Insider Report January 2022
The Most Important Enterprise Communications News from January 2022
Fire Update: It’s been an interesting year so far. As you may recall, the Marshall Fire in Boulder on Dec. 30 impacted my home and neighborhood. The destruction this fire caused is astonishing and unheard-of in suburban areas. It destroyed over 1,000 homes in less than a day. My home did survive, but not without some damage. We’ve been working to completely empty the house so that repairs and cleaning can start in February.
CCaaS: Is CCaaS dying or booming? I was speaking with Dan Miller of Opus Research about this. He thinks CCaaS is dying, and I think it’s booming. While our conclusions are different, we see and agree on the same data. Perhaps it’s fairer to say CCaaS is transforming, and the outlook is complex.
The contact center was all about voice. For decades, the toll-free number has been the gold standard for how customers and prospects interact with businesses. Today, customers tend to prefer anything but a toll-free number, and that’s for good reason. The contact center has become more about deflection and “go away” than service.
To this day, when I call an 800 number, I am constantly reminded/encouraged to hang up and go away. “You will get better fares on our website.” “Our hold times are unusually long.” “There are better options on the mobile app.” Etc. The contact center vacillates between revenue and cost. Pressing 1 for sales is a very different experience than pressing 2 for customer service.
Meanwhile, digital and self-service technologies are getting much better. The IVR was frustrating. Then came the web, then mobile apps, and now all are getting better with AI. This current round is much better than its predecessors, and it has significant potential to be even superior to live agents.
I ran into this last month when my car battery died. I called Farmers Insurance roadside assistance, and a chatbot answered the call. Roadside assistance is pretty straightforward. A live agent would collect data, validate eligibility, and dispatch service. The chatbot sent me a link so I could enter the data from my smartphone instead of dictating the information. The chatbot monitored my progress and offered hints and suggestions for each prompt. It also validated my data as I entered it.
Once complete, the chatbot dispatched service and provided me with visual, live tracking of the service vehicle. Overall, the experience was at least comparable and arguably better than a live agent. I had more control, and I appreciated the live tracking of the service vehicle. The interaction did not require a human agent or an installed app.
While the service above may sound like a natural evolution of the contact center, it really wasn’t a contact center at all. Once you remove the agent, it’s less clear what’s a contact center, or a web page, or an app. There’s no reason to assume that Farmers turned to a contact center vendor to create the chatbot experience I had.
That example is simple, but we all know that more times than not, a live agent is needed, and there lies the rub. Chatbots are great until they aren’t. It’s easy to say a solution can escalate to an agent, but getting the call to the right agent, with history and context, is more complex than it sounds.
Digital solutions have a low barrier to entry, and every Tom, Dick, and Harry has a brilliant CX idea. As more vendors enhance CX, more vendors are becoming CCaaS adjacent — and many of these vendors have no idea how to answer a phone.
If answering the phone remains a critical part of the formula, it’s a CCaaS boom. But as long as more calls are resolved without an agent, it’s the death of CCaaS. In the meantime, it seems that answering calls is a necessary skill, so we are seeing companies like Zendesk (service), Microsoft (CRM), and Sprinklr (social) declare themselves as CCaaS providers.
The barriers to digital are low, and the barriers to CCaaS are dropping thanks to CPaaS. As the live agent diminishes in value, so do the traditional strengths of many CCaaS providers. Diminished value is another form of commoditization.
The takeaway is that CCaaS providers need to expand into digital very quickly. We are seeing that NICE, Five9, Genesys, and many others are spending considerable effort on digital. While UCaaS and CPaaS more or less remained separate (until recently), the boundaries between CCaaS and CPaaS are blurring. Cisco’s acquisition of IMImobile is a good example. Webex Connect is both an omnichannel and enterprise CPaaS solution.
We can argue all day about whether CCaaS is booming or dying, but it’s certainly changing. Today, we use the image of a smiling person wearing a headset to represent call-for-service. I wonder what the image will be in the future.
General Industry News
Google Workspaces New Look: Google has a redesign coming to Workspaces. Supposedly, it will be available to try in February, become default by April, and become the only option by the end of June. This new “integrated view” is a major shift away from Google’s current Gmail-centric approach. The current format puts Gmail front and center, but this new “integrated view” will give each app its own screen. The services will also be more integrated — Gmail’s search, for instance, will also turn up Chat messages in the coming months.
