Winners and Losers of 2018

by Dave Michels

2018 is a 12 month slice of time. In the world of enterprise communications, not much changes in 12 months. Each company has a few releases and a handful of major announcements. While market share remains largely unchanged in 12 months, pecking order has bigger swings  — some companies are moving up and some are moving down.

Who won 2018? Here’s my top five:

Avaya: Avaya entered 2018 in a turbulent time. A new CEO, newly listed on the NYSE, a new acquisition, and a lot of splaining to do after a year of chapter 11 purgatory. Morale was down, turnover was up, and competitors were swooning. Avaya ended 2018 on solid footing: it has cash (and access to cash), a new leadership team, several big wins under its belt, and dramatically improved morale and stability. I think its Mobile Experience announced in the Spring demonstrates that thought leadership is back, and the company has had a ton of announcements this year. Yes, it’s had a few misfires, but on the whole Avaya had a great 2018.

Microsoft: Microsoft entered 2018 in a state of confusion. In the Fall of 2017, Microsoft confused customers, partners, channels, and analysts with its shift in focus from SfB to Teams. The news shattered confidence and left stakeholders with more questions than answers. A year later there is clarity, priority, results, and even passion behind its move. Microsoft has largely met the deliverables that it outlined in an aggressive roadmap last year. Microsoft announced last September that Teams is the fastest growing app in its history. It’s a fascinating claim that is likely more attributable to marketing than actual demand. However, Teams , at two is central to Microsoft’s strategy for enterprise communications, collaboration, and workflow. (Teams Research Note coming in Jan).

Slack: I think Slack had a great year. It took out Atlassian and continues to gain momentum. The company is very innovative and its Enterprise Grid service is becoming enterprise savvy. Slack and Teams are positioned as very broad platform plays, though many organizations will be ecstatic with the communications and collaboration features of the workstream solutions from UC providers. Slack may not have been the first workstream collaboration application, but it’s the one that defined the category. Microsoft will likely be bigger in this space, but not necessarily more influential.

Vonage: Vonage entered 2018 as a dependent. It was dependent on BroadSoft, inContact, Amazon, and other technology providers to power its services. It ends 2018 largely independent. In 2018, the company launched its own Vonage Business Cloud (VBC) for UCaaS and VonageFlow for workstream collaboration. It also acquired TokBox (video) and New Voice Media (CC). These services complement each other, and all of them are further strengthened by Vonage’s Nexmo CPaaS (and visa versa). Vonage is creating some very interesting mashups such as its new unified inbox. More importantly, Vonage is creating a new level of programmable applications. Vonage exits 2018 as a thought leader that happens to have one of the most comprehensive technology suites.

Zoom: Zoom makes the list due to its increasing momentum and market presence. It wasn’t long ago when I had to explain Zoom when its name came up. Today, Zoom is hitting way above its weight-class. It expanded from just an app to include room systems and a room booking solution. It’s been very innovative with features like virtual green screen and integration into other apps. It seems to have emerged as the go to video partner for both Workplace by Facebook and Slack. It announced a new UCaaS solution that is expected soon.

Honorable mentions to Talkdesk for becoming an enterprise communications unicorn, Dialpad for its ongoing growth and acquisition of TalkIQ, and Cisco for converging Spark and Webex.

Who lost 2018? That’s much more complex. Having a bad year is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, I would list Microsoft has a loser of 2017, yet it made my winners list in 2018. Facebook certainly had a disastrous 2018, but the result will likely be a stronger and better Facebook in the future.

My winners list is not based on revenue or market share,  it’s based on transformation and positioning. Enterprise communications is going through several transitions, so revenue and market share are not the best indicators. All the pieces on the board are moving, so strategies require feedback loops and ongoing adjustments — and that process often takes longer than a year.