Insider Report September 2022
The Most Important Enterprise Communications News from September 2022
General Industry News
I liked peak-pandemic better: Relatively speaking, the pandemic wasn’t so bad. I’m not suggesting it was fun, and I don’t mean to minimize the loss and pain many experienced. But what the hell is going on? Inflation, travel, fuel, and employment are high, but every asset class is tanking (stocks, cryptos, precious metals, real estate …). The dollar is super strong — or is it that other currencies are super weak?
While prices are high, they seem to be coming down. Food, for example, is getting cheaper. It’s still way up there, but that was largely driven by fuel prices, and fuel is getting cheaper. Airfares have started to drop. Gasoline demand in the US has dropped below the level hit during the depths of the coronavirus in 2020 to levels last seen 25 years ago in 1997, even though the number of cars on the road — most of them gas-powered — is much higher than it was 25 years ago. Supply corrections are causing auto prices to drop.
I understand the Fed is trying to fix things by increasing interest rates, and perhaps it is working. But it’s not clear to me that low interest rates were the problem. It seems like most of the problems we’ve been encountering are related to supply chain issues and a war in Europe, and I’m not seeing the connection to interest rates. But then I’m just a pawn in the economic game of life. I will say that cloud-delivered comms is not living up to its recession-proof claims.
So what’s next? I figure comms will recover faster than most sectors, particularly cloud-delivered services. The companies that have cash will no doubt go on a buying spree — there are a lot of great deals out there. Non-US-based companies are doubly on sale thanks to depreciated valuations and currencies. I assume Cisco and Microsoft have their acquisition teams in hyperdrive right now. There could be some consolidation, such as Five9 grabbing Content Guru. I can see NICE or Genesys grabbing Sinch. Zoom has cash, but I doubt they will make a big acquisition as Eric seems more comfortable with smaller acqui-hires.
The companies to be acquired are anything CCaaS-related, especially WEM/WFO. Also, mobility is becoming a lot more important to enterprise comms.
On a Personal Note: As many of you know, my home was impacted by the Marshall Fire in Boulder. December 29, 2021, was the last night I slept in the home I purchased in 1998. 2022 has been a challenging year. We decided to sell our home and leave Colorado. Everything came to a close in September: We completed the restoration, listed the house, moved out of our short-term rental, moved cross-country, and closed on and moved into a new home in New Jersey. We significantly downsized our home (and possessions) in the process.
Unfortunately, timing matters. Just a few months ago, it was considered a great time to buy (low interest rates) and sell (strong demand) real estate. September, not so much. The good news is we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The bad news is it’s a long tunnel. It’s going to take months to get settled. And October is almost completely booked with enterprise comms events.
Brother, can you spare a job? And the pendulum swings the other way (totally unpredictable). After years of full employment and difficulty filling positions, it’s time for layoffs. Who can’t afford to lose a few hundred employees? Last month, it was RingCentral. This month, Avaya and Twilio had high-profile layoffs. The Great Resignation transitions to “go away.”
Schadenberg: Like most of us, Mark Zuckerberg has seen a drop in his net worth this year — about $71B. That leaves him with a paltry $55.9B plus whatever he finds in the couch cushions. On Bloomberg’s richest list, he dropped from #3 two years ago to #20. The primary culprit is his pivot into the metaverse, which so far is mostly suitable for punchlines. Meta does have the biggest, boldest vision and investment in what may take another decade to materialize.
Leadership Changes: Lumen named Kate Johnson as President, CEO, and board member effective Nov. 7. Jeff Storey will retire by year’s end. Johnson previously led Microsoft US and has held leadership positions at Oracle and GE. Mio announced the appointment of two collaboration industry veterans as advisors: Bill Bliss, the former Microsoft Teams platform architect, and Jonathan Rosenberg, the former Cisco Collaboration CTO.
