It’s earnings time. We’ve been following publically-traded companies for whom cloud call center is a significant component of their business. Many released financial results in the past couple weeks, so let’s see what can be discerned about the near term future of the sector. This isn’t an exhaustive review, of course. To keep the blog post digestible, we are just focussing on companies with interesting news. This quarter that’s Avaya, Five9, RingCentral and Twilio.
Tag Archives: avaya
First, some perspective: No $20 billion industry changes quickly. Yes, a growing fraction of call center seats are switching to cloud-based offerings. But Avaya, Cisco, and Genesys are still going to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of on-premise call center equipment this quarter (and for many quarters after that). Heck, there are still 300,000 Nortel-era CS1000’s powering 40 million phones out there. So there’s a lot of momentum to overcome.
As the cloud transition enters its second decade, we’ve grown comfortable with a modest pace of change. We expect vendors to gently sunset their on-premise products as the cloud alternatives shuffle forward. That cloud transition, once the great disruptor, is itself getting disrupted. Expect the pace to pick up. It’s a new era.
Something new this week! As a result of recent acquisitions and other maneuvers, we now have a nice sample size of publicly listed companies for whom cloud call center is a key focus. Many of them released their Q4 earnings in the past couple weeks. It’s interesting to review the numbers at a high level to see what kind of picture they paint for the near term future of the sector. Short answer: Pretty positive.
Let’s take a quick look at what was reported by Avaya, Five9, NICE, RingCentral, Twilio and 8×8.
Today’s cloud-based call centers are increasingly built on top of platforms created by Amazon and Twilio. That includes newcomers like TalkDesk and Serenova, legacy vendors like Avaya and Genesys and companies from adjacent sectors expanding into call center like ZenDesk. For better or worse, this “stack” is going to define the contours of the next generation of call center. That raises a lot questions and suggests some predictions too.
Is this ultimately going to help or hinder innovation? Raise or lower prices? What should we make of the fact that both platforms are now offering their own call centers (Amazon with “Connect” and Twilio with “Flex”)? Is that a caution against building on top of platforms that may end up competing with you, or is this simply the new reality of the software universe?
Rumors broke on Friday that Twilio will be launching its own call center product called “Flex” next month. If true, this would be a major shake-up of the cloud call center world. There are already many cloud call centers available, but this one is different.
First, Twilio has strong financial resources to develop and market this new product. Second, Twilio has an advantage over most other competitors in that it runs a massively scaled, global telephony network. Third, and most importantly, Twilio has – until now – been solely providing call center building blocks that other call centers were built on. Now, Twilio will be competing with its customers, at least to some extent.
How big of an impact will this be? It really boils down to one question…
Last week was a big one for Avaya as they held their first customer conference since emerging from bankruptcy at the end of last year. The newly public company (NYSE:AVYA) was eager to show strength and forward momentum. By all indications, they stepped up to the plate and convinced analysts and partners that they are on track for success.
On day one, they blasted out of the gate with a major announcement: the acquisition of Spoken. This deal gives them a boost in their effort towards becoming a more cloud-oriented business.
The pivot-to-cloud was a pervasive theme throughout the show. For example, the company has a new “Cloud Business Unit” helmed by Mercer Rowe, who joined the company just a few weeks ago. But there are always two sides to a “pivot” – if you’re putting more weight on one foot, the other foot is getting less weight. What is Avaya willing to leave behind in its effort to accelerate towards cloud? I think I know… Continue reading →
Last week I wrote about the cloud-based call center gang. This week, let’s look at the “legacy” gang. Yes, the term “legacy” is used in a negative way these days, but I don’t mean it that way. I just want to group together companies that have been selling call centers for many years, compared to the relative new-comers. (If there’s a nicer term, someone please let me know in the comments.)
As you would expect, the large call center vendors are jockeying for position fiercely. Avaya’s recent bankruptcy created an opportunity for competitors to pounce. Meanwhile, they are all worried about the threat “from below”, i.e. newer cloud-based competitors that started by focussing on small business, but are moving steadily up-market.
The cloud has radically transformed the call center industry. This shift, now chugging along into its second decade, has been well covered and is no longer surprising.
Imagine if someone from this industry time-traveled to 2018 from, say, 5 years ago. (Admittedly, not a great pitch for a sci-fi movie.) To him, the growing number of agent seats served from the cloud would be quite expected. But what would be unexpected is the new power centers created by that shift. Two companies, neither of which would be top-of-mind for our time traveler, have grabbed strategic territory in the new ecosystem, and they seem poised to dominate even further. Continue reading →
It’s been a very busy year for acquisitions in the contact center space. The ongoing “cloud-ification” was one of the main driving forces. (We covered that topic here and here.) But other forces were in play as well.
When the news of an acquisition breaks, we focus on it for a few days — think about what was motivating the buyer and seller — and then move on. The river of news never stops, after all. But It’s good to look back and see what patterns can be discerned when we take in the whole picture.
Below is a list of the contact center acquisitions that we think were the most impactful in 2017.
Industry watchers are carefully assessing the progress of the Avaya bankruptcy, which is now 50 days old. (Fun tip: The number of days is easy to track because the bankruptcy happened the same day at the US presidential inauguration! So when the press makes a big deal about Trump’s first 100 days, you’ll know Avaya has been in Chapter 11 for 100 days too.)
The duration is important because as the bankruptcy continues, the patience of partners, analysts and customers wears down. Each day is also another opportunity for competitors to pick away at Avaya’s customers. See, for example this “knives-out” post by InContact that tells Avaya customers to “keep moving forward, no matter how the bankruptcy is resolved.”
Here’s a quick look at some coverage of the bankruptcy so far.