an unusual and contained goal in the era of continuous innovation. The first four came this month: a native Predictive Dialer, Proactive Notifications, Business Transformation Services, and Virtual Agent.
The new Predictive Dialer utilizes Talkdesk iQ algorithms to manage outbound dialing to proactively connect with customers and prospects. The new Proactive Notifications can send personalized and timely agentless notifications via phone or SMS. Talkdesk claims both offer “rapid and easy setup and management” for non-technical users. Business Transformation Services appears to be a productized PS migration to CCaaS. Talkdesk provides expert assistance, technical account management, a dedicated customer success manager, and 24×7 premium support.
The Virtual Agent is Td’s new chatbot, built on its own AI, and branded as Talkdesk iQ. Virtual Agent leverages a voice-enabled chatbot, knowledge base, and text-to-speech technologies to deliver automated service. I can’t get too excited about chatbot technology, and this has nothing to do with Talkdesk. I don’t believe that natural language understanding (NLU) technology is mature enough. Nor do I believe businesses are able to create reliable logic. That said, chatbots make for an interesting upgrade to the DTMF IVR (with some benefits and some disadvantages). Unfortunately, chatbot expectations are still ahead of the technology.
The Talkdesk implementation appeared competitive with other demos, but it’s home-built, and that’s important. That means Talkdesk isn’t sharing conversations with third parties. It also means that Talkdesk will need to convince prospects that its Talkdesk iQ is as good as alternatives such as Google’s Dialogflow. Usually, chatbot announcements are paired with augmented agent news. Talkdesk Agent Assist updates will presumably be within the other 16 planned releases this year.
Google Updates AI for CC: Google released its AI for CC solution last November. This month, Google announced an update to Dialogflow, the core tech used within it to build conversational chatbots and IVRs. The updates include Dialogflow Mega Agent (beta) to increase the number of “intents available to virtual agents” 10x (to 20K), Dialogflow Agent Validation (GA) to identify design errors, Dialogflow Versions and Environments for improved version control, and Dialogflow Webhook management API (GA) for managing queries.
The tech is clearly progressing, but it’s still largely implemented for cost savings. It will become much more interesting when it is adopted to increase customer satisfaction and retention. Google states Dialogflow has +1M developers and meets HIPAA and PCI requirements.
Unlimited Bots with NICE: NICE unveiled a new RPA package for users of NICE Employee Virtual Attendants. The new Unlimited offer is for companies with over 200 NEVA licenses. It includes NICE's Automation Studio, design tools, optical character recognition, and a range of modules designed to boost automation deployment.
Genesys Winter Innovations: As usual, a good chunk of any Genesys update includes a lot of rebranding. This month, Genesys announced its Winter Innovations capabilities. This is a collection of new features that have already or will be delivered later this year, for one or more of its platforms. The updates pertain to Genesys Cloud (formerly PureCloud) and Genesys Engage (formerly PureEngage). PureConnect has no name change or enhancements.
A few notable upgrades for Genesys Cloud include several new features to Predictive Engagement (formerly Altocloud) including support for webhooks that can trigger workflows across systems. The chat widget is getting updated to support file transfer, and the email interface will support images. Admin updates include SAML, OKTA, MS AD, and SSO.
Genesys Cloud services are also being designed to enhance Engage implementations. These hybrid services include bots, Predictive Engagement, IVRaaS, outbound campaigns, and automated forecasting and scheduling.
Genesys Usage-Based Pricing: Genesys introduced the option of hourly pricing for Genesys Cloud. The service includes IVR, data storage, and API requests. This is better described as an hourly model, not usage-based.
Avaya and Afiniti: Out of the Avaya/Afiniti partnership came Avaya AI Routing with Afiniti AiRo. This is a new intelligent routing option for Avaya IX Contact Center solutions that routes calls based on optimal pairing of customers with agents. I find the whole thing kind of creepy, but it evidently works, and Avaya proves it with interval on/off testing. The new offer expands the reach of this AI-advanced capability to smaller firms.