Meetings and Messaging
Microsoft, Cisco, and Zoom Quiet: We are in the dull roar period before Ignite, WebexOne, and ZoomTopia. Most of the news from Microsoft has been updates on previously announced features. Still, two recent announcements are noteworthy: Microsoft released a new Teams client optimized for Apple Silicon and released Meeting Transcripts for Android and iOS Teams clients.
Of course, Microsoft wants its customers to use Windows, and most do. Previously, Microsoft said the best 365 experience is on Windows, but I haven’t heard that in a while. Windows just isn’t keeping up in innovation or market share. Microsoft is quietly acknowledging the shift. Redmond has provided my primary OS since Microsoft was based in Bellevue in the ’80s, but I don’t expect to ever run Windows 11 (and I certainly wouldn’t use it on a room system).
This month, Zoom announced Managed Customer keys. This is an important development, and one that was promised some time ago. It applies to real-time only, not messaging. Speaking of messaging, Zoom rebranded Zoom Chat as Zoom Team Chat. The name change probably wasn’t necessary, but the takeaway is that Zoom remembered it has a Chat app. Zoom Chat was the not-to-be-mentioned app, presumably due to the company’s strong GTM partnership with Slack. Both companies needed each other to respond to Microsoft Teams.
Zoom Chat/Zoom Team Chat is a very capable messaging app and has been for some time. I recall noting Slack’s exhibition at Zoomtopia 2019 and wondering how much longer this partnership could last. Slack (or Salesforce) is the one that broke the peace between the two companies.
Slack introduced Huddles last year as an in-channel audio conference bridge. The service was upgraded this month to include video. While Huddles is a nice addition to Slack, it’s not a standalone meetings app. (Huddles is powered by the Amazon Chime SDK (CPaaS). Amazon is a large Slack customer, and Amazon Chime also powers Mitel MiCollab).
The big question now is whether Zoom Team Chat is a marketable standalone app. Every UCaaS provider has a version of team chat, and all of them combined can’t match the MAU of Microsoft Teams. Zoom wants to give async messaging some attention, but Cisco and RingCentral went the other way. Cisco merged Spark with Webex and doesn’t give async messaging a verb, name, or brand. RingCentral, too, seems to have dropped Glip and prefers its MVP (the M stands for message). For more on Zoom Team Chat, see my LinkedIn post.
Slack at Dreamforce: With a full year to plan this time, Slack had a bigger role at its second Dreamforce. I’ve become concerned about Slack. The company is clearly becoming a big part of Salesforce (replaced its internal Chatter app), but is it still a viable solution beyond Salesforce? The answer is yes, and it boils down to Canvas and the Digital HQ.
No one really knows what Canvas is. It’s part Office, part wiki, part Power BI, and more. It’s where very smart people will collaborate, and it’s now embedded in Slack and Salesforce. The problem with Team Chat is that it’s all talk. Slack wants to facilitate deeper level collaboration, and the backdrop (canvas?) it’s using is the digital HQ. I posted more on the Slack Canvas journey on NoJitter.
Butterfield launched the “Digital HQ” at Dreamforce last year, and I wrote about it here. It’s conceptually similar to the hybrid office theme that EVERY UCaaS company is promoting, but instead of focusing on where one works, it’s focused on how one works.
Using UCaaS (or messaging) to solve work from anywhere was great 20 years ago. The pandemic improved acceptance and attitudes related to WFH, but focusing on where we work is tired. Slack’s Digital HQ acknowledges that the work we do is inherently digital.
Slack expanded the terms it’s using to describe the Digital HQ to include “human-centric” and “digital-first” communications. Related product enhancements include Huddles, Clips, and Workflows. Huddles supports real-time voice and (now) video conversations. Slack says that Huddles is its fastest adopted feature. Clips supports async sharing of video, voice, and screen recordings. Slack claims its Workflow Builder has allowed 320K nontechnical users to build automations. The digital HQ needs to integrate with other systems, so Slack also announced expanded integrations into Salesforce and reminded us that Slack Connect enables integration with customers.
No Filter Free: No Filter Network CoFounders announced the platform’s Creator Suite for free to all content creators. Hey, I’m a content creator!
