Insider Report August 2023
The Most Important Enterprise Communications News of August 2023
Guest Contributor! Welcome Alan Lepofsky. Alan will be contributing his take on some recent events in this month's report. Alan worked at Constellation Research for three years, did a stint at Salesforce for three years, and is currently the Chief Evangelist at Mobeus. (Mobeus was selected for the Innovation Showcase at Enterprise Connect last March.) Ever since his experience with Lotus Notes, Alan has been intrigued by collaboration and the Future of Work. Some 30 years later, we are getting closer to that vision Lotus started.
Alan and Dave worked on this report together. Some areas are clearly Alan’s voice, indicated in blue type.
The New Normal: Welcome to Summer 2023. Normally, summer kicks off in June, but June was travel-intense. July was event-light and hot.
Welcome to what it’s like to work in the post-pandemic era. While the virus that started the pandemic is most likely here forever, the changes it ushered into work are beginning to normalize. For example, working from home, while still very popular, is not the given it was 12-18 months ago. Online communication and collaboration are still booming, but live events are making a comeback, from team get-togethers to massive industry conferences. The pandemic was a catalyst for the transformation of user expectations, both in technology and culture, and organizations of all sizes across all industries are still coming to grips with what it means for the future of work.
Overall, the pandemic accelerated enterprise comms in terms of cloud adoption and distributed work. Microsoft Teams was the pandemic champion. It went from nascent to market leader between vaccines, though a few others also came out of the pandemic stronger than they went in (notably Zoom and Avaya). Some completely changed (Cisco), many are exiting weaker (Td, Logi, Twilio, BlueJeans), and some lost their mojo (Slack). Explaining these changes touches on unique combinations of execution, demand, supply chain, and profitability.
The bottom line is that the world is very different post-pandemic. Not only are online meetings normal, but the hours we spend in them have increased considerably. Email is clearly here to stay (the “chat will kill email” mantra is what died). The cloud has become so mainstream that “as-a-service” is no longer a compelling value proposition.
Post-pandemic, the enterprise comms conversation has shifted to three major themes:
- How to make Microsoft Teams better via an expanded ecosystem
- How to leverage generative AI (there’s a widespread belief that it’s going to be bigger than the internet)
- How new approaches to CX will increase profits (increase revenue AND reduce costs)
Many providers are attempting to nail all three at the same time.
We appear to be in or approaching the maturity phase of UCaaS. However, several transitions on the horizon will continue to drive the industry. AI is the big one, and it will change everything or nothing. Microsoft Copilot is a big gamble. A new wave of digital canvases are building traction, with perhaps the most popular being Notion and now the introduction of Microsoft Loop. Mobility has the potential to change everything again with public and private 5G and convergence with UCaaS.
Let’s Be Social: TweetDeck becoming a paid feature was the proverbial last straw for Dave. He’s still posting news links on Twitter but not really engaging with the site. TweetDeck and the ability to edit tweets are worth $8/mo, but there is a reluctance to reward the billionaire’s actions. The site is for memes now. It’s bad enough that Musk unlocked banned accounts but also disabled subscribers from blocking offensive content.
We are seeing the power of networks because even though many are miserable on Twitter, they stick to it. It’s not like changing after-shaves; individuals can’t move networks. The winner in the Twitter angst is LinkedIn. LinkedIn has become much cooler. Here’s an excerpt from a Bloomberg post: “As other networks stagnate, shift their algorithms or burn themselves to the ground, LinkedIn is becoming a site where regular people actually want to hang out and post their thoughts. It might even be cool.” There does indeed seem to be much more engagement on LinkedIn today than on Twitter/X.
It also seems likely that Facebook Threads will become a viable alternative to Twitter/X. Last month’s Insider mentioned that the app lacks several core features, but hashtags and search are coming, and a web UI arrived this month. An informal investigation found about half of the UC brands and pros we know are now on Threads. It’s still immature, but the service only launched in July. It would be brilliant if they introduced something like Tweetdeck.
The kid who got banned from Twitter for tracking Musk’s jet has returned. He’s now tracking Musk’s jet on Threads and has nearly 130k followers. That’s a viable alternative. Link.
An interesting development from Twitter/X is that the company acquired a Rhode Island Currency Transmitter License this month. This allows X to store, transfer, or exchange digital assets within its platform and maintain those assets on behalf of others. In other words, X is now positioned to introduce crypto payments to its 450M active users. X is moving toward PayPal as well as Jack Dorsey’s Cash App. All three are embracing crypto.
DISH-5G: When the FCC brokered the deal to make DISH the fourth wireless provider (in order to approve the Sprint/T-Mobile merger), I was one of the few rooting for DISH. The odds of success were astronomical, and then the new T-Mobile pulled a fast one by killing its promised transition services sooner than expected.
I supported DISH back then because of Charlie Ergen. He’s an underdog that often comes out on top. He’s taken on big satellite, big cable, commercial skipping, and big press — and keeps winning. Now, pay TV is dying (or transitioning to streaming), and so he intends to pivot into 5G.
Ergen has struck a deal to merge his major holdings, DISH Network and DISH 9.55%, a move aimed at giving him the financial flexibility to build a viable nationwide 5G network. A transaction will reunite DISH’s pay-TV business and fledgling 5G network with EchoStar’s satellite communications infrastructure. DISH has a national fleet of wireless professionals who service consumers. Extensive satellite experience might be the key to taking on Starlink, which also threatens 5G providers. In another note of persistence, DISH TV was delayed several years because its satellites kept blowing up.