Logitech Zone: Logitech introduced two wired USB headsets: the Zone Wired UC and Zone Wired Certified for Teams. Of course, both headsets work fine with Microsoft Teams as well as most UC apps. They come with a tangle-free cable and USB Type-A or Type-C connector. Users can adjust settings such as ANC through the Logi Tune app. GA is expected this spring at $130, or for about $300 with a webcam. There’s no shortage of UC headset options. Though it’s a surprisingly complex market. Vendors must address multiple connectors, radios, wear styles, looks, and features. There’s the old challenge of hitting the price/quality sweet spot, and the new challenge of management and analytics. Headsets are logical for Logitech as it already makes and distributes UC peripherals.
I will take a moment to call out this ridiculous Certified for Teams thing. It causes vendors and channels to double their SKUs for essentially identical products. “Partners” must pay to be in the program and can only participate if invited. It unnecessarily makes standard products proprietary.
Atos and RC: Atos and RingCentral agreed on a co-branded UCaaS offer for their Digital Workplace offers. SIs, of course, are rarely exclusive to a specific vendor or solution. Atos acquired Unify in 2015 and positions OpenScape alongside this new offer. Atos also has a close partnership with Google Cloud and presumably resells Google Voice to G Suite users. For RingCentral, it’s another big win on the heels of its Avaya partnership which came after expansion of a reseller arrangement with AT&T.
Ribbon Names a New CEO: Ribbon named Bruce McClelland as its new CEO. McClelland previously served as CEO of ARRIS and led the sale of the organization to CommScope for $7.4B last April. He’s walking into a giant merger as Ribbon announces its acquisition of ECI Telecom Group just before the departure of its previous CEO. It’s nice to see they repurposed a Bell Head. McClelland spent 11 years at Nortel and Bell Northern Research. He began his career working on SS7 switching products.
VOSS-4-UC x 2: At Avaya Engage, VOSS announced a new MS Teams management capability is available alongside its Avaya Management solution. VOSS is addressing the reality that customers often have multiple UC and CC solutions that do not benefit from modern automation and streamlined management. This appears to be a segment that is growing as few customers seem to entirely migrate to a single solution. These super-managers also provide a recurring service opportunity for channel partners.
New in Webex Teams: Cisco headsets are better integrated into the client for control and management. Two calls can be merged into one, and call waiting was expanded to Unified CM. Call transfer is now supported in Webex Teams Mobile.
Fuze: Fuze announced an integration with Microsoft Teams that simplifies the move from Teams channels to Fuze calls or meetings. It’s a tricky strategy. Fuze offers a richer UCaaS experience, but Microsoft is innovating very quickly. Both solutions offer UCaaS, meetings, and messaging.
Teams Captain: The Microsoft CVP of Office apps, SharePoint, OneDrive, and Stream is adding Microsoft Teams to his list of responsibilities. Jeff Teper replaces CVP Brian MacDonald, who has been heading Microsoft Teams. The news is part of a bigger shakeup at Microsoft with Windows client and hardware combining under Chief Product Officer Panos Panay.
I sense that Teams just isn’t delivering what Microsoft expected. While 20M daily active users is nothing to sneeze at, it’s a small part of the +200M O365 users it has been thrust upon. Not to mention it’s the heir apparent to over ten years of SfB. Now Teams sits alongside SharePoint and Stream. On the other hand, a single CVP may improve the Teams-SharePoint integration. For example, there’s no easy way to share recordings (stored in SharePoint) with external users. Also, the file management tab in Teams has relatively limited features.
Insights to Drive Workplace Adoption: Workplace launched Insights within the Admin Panel to provide visibility to organizational use of Workplace. Insights can follow employee sentiment, trends within groups, post-level activity, and more. It offers five different tabs (People, Content, Groups, Posts, and Connections) with dashboards on how employees use Workplace. Several providers have expanded their focus from sales to adoption. Adoption is much more important in recurring services than perpetually licensed products.
Slack App Home: Slack rolled out a Home Tab feature in its developer toolkit. This was previewed back at its Spec developer conference last fall. App Home allows users to quickly access information about an app. It will become more influential as more apps and SaaS providers embrace it. Three good uses are onboardings, launching frequent actions, and dashboard metrics. The UC crowd often considers Slack a team chat app, but it’s best viewed as a platform — and platform success comes from sticky apps.