No Filter allows its users to stream real-time videos to thousands of public or private viewers with sub-second delay for the audience; monetizing with tickets, tips, and paid subscriptions; and high-quality stream MP4 recordings — for free.
RingCentral Video Pro: RingCentral announced the availability of AI-powered video capabilities, along with extended browser support for RingCentral MVP and RingCentral Video. These advancements include AI-powered Meeting Insights, Whiteboards, Live Transcription, AI-powered noise reduction, Participant Reactions, and Remote Desktop Control.
New Brio from Logi: Logi introduced an excellent 4K webcam called the Brio in 2017. Its easy and memorable name broke Logi’s tradition of esoteric models and offered 4K resolution just as the category was emerging. This month, Logi expanded Brio into a product line with 3+ new webcams that feature a new look and USB C. The new Brio 505 looks like a winner.
Unfortunately, Logi will also attempt to create some different versions for different channels. The Brio 500 is the consumer model, and the black 501 is exclusive to Amazon — neither of which can be managed by Logi Sync software. The different models come in different colors, though some colors are only available from Logi.com or Amazon. All three models are the same price.
I’ve seen Amazon get exclusive model numbers before, but it’s odd to me that Logi would break its Sync Software on “consumer products” because they are all going to end up in SMB and enterprise accounts. Even worse, and Logi is not the first to commit this particular offense, the privacy feature is video-only. Logi built a clever, mechanical video shutter dial that completely covers the lens but does not mute the microphones.
Logi is implementing a similar (other than the naming, colors, and pricing) differentiated GTM for its new Vibe Bluetooth headsets. The Vibe 100 is $99 and comes in three colors. The Vibe 125 comes with a wireless dongle and costs $129, but only comes in graphite. The Vibe Wireless, also $129, comes in three colors, includes a dongle, and has Sync support. The strategy seems overly complex — and why is only one of the Vibe wireless headsets called Vibe Wireless?
AWS Video Health: The pandemic accelerated use of and interest in digital health care, and Amazon is on it. Amazon is positioning to enable Virtual Care between consumers and health care providers, using an integration with Amazon Chime. It’s a new feature embedded into the Health Cloud Foundation license and Health Cloud Video Call add-on.
Chime has rapidly evolved from a conferencing app to a CPaaS. AWS even rebuilt the conferencing app it acquired to use the new features of the Chime SDK. The app also natively works with many Cisco room systems.
Teams for Sale: Microsoft will soon support users charging for online appointments, classes, or events via a Teams payment API. Zoom and Google have this feature today. The feature will be available to businesses of all sizes; however, at this time, they must be registered in the United States and Canada.
Facebook Stole IP from Voxer: Meta was unanimously found guilty of stealing video streaming IP from Voxer (the creator of the Walkie Talkie messaging app) and ordered to pay $174M in damages. The Texas federal court found the social giant guilty of violating two livestreaming patents.
The hearing revealed that Meta (then known as Facebook) approached Voxer in 2012 to collaborate, which prompted Voxer to disclose its patents and proprietary technologies. The companies failed to reach a GTM agreement. Facebook then revoked Voxer’s access to key components of its platform despite the lack of a native alternative. In 2015, Facebook launched Facebook Live, followed by Instagram Live in 2016. Meta intends to appeal.
Dialpad Agent Empowerment: Dialpad announced two new products bundled under an Agent Empowerment banner: Ai Agent Assist and Ai QA Scorecards. Dialpad Ai Agent Assist provides agents tips that will reduce handle time. Implementation leverages unstructured data — even from legacy systems. Dialpad’s Ai QA Scorecards are getting an upgrade to automatically flag a scorecard’s phrases and behaviors to speed up post-call processing.
Dialpad has been on a consistent move, particularly regarding AI and CC. Earlier this year, it released Ai CSAT for customer satisfaction analytics on every call. These products leverage its own in-house AI (TalkIQ acquisition) and its recent acquisitions of Kare and Koopid.
