|April-June 2019 Quick Takes|
8x8 will now offer its 8x8 Contact Center solution as a stand-alone service for ACD, IVR, omnichannel, dialer, reporting, speech analytics, CRM integrations and other contact center functions. Offered as a separate service, 8x8 customers can retain an existing PBX for telephony functions, then overlay the 8x8 contact center as a monthly subscription service. Previously, 8x8 contact center as-a-service or CCaaS was only offered as an add-on to the company’s UC as-a-service (UCaaS) packages. 8x8 also added two new solutions: 8x8 Customer Journey Analytics and 8x8 Expert Finder, as well as the new 8x8 Service Management for Contact Center option to help customers administer and optimize their contact center set-up, deployment and configuration. In other news, a new 8x8 Flex Hardware Program now provides Poly IP desktop and conference phones (15 models) as a monthly lease payment, rather than requiring customers to purchase the phones up-front. The program covers repairs under a seven-year warranty. Customers can upgrade and replace the devices as needed to keep up with the latest models. 8x8 is also investing in its channel partners with the new 8x8 Elev8 Partner Program that includes resources, funds, pipeline generation initiatives and more for master agents and sub-agents (three designated tiers: X Partner, X Plus Partner and Infinity Partner).
Avaya has extended its partnership and integration with Google, announcing Google’s Cloud Platform as a deployment option for its portfolio of communication and collaboration offerings (Google Cloud has joined Avaya A.I.Connect ecosystem). The Avaya “Powered by IP Office” solution, previously delivered through virtualized environments, is now available through Avaya partners on the Google Cloud across 24 markets. This new Google Cloud Powered by Avaya strategy leverages container technology to combine Avaya Spaces and Avaya IP Office with an online marketplace. Avaya is also embedding Google Cloud’s machine learning technology within Avaya conversation services for the contact center. Avaya and Nuance (an Avaya A.I. Connect partner) are working together to integrate conversational interfaces with the Avaya IX Contact Center solutions. This includes Nuance’s Speech Suite 11 with Dragon Voice for conversational speech, with AI-driven machine learning speech recognition capabilities. Avaya is also integrating Afiniti enterprise behavioral pairing into the Avaya IX Contact Center; Afiniti’s technology examines data and available information tied to customer identity to determine patterns of successful behavioral interactions, then applies these patterns to improve customer satisfaction.
Cisco has embedded BroadSoft-powered Webex calling into its Webex Teams collaborative application. Users can now make calls through the Webex Teams app, without having to launch a separate client (Cisco acquired BroadSoft in 2018). Additionally, businesses with Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) on-premises IP-PBX can now subscribe to the Webex Teams application to take advantage of cloud-based meetings and messaging, while continuing to use their existing IP-PBX for calling. Or, businesses with multiple locations could create a hybrid environment by using on-premises IP-PBX call control in a headquarters location, and cloud-based Webex calling in branch offices. Cisco’s Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) can also connect to Webex Teams. Cisco also introduced new features to automate and simplify the Webex meeting process, including People Insights (profiles of meeting participants; GA June 2019), facial recognition, meeting transcription, interop with 3rd party tools from Microsoft, Google, Jira, and Zapier, expanded audio coverage (200 countries) and Webex Control Hub for diagnostics and management. Cisco renamed its cloud-based Customer Journey Platform solution as Webex Contact Center. In other news, Cisco launched several Wi-Fi 6 products, including five new Wi-Fi 6 access points, a switch for campus networks, and a new Wi-Fi roaming initiative called OpenRoaming.
Dialpad introduced Dialpad Sell, a new cloud service that uses voice recognition and machine learning to transcribe sales calls and interpret customer sentiment, as well as to recommend sales strategies and analyze completed conversations. The software is based on TalkIQ technology which Dialpad acquired last year. Dialpad Sell includes a license for the company’s UberConference audio conferencing service and is priced starting at $95 per month per user for an annual subscription. Dialpad has also entered into the EMEA market, opening a new London office and expanding its channel sales team there. The company expects to begin self-service sign-ups and EMEA direct sales in August 2019.
Enghouse Systems has acquired Vidyo, Inc., a provider of enterprise-class video software, adding visual communications to the Enghouse portfolio of enterprise software solutions related to Contact Center, Networks (OSS/BSS) and Transportation/Public Safety. In addition to its video collaboration portfolio delivered in the cloud, on-premises or as a hybrid solution, Vidyo also offers an API framework for developers to embed video communications into third-party applications.
Evolve IP has acquired Jog.ai, a Texas-based speech analytics and natural language technology company. The Jog.ai application, which leverages speech recognition, natural language understanding, voice analysis, and machine learning to provide transcripts and analytics about phone calls, is expected to be highly relevant to Evolve IP customers with compliance requirements in healthcare, finance and legal scenarios. The merger will also give Jog.ai more software development resources to further develop its technology.
