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Cisco’s Amy Chang Shines Her Light on Contact Center

After Cisco Collaboration EVP and GM Amy Chang made her debut on the Enterprise Connect stage last March, industry analyst Zeus Kerravala wrote a No Jitter post titled, “Cisco's Amy Chang Shines in EC19 Debut.” Having attended the three-day global analyst meeting Chang hosted last week, I’m happy to report that she is now shining her light on the contact center.
Chang took analysts on a contact center deep dive on the final day of the analyst event, following two days devoted to updates on the calling, collaboration, and meeting components of the Cisco portfolio. Besides analysts like myself who focus on customer experience, many general collaboration analysts stuck around for the contact center day. Customer experience is a hot topic.
That Chang spent a day on contact center is news because she didn’t do so at the same event last year. That made 2019 one of the few years since 2002, when Barry O’Sullivan was GM of the contact center business (now at Genesys), that Cisco didn’t offer a full-day update of contact center content.
Chang was clear on the reasons for omitting the contact center deep dive in 2019; she spent her first 18 months at Cisco concentrating on the calling and collaboration portfolio. As she said at the beginning of last week’s meeting, “We had technical debt; we have cleared it out, and now we are ready to innovate.”
Build or Buy?
From a contact center perspective, one of the big activities in 2019 was making a “build or buy” decision, said Ryan Plant, CTO, Cisco Contact Center. “As we were looking at rebuilding the contact center architecture, we wanted to go out and see, is there something that we could just buy? That was the responsible thing to do.”
Cisco spent months evaluating many, many contact center-as-a-service (CCaaS) providers, “big and small,” Plant said. While it found that many CCaaS providers were doing great things, they had a lot of “debt” that was going to inherently inhibit their ability to scale, he added.
For some, the debt was in the outdated cluster models they built in the 1990s. Others relied on third-party solutions for a number of key capabilities. Many embedded services from Amazon Web Services (AWS) in their software design. That meant that Cisco wouldn’t be able to move solutions off AWS without significant engineering effort. Others use Twilio for telephony.
Depending on acquisition target, the debt would have been in re-building the cluster model into microservices architecture, replacing OEM or AWS functionality, and unhooking Twilio voice. Rather than taking any of that on, Cisco decided to invest in building world-class CCaaS internally.
One of the core building blocks of that effort comes from the Cisco Webex core that Chang has developed for the company’s collaboration applications. As seen in the graphic above, Cisco’s Webex Contact Center portfolio will reuse Webex elements for calling, user experience management, and common administration, as well as for new innovation — e.g., AI.
In building Webex Contact Center, Cisco also is using elements initially developed for Spark Care, a digital customer support solution it introduced two years ago. Just as the Cisco Webex platform had Cisco’s Spark collaboration solution as a starting point, the company had been investing in a next-gen, cloud contact center to work with Spark.
Let me also address the other cloud contact center portfolio element in the graphic, Webex Contact Center Enterprise. I’ve heard many competitors dismiss this as merely a Cisco-hosted version of Hosted Collaboration System – Contact Center. The short answer is that it is not. As shown in the graphic, Webex Contact Center Enterprise builds on the elements that Plant is developing to support Webex Contact Center.
If you have a burning desire to know more, join me and Omar Tawakol, Cisco GM for Contact Center, for a one-hour webinar this afternoon, Wednesday, Feb. 12, starting at 2:00 p.m. ET (or register to listen on demand). And, if you’re attending Enterprise Connect in March, you can catch Chang on the keynote stage on Tuesday, March 31, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., as well as Tawakol and other contact center executives during the Wednesday 9:15 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. main stage session I’m co-moderating: “Transforming Customer Experience: Where’s the True AI Payoff?”