Microsoft Teams Outage: Microsoft Teams went down because it failed to renew a critical security certificate. On the positive side, it’s a nice clear admission. I will say, WTF? Are they managing certificates manually? Presumably, they use automated processes, but then this event is even worse. This is a big blow to the “cloud is more reliable than prem” debate. At least prem users can rely on Microsoft System Center Operations Manager to track certificate expirations.
Can you imagine if it had been Slack that went down due to a clerical error? At least that would have lasted as a conversation topic. This outage was quickly forgotten, dismissed as a cute “ah shucks” moment.
WhatsApp 2B: Facebook revealed this month that WhatsApp has 2B users. We last heard WhatsApp numbers about two years ago when it was 1.5B. It’s even more impressive considering that WhatsApp is free and has no ads. That’s a lot of users, but WhatsApp is not a monopoly! Facebook Messenger has 2.5B users.
Slack and IBM: IBM has been Slack’s largest customer for several years now. This month we learned it intends to expand the use of Slack enterprise-wide, adding about 50K seats to an estimated total of 350K. While that’s a nice win for Slack, what I find particularly interesting is that IBM is deploying it to all employees. Both Microsoft Teams and Workplace by Facebook are positioning themselves around enterprise-wide deployments through “firstline” initiatives. However, not all companies have firstline employees. I do believe that messaging-apps, particularly mobile devices, should be deployed enterprise-wide.
Workplace Reminders: Reminders have always been available in Workplace — they were carefully hidden under the three dots to the right of a post. The Workplace team decided reminders deserved more visibility, so it introduced a Reminders tab in the Notifications section. A click on the Reminder button on the post opens a configurable reminder. Perhaps this option will help, but I have so many notifications across my apps and devices that I am forgetting things.
New in MS Teams: Microsoft continues to develop Teams at a rapid pace. This month Microsoft announced a new integration between Outlook and Teams that allows email (attachments and conversations) to move from Outlook to a Teams chat or channel. Also, chats can move to email. This makes sense as conversations may span across tools, but I never understood why Teams and Outlook are separate clients. A new @dist mention feature is similar to a distribution list that uses role, project, or location tags. Teams now creates an enterprise-wide team, but it’s still limited to 5K users per an architectural limitation. Microsoft also improved the File tab which was powered by SharePoint, but now acts like it. Admins will see improvements in app catalog administration, now legal hold policies apply to private channels, and there are tools to detect and manage inappropriate messages.
New in Webex Teams: Webex Teams now offers expanded presence indicators (DnD, Meeting, and Available) and configurable status descriptions. The client is more colorful and whimsical, has a feline mascot, and offers a compact mode to see more conversations. An improved integration with Box allows users to share, preview, view, and co-edit stored files from within Webex Teams. Users can now respond to a message with Reactions. Also, there are a few usability and consistency updates to the mobile clients. I predict that Webex Teams and Webex Meetings will soon become a single app.
COVID-19 Pandemic: The spread of COVID-19 is inevitable. It is very contagious, and infected people often don’t realize they have it. Panic is spreading so quickly that it is hard to believe the US death toll is only one person (as of Feb 29, 2020). There’s lots of advice out there on how to avoid getting sick. You can regularly and thoroughly wash your hands, wear a face mask, eat a low fiber diet, and get plenty of rest. But, here’s the best tip: don’t go to work.
The impact of this disease can’t be predicted, but based on the last week of Feb, it’s going to cost billions. Bad yes, but oddly great for enterprise comms. Coronavirus is going to do more for remote work than anything before it. Enterprise comms are in the front seat as it enables organizations, conferences, and sales teams to reduce in-person interactions. Coronavirus will also change our perception of what constitutes a safe workplace. Or, more specifically, when does an employer become liable for providing an unsafe work environment?
Windows + Devices: Microsoft announced a reorganization that combined Windows and Devices (hardware) under one product officer (Panos Panay). The new group is called Windows + Devices, and it ultimately means that the future of Windows is now tied closely to hardware. It’s about time.
IBM was the leader in computer hardware. Microsoft displaced IBM and taught us all about the power of software. For decades, the only hardware Microsoft made was mice and keyboards (and it was extremely profitable). Apple, under the leadership of Jobs 2.0, then taught us that true power is in the combination of hardware and software.