Amazon Connect: Amazon continues to drop enhancements to Connect, almost two per week in September. Most of these are new APIs and connectors. Amazon Connect Voice ID now offers fraud detection based on “voice-based deceptions.” For example, Voice ID can detect, in real time, if an imposter is using a speech synthesizer to spoof a caller’s voice and bluff the agent or IVR system. When fraud is detected, Voice ID flags these calls as high risk in the Amazon Connect agent application. This feature works out of the box once Voice ID fraud detection is enabled for a contact, and no additional configuration is required.
GoTo Co-browse: GoTo now gives all of its CCaaS agents the ability to co-browse within their web browser.
Vonage AI Studio: Vonage launched Vonage AI Studio, a low-code/no-code AI tool to design, create, and deploy customer engagement solutions. Vonage AI Studio uses a natively built, visual platform that enables low-code/no-code creation of smart, automated design flows across engagement channels, with drag-and-drop modules and reply actions that require little to no dev expertise. AI Studio supports personalized and automated interactions across channels such as voice, SMS, and messaging apps such as WhatsApp.
The CC AI conversation is shifting from promising new features to more accessible technology and faster implementation. Vonage offers contact centers AI a la carte or via a complete Virtual Assistant package.
Five9 SF Service Cloud: Five9 announced the availability of Five9 Service Cloud Voice for Partner Telephony, the latest evolution of its integration with Salesforce. The Five9 for Service Cloud Voice adaptor allows contact centers to enable agents to utilize telephony controls within the Salesforce Omni-Channel Widget, receive inbound screen pops, access call logging information, and share data across other systems. The Service Cloud Voice integration is an extension to the current Five9 and Salesforce adapter. The BYOT integration is available on AppExchange.
WhatsApp and Salesforce: At Dreamforce this month, Salesforce and Meta announced they will bring instant messaging to the Customer 360 platform. Salesforce continues to expand its digital CX capabilities.
Resistance is futile. I really try to avoid Facebook, but it’s very difficult. The social aspect is just one element. So many events get promoted on and require registration via Facebook. I don’t want to install WhatsApp because it requires that I share all my contacts with Facebook. Once can skip WhatsApp in the US, but it’s very hard in Europe. Many businesses only support customer interactions via WhatsApp.
Google CCAIP GA: Announced at EC22 (my coverage on CXToday), Google has made its new CCAI Platform generally available. This is a Google-branded implementation of Ujet. Google CCAI includes Dialogflow, Agent Assist, and CCAI Insights. These technologies are available on most contact center solutions. The CCAI Platform is Google’s way of completing the solution without the need for a third-party CCaaS. The CCAI Platform offers an integrated CCaaS that’s “user-first, AI-first, and mobile-first.” It has a deep integration with CCAI offerings and offers a “CRM-centered design.”
Yesterday we had Amazon in CCaaS. Today it’s Amazon and Google, and inevitably Microsoft will evolve its digital contact center into a CCaaS. The game is changing.
Jabra Engage AI: Jabra released Engage AI, which provides contact center organizations with real-time call insights. Engage AI identifies “coachable moments” via a dashboard and also provides agents with self-coaching assessments and performance evaluations.
Jabra Headsets: Jabra released two new headsets designed with contact center agents in mind. The Jabra Engage 50 II is a USB-connected, three-microphone headset with a “busy” light. Available in stereo or mono options for $299 and $279, respectively. It has a clever feature of audibly ringing if it’s on a desk instead of a head. The Jabra Engage 40 is a two-microphone headset, also with a “busy” light. Available in stereo or mono for $239 and $219. Both are MS Teams Certified, and admins can monitor the health of devices via pre-built integrations with Nectar, Operata, and Versae or through Jabra’s Engage+ desktop app.
Genesys AI Experience: The newest chapter in contact center orchestration and customer journey management is the Genesys Cloud AI Experience, which is essentially the same thing every contact center provider (including Genesys) has been saying for years. The products and programs are generally vague to begin with, and the upgrades are even worse. Every CC vendor’s promise around AI sounds the same, and it’s tough to convey any meaningful differences in a blog post or press release.
