Contact Center Insight from EC19: The Executive View

  • Contact center exec panel at EC19
    You can find several articles from UC analysts here on No Jitter that summarize the content from last week’s Enterprise Connect conference and exhibition. In “Wow! Reflections on Enterprise Connect 2019,” Marty Parker described his 10 themes for the week. My favorite was number three, “Contact centers were a big, big deal at EC19.” In “6 Trends Recapping Enterprise Connect 2019,” Zeus Kerravala similarly had a contact center-focused number three, “Contact Center Wars Heat Up.” Brent Kelly thoroughly reviewed the artificial intelligence (AI) content, much of it related to the customer experience use case, in his contribution, “AI at EC19: Sharing Tips & Tricks from the Experts.”
     
    Instead of taking a 1,000-foot view of the conference, here I’m going to focus on the mainstage panel, “Why Customer Engagement Is Leading the Enterprise Communications Conversation,” I co-moderated with Beth Schultz, Enterprise Connect program co-chair and No Jitter editor. For 40 minutes, executives from six leading contact center solution providers responded to our questions, as well as reacted to comments made by one another. It was a lively conversation that, for me, seemed to end almost before it began. Both at the time and in a recent viewing of the available video, I was struck by how each of the executives offered comments worthy of reflection.
  • Rowan Trollope, Five9
    AI was a big topic at Enterprise Connect, and is a particular focus of Five9 CEO Rowan Trollope (for a related post, see “Five9 Ushering in 'Intelligent Contact Center'”). During our panel, Trollope discussed AI in response to a question about the influence Google is having with its Contact Center AI announcement and partnerships.
     
    “AI seems to be doing things that we thought were impossible before. And it's not, of course, just chatbots. It's every part of the contact center.
     
    Jonathan [Rosenberg], our CTO and head of AI, came in and said he's identified -- within three months -- 30 different parts of the contact center that he thinks we can transform using different approaches and modern technology.”
  • Paul Jarman, NICE inContact
    Developer-led is a new term of art for enterprise application development. We asked the panel how, if at all, it differs from an API approach. Paul Jarman, CEO, NICE inContact, offered this perspective:
     
    “Developer-driven is good, but in a lot of cases it's not the only thing and it's not enough. In certain cases, companies have the ability to write software, do their own product management and innovate. They can take a developer-led approach, they can take APIs and do great things.
     
    For a lot of companies, contact center is not their expertise. Software is not their expertise. Product management is not their expertise. What they really need is a suite that's already built, can be configured, goes across all of the different products and they literally can go in, configure, and go. And for the pieces that they really need to innovate in, they still have the APIs, they still have the SDKs, they can still be creative.”
  • Vasili Triant, Cisco
    Vasili Triant, vice president and general manager, Cisco Customer Journey Business Unit, compared the developer-led approach to a similar technology direction of a decade ago. He said:
     
    “We saw this when the open-source PBX came out and the idea was exactly the same. We're going to give you freeware, you build on top of it, and create customized applications. You can build a unique PBX and the total cost of ownership will be less.
     
    … And then the first issues happened, and it became who do you call, who put it together? This development kit of contact center is different than this one and this one. The IT department is stuck supporting it and the CIO or the CEO says, ‘Who's running my contact center? What is our core business?’”
  • Al Cook, Twilio Flex
    Not surprisingly, Al Cook, vice president, product management and engineering, and general manager, Twilio Flex, voiced a diametrically opposing view:
     
    “It is fundamentally untrue that you can slap some APIs on the side of your monolithic architecture and claim that it is as customizable as something that is designed to be customized.
     
    … as long as you want it to do the thing that the product managers designed it to do, then great. But the moment you want to do something different, the moment you want to tailor it to your business, it doesn't do anything.”
  • Chris McGugan, Avaya
    On the question, “Has the train left the station on hybrid solutions?” answers from two of our panelists emphasized the role of hybrid solutions in the migration to cloud process. Chris McGugan, senior vice president of solutions & technology, Avaya, had this response:
     
    “We've got a number of customers who were struggling with how they move to cloud. It's not a simple one size fits all for any single customer. The way we've approached it is to enable them to take technology at a pace that makes sense for them. If they choose to bring some of their agents onto a cloud service, they can do that. We simply allow that.
     
    It really comes down to what's the customer trying to solve for and what's the pace at which they can afford to transition to a cloud service. It is not a one size fits all and it's not a flash cut.”
  • Tom Eggemeier, Genesys
    Tom Eggemeier, president, Genesys, agreed with McGugan on customers choosing to move to the cloud at their own pace but emphasized that cloud is the endgame.
     
    “We have 1,200 new customers the last two years and the vast majority of those customers purchased a cloud solution and implemented a cloud solution. That is the trend that is absolutely happening.
     
    I'd say people go at a different pace and so to think that like you they want to have the same train at the same station, go at the same time, to the same destination is a little naïve. I really believe people are going to migrate at their own pace, but the world is moving to cloud.”
  • Videos from EC19

    I hope you feel that this gives you a good flavor of the conversation these six contact center enterprise titans had at Enterprise Connect. But I also hope it leaves you hungry for more. If so, click here to listen to the entire session.

From the mainstage at last week’s Enterprise Connect event, six contact center leaders reflect on AI, cloud, developer-led, and other trends.