UK versus E2EE: When you need to sell something, consider advertising. That’s what the UK government plans to do with its campaign to end E2EE. The villain in this story is Facebook and its decision to encrypt Messenger.
I rarely side with (or use) Facebook, but the company does understand E2EE. There are two options when it comes to E2EE: secure or insecure. Encryption with backdoors is a security illusion. Allowing “authorized parties” to decrypt a message is a Pandora’s box that essentially means the message is not secure. Despite numerous examples of abuse and consensus from experts, most governments prefer the backdoor option. Too bad it doesn’t work.
Gartner Predictions: Gartner published its top 12 strategic trends for 2022. Here are six that resonated with me: Cloud-Native Platforms: I expected the pendulum to swing between cloud and premises-based solutions, but Gartner figures it’s going to swing from cloud to cloud-native. For years, I have been critical of Gartner for insisting that UCaaS vs. UC was simply a matter of deployment preference. Composable Applications: It’s not clear to me what the difference is between microservices and composable applications. The idea is to use modular components to streamline development. Decision Intelligence: Improve organizational decision-making with analytics and AI. Hyperautomation: Hmmm, see a theme here? Composable, decision intelligence …. AI Engineering: Basically, hyperautomation with AI. It is the engineering discipline designed to make AI more accessible. Distributed Enterprise: This remote-first business model requires companies to accelerate or complete their digital transformation initiatives.
Leadership Changes: A few of the numerous changes this month: RingCentral named Mo Katibeh as its new COO. Mo was previously the former Chief Product Officer and CMO at AT&T Business. Noreen Allen, CMO, has left her position at Bandwidth.com. Moxie Marlinspike, the founder of Signal, is stepping down as CEO. Executive Chairman and WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton will serve as the interim CEO while searching for a replacement. At Genesys, Barry O’Sullivan, GM and EVP, is leaving the company and returning to an advisory role with Genesys parent Permira. Brett Weigl was named GM/SVP of Digital and AI. 8x8 announced the appointment of Lisa Del Real as its new Global Channel Chief. Lisa is the latest defector from RingCentral to join 8x8.
Meetings and Messaging
Cisco to the Moon: Cisco announced that Webex will be part of Callisto, on board Orion for NASA’s Artemis I. Artemis is the next generation of spacecraft designed to return humans to the moon. The unmanned Artemis I will launch later this year, with technologies from Cisco Webex and Amazon Alexa on board.
Now, it’s a little hard to get excited about video technology going to space. We have all seen plenty of video interactions with astronauts in space. It’s even harder to get excited about video technology on an uncrewed spacecraft and still harder to work up enthusiasm about the moon as a destination as we got bored with it some 50 years ago. But none of that is the point.
Underneath all that are a few points of interest. First, Cisco announced that this version of Webex will be using the AV1 codec. This is the next generation of video compression, which picks up where WebRTC left off. AV1 is more bandwidth-efficient and can accommodate “high-resolution” video at 128 kbps — that’s about a tenth of a typical video call. The unmanned nature of this mission means test videos, but still significant.
The moon is much farther than space in general or Earth orbit. Cisco developed several adjustments for Webex video to work in a high-latency environment, and the newly developed approach could potentially open more low-bandwidth/high-latency use cases here on Earth. Cisco is taking a new AI-powered approach to what it encodes and sends as well as how it reconstructs the images. It sounds a bit like a new generation of SVC that focuses on the changes rather than the whole picture. Cisco is also using AI to synchronize the audio and video.
As Orion travels toward the moon, latency can increase to 20 seconds — and roundtrip latency to Mars can be up to 40 minutes. Video conferencing wasn’t built for this, despite what you see in the movies — speaking of which, I doubt Netflix would even work as the buffers just aren’t that big.
Microsoft Room Trade-Ins: Microsoft announced a Device Trade-In program for MS Teams rooms. Enterprises can receive cash back for their existing meeting room video room systems and desktop phones if they switch to Microsoft Teams. Network Value, a US-based company, will buy back eligible hardware and collect the older equipment for disposal. Hat tip to Tim Banting of Omdia for Tweeting, “I wish they had one for my Zune, Surface RT, and Nokia Lumia ….”