The new T-Mobile, which was allowed to merge with Sprint when DISH agreed to be a 5G provider, is doing everything it can to sabotage DISH. Link.
Zoom Perspectives: #ZoomPerspectives23 was refreshing because Zoom is one of the only UCaaS providers that isn’t sucking up to Microsoft Teams. I can’t recall Teams even coming up in discussion (although Zoom does offer Direct Routing for Teams). Nor was the company terribly obsessed with hybrid work topics such as hot desking (though it does have a solution for that).
A year ago, at Perspectives 22, Zoom Spots (subsequently launched as Huddles) got a lot of attention, but not so much this year. Contact Center remained a big topic. I was looking forward to an update on Zoom Mail and Calendar, but they only received gratuitous mentions.
While those items were not top of mind, we can’t conclude they weren’t important. The pressing issues were very clear: CCaaS/WEM and Phone for near-term revenue growth, Ecosystem/Platform for longer-term growth and improved awareness, and AI and hybrid work from an innovation perspective. Two sleepers that stood out for me were Events and Workvivo.
Another key takeaway was the strong alignment of the leadership team. Eric Yuan remains very involved, but every exec was happy to answer any question I lobbed. Alignment comes second — the first point I should make is that Zoom has a strong leadership team. Three were recently recruited from Microsoft.
How do you beat Google and Microsoft (and Amazon) at AI? Multiple LLMs! Zoom intends to be the leader in federating LLMs and optimizing them as appropriate. They’ve already announced partnerships with OpenAI and Anthropic, and Meta’s Llama just crashed the party. It’s an interesting strategy — it won’t be cheap operationally, but it just might be brilliant.
Ecosystem is Zoom’s word for a platform, and like most other comms providers, it wants developers and partners to build on Zoom. This isn’t particularly new for Zoom, but it’s become a much higher priority. It’s not complicated and reasonably obvious that a larger ecosystem brings greater influence. I was half expecting Yuan to start clapping his hands chanting, “Developers, developers, developers.”
Google’s Signature Move: Now in beta, Google is supporting the ability to request and leave eSignatures. The feature makes sense as it extends the Google Workspace framework into workflows. However, it sure is taking a long time — the feature was in alpha testing for a year.
eSignatures make much more sense than physical signatures, which seem obsolete now. I’m particularly confused by the hybrid approach of an ePen to sign eDocs electronically. eSignature systems are typically an enterprise add-on, so there’s a clear ROI and benefit from tying the service to a suite.
Google Duet: Google made lots of AI announcements at Google Next, including Duet. Duet isn’t a video app anymore; it’s now more of a “Copilot” that can assist with generating content across all of Google’s Workspace apps, including Gmail, Drive, Slides, Docs, and more.
If you’re a Workspace user, Duet is going to start showing up all over. In some places, you can access a separate menu by clicking the Duet icon in the top-right corner. In other places, you can ask Duet for help from within the body of your email or document. You probably won’t be able to miss it.
Microsoft and Google appear to agree that these comprehensive tools are the future of office suites, and they even agree that they should be priced at $30 per user per month. If Duet and Copilot improve upon their predecessors, they could revolutionize productivity beyond simple suggestions like “write a resume.” At least Microsoft came up with a new brand. Google keeps recycling brands from dead projects (and Google has lots of dead projects).
OpenAI Enterprise: OpenAI introduced ChatGPT Enterprise, an AI assistant tailored for businesses, providing fast and unlimited access to GPT-4. This enterprise version of the chatbot offers a larger context window, enabling the processing of longer texts and faster query speeds. It prioritizes security with encryption for data at rest and in transit, complying with SOC 2 standards. The service features an admin console for management, domain verification, and more. Over 80% of Fortune 500 companies already use ChatGPT. Its potential impact on businesses is likened to that of a fundamental work tool, revolutionizing productivity and workflow efficiency.
With LLMs headed for the enterprise, the question is whether this is something enterprises assemble on their own or simply accept from Microsoft (Copilot) or Google (Duet). No doubt, the answer is all of the above. Agreed, Microsoft and Google should not rush their products to market, but Microsoft announcing a $30 price per user on Copilot before the benefits are understood certainly gives CIOs an incentive to evaluate DIY solutions.
Walmart just rolled out its own solution to 50K employees. The tool can accelerate writing and summarize large documents. Commercial real estate company JLL released its proprietary large language model to its more than 103,000-member workforce earlier this month. McKinsey also equipped 7,000 employees with a generative AI tool this month.
Another interesting angle is obtaining a generative writing assistant from a writing company. Grammarly has created a generative AI solution worth a look. It’s helpful and uses better grammar.
Dear Tarek: Congratulations on becoming the CEO of RingCentral. It looks like the market had some jitters about the leadership change, but don’t take it personally. Vlad Shmunis was one of the few remaining founders. With Vlad’s departure, I believe Eric Yuan at Zoom is the only remaining UCaaS founder standing.
I think we are all anxious to see what the new RingCentral looks like. Will the new RingCentral emerge quickly or gradually? Return-to-office mandates or hybrid work? A strategy of growth or cuts? Will there be a new COO?
I look forward to hearing from you directly. I watched some of your video interviews while at HP, and you don’t come across as shy. Until we meet, here’s some general advice to consider: Industry analysts are friendlier than financial analysts, which will punish you if you miss your numbers. So, try to beat their expectations; keep your costs low and profits high. Don’t forget to develop new products. Do all that, and you will have a blast as CEO of RingCentral.