The Genesys Cloud AI Experience promises simplification, personalization, automation, and prediction, and vows to remove barriers to AI adoption by combining conversational AI, knowledge, agent assistance, predictive routing, and predictive engagement. I think AI Experience 3.0 might have been more effective though equally vague.
Sangoma Ships Its First Million: Sangoma has shipped its one millionth IP desk phone, which is sold as part of its cloud communications suite. Sangoma says its desk phone business is a “highly strategic complement” to its cloud services. I do think integrated hardware offers an opportunity for differentiation. For example, when the phone is coupled with Sangoma cloud services, customers can see their voicemails on the phone’s screen.
Sangoma announced the Star2Star website officially moved to Sangoma.com (but it hasn’t). Sangoma also launched a new logo and website at Sangoma.com.
Dialpad Is a Team Sport: Dialpad wants to make it easier for Teams users to make calls, so it announced License-Free Routing for Microsoft Teams. License-Free Routing, exactly as it suggests, allows outbound PSTN calling from MS Teams through Dialpad without an E5 license or Teams Phone license. Nor does it require a second app to complete the call. Dialpad for Microsoft Teams offers Teams features such as AI for communication workflows, SMS/MMS messaging, global availability, advanced calling tools, call analytics, CRM integrations, and 100% uptime SLAs. This is in addition to Dialpad’s Direct Routing, which was released last year.
Microsoft Teams has surpassed over 270M MAU in January — that’s a lot of users that likely want a third-party solution for calling. While all Microsoft/Office 365 users get access to Teams for messaging and video, calling is an add-on. At least for now, Microsoft seems quite pleased with giving their customers third-party calling options.
¿Dialpad Ai hablas español? Dialpad Ai now supports Spanish. This includes call transcriptions, real-time assist cards, custom moments, and recordings to enable better productivity and increase customer satisfaction.
Poly Edge on Zoom: The Poly Edge E series of desktop phones are now Zoom certified! Poly created the Edge series to address supply chain shortages. The phones support Poly’s Acoustic Fence and NoiseBlockAI technologies. A few key features include wireless pairing to Poly headsets, Wi-Fi-ready desktop phones, and Microban antimicrobial protection.
Vonage AWS Accelerate: Vonage announced it has joined the AWS ISV Accelerate Program. This is a co-sell program for AWS Partners that involves solutions that run on or integrate with AWS. The solution spans the Vonage Communications Platform, composed of Communications APIs, CCaaS, UCaaS, and Conversational Commerce offerings. We are seeing many cloud-delivered solutions align with Azure, AWS, and/or GCP.
Sinch AI for CC: Several CPaaS providers are repositioning themselves as customer engagement providers. The latest is Sinch, which launched an AI-enabled question-answering search engine called AskFrank (Jeeves retired). It can be integrated into existing chatbots and contact center services. AskFrank periodically analyzes content from knowledge bases like Confluence, SharePoint, and FAQ pages, then indexes them based on subject instead of a specific keyword.
AI for CC fits the CPaaS API model, but it’s not clear to me if CPaaS providers have an advantage over incumbent CC vendors and specialized CC AI platform providers. GoodReads below has a post on Sinch’s +90% decrease in stock price this year. .
LeapXpert Leap Work: LeapXpert announced the general availability of Leap Work for Teams, which allows Teams users to reach external parties on WhatsApp, SMS, and WeChat. Users can also switch from text conversations to voice calls by starting the Teams Phone application. Messaging apps are table stakes, but compliant and interoperable messaging is emerging as the next big topic (see GoodReads 2 and 13 below) — that’s the LeapXpert story to monitor.
PolyAI: PolyAI is a conversational AI company focused on the contact center space. Originally a spinout from the University of Cambridge, PolyAI provides chatbot services for customers that include FedEx and Marriott. PolyAI should not be confused with Poly.com, which uses AI and offers APIs for voice and video use cases.