Zoom Meetings Updates: Zoom released several new features this month: Smart Gallery is now supported on Mac and Windows. Language interpretation can be active as a default. Meetings can now be scheduled with Focus Mode set automatically. A new video waiting room lets a host set up the video equivalent of music-on-hold while waiting to be admitted. Personally, I would love to set up some Looney Tunes shorts or something fun like that. Zoom also now supports a virtual background reset option as not all backgrounds are meant to be portable.
Zoom Events Expo: The most challenging thing about virtual events is recreating the expo hall. I haven’t seen any vendor nail this yet, but then I haven’t seen Zoom’s new Expo feature yet either. Zoom Expo is designed to accommodate live networking among attendees, speakers, and sponsors. The hard part is joining in on a virtual conversation. It’s tough to find that line between eavesdropping and attempting to join an existing conversation. Zoom Expo allows “attendees to preview a meeting before joining.”
BlueJeans Studio: Verizon Business announced BlueJeans Studio, a new all-in-one event production platform for live streaming. It supports video feed mixing and custom branding. Video isn’t just for meetings. It’s a logical move for Verizon (and other meetings providers) to capitalize their IP in other markets. This is targeted to “creators,” not enterprise, though there is some crossover.
RCS and Google and iMessage: Consumer messaging is a mess. The most popular apps from Apple and Facebook are walled gardens. The free/universal app (SMS) is obsolete. This became clear this month due to a WSJ article about how Apple bullies non-iPhone users on its iMessage service. On the one hand, you can applaud Apple for supporting non-Apple devices. On the other hand, you can applaud them for their bullying tactics.
After the article, Google took it to another level by poking Apple for not embracing RCS. First, this is indeed the kettle calling the pot black. Google has the gall to kick Apple for its highly successful messaging strategy that its customers love. This is coming from a company with more messaging strategies than most of us have messages.
Google has been trying (for years now) to resurrect an old standards effort called RCS. The tech was originally intended as an evolution of SMS over a decade ago. The update is late, but it still sorta makes sense. Its big limitation is it’s carrier-based, not internet-based. Google has been working to clear up a bunch of its other shortcomings.
Apple has never publicly indicated a position on RCS but is likely suspicious of weakening what we know it considers iMessage to be a valuable competitive weapon. Documents revealed in the Epic vs. Apple case showed that Apple understands the powerful anti-competitive network effects of its chat app. Google wants Apple to integrate RCS support on the iPhone. I’m pretty sure Apple’s response will be sent in iMessage.
Teamflow Records: Teamflow now supports recording in its web and windows clients. This is one of those announcements that asks more questions than it answers. Teamflow didn’t record? Evidently not, but now its users can, in both web and Windows clients. Recordings can also be downloaded (brilliant) and even emailed. Teamflow claims that recordings are deleted after 30 days.
Amazon Chime SDK: Developers can now replace webcam video background with an image to reduce visual distractions and help increase visual privacy. Video background replacement runs locally in each user’s browser, updating the video before it is shared into the meeting.
Logitech Syncs with WFA: Logi has been trying to make sense of Sync, its management app. I do get it, and there’s nothing wrong with it at all, but Logi’s devices are pretty simple, so it can be hard to take Sync too seriously.
Sync is a cloud-based video conferencing device management platform — and yes, you should update your webcam more often. Sync isn’t new but was limited to on-site/campus upgrades. Now ready for a virtual house call, it piggybacks a ride to its devices on Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet.
MS Teams Updates: Front Row is a new layout (preview) for Teams rooms. It puts remote attendees (and their status and emojis) at eye level. It can be selected manually or set as default. Microsoft also brought Cortana to its Teams Rooms. Now users can say “hey Cortana” to join meetings or perform other commands. Like Zoom and Webex, Teams now supports the Meta Portal as a video appliance. Microsoft simplified access to calling from Teams Rooms. Peer-to-peer calling and group calling functionality are now under “Call,” which now supports a dial-pad if configured.
Microsoft Teams users can now press and hold CTRL-SPACE to mute. The microphone is muted while the key combination is active and unmuted when released. I don’t think I like this one. A two-key combo doesn’t seem that intuitive/quick, and the space bar is commonly associated with play/pause. Mute clearly causes too much confusion. “You are on mute” is the punchline of the pandemic.