The Great Unbundling: Other potential headlines: Too Little, Too Late. Slack Won! FTC Still Evaluating. Microsoft has unbundled Teams from Office 365 in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. In an effort to distract from antitrust action, Microsoft will now force new European customers to purchase Teams.
Let’s be clearer. O365 will be €2 less a month in Europe and not include Teams. Customers who want Teams can purchase it for €5 a month more. So, for not being a monopolist, Microsoft will earn €3 more per user per month. But there won’t be very many users paying €3 more a month because most of Europe is excluded. That is, these changes do not affect existing customers.
Microsoft did not kill Slack; Marc Benioff did. However, these changes are a result of Slack’s (valid?) 2020 complaint that Microsoft stifled competition. The unbundling was a voluntary action by Microsoft, presumably in hopes that it would settle the matter, but EU regulators have yet to indicate if a tax on new users without any punishment is an acceptable remedy.
One could argue the end of the “it’s free” justification to implement Teams should be good for Teams competitors, but this grandfather clause is exceptionally grand. Nor are there any changes to its bundling practices outside of Europe.
The changes go into effect on October 1, 2023. That’s when new EU and Swiss O365 suites will no longer include Teams licensing, and a new standalone Teams offering will be launched.
Meetings and Messaging
Automated YouTube Descriptions: This is a great example of how AI is changing everything. First, AI made videos more accessible. Not long ago, videos (and photos) were completely off-limits to computer scanners. Remember when people publicly posted their email address as a photo/image to elude the spambots?
We have been using AI for years now to automatically generate transcripts and, more recently, translations. But now YouTube is experimenting with generative AI to create video descriptions. How long will it take to give the video a thumbs up or down? Today, we can zip through a meeting by having AI search for mentions. Soon, we can ask the AI to find the part when Suzie spills her coffee.
WhatsApp for Business? Several developments with WhatsApp this month deserve some attention. For example, the new WhatsApp for Mac app supports eight participants in video calls and 32 participants in audio calls — all for free. While it may not be a big threat in the US, it will eat into business revenue in Europe and India.
The Meta-owned app also now supports screen sharing during video calls. Users can either share the entire screen or a specific app. A new landscape mode is coming for video calls on mobile. Also, HD photo sharing is now supported.
WhatsApp isn’t doing this for fun. It’s already practically universal in Europe and some other regions. In some sectors, it’s tough to do business without WhatsApp. It’s also already an increasingly popular channel for C2B communications. A brief time before Microsoft acquired it, Skype started courting small businesses with a universal (internal, B2B, and B2C) comms play. Even though it doesn’t support PSTN, WhatsApp seems to be in a stronger position to accomplish this SMB business play in Europe.
Slack Tightens UI. Slack launched a redesigned version to boost productivity. The update lets users navigate channels and conversations more efficiently, focus on tasks with fewer distractions, and utilize new tools for easier workflows. The redesign includes a unified “Home” page for channels, direct messages, and apps, enabling easier movement. For Slack Enterprise Grid users, the ability to view channels from all workspaces was added.
When the transition from email-centric communication to messaging/chat-based communication began, one of the key vendor promises was that it would reduce the number of messages people would have to consume. We all now know (as some of us knew back then) that premise is laughable. If anything, we now have to consume an increased number of messages, and they are spread out across more tools. While email had/has many faults, one of its greatest strengths is that it’s a central aggregator of content. One place to look. One place to search. One place to compose. As tools like Slack have grown in popularity, one of the biggest struggles people have had to come to grips with is “channel overload,” with too many places to look for messages and replies. I commend Slack for understanding the role they’ve played in this challenge and taking action to try and diminish the problem. By reducing the number of places people have to look, the new home screen should result in a more universal inbox, simplifying how people consume conversations. —Alan
Most of us had fewer inboxes pre-Unified Communications. #Fail.
Slack and Salesforce’s AI Solutions: Slack’s new initiative, Sales Elevate, focuses on integrating crucial sales data more closely with the communication tool employees already use: Sales Cloud. This tailored experience is designed for sales roles, offering a dedicated view within Slack that automatically aligns with users’ Salesforce roles and responsibilities. Slack is also planning to introduce Slack GPT, a conversational AI experience that can automate and personalize work processes. This forthcoming AI tool could enhance Sales Elevate’s capabilities, particularly in tasks like creating customer briefing documents. Salesforce president Brian Millham expressed optimism about the potential of generative AI tools like Slack GPT to drive growth for the company.
Since Salesforce’s $27.7B acquisition of Slack in late 2020, they have been working not only to surface Salesforce data inside Slack but also to turn Slack into the main user interface for professionals to create and collaborate around records stored in Salesforce. The goal is to provide a more modern experience around CRM, one that incorporates people as much as processes and data. This new application could be a big step in accomplishing that goal, as it puts several powerful features into the Slack UI that previously required logging into the Salesforce Cloud. In addition to collaboration, the focus on automation should be well received by busy professionals, where any time they save working with software means more time they can spend with customers. —Alan
Airglass Gets Web-based Access: Mobeus Airglass is an online meeting and presentation tool that helps anyone who spends time sharing their screen connect more deeply with their audience. By incorporating virtual transparent layers, meeting participants experience both presenters and shared materials simultaneously. From sales professionals pitching prospects to customer service agents helping customers, Airglass creates an immersive experience that emulates the natural feeling of face-to-face conversations. With the latest release, Airglass now allows participants to join sessions from a web browser rather than requiring the full Mac or Windows desktop client. This addition makes it easier for companies using Airglass to include external participants who may not have Airglass installed. Access to the Airglass beta program is available at airglass.com. —Alan
RCS: More news on the protocol that no one cares about. Google very much wants to make RCS popular and has tried to address every objection. It has turned on RCS with most Android phones and now hosts RCS for many cellular providers, including the three major ones in the US.