This month, PolyAI closed a $40M Series B funding round led by Georgian with participation from Twilio Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Point72 Ventures, and Amadeus Capital Partners. This brings PolyAI’s total raised to $70M and values the company at nearly $300M post-money.
Rumble: Yet another social app for conservatives, Rumble, became public this month via SPAC. If Parler, Getter, and Truth weren’t the right fit, there’s Rumble. Initially funded by Peter Thiel, it too intends to cater to conservatives frustrated by other sites’ content moderation policies. Rumble started in 2013 but only recently pivoted to social video. The company now trades as RUM. Next up, Rumble intends to build its own cloud infrastructure to ensure freedom from onerous content moderation practices.
ConnectWise-Sync for MSPs: ConnectWise plans to acquire Wise-Sync to help MSPs automate payments. Wise-Sync is already available in both ConnectWise Manage and ConnectWise Sell as part of a fully integrated automated payment collection platform that kicks in once an MSP provides a client price quote. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Adobe and Figma: What put Twilio and Slack on the enterprise map is their focus on developers. It’s a non intuitive strategy (as developers have no budget, but they do have hand). Now, Adobe sees an opportunity to expand into collaboration, and it’s via developers. The company intends to spend $20B to acquire Figma, a provider of developer collaboration tools.
Figma, founded in 2012, offers two products: an online design platform called Figma, and FigJam, a virtual whiteboard. Microsoft, Zoom, Twitter, Netflix, and Dropbox are Figma customers. Figma’s software lets developers collaborate remotely on the design of applications and websites. The acquisition, if successful, represents Adobe’s largest.
Ooma and OnSIP: Ooma acquired OnSIP, a UC provider that will increase Ooma’s annual revenue by more than $10M. The acquisition was completed last July for roughly $9.75M in cash. Ooma compares OnSIP’s UCaaS solutions for SMBs to its own Ooma Office UCaaS.
This Month’s Goodreads
- Enough, Bosses Say: This Fall, It Really Is Time to Get Back to the Office After more than two years, corporate leaders say time is up on avoiding in-person work.
- Wall Street’s $1bn messaging ‘nightmare’ The failure to balance compliance with ease of use is resulting in lots of fines.
- Restaurants Send More Customer Calls to Voice Bots Amid Staffing Shortages Automating phone lines will ease pressure on stretched hospitality staff, but will customers accept the nonhuman voice?
- Michael Dell Chides Return-To-Office CEOs “If you are counting on forced hours spent in a traditional office to create collaboration and provide a feeling of belonging within your organization, you’re doing it wrong.”
- Google Deepmind Researcher Co-Authors Paper Saying AI Will Eliminate Humanity “Our conclusion is an existential catastrophe is not just possible, but likely.”
- Not All Bots Are Bad, and Twitter Knows It Some are benign and even helpful.
- The strange death of the company phone number Are online forums and email enough?
- Verizon slow recovery is a work in progress Verizon is seen as a fast follower, not innovative leader.
- Mark Zuckerberg Is in Big, Big Trouble The big bet on the metaverse isn’t paying off.
- 4-Day Workweek Brings No Loss of Productivity, Companies in Experiment Say Every technical innovation increases productivity, yet the work week has remained unchanged. I love all the WFH, hybrid, and four-day week developments.
- This Vote Could Change the Course of Internet History UN countries are preparing to pick a new head of the International Telecommunications Union. Who wins could shape the open web’s future.
- Amazon urges some call center staff to work from home, plans closings The shift is part of a plan to close multiple call centers around the country.
- Wall Street to Pay $1.8 Billion in Fines Over Traders’ Use of Banned Messaging Apps Eleven of the world’s largest banks and brokerages will collectively pay $1.8 billion in fines to resolve regulatory investigations over their employees’ use of messaging applications that broke record-keeping rules.
- SoftBank Sells Entire Stake in Troubled Cloud Firm Sinch SoftBank Group has sold its entire stake in Sinch AB following its share price collapse of more than 90%.
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