Genesys released its Summer Innovations feature enhancements across its three platforms - Genesys PureCloud, PureConnect and PureEngage. Among the features are a new analytics dashboard (single view) to help understand customer intent, visualize containment rates and optimize bot usage. Genesys also integrated the three platforms with Google Cloud Contact Center AI (Genesys was among the first vendors to announce it would integrate the Google AI solutions). New “advanced orchestration capabilities” enable a business, using one of its three platforms, to “orchestrate” or integrate the Genesys Kate virtual assistant, as well as other third-party AI solutions such as Amazon Lex, Google Cloud Contact Center AI, Nuance and IBM Watson (cites integration with hundreds of technology applications).
Google Voice, the company's cloud unified communications service, is now available to G Suite customers in 11 countries - the US, Canada, UK, Spain, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Portugal, and Switzerland. Google Voice comes in three editions (is optionally added to a G Suite license): Starter (for fewer than 10 users; $10 per user, per month), Standard (single country support; $20 per user, per month), and Premier (multi-national organizations; $30 per user, per month. Google also launched the CallJoy customer service agent that blocks spam calls and can provide callers with basic business information or redirection ($39 per month for U.S. small businesses). In related news, Google Cloud will add two new data centers in 2020, enabling a presence in 13 countries.
LogMeIn is expanding internationally, now offering its GoToConnect (Unified Communications and Collaboration or UCC) and GoToRoom (video conferencing) solutions in the U.S. and Latin America, and this summer in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany. Last March, LogMeIn rebranded its UCC portfolio as GoToConnect which integrates Jive UC with GoToMeeting. The GoToRoom huddle and conference room solutions include Huddle Room (2-6 people) with a speaker/microphone/camera combination (Polycom Studio), and the Medium Size Conference Room (6-10 people), a speaker/microphone/phone system (Polycom Trio 8500) with camera (Polycom Eagle Eye IV). LogMeIn also announced the new Bold360 CX suite of products that include the Bold360 Service (multi-channel customer support), Bold360 Advise (accessible, centralized information) and Bold360 Acquire (conversational chatbots, coming soon).
Microsoft updated its Teams collaborative application with new features in May/June, including mobile notifications when a Teams meeting is starting, meeting click-to-join, a "call me" option for connecting to meeting audio, a single toolbar for controlling meetings and phone calls, as well as enhancements to auto attendants and call queues (re aligning the calling features of Teams and Skype for Business). Microsoft also released proximity-based joining for a Teams meeting which automatically detects Microsoft Teams room systems that are within Bluetooth range and available for use. New security features for Teams and Office 365 E5 users include a Compliance Manager tool and Advanced Message Encryption. In other news, Microsoft announced new pre-built machine learning models for its Cognitive Services platform, including an API for building personalization features, a form recognizer for automating data entry, a handwriting recognition API and an enhanced speech recognition service for transcribing conversations. Microsoft acquired San Diego-based Express Logic and its real time operating system called ThreadX RTOS, furthering Microsoft’s investment in the IoT market and its commitment toward building an end-to-end IoT platform.
Mitel is partnering with contact center as-a-service (CCaaS) provider Talkdesk to sell the Talkdesk-branded service as MiCloud Connect CX with Mitel’s unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) platform MiCloud Connect. Talkdesk CCaaS will also be an option for Mitel’s on-premises unified communications customers. Additionally, Mitel will white-label the Talkdesk solution for sale within its UC portfolio. These options are expected to be available by the end of 2019. In other news, Mitel is migrating its public and private cloud solutions, MiCloud Connect and MiCloud Flex, to the Google Cloud Platform (GCP); new MiVoice Business customers can also opt to run in the GCP.
Momentum Telecom is set to acquire Ohio-based cloud voice and network solutions provider, DCT Telecom Group. The merger will expand Momentum’s customer base and geographical reach. Earlier this year, Momentum Telecom acquired Metro Optical Solutions, adding managed network, data and internet solutions to Momentum’s Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS), Software-defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) offerings.
Nextiva introduced the Nextiva Business Communication Suite, with bundles for Basic, Pro and Enterprise needs. The new suite has the same functionality as Nextiva’s earlier bundles of similar names (Basic, Pro Enterprise), but with lower pricing to increase adoption. Nextiva is also now bundling the previously a la carte NextOS applications into its Customer Relationship Suite as a way to simplify the company’s product offerings. Nextiva’s new Team Collaboration packages (Basic, Pro) are in beta.
NICE inContact’s Spring 2019 release of NICE inContact CXone adds multiple updates for customer and agent engagement, including AI self-service bot options, AI-based forecasting and scheduling options and AI-powered interaction analytics. New CRM integrations deepen the Salesforce integration and add/enhance pre-built integrations for Oracle Service Cloud, Microsoft Dynamics, ServiceNow, Zendesk, SugarCRM, NetSuite, SAP and BullHorn. In other news, NICE acquired Prague-based Brand Embassy and its digital customer engagement platform that integrates social media, messaging, live chat and an AI-powered chatbot service. Nice inContact will embed this platform into CXone, allowing consumers and agents to interact via digital channels in addition to voice phone calls. Brand Embassy’s platform supports 30+ channels, including Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Apple