One objection was a doozy: It doesn’t have E2EE — like SMS and email, but unlike several OTT apps. Fixing this breaks the interop standard, but no one is really doing RCS interop anyway. So Google has enabled it for its users, which includes most cellular providers. However, RCS also promises backward compatibility with SMS, without E2EE. So, if E2EE is truly important, you are better off on OTT consumer messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal, and iMessage.
Huddly Crew: Announced about five months ago and shipping on time is the Huddly Crew multicamera room system. It uses AI to live-switch up to three cameras during video meetings. It’s named after the crew you don’t need and the missing team at Infocomm (they had a beautiful, unstaffed booth).
I do prefer the multicamera solutions that are not optimized for tabletops. I prefer the cameras in the background, and the Huddly Crew can use wall-mounted cameras to create an immersive meeting experience. The challenge for Huddly (and Crestron) is that Zoom and Cisco are building similar functionality directly into their room systems. However, their advantage is that the independent multi-camera solutions will work across multiple meeting platforms.
Mio at the Core: Buried within a barrage of AI announcements at Google Next, Mio and Google announced a Google Chat integration, just as Microsoft, Cisco, Slack, and others have already done.
Phone numbers, fax numbers, and email were all designed for interoperability. So-called modern messaging apps are islands, and some have toll bridges. For example, you can’t use WhatsApp without first providing the app (and its parent Meta) your contacts list. Joining these groups is less about personal preference and more about the cost of doing business. It’s nonsensical and unsustainable to keep joining walled gardens.
Mio has emerged as the Rosetta Stone of messaging apps. Several others have tried (NextPlane, Sameroom, and more), but Mio now has all the cards (MS, Cisco, Zoom, Slack, GChat). Among its investors are Cisco and Zoom.
MQ: Gartner updated its CCaaS MQ this month. A new TalkingPointz deep-dive on the report will be published in September. Overall, TalkingPointz largely agrees with Gartner on this edition. Five9 and AWS were added into the Leaders quadrant, and Talkdesk fell out.
None of those changes are surprising or concerning. Amazon and Five9 have been improving their products rapidly and significantly while winning larger customers. Talkdesk was caught in a sea change regarding financial rules and profitability and has been slashing costs all year.
TalkingPointz was surprised by how well Genesys was placed in the report. The company does not seem as stable as the MQ implies. It has experienced significant turnover, shocked stakeholders with its pivot away from Genesys Multicloud, experienced multiple rounds of headcount reductions, and the company appears to be readying itself for IPO (so likely reducing investments). However, Gartner MQs evaluate products more than companies, and Genesys Cloud continues to grow. The complaints and frustrations associated with Genesys Multicloud do not affect the scores of the Genesys Cloud solution — however, they do affect its customer base, reputation, channels, and pipeline.
The CCaaS/UCaaS companies are still relegated to the Niche quadrant. This is perplexing because Gartner even cites reducing vendors as one of the drivers causing growth in the sector. The combined offering is very popular, especially considering that every UCaaS provider now offers CCaaS. The MQ, as presented, makes the combined plays look weak and inefficient. A good compromise is to create a combined UCaaS/CCaaS use case in the companion Critical Capabilities report.
The 2023 edition of the report is different in several ways. First, it’s the only version of this particular report that’s different. Its predecessors have been fairly similar since Gartner settled on a single global CCaaS report. This version shows a new graphic, new leaders, and some important word choice changes indicative of the sector changes occurring. These shifts are discussed in the TalkingPointz research note “Does CCaaS Matter?”
The bottom line of the 2023 CCaaS MQ is that it’s a great report but probably a little more conservative than the market is right now. For example, the report continues to use inbound voice as a heavy requirement, but organizations and customers continue to favor digital channels. Also, Gartner is very cautious about the impact of generative AI, but most providers are stuck at summarization.
More to come. SEE the UPCOMING TalkingPointz Research Report on the CCaaS MQ to be published in September. Enterprise subscribers only.
8x8 Supervisor Workspace: 8x8 announced a new contact center applet called Supervisor Workspace that gives supervisors easy access to the tools and data they need. This follows last year’s Agent Workspace. Supervisor Workspace provides a dashboard optimized for supervisors. It’s web-based and designed to reduce the number of clicks involved in daily operations. It works for both in-person and remote supervisors.
DialpadGPT: Dialpad announced its newest LLM. Back in May, the self-proclaimed “Salesforce of AI”(what does that mean?) considered the 4B minutes of transcribed conversations as an LLM on their own, but then Meta open-sourced Llama.
This month, Dialpad announced DialpadGPT. The new AI platform is currently limited to its Early Adopter Programs, but Dialpad expects to make it GA in October. It appears to be Llama 2, with 5B minutes of call center call logs to train the model using parameter-efficient fine-tuning (PEFT). DialpadGPT will eventually span Dialpad’s entire portfolio.
We don’t know how/where it’s hosted or how it will be priced. In fact, not much is known here, but the tremendous amount of hype in the press release is concerning: Anjney Midha, the general partner at a16z, said, “Very few teams could pull this off.” It leverages Dialpad’s transcription engine, “which has best-in-class accuracy.” Will Griffith, founding partner at ICONIQ Growth, said, “The launch of DialpadGPT has the potential to revolutionize the way businesses think of, interact with, and capitalize on AI moving forward.”