Google Chatted: Google Chat now supports deleted messages. When an unthreaded message in a Google Chat Space is deleted, the contents are deleted, but the timestamp and deletion indicator remain. Replies are also deleted. I like lots of information in Chat, including presence and read indicators, but not everyone does. I also prefer the ability to delete and edit messages.
Workplace from Meta and WhatsApp: First, in case you missed it, Workplace from Facebook is now called Workplace from Meta. I don’t like either name, but the product/app/service is powerful. Its key advantage is that many frontline employees find the enterprise app strangely familiar. Now, Facebook is taking it a step further with an integration to WhatsApp (by Meta). This begs the question if WhatsApp is a consumer or business app? Yes.
Most messaging apps are islands, and we complain about the lack of interop. Here, Facebook owns multiple islands and is connecting two of them. Of course, lots of businesses run on WhatsApp too. The obvious benefit is that Workspace and WhatsApp can reach more users, but presumably at the cost of E2EE (and content becomes accessible by Meta). Workplace says this is about choice and empowerment.
Dell’s Video CamMonitor: Dell introduced a new CamMonitor. It’s a 32-inch UltraSharp 4K video conferencing monitor (3840 x 2160) with a built-in 4K webcam. The device has two external mics to monitor for bad sound quality. I do believe the all-in-one concept makes sense. Similar products are available from Cisco and Poly.
Neat Frame: It has arrived. Neat has begun shipping its Neat Frame this month. It’s a 15.6” touch-screen video device for Zoom today and Teams someday soon. Oddly, it’s portrait-oriented, so it takes little desk space. Frame supports person tracking and noise removal. Retail price $2,290.
Sprinklr CCaaS: I guess Sprinklr’s Unified-CXM (unified customer experience management) platform wasn’t. The provider announced Modern Care Voice — its entry into CCaaS. Sprinklr determined that its new CCaaS was separately needed because the legacy systems that no one wants to call are obsolete. They didn’t notice all the modern, innovative CCaaS options already available.
CCaaS is eating adjacencies. It’s also being eaten by adjacencies. Sprinklr was rated as a Leader in its Wave for Social Suites last year. It wants to be the unified platform for all customer-facing functions. Hey, the contact center is a customer-facing function!
Sprinklr won’t be the newest CCaaS for very long. The customer experience has many touchpoints, and every one of them is a CCaaS vocabulary. Sprinklr wants to make companies “human” (Five9) and to make companies “happier” (Zoom). The goal is to help big companies “reach, engage, and listen to customers.”
The press release and launch indicate Sprinklr is naive about CCaaS. They are playing all the newbie hits: “We help eliminate the need to call using AI to solve problems digitally before they impact your contact center.” The value prop Sprinklr offers is twofold. First, it services multiple customer-facing areas on a single platform (to end the chaos of point solutions). Second, it provides a CCaaS solution that offers ACD, conversational IVR, speech analytics, automated quality management, and workforce management.
Welcome to the show, Sprinklr. Perhaps if you reached out to analysts and media, someone (anyone) would have covered your CCaaS launch.
CCaaS Authentication: I find it curious how security is suddenly getting so much attention. The contact center is not new, and fraud certainly isn’t new, but suddenly there’s a lot more attention to solving the complexities of authentication. It’s likely a result of the digital solutions, which offer customers more self-service options. The voice channel needs to keep up, but it’s harder to implement security over voice than via an app or website.
I recently wrote about Avaya investing in Journey.ID. In Acquisitions below, I cover Twilio getting into Identity. Also, this month, Five9 announced a partnership with Pindrop. Pindrop Protect, Pindrop Passport, and VeriCall Technology will become available in the Five9 CX marketplace.
NICE NEVA: NICE announced the availability of NICE Employee Virtual Attendant (NEVA) for Collection Adherence. This helps organizations comply with the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rules. NEVA can follow agent interactions and remind agents about compliance rules when necessary.
Ujet Flexes Capabilities: Ujet launches pay-as-you-go models for small and medium-sized customers. Ujet is one of the few CCaaS providers that allows customers to provision services with a credit card. Ujet also offers a BYO carrier option. These are fairly significant capabilities that are not found among many of its customers. And I haven’t even mentioned the SDK. Ujet launched a limited-time promotion at $39 per seat per month.
