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Top Contact Center Stories of 2019: A Data-Driven View

  • Top Contact Center Stories of 2019
    For the past eight years, I have done an annual post for No Jitter on the top contact center stories of the year. Since 2014, the post has taken the form of a slideshow. As I sat down to evaluate what to include in this year’s slideshow, I decided to let data and analytics lead the discussion.
     
    I am a frequent tweeter — I posted 1,400+ tweets in 2019, averaging about four per day. Most of these tweets center on the topics I cover as a contact center industry analyst and here on No Jitter. With data from TweetStats, I created the above word cloud of the hashtags I used in my tweets this year. In addition to #contactcenter, #CCaaS, and #EC19, hashtags for vendor and industry events I attended figure prominently.
     
    I looked to my tweets, and the responses to them by my almost 13,000 contact center-centric followers to select the top contact center stories of 2019. Using Twitter Analytics, I chose the top tweet for each month. The remaining slides show the tweets, with additional commentary on the news event, conference, or leadership announcement described.
  • Avaya Engage
    January: Avaya Engage
    The first big conference of the contact center calendar has become Avaya Engage, an event for customers, partners, and analysts. In November 2018, Avaya had appointed a new cloud chief and many were interested to hear about Avaya’s evolving cloud strategy. 
     
    This tweet refers to the strategic partnership between Avaya and AI-based routing solutions provider Afiniti, and the companies’ mutual customer, AT&T Entertainment Group (read the post). While the Afiniti partnership continues to be important for large Avaya contact center customers, other Avaya stories took center stage as 2019 wore on and will be elaborated on later in this slideshow.
  • Cisco Collaboration Analyst Summit
    February: Cisco Collaboration Analyst Summit
    In April 2018, Cisco acquired Accompany, and named its CEO, Amy Chang, as general manager of the Cisco collaboration business. The February 2019 analyst meeting was akin to a coming-out party for Chang, as many of the industry analysts had yet to meet her or the new team she had assembled.
     
    As seen in this tweet, Chang had been hard at work rebuilding Webex into the core upon which the entire Cisco collaboration would revolve. Chang and her team are already seeing success. Reported as part of Cisco’s application product category, fiscal year 2019 revenue grew 15%, up from 10% in fiscal year 2018.
  • Enterprise Connect 2019 contact center panel
    March: Enterprise Connect
    This tweet from Enterprise Connect 2019 helps tell a story of the rapid change in the contact center landscape. Of the six executives who joined No Jitter’s Beth Schultz and I on stage for the contact center executive forum, only two remain in the same company and the same position: Rowan Trollope, CEO of Five9, and Paul Jarman, CEO of NICE inContact. We saw the following changes at the other participating companies: Avaya, Genesys, Cisco, and Twilio.
     
    • Avaya appointed a new product lead, Anthony Bartolo, in November.
    • With Genesys naming Tony Bates as CEO in May, Tom Eggemeier, who had been president, moved to private equity firm Permira.
    • Vasili Triant this summer left his position as general manager of the contact center business at Cisco and has since become chief strategy officer at Talkdesk.
    • In September, Al Cook moved from his role as general manager of the Twilio Flex business to general manager of the company’s artificial intelligence business.

     

    As this tweet forecasted, with #WeShallReturn, the contact center executive forum will be back on the general session stage at Enterprise Connect 2020. Look forward to some new faces!

  • Google Cloud Next '19
    April: Google Cloud Next ‘19
    In July 2018, Google announced Contact Center AI, an effort that included a host of contact center software partners. In April, at its annual Google Cloud Next event, the company demonstrated the capability working with the Salesforce Lightning desktop and the Five9 contact center as a service (CCaaS) solution.
     
    One of the reasons for the popularity of the tweet may have been the screenshot, showing all of the features working together. Another may have been the size of the beta customer — Hulu.
  • RingCentral on Mad Money
    May: RingCentral on Mad Money
    Given the size of the total addressable market opportunity in CCaaS and unified communications as a service (UCaaS), it is not surprising to see the interest CNBC’s Jim Cramer has had in publicly held companies in the space. RingCentral, 8x8, and Vonage are just three U.S.-based companies making a strong case that getting UCaaS + CCaaS from a single provider is better than getting UC and contact center services from two different software providers.
     
    Of the two huge UCaaS wins RingCentral CEO Vlad Shmunis discussed with Cramer in May, one of the organizations chose RingCentral for both UCaaS and CCaaS (Columbia University) and the other (Waitrose Partners) migrated only UCaaS. At Enterprise Connect 2020, we will explore the rationales that lead to each type of decision during the session, Enterprise Contact Center Case Studies: UCaaS/CCaaS, Together or Separate?.
  • Contact Center Week
    June: Contact Center Week
    This tweet is about 8x8’s decision to offer its CCaaS as a stand-alone service. Until recently, contact center was generally seen as an add-on to a UCaaS sale. But all three of the main UCaaS/CCaaS companies — 8x8, RingCentral, and Vonage — in 2019 discussed that contact center can be the application that subsequently leads to a UCaaS sale.
     