Cognigy Rapid Knowledge: Cognigy announced its Knowledge AI solution for contact centers. It allows a contact center to rapidly create self-service bots. Simply point it toward knowledge, such as an FAQ, and Knowledge AI will leverage the knowledge data and conversational AI in lieu of training and intents. The result, ideally, is quick configuration, improved CX, and improved deflection. Of course, mileage will vary on the usefulness of the FAQ. My concern with these skip-the-training solutions is how one corrects bad information. Something as simple as operating hours has always been complex to automate, but we can usually figure out the glitch causing the errors. That could be much harder when you don’t actually train/program the bot.
8x8 Intelligent Assistant: 8x8 announced the availability of a new chatbot called 8x8 Intelligent Customer Assistant that offers “powerful, user-friendly conversational AI self-service.” It is fully integrated into the 8x8 contact center solution to provide seamless escalation to agents.
Customers who might be hesitant to implement a first-generation chatbot will be pleased to know that this is Cognigy disguised as 8x8. The companies announced a partnership earlier this year and evidently decided to skip the co-branding. It’s actually a very robust offer and a compelling reason to implement 8x8 CCaaS. Accomplishing a seamless workflow from bot to agent is harder than it sounds, especially for smaller contact centers.
GoTo AI: GoTo rolled out AI Chat Analysis, an AI-powered sentiment analysis and chat summary function within GoTo Connect’s Contact Center. It provides a positive, negative, or neutral sentiment analysis score with each conversation. Additionally, it generates a summary of the customer conversation. Impressive or table stakes?
FedRAMP CX: Both Content Guru and Talkdesk earned the FedRAMP “In Process” designation this month. This security stamp of approval will help the providers expand their US fed sales and other organizations that value the accomplishment. Storm and Talkdesk CX Cloud are now available in the FedRAMP marketplace.
Genesys Results: Genesys reported a few of its results for 2Q FY24 (May 1–July 31, 2023). Overall, the results shared are impressive. The fact they are sharing financial information at all suggests they are preparing for an IPO. Layoffs and product cuts helped contribute to impressive margins in the high 20s. Genesys Cloud CX continued its strong gains with over 50% YoY revenue growth.
NICE Results: NICE released impressive results. It grew 2Q revenue by 10% and reached revenues of $581.1M. The operating profit grew faster at 24%, amounting to $105M. NICE recorded a net profit of $87.4M, a jump of 33% YoY. The profit rate increased by 12.4% to 15% due to the operational improvement and interest income of $9M on the company’s cash reserves, which reached $1.7B.
The company increased full-year 2023 Non-GAAP total revenues to an expected range of $2.35B–$2.37B, representing 8% growth at the midpoint compared to full-year 2022. The Company increased full-year 2023 Non-GAAP fully diluted earnings per share to an expected range of $8.40–$8.60.
A Crazy Notion to Collaborate: If you haven't come across Notion yet, it’s a digital canvas that empowers people to put multiple types of content onto a single page. Unlike collaboration suites composed of multiple tools — like word processing, presentations, and project management — digital canvases let you create content with all the needed parts right on a single page. It’s a new approach to productivity that tears down the silos between traditional Office apps, especially documents, spreadsheets, and databases, with collaborative features at the core. Earlier this year, Notion added Notion AI, a writing assistant that can automate content creation with suggested text, change the tone, convert lists into tables, summarize stories, and more.
With its August release, Notion added several notable integrations, including linking tasks to Google Drive and Figma files and new page blocks for Miro and Canva. Integration is key to the battle with the collaboration suites from Microsoft and Google, as it increases the time people spend in Notion, thus improving adoption. Secondly, Notion made a small but notable improvement to Notion AI, enabling people to save the prompts they have created. This removes the frustration of retyping frequently used prompts, speeding up productivity and improving consistency.
As one of the pioneers in breaking down the decades-old trifecta of “documents, sheets, and slides,” Notion has established a vision for content creation and collaboration that all CIOs should be investigating for their employees. —Alan
Microsoft Gets Loopy: For more than three decades, Microsoft Office has been the standard for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. While those three formats have been at the heart of almost every business process, they are starting to show their age. Startups such as Notion, Coda, and Airtable are establishing more modern ways of creating and sharing content. But Microsoft is not ready to give an inch in a market that they dominate. Enter Microsoft Loop.
Microsoft Loop is the evolution of what started as Microsoft’s Fluid framework. Think of it as taking every object and action across Office and deconstructing them into building blocks that can be re-formed to create different applications. Loop is the canvas for assembling those new solutions, making it easier for people to collaborate in the context of various business processes rather than switching between multiple applications. For example, tasks can appear directly within Team chats rather than relying on two different applications.
Microsoft’s Loop app is getting ready for its debut to a broader range of Microsoft 365 users next month. Starting in late September, Microsoft plans to begin enabling the Loop app with workspaces by default for Microsoft 365 Business Standard/Premium/E3/E5 customers. The rollout will be staggered and continue into early 2024.
Microsoft customers would be wise to start planning their internal enablement and training on Loop, as this new way of working may take some time to gain adoption, especially with seasoned users of the existing Office applications. One of the keys to success for Loop will be in how seamlessly Microsoft integrates it into the processes that its customers are already familiar with. Loop can’t feel like “yet another icon” in the giant list of applications already available in Office365. Similarly, customers are going to have to start learning how Microsoft Copilot, their new AI assistant, will help them. If Copilot can modernize processes while Loop simultaneously modernizes the user experience, we could be at the apex of a new era for Microsoft’s collaboration suite. —Alan
Looks like Microsoft’s R&D has shifted from emulating Slack to emulating Notion.
UCaaS Growth: Growth in UCaaS is slow. This is a multi-quarter trend as enterprises in many industries either reduce staff or freeze hiring. Argus Research notes that IT spending may be entering a period of retrenchment, and many enterprises may view their communications systems as “just fine” for the time being. Customers are scrutinizing deals more closely and signing deals for shorter periods; deal cycles are also lengthening.
Growth? Not much to report this month in terms of telephony features, but there’s some indication we are starting to see some growth again.
- Zoom beat expectations on earnings and raised annual guidance. Enterprise revenue grew about 10% YoY, and existing customers are increasing their spend. We learned Zoom Phone reached roughly $500M on an annualized run rate basis, and Zoom contact center surpassed 500 customers in just six quarters. Growing revenue in UCaaS is hard as prices continue to drop. Zoom is making an estimated $9 per Zoom Phone seat. Zoom Phone is a strong voice offering. Cisco and RingCentral also are strong in voice. Native voice is a weakness for Teams and a gap for Google and Amazon.
- Ooma posted a slightly faster organic business subscription growth of 15%. Ooma sells to businesses and consumers and offers AirDial, a cellular gateway product for PSTN replacement. Mike Latimore of Northland Securities estimates that Ooma built 10k+ AirDial units that would support 25k users last year, and he continues to estimate business subscriptions will grow at 20%.
- RingCentral announced 2Q results with an 11% YoY increase in revenue to $539M. Subscription revenue increased 11% YoY. The provider also announced it will issue $400M of senior unsecured Notes due in 2030. It will use proceeds to repurchase approximately $171M of its convertible notes due in 25 and 26.
- Cisco: Cisco’s Webex results are a bit more cryptic as they are buried within a larger public company. The announced details were mixed, and the headlines were about a 12% decline in collaboration revenue. However, I don’t think that was really bad news. It’s part of the CapEx-to-cloud narrative, something the pure-plays don’t have to deal with. Dave thinks Cisco’s Webex group is actually growing and shared his logic here.
Twilio Signal Announcements: Twilio continues to reinvent itself, but that’s reasonable considering how much is changing. As CPaaS commoditizes, Twilio first turned to customer data with its acquisition of Segment. Customer data is good for one thing in 2023, and that’s personalization through AI, so Twilio is rapidly becoming an AI company. Twilio believes its data and OpenAI will improve CX outcomes 10x at 1/10th the traditional cost.
Here are some specific announcements from Signal:
- Twilio Predictions leverages Segment data to give marketers predictive AI without technical expertise.
- Twilio’s Virtual Agent with Google Dialogflow CX is generally available.
- Segment B2B Edition with Linked Profiles to connect relationships across systems.
- Zero Copy Architecture, which is part of a partnership with Databricks, allows customers to query data warehouse and data lake data directly without copying.
- Generative AI tools in Twilio Engage, Flex and Segment.
There is no question that customer data platform (CDP), contact center, CRM, service applications, conversational AI platforms, and marketing capabilities are converging. The questions are, who gets there first, and who runs out of money trying? Twilio intends to power its blender with OpenAI and Databricks to predict customer behaviors.
It is remarkable how every vendor uses generative AI to address the customer journey (and sell more crap). Some of this will undoubtedly work, but generative AI is still largely unproven. It feels like a “bet the company” moment for Twilio. I fear it will be much harder now to generate results from the “land and expand” mantra that has worked for it in the past. Its historical business has become competitively fierce, and its future business will take on much bigger competitors and rely more on third parties.
Twilio Signal Keynote Quotes: I am a sucker for a good keynote. Our industry has quite a few great keynoters, and that includes the CEO/founder of Twilio, Jeff Lawson. Here are a few excerpts from its Signal user conference:
“In just the last year, your apps have made over 34B voice calls, have sent over 157B text messages and over 1.7T emails, and you’ve done over four and a half billion digital verifications of your customers. And in the contact center, you all have handled 850M customer interactions. In total, that’s more than 2T interactions that you’ve had with your customers. That is amazing! … And we’ve ingested over 12 trillion data events on behalf of your applications.”
“The most common thread I see among great digital businesses is that they’re all trying to build this flywheel. The flywheel starts with data, all the signals that your customers give you about who they are and what they’re interested in. Every website visit, every mobile app, every click, every scroll, everything they buy, and everything they don’t buy. Those are all signals that tell you about the customer and what they’re all about.
“And then you use that data to do a better job of engaging with those customers, making yourself more relevant, more timely, and sending them things they’re more likely to enjoy. And when you do, they are more likely to click that email or open your mobile app. And suddenly you start getting more data about them and the flywheel turns, right? This is what great digital businesses know. And you know what’s interesting? No matter what your job is, you're actually a part of creating this flywheel. Even if you don’t know it.
CPaaS Market: Acumen Research and Consulting published a CPaaS Market Forecast 2023–2032. The report predicts CPaaS Market size to hit USD 130.8B by 2032, rising from the current value of USD 11.8B in 2022 and progressing at a CAGR of 27.5% over 2023–2032. For comparison, IDC expects the global CPaaS market to expand from $14.3B in 2022 to $29.7B in 2026.
Comviva and e&: Comviva announced the expansion of its strategic partnership with e& enterprise to offer an advanced omnichannel CPaaS platform for enterprises. e& enterprise is a specialized business vertical within e& focused on providing advanced digital solutions to transform how companies conduct business. The partnership will develop an advanced CPaaS ecosystem that integrates with business applications and enables secured real-time customer interactions.
Bandwidth reported a loss of $3.9M in 2Q, but revenue topped expectations. Bandwidth increased its financial guidance for the current quarter, upping its full-year revenue guidance to $588M–$592M from earlier projections of $576M–$584M.
Sinch and HubSpot: Sinch MessageMedia’s two-way SMS and MMS capabilities are being integrated into HubSpot’s Service Hub. This new integration provides marketing, sales, and service teams with a broader view of customers’ communications from within the platform.
FCC Tells SPs to List Fees: The FCC rejected the petition from five major trade groups representing US broadband providers requesting that they should not be obligated to explain or itemize their monthly fees. Comcast told the FCC that the listing-every-fee rule "impose[s] significant administrative burdens and unnecessary complexity in complying with the broadband label requirements." The FCC concluded that "providers must itemize the fees they add to base monthly prices, including fees related to government programs they choose to 'pass through' to consumers.
The Business Section
Five9 & Aceyus: Five9 entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Aceyus (pronounced A-C-S). Aceyus provides services around data integration, esp CX data aggregation. The companies have partnered on multiple accounts. The technology helps Five9 collect more data for real-time AI and automation-driven customer journeys. The addition of Aceyus will also deliver a significant expansion of Five9’s analytics, reporting, and Data Lake capabilities.
The acquisition improves three plays for Five9. First, as stated, it will help with the implementations and operations of larger customers. It’s similar to a CDP play but without all the overhead of new databases. Secondly, we are now in an AI era, and data is the fuel that powers AI advantages. Aceyus unlocks data. Lastly, it also gives Five9 an incumbent seat at the table of many customers who will be evaluating contact centers.
Five9 reports that the transaction is scheduled to close by the end of the third quarter of 2023. The deal’s financial terms were not disclosed ($82M rumored). It seems like a very smart and low-risk acquisition and the first since Mike Burkland returned as CEO.
RingSquared & AccessPlus: RingSquared, a nationwide business voice and data solutions provider, has announced the completion of its acquisition of the telecom business of AccessPlus Communications, an established high-speed fiber and wireless service provider.
The acquisition of AccessPlus Communications should accelerate RingSquared’s fiber expansion in the NE market. In addition to fiber, RingSquared will also leverage the AccessPlus fixed wireless network with private towers. This was RingSquared’s eighth transaction in eight years.
BlueJeans Fade at Verizon: Verizon shut down BlueJeans, its also-ran video conferencing service that it purchased for $400M in 2020. I have to say that acquisition never made sense. Verizon’s take: BlueJeans is “an award-winning product that connects our customers around the world, but we have made this decision due to the changing market landscape.” Yes, market conditions changed — now, video is pervasive and more important than ever.
It is not unusual for Verizon to shut down expensive acquisitions. BlueJeans now stands among some of the greatest in Verizon’s graveyard. Techdirt wrote: “Whether it's the company’s Go90 video streaming platform, its video joint venture with RedBox, its news website Sugarstring (which you may recall tried to ban reporters from talking about surveillance or net neutrality), its app store, its ‘me too’ VCAST apps, the billions wasted on Yahoo, the effort to run Tumblr into the ground, or any of a dozen other attempted pivots, Verizon has failed. Usually semi-spectacularly.” Cory Doctorow wrote, “Verizon has remained irrational longer than any short seller could remain solvent” due to its ability to capture regulators and subsidies.
Proximus & Route Mobile: Proximus signed a definitive agreement to acquire a 58% interest in Route Mobile. It’s a complex deal, but the goal is simple: to become a worldwide leader in CPaaS and digital identity by building on the combined strengths of Route Mobile and Telesign. Proximus Group already had a presence in CPaaS. Proximus believes that the combined messaging volume will place the new entity as the third-largest CPaaS provider. The combined revenues are about EUR 900M.
Founding shareholders of Route Mobile will reinvest in a minority stake in Proximus Opal, a subsidiary of the Proximus Group and the holding company of Telesign, Proximus’ US-based affiliate. Route Mobile will enable significant scale. Route Mobile’s footprint in the Indian subcontinent, Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America perfectly complements Telesign’s presence in Europe and North America.
IPO?: Both Dialpad and Talkdesk logos were displayed on the NASDAQ billboard on Times Square in August.
Kaleyra & Talisma & Tata: Kaleyra announced this month a strategic collaboration with Talisma Corporation Pvt. Ltd., a leading provider of customer experience solutions based in Bangalore, India. The partnership agreement enhances the customer experience by adding Kaleyra Video, a WebRTC audio and video calling tool, to Talisma’s Customer Relationship Management and Digital Engagement Platform. Last June, Tata Communications entered a definitive agreement to acquire Kaleyra, a US-based provider of omnichannel communication services including messaging, video, push notifications, email, voice services, and chatbots.
Sangoma named Charles Salameh as CEO. Salameh held leadership positions at Bell Canada, Nortel, and HP. He comes from Infosys, where he was the Global Head of Account Expansion. Norman Worthington will return to being Chairman of the Board. Both replaced Bill Wignall, who abruptly departed last February. Wignall was CEO for at least 10 years (exact term unknown as he has deleted Sangoma from his LinkedIn profile) and orchestrated numerous acquisitions, including Digium and Star2Star.
In a surprise move, Vlad Shmunis, CEO of RingCentral, has become the company’s Executive Chairman. Board member Tarek Robbiati has become the CEO. Shmunis had an amazing run at the helm of a company he founded. RingCentral is a pure-play enterprise comms and collaboration provider. There are at least 50 other providers RingCentral has outmaneuvered while building its $2.2B in annual revenue. Also, Mo Katibeh, the presumed successor, departed RingCentral in August. Shmunis has a reputation as a shrewd negotiator, technical visionary, and brilliant leader.
Robbiati joined the RingCentral BoD last December. He was the CFO of HPE September 2018– August 2023. He has telecom experience, including senior roles at Telstra, FlexiGroup, and Sprint. Even at HPE, he was working with telecom providers to make them more profitable.
Earlier in his career, he was an analyst for Lehman Brothers. He began his career as an R&D Engineer for Schlumberger. Robbiati earned an MBA from the London Business School (1998), an M.S.in Business Administration from Institut d’Administration des Entreprises, and an M.S. in Nuclear Physics and Electronics from Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Ingénieurs. He holds both Italian and Lebanese citizenship and is fluent in six languages: English, Italian, Arabic, Spanish, French, and German.
Intelisys, part of ScanSource, parted ways with its President and SVP of Sales, John DeLozier and Chandler Legarreta. No details were provided, but John tends to move every couple of years. ScanSource acquired Intelisys in 2016 and remains one of the more influential channel distributors. Other recent executive departures include VP of Partner Experience and Marketing Jamaal Savwoir and its NW Sales Leader Michael Wolfington.
Talkdesk named Neville Letzerich its new CMO. Most recently, Letzerich served as VP and CMO for Cisco’s Security division. Also, Christie Blake returned to Td as SVP Corp Communications. She was VP of Corp Comms for 3.5 years, ending June 2022.
GoTo appointed Peter Mahoney to the role of CMO. Mahoney brings experience from Nuance and Plannuh, a venture-backed company he founded. Invoca named Peter Isaacson as its CMO. Isaacson has prior CMO experience from Demandbase and Replicant. Vocalcom promoted Nicolas Mestchersky from CFO to CEO.
Gurdeep Pall, CVP at Microsoft, has departed Microsoft after 33 years. Kevin Mitchell, VP of Marketing and Business Development, has departed from Alianza.
- Elon Musk’s Unmatched Power in the Stars. The ways Musk wields his dominant power in global communications is raising alarms internationally. #Starlink #SpaceX
- Apple has quietly invested billions in generative AI. We haven't heard much from Apple about generative AI, but it’s almost certainly coming.
- The video call revolution is dead. BlueJeans is dead, so video must be dead. He probably meant to conclude that smaller firms don’t do well when technologies go mainstream.
- What if Generative AI turned out to be a Dud? 2023 might just be a tax write-off. Some possible economic and geopolitical implications.
- San Franciscans Are Having Sex in Robotaxis, and Nobody Is Talking About It. We know that driverless taxis will be disruptive, but didn’t expect it to impact the hotel and hospitality sector.
- Jobs Are for Humans. Why ChatGPT hasn’t ignited the employment apocalypse that so many predicted.
- How ChromeOS Devices Are Helping This Fortune 500 Firm Save $3M a Year. Switching from Windows can pay.
- Actually, Zoom’s In-Office Policy Shows the Power of Hybrid Work. Regardless if it’s magnet or mandate, the future will involve hybrid work.
- Is the AI boom already over? Generative AI tools are generating less interest than just a few months ago.
- OpenAI launches ChatGPT Enterprise. Though ChatGPT sparked the generative AI wave, hyperscalers are positioning themselves as all-inclusive shopping destinations for large language model solutions.
- Why Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile Want to Access Your Bank Account. All those miles, reward points, and other benefits are driving up credit card fees.
- Don’t Hire A Chief AI Officer. Do This Instead. “Organizations that are serious about accelerating their initiatives around AI will skip the grand gesture of appointing a Chief AI Officer, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be people in charge.”
- Measuring trust: Why every AI model needs a FICO score. Demystifying the inner workings of AI could significantly reduce the fear surrounding it. If we can move AI from an opaque “black box” to a transparent “glass cube,” we can recalibrate how we as a species adopt the technology.
Other Recent Stuff
- Enlightening Generative AI A look where Generative AI is going, beyond summarization.
- Deciphering Cisco Collaboration Results
- TalkingPointz Research: Conversational AI 2023 and Does CCaaS Matter?
- RingCentral Announces RingCX, Its New CCaaS Offering
- How to RTO and WFH at the Same Time
- RingCentral Expands RingSense Across Its Portfolio
- Dave and Zeus on Zoom Perspectives (Real-Time, Recorded)
- Zoom Perspectives TalkingPointz videos, playlist
- Archive This! Conversation with Mark Sher of Intermedia
- Upcoming Event: CPaaS at Casa23 Amsterdam with Rob and Robert
- Influence Me! Dave interviews Juanita
- CXToday Video: Gartner CCaaS MQ 2023 Related: NICE Misses Out of Becoming Gartner’s Outright Leader.
- Enterprise Connect – Innovation Showcase, Dave Interviews Alan about Mobeus. Here is the demonstration of Airglass from the event.
- CPaaS Acceleration Alliance Update (video)
2023 Insider Reports
- Insider Jan 2023
- Jan Insider Lite 2023
- Insider Feb 2023
- Insider Feb Insider Lite
- Insider March 2023
- Insider April 2023
- Insider Lite April
- Insider May 2023
- Insider June 2023
- Insider July 2023
- Insider Lite August 2023