Microsoft, and most others, was slow to respond. Building hardware disrupts the ecosystem, but it had to be done. There were some mistakes (Surface RT), but Microsoft has slowly been using its Surface products to nudge the PC industry. The Surface Pro convertible laptops and now the Surface Pro X are innovative concepts.
If Satya called me, I would encourage the Apple playbook. Apple retained control over the entire experience on Macs and iPhones, why shouldn’t Microsoft? Do HP and Lenovo make Microsoft better? Windows and PCs are mature — it’s time to shake things up.
No Way (San) Jose: I love to visit San Francisco and certainly regret not buying real estate there. However, I agree with @Jack that tech companies should reexamine the cost/benefit of Silicon Valley offices. It commands the highest salaries, has some of the most expensive real estate, and San Francisco has an untenable homeless situation. Plus Salesforce ruined its majestic skyline. The costs and talent retention pressure makes the area a questionable place to develop technology.
Google 2FA Politics: The search giant announced the Advanced Protection program — complete with free Titan security keys to help political campaigns secure their G Suite accounts. Several campaigns were hacked in 2016, in part because they are easy targets. Yes, it’s a stunt to offer free services to visible and temporary groups, but a smart one that comes with some risk.
The Transformation of Google: Google Cloud appears to be going through a cultural transition. Thomas Kurian arrived as the new CEO about a year ago and seems determined to turn Google Cloud into a real company. That’s fine by me as Google Cloud (G Suite and Google Cloud Platform) has always felt like a hobby.
Most of the focus seems to be on the GCP side of Google Cloud, which wants to compete better with AWS and Azure. Kurian is driving a no-nonsense culture. The changes have resulted in layoffs this month and several months of new hires. Of course, the Google co-founders also recently left, so Pichai and Kurian have a window to change the rules. I do expect there to be significant announcements related to G Suite collaboration (Meet, Chat, and Voice) at Google Next in April.
Layoffs: Google isn’t alone with layoffs this month. I don’t track this closely, but have observed layoff announcements this month from 3M, CenturyLink, Chevron, Cisco, Comcast, Deere and Co, Edmunds, Google, HSBC, Intel, Netflix, Kohls, LL Bean, Lyft, Oracle, Sam’s Club, VMware, and Wayfair.
Best Companies to Work For: Fortune recently released its list of the top 100 companies to work for in 2020. The list was created in collaboration with Great Place to Work. Now, I don’t put much value on lists like these. TalkingPointz wasn’t even mentioned! Actually, not many enterprise comms companies were. Some people do like these lists, so I will mention that Salesforce came in sixth, and Cisco came in fourth.
EU Signal: The European Commission told its staff to dump popular consumer messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, and start using Signal. I agree. Signal is an end-to-end encrypted messaging app that is favored by privacy activists because of its privacy and open-source technology.
Solaborate: After two Kickstarter campaigns, Solaborate found $10M in Series A funding from EPOS. Solaborate makes conferencing and gaming devices. EPOS makes high-end audio solutions for enterprise and gaming.
Dixa: Danish startup Dixa closed $36M in Series B funding to make customer service more personal, intelligent, and data-driven. Dubbed the “customer friendship” platform, Dixa empowers customer service teams to engage with customers as friends do. Dixa has 120 employees. In 2019, it raised $14M.
Asana Going Public: Asana announced that it confidentially filed an S-1 and that it plans to become a publicly traded company via direct listing. Direct listings are a simpler, less expensive, and less restrictive alternative to IPOs. Asana builds team-oriented productivity and project software used to assign tasks, track progress, and set deadlines. Asana has raised about $213M.
’Nuffsaid: Newly out of stealth, ’nuffsaid announced it has raised $4.3M from seed investors. Its first product is ‘nflow which brings multiple collaboration platforms and a calendar into a single, algorithmic inbox. It’s intriguing because there’s a need for innovation in email and calendaring. ’Nuffsaid wants to create a smart inbox that prioritizes messages. ‘Nflow is expected to launch commercially at $25 per month.