Genesys BYOBW: Bandwidth and Genesys announced a new BYO Carrier option for Genesys CX CCaaS. Bandwidth Duet is basically a productized BYO Carrier. Bandwidth Duet for RingCentral and Teams were launched last year, and Duet for Zoom is also supported (but not launched?). Bandwidth is positioning itself as the Swiss Army Provider of UCaaS, though it’s unknown if anyone is actually buying Duet.
BYOC is not trivial. It’s extraordinarily complex, particularly for providers that were effectively architected for a single, bundled solution. This is essentially the cloud version of the PBX/SIP compatibility issues we saw 20 years ago. The half-step is to support a single BYOC option, and Bandwidth (BYOC BW) has the recipe down. The BYO BW solution will resonate mostly with multinational implementations as Bandwidth’s platform spans 60+ countries.
What’s perplexing is why Genesys has partnered with Bandwidth on CX CCaaS only. Since MultiCloud is inherently a BYOC solution, it seems more logical to make Bandwidth a corporate rather than product partner. Perhaps staying with the same carrier can simplify migration between the two CC solutions.
Twilio’s New GTM: Twilio added another route to market by partnering with the Teleperformance Group. It’s a nice fit as Teleperformance works with companies to create end-to-end digital solutions by combining customer experience management, back-office services, and business process knowledge services. Twilio Flex will give Teleperformance more tools to integrate contact center services into bespoke business solutions. Teleperformance offers services around the globe with more than 380K employees. Teleperformance reported consolidated revenue of €5,732M in 2020.
Gartner MQ for Conversational AI: Gartner published its first Magic Quadrant for Conversational AI. The report featured 21 providers, and that’s a lot for an MQ.
The vendors were roughly grouped into two clusters: The Leaders quadrant featured six, and the Niche quadrant featured 12 vendors. In other words, about two-thirds of the vendors are not living up to Gartner’s expectations. Startups and pure-plays dominate the report. Only four big names appear — AWS, Google, IBM, and Oracle — and only IBM was positioned as a Leader.
The Leaders quadrant included: Amelia* (used by NICE), Cognigy* (used by Avaya), IBM Watson, Kore*, Omilia*, and OneReach. The asterisk indicates the vendor was also recognized as a Leader in the IDC Marketscape for Conversational Artificial Intelligence Software Platforms for Customer Service 2021. After reviewing the report, the key characteristics that Gartner appeared to favor are global coverage, scalability, and modular design.
Chat Now: Amazon Connect now allows chat to be configured for a duration of one hour to seven days. The duration defines how long customers have to resume a chat interaction before it expires.
The Big Shift in UCaaS Brands: There are two conflicting, simultaneous motions occurring in UCaaS. The first is brand consolidation. As the sector matures, the smaller brands are disappearing. We recently saw 8x8 grab Fuze, Mitel exit UCaaS, and Sangoma acquire StarBlue. The list of brands is getting shorter, and the leaders are getting further from the pack. The second trend is that more brands are appearing, powered by growth in wholesale or private label UCaaS. The brands are increasing, but the platforms aren’t.
BroadSoft previously dominated the wholesale market. It had its share of competitors, but BroadSoft was pre-eminent, and now, most of its competitors are gone or acquired. However, the wholesale market opportunity grew with Cisco’s acquisition of BroadSoft. It appeared that Cisco acquired BroadSoft for its own call control (Webex Calling), and it largely ignored/fumbled the wholesale opportunity.
To be clear, that period at Cisco, 2018–2020, was pretty turbulent. The company lost not only its momentum in a lot of areas but a considerable amount of its talent. It was particularly bad timing as Cisco was ill-prepared to handle the pandemic’s unprecedented demand for cloud-delivered services.
This created a market opportunity for many other wholesale UCaaS opportunities to emerge. The new landscape of providers offering private label solutions includes 2600Hz, Alianza, Crexendo/NetSapiens, Intermedia, and more. The competitive battles are shifting from between name brands (such as Teams, Webex, RingCentral, 8x8, Vonage, etc.) to name brands vs. private labels from mobile carriers, cable carriers, ISVs, VARs, etc.
