As one reviews the contact center stories of 2018, two themes emerge. One is the continuing move to cloud-based infrastructure, increasingly in the public cloud. The second is a strategy of new leadership to effect this architectural change at both traditional contact center players like Avaya and Cisco as well as already cloud-only vendors like Five9 and Vonage. The pace of executive change in the leading contact center businesses in 2018 is unprecedented in my nearly 30 years covering this space.
In the slides that follow, we’ll re-visit how cloud contact center is moving into the public cloud and the executives who are newly tasked with taking their firms’ solutions there successfully.
2017 Executive Changes Revisited
When two contact center market leaders assessed new executive talent in 2017, they chose executives with experience in artificial intelligence. A year later, one is still there, and one has been replaced.
In July 2017, Genesys hired Olivier Jouve as executive vice president for PureCloud, the solution initially developed by Interactive Intelligence and its then CEO Don Brown. Prior to Genesys, Jouve spent 18 months as vice president, Watson IoT Connected Operations at IBM. In the 18 months since he was hired, PureCloud has more than flourished, realizing triple-digit revenue growth in the past 12 reported months and serving more than 1,400 customers.
As 2017 closed, Avaya hired Mercer Rowe in a new role of senior vice president and general manager, cloud. Like Jouve, Rowe’s last position had been with IBM Watson, as vice president, strategic partners, Watson and cloud platform. Rowe left Avaya in late summer of 2018 and was replaced in November by Gaurav Passi. More about Passi on our next slide.
Gaurav Passi, Avaya
To fill the void left by the departed Mercer Rowe, in November 2018 Avaya hired Gaurav Passi into the now-elevated position of president of the cloud business group. Prior to Avaya, Passi was at Five9 for five years -- his last position as executive vice president, products and technology. His departure from Five9 came just weeks after the company named a new CEO, Rowan Trollope – whose arrival at Five9 will be discussed later in this slide show.
The slide here was presented by Passi just one month after his arrival, at Avaya’s Investor Day, where he made the case for choosing Avaya as his next career move. In his comments, Passi said that, having come from a smaller firm that had to spend significant marketing dollars to promote its brand and drive awareness, he fully appreciated the loyal base of Avaya customers he will have as a built-in target market for Avaya’s existing and to-be-developed UCaaS and CCaaS solutions.
Pasquale DeMaio, AWS
One could argue that DeMaio’s story was told in 2017, when Amazon Connect was announced at Enterprise Connect. But it can also be said that 2018 was the year that the solution began to gain serious traction in the market.
In hindsight, 2017 was a building year for Amazon Connect. There were reference customers, but until late 2018 there were just three listed on the website. The rest of the activity around Amazon Connect was proof of concepts or trials.
By November 2018, the eight companies listed on the above slide were all reference customers of Amazon Connect. Intuit spoke at the Salesforce Dreamforce conference this year about equipping 15,000 agents with Amazon Connect, with a target completion date of June 2019. Mutual of Omaha spoke at AWS’s re:Invent conference and described being half-way through a process of moving to Amazon Connect for 1,500 agents in 20 different contact centers.
Vasili Triant, Cisco
With the closing of Cisco’s acquisition of BroadSoft (with its UCaaS and CCaaS solutions) eminent, in February 2018 Cisco made the decision to bring into the business a known cloud contact center executive, Vasili Triant. With a history of five years at CCaaS player Serenova, the last three years as CEO, Triant assumed the role of vice president/general manager of the contact center business, now known as Customer Journey Solutions.
In his public presentations during the course of 2018, Triant has frequently discussed how the contact center industry is in transition to the cloud. With over 3 million seats and 27,000 contact center customers globally, Cisco is increasing its focus on helping those customers with their migrations. Triant’s theme is that Cisco Customer Journey Solutions (his renaming of the former Cisco customer care organization) will deliver powerful and meaningful customer journeys to consumers.
Rowan Trollope, Five9
Unlike most of the firms and executives discussed here, the change in leadership at Five9 came after a brilliant run of increasing success selling cloud contact center. Rowan Trollope follows Mike Burkland as CEO, and Burkland had built the business steadily over his 10-year tenure. Burkland stepped down for health reasons and the board set out to choose a replacement that could take Five9 to the next level…from hundreds of millions of revenue to a billion.
Trollope has said in interviews that for him, Five9 is a “five- to 10-year play.” He is not at Five9 to quickly package it up for sale, but to build it into a next-gen, artificial intelligence-driven, customer care powerhouse. In pursuit of that mission, he has added to the leadership team (highlighted in red in the slide), including three “friends of Rowan” -- execs he has worked with in the past: James Doran, Ryan Kim, and just this week, Jonathan Rosenberg. Trollope also added a new executive vice president of engineering, David Pickering, who comes to Five9 from Intuit.
One goal of the new management team will be to take the core Five9 contact center components to the public cloud, while taking advantage of new artificial intelligence capabilities from companies like Google, IBM, and others. The added title of “Head of AI” for Rosenberg gives executive emphasis to Trollope’s stated direction for Five9.
Peter Graf, Genesys
Genesys, in 2016, was a contact center leader but hadn’t yet emerged as a cloud contact center powerhouse. With the acquisition of Interactive Intelligence and its newly-built, AWS-deployed, PureCloud solution, the tide turned. But with three product lines -- two with both premises and cloud instantiations -- Genesys needed not only a unifying vision but a unifying executive.
Graf came to Genesys with 12 years of experience at SAP, a company that has struggled to compete with Salesforce, the cloud juggernaut in the space. As he told analysts in December 2014, “I wanted to work for a disruptor instead of a company being disrupted.”
Since his arrival in December 2017, Graf has put in place a product vision of “build once, use three times.” New capabilities, such as the Genesys Automated Forecasting and Scheduling delivered in the Winter 2018 release, are built in microservices with an eye toward deployment on any of Genesys’s platforms: PureEngage, PureConnect, and PureCloud.
Al Cook, Twilio
From what seemed like out of nowhere, Twilio emerged as a force in the contact center space in 2018. The reality is that, Al Cook, vice president, product management and engineering and general manager of Twilio Flex, had spent the past years methodically building the vision and components that would be packaged and announced as Twilio Flex at Enterprise Connect 2018.
As shown in the slide, Cook positions Flex as categorically different from the premises-based and SaaS contact center solutions that preceded it. Based on my conversations with each, early adopters Shopify and Lyft agree that Flex allows them to uniquely customize the contact center solution to their environment.
Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson introduced Flex as the company’s first “application platform.” One wonders if 2019 might bring additional application platforms from Twilio.
Dennis Fois, NewVoiceMedia, a Vonage Company
2018 was a busy year for Dennis Fois. In January, he was elevated from president to CEO of NewVoiceMedia. Having spent that first year evaluating the company’s strengths and drawbacks, he set about to find the funding required to bring NewVoiceMedia into the public cloud.
Fois found a match with Vonage, which had been looking for a cloud contact center to combine with its UCaaS and CPaaS (Nexmo) assets. The above slide shows how NewVoiceMedia is being positioned within Vonage to create an integrated, programmable communications software platform.
Along with 8x8 and RingCentral, Vonage brings this full suite to the market in 2019 with hopes of leveraging its cloud-only proposition to win the customers of traditional enterprise communications vendors like Avaya, Cisco, Mitel and others – who will, no doubt, be working equally hard to keep their customers as they migrate to the cloud.