LogMeOff: LogMeIn intends to reduce its workforce about 8% to "streamline its organization and reallocate resources." The software forecasts pretax restructuring charges of about $21M this year, with annualized cost savings of about $41M. As previously reported, the company is being sold to Francisco Partners and Elliott Management Corp.
ServiceMax: ServiceMax has raised $80M in growth funding led by new investor Salesforce Ventures and existing investor Silver Lake. This additional funding is expected to accelerate growth and support industrial verticals such as manufacturing, medical devices, energy, and heavy equipment. Built on the Salesforce platform, ServiceMax offers a suite of field service applications. Previously, GE acquired and then mostly divested its interests in ServiceMax.
Front Series C Deck: Front provides a collaborative client for email often used by customer service departments. I think it’s a natural complement for contact center solutions. The company recently completed a Series C round and shared its presentation deck here. Spoiler alert: collaborative customer service works.
Kintaba for First Responders: Kintaba raised $2.25M to help engineering teams respond to emergencies. The experienced tech team realized that most organizations are using a mashup of text messages, Slack channels, task managers, and Google Docs that are not sufficient for waking up the right employees. Kintaba offers a clear dashboard where everyone in the company can see major problems, who’s responding, and how. Kintaba’s live activity log and collaboration space for responders let them debate and analyze solutions.
Stonly Guides Customer Support: Stonly raised $3.5M. The company helps customer support teams document and share resolutions to common support problems. It uses scripted guides with multiple questions rather than chatbots. These guides are tools agnostic, so they can be embedded into existing workflows. Customers include Zendesk, Freshdesk, and Front.
Five9 and Virtual Observer: Five9 announced the execution of a definitive agreement to acquire Virtual Observer, an innovative provider of cloud-based WFO solutions. Terms were not disclosed, but I doubt there were many bidders. It’s a slam dunk for Five9 as it’s a low-risk acquisition (with more than 150 joint customers), fills a portfolio gap, adds expert employees, and provides access into competitive accounts (VO is in Talkdesk accounts). Also, VO revenue will go directly to Five9’s top line which, as a SaaS play, will deliver a significant increase in valuation.
Yorktel Acquires Video Corporation of America: Yorktel announced the acquisition of UC and audio-video integration provider Video Corporation of America (VCA). Yorktel will now add VCA's "engineering, fabrication, field resources, digital signage, and help desk support" to its customer base.
Freshworks and AnsweriQ: Customer engagement platform Freshworks announced that it acquired AnsweriQ, a startup that provides AI tools for self-service solutions and agent-assisted use cases (augmented agent). Freshworks plans to integrate AnsweriQ’s technology into its Freddy AI engine. AnsweriQ raised $5M in funding in 2017. Freshworks expressed interest in the technology, customer base, and employees. Terms were not disclosed.
This Month’s Goodreads
- Apple Engineers Propose Standardized Format for SMS One-Time Passcodes
- The head of Microsoft's fast-growing Teams chat app is retiring as Microsoft merges the Windows and hardware groups in a major reorg
- Flaws in WhatsApp’s desktop app allowed remote access to files
- FTC to examine every acquisition by Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft in 2010-2019 over antitrust issues
- The intelligence coup of the century’
- Is Working Remotely Effective? Gallup Research Says Yes
- How Big Technical Changes Happen at Slack
- HP Inc. PC President Alex Cho: ‘Get Ready For The Return Of The PC’
- Amazon is 'biggest advertiser on Earth' as ad spend hits $11bn
- Here are the 11 companies that experts think Microsoft could try to acquire in 2020, including Salesforce, Twilio, and RingCentral
- Gmail Is Catching More Malicious Attachments With Deep Learning
- Zoom AR Event
- Channel Partners
- Five9 AR Event
- Enterprise Connect
- Google Next
- Avaya Analyst Event
- Atos Analyst Event
- Talkdesk Opentalk
Note: Due to EC20 spanning over month-end, the March Insider report will be a few days later than usual (and probably longer). A separate TalkingPointz Research note will be published on EC20.
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Subscribe to the TalkingHeadz podcast on your favorite player app. In February, the interviews were with Jeff Lawson of Twilio and John Hernandez of Selligent.
TalkingPointz Monthly Insider Report covering events of February 2020 Vol 4 Issue 2 ©2020