Cisco has been encouraging providers that use BroadWorks to bundle services with Webex (co-branded). The company is also driving a complete wholesale model (calling, meetings, messaging) with Cisco-hosted BroadCloud. Cisco is now reporting that momentum has returned in this area.
This area is going to be interesting to watch. Each SP has the ability to customize its offers and pricing, so it’s not as easy as, say, Webex vs. Teams. Also, the analysts don’t cover the private label providers as closely. For example, inclusion criteria for the Gartner UCaaS MQ require that the provider owns, controls, and hosts its own stack (as if customers care). For the record, the earliest UCaaS MQs were dominated by BroadSoft-powered providers.
Zoom Phone Updates: Zoom now lets users add a fourth (or more) participant to its three-way calling feature. Not only is that a perfectly reasonable feature, but I didn’t make it up. Zoom Phone now supports video voicemail messages (for both the outgoing greeting and incoming messages). Zoom also continues to update its Power User experience. This is a separate add-on app, and more functionality lets users do more with it alone instead of using the Power User pack and the Zoom client.
Teams Calling Updates: Teams now supports transcription on 1:1 calls. Transcription can be toggled on during a call, but I have not been able to verify if it can be on by default for all calls. Dialpad, for example, can be set to transcribe all calls.
The Microsoft Teams Walkie Talkie app is now available on Zebra, Crosscall, and HMD Global’s Nokia devices. This is part of Microsoft’s push to provide instant and secure voice communications to frontline workers. The Walkie Talkie app works over Wi-Fi or cellular without geographic limitations.
Google Voice Gets More Phones: Google now supports the Poly Edge B Series IP Desk Phones on Google Voice UCaaS. Poly responded to the chip shortage by creating a new phone, and Google appropriately responded, presumably because its customers need phones. Google also announced support of some OBI analog adapters and the Poly Trio 8300 conference phone.
Atos Surprise: I was expecting Atos to make news this month. Last October, we learned that it was in advanced talks to sell Unify. Instead, the big news that arrived was a major profit warning. It turns out that the demand for outsourcing in the cloud era is rapidly declining.
Unify is a tragic story. Project Ansible was previewed to analysts in 2013 and subsequently launched by a different leadership team in 2014. The delivered product was scaled back, but the name Circuit probably doomed it more. Curiously, Circuit was ahead of its time: Its initial vision, as I understood it, looked a lot like Microsoft Teams (launched in 2017).
I believe Circuit now belongs to RingCentral, where it will die (long live Glip), and it’s unclear what is to become of Unify … or Atos. It is likely that Atos acquired Unify to better support Siemens, a major Atos (and Unify) customer, and its value ran out after Atos completed Siemens’ migration from Unify to Teams.
Miro Series C: Miro raised $400M in Series C funding, giving the digital whiteboard app a valuation of $17.5B. Investors include Atlassian and Salesforce. I don’t understand why Cisco, Microsoft, and Zoom have not acquired Miro or Mural. They are all building their own digital whiteboard apps that are only suitable for use within their own ecosystems. The big advantage of Miro and Mural is that you can bring your board to any meeting — online or in person (Webex, Teams, Meet, and Zoom). Miro now employs about 1,200 and has 11 offices worldwide.
Envoy to Collide with UC: Envoy raised $111M in a Series C with a $1.4B valuation. Envoy facilitates the modern workplace. The provider offers solutions such as desk reservations/assignments, visitor sign-ins, meeting room bookings, and more. Ruh-roh! These are things that Cisco, Microsoft, Zoom, and several others offer.
I was expecting to see familiar UCC venture brands as investors, but it’s actually names like Brookfield Growth, Menlo Ventures, and Andreessen Horowitz. Remember when hotdesking was a PBX feature? Way ahead of its time. Maybe a $1.4B valuation will convince more UCaaS providers to support it.
Second Nature Zooms: Zoom’s Apps Fund contributed to Second Nature’s $12.5M Series A round of funding. Second Nature uses NLU to train sales staff in conversational simulations.
Citrix and TIBCO: Citrix Systems Inc. announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by affiliates of Vista Equity Partners and Evergreen Coast Capital in an all-cash transaction valued at $16.5B. The acquirers plan to merge Citrix with software firm TIBCO, a Vista portfolio company. Citrix had an extraordinary run, but browser-based apps make more sense now. Citrix shareholders will receive $104 cash per share, a 24% premium over the closing price on Dec. 20, when the first reports of a possible acquisition ran.