    With that in mind, 8x8 decided to offer contact center to customers that are not moving to 8x8 UC simultaneously. Similarly, Vonage has seen its 2018 acquisition of NewVoiceMedia’s contact center solution enable it to win joint UCaaS/CCaaS deals for which it would not previously have been the right choice.
  • WFO Market Share
    July: WFO Market Share Report
    The move to the cloud has dramatically changed the workforce optimization (WFO) market. Whereas in the premises world, contact center and WFO decisions were typically made independently, the two types of software are increasingly being offered as a single solution.
     
    NICE’s acquisition of inContact in 2016 was a forward-thinking strategic move to ensure that as CCaaS and cloud WFO decisions became one, that it would be perfectly positioned to capitalize on the shift. This tweet emphasizes that even as NICE added a CCaaS leader to its portfolio, it maintained its WFO market leadership.
     
    This year for the first time, the Enterprise Connect Contact Center & Customer Experience track will have a dedicated session on WFO. Forrester analyst Ian Jacobs will present his thoughts as well as moderate a panel of contact center and WFO executives in the session, How Cloud and AI Are Reshaping Workforce Optimization.
  • M&A rumors
    August: M&A Rumors
    Following the receipt of expressions of interest, Avaya in May announced that it had engaged J.P. Morgan to assist in exploring strategic alternatives intended to maximize shareholder value. One of the rumors that took hold during the dog days of summer was interest by Mitel in acquiring Avaya.
     
    The interest in this tweet was similar to the interest in any Avaya story that was published on No Jitter during 2019. Given the size of its embedded base of customers — reportedly 100,000 companies, 100 million UC seats, and 5.5 million contact center seats — literally millions of people were hungry for news and analysis on Avaya’s future.
     
    Two months later, on Oct. 3, Avaya and RingCentral announced a far less draconian move. As described by No Jitter’s Beth Schultz, “putting an end to months of speculation about dealings between them, Avaya and RingCentral today announced a strategic UCaaS partnership and investment that gives RingCentral a minority stake in the venerable enterprise communications vendor.”
     
    Avaya simultaneously announced that it expects to have a new CCaaS offer in the market in 2020.
  • Genesys leadership changes
    September: Genesys Leadership Changes
    In May, contact center leader Genesys announced the appointment of Tony Bates as CEO, moving then CEO Paul Segre to the role of chairman. Four months later, Genesys announced further leadership changes, including the appointment of Barry O’Sullivan to head one of two new business units.
     
    O’Sullivan’s business unit is focused on providing contact center solutions to XXL companies with multicloud deployment requirements (think about companies with tens of thousands of agents). O’Sullivan, a former Nortel and Cisco exec, was most recently CEO and founder of Altocloud, an AI start-up acquired by Genesys in 2018.
     
    The other new business unit is headed by Olivier Jouve; he is responsible for managing the portfolio of CCaaS solutions for the majority of businesses at all sizes and maturity levels.
     
    As Genesys heads into 2020, expect continuing updates as the company redefines its focus on delivering experience as a service.
  • Vonage Campus
    October: Vonage Campus
    The announcement that Jeopardy legend Ken Jennings would be speaking at Vonage’s first-ever user/partner/analyst meeting may not seem like big news, but it was my biggest tweet for the month!
     
    In other (more contact center-centric) news, the company announced at the conference that it would extend the Vonage brand to all of its solutions, sunsetting the NewVoiceMedia (contact center), Nexmo (communications platform-as-a-service) and TokBox (video) brands.
  • Five9 acquires Whendu
    November: Five9 Acquires Whendu
    In 2018, one of the top contact center stories I reported was Rowan Trollope’s move from head of Cisco Collaboration to CEO of Five9. After 18 months of championing continued 30% growth at Five9, Trollope’s November acquisition of integration platform-as-a-service company Whendu is a significant indicator of where he and his new management team intend to take the company.
     
    As seen above in the tweet graphic , the Whendu acquisition immediately doubles Five9’s partner ecosystem. Five9 leadership believes that the ability to easily integrate with existing cloud applications is a key to success as it continues to move up market.
  • 2020 predictions
    December: 2020 Predictions
    In mid-December, Five9 CEO Rowan Trollop and I sat down for a webinar version of a fireside chat. Hundreds of professionals registered for the webinar, with a healthy proportion of those signing on to hear the event live.
     
    I believe the title of the webinar was the reason for the interest in this tweet (and the event). In a nutshell, the predictions are:
    1. We are all Gen Z
    2. Customer service — Go all in or go out of business
    3. Bots, bots everywhere… but not a bot to think
    4. 1 human + 1 AI = 3
    5. Rise of the citizen developer
     
    (For more detail, listen to the webinar on demand.)
     
    As much as it sometimes seems like the story of the contact center has already been written, each year brings new companies and new executives with existing and emerging technologies, eager to help businesses serve their customers better. As always, we will explore many of the themes surfaced here — in sessions highlighting many of the executives mentioned — in the Enterprise Connect 2020 Contact Center & Customer Experience track. Plan to join us!

Which contact center-related stories struck a chord among my Twitter followers? Click through this slideshow to find out.

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