Fuze Now Part of 8x8: “We are excited to welcome Fuze employees, customers and partners to 8x8,” said Dave Sipes, CEO at 8x8. Sure seems like the deal of the century to me. Cloud provider valuations are generally shocking. I guess this one was too.
Twilio Identity: Twilio struck a cash/stock deal to acquire the identity management part of Boku. Bok-who? Boku was a payment and identity company and is now a payment pure-play. In FY21, Boku Identity grew 37% Y/Y to generate $7.1M in revenue. Boku Identity was previously known as Danal, which Boku acquired in 2019.
More importantly, Twilio now has a mature identity solution. Twilio wants its customers to create seamless consumer identity solutions that don’t sacrifice user experience. New packages will be coming to the Twilio Lookup API for enhanced line types for global VoIP detection and SIM swap detection, and new Verify API channels like one-time passcodes. Boku’s Identity solution boasts a number of significant customers, including Western Union, Santander, Bank of America, American Express, MoneyGram, IRS, and Chase.
Playvox and ProdSight: Playvox acquired Prodsight for an undisclosed sum to add conversational analytics to its WEM suite. This is another example of how the CCaaS world (and its adjacencies) are grabbing adjacencies. In this case, a WEM provider expands into analytics.
Playvox is one of the more interesting WEM providers, but I don’t see the WEM category lasting as a standalone sector. CCaaS providers are going to natively include all of these functions. The acquisition might make Playvox a more attractive acquisition itself. Last year, Dialpad made several CCaaS acquisitions but announced Playvox as a partner. Perhaps a few acquisitions of its own could promote Playvox from bridesmaid to bride.
The Playvox solution has largely been contained to contact center data. The new Playvox Customer AI solution from Prodsight extends Playvox’s visibility to data outside the contact center, such as Mailchimp, Zendesk, G2, and transcripts. It examines data for conversational insights. There are a lot of conversational analytics companies, so specialization and alliances will likely benefit both companies.
Inflow and EPIC: CC and UC managed services provider Inflow acquired EPIC Connections this month to accelerate its expansion of consulting, outsourcing, and technical services for contact centers. EPIC is an established CC professional services firm. Inflow is a portfolio company of Renovus Capital Partners and is based in Portland, OR.
Telesystem and Abacus: Telesystem announced the acquisition of Abacus Group Inc., a UC and managed IT services provider headquartered in Boston. Abacus provides service to customers in 30 states. The move represents Telesystem’s ongoing strategy to acquire multi-location managed solutions customers.
Netlink and Phonesuite: Netlink Voice LLC acquired all ownership interest in hospitality voice communication platform Phonesuite, which will remain an independent operation. Netlink Voice had been a long-time Phonesuite reseller and is now poised to offer its broader portfolio to the lodging industry.
This Month’s Goodreads
- Why Apple’s iMessage Is Winning: Teens Dread the Green Text Bubble Apple didn’t ban the exchange of traditional text messages with Android users but instead branded those messages with a different color.
- How AI will drive the hybrid work environment AI can vastly improve work-from-home environments, bringing much-needed support to communications, collaboration, workflow, and even security.
- Roblox Return to Service 10/28-10/31 2021 A harrowing and detailed post-mortem of a major DevOps outage.
- 3 ways remote work could remake America Where we live has been dictated by where we can find a good job.
- How Signal is playing with fire Will combining crypto payments with messaging push lawmakers to make E2EE illegal?
- Tech questions for 2022 As we enter 2022, there are lots of areas where trillion-dollar questions are wide open, from crypto to cars to fast fashion.
- UK Gov’t Plans Publicity Blitz to Undermine Privacy of Your Chats The UK government is set to launch a multi-pronged publicity attack on end-to-end encryption to mobilize public opinion against Facebook’s decision to encrypt its Messenger app.
- Gartner Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2022 12 technology trends to act as force multipliers of digital business and innovation over the next three to five years.
- WhatsApp sets its sights on the US Meta is kicking off the first-ever US marketing push for WhatsApp, focusing on the privacy offered by the app’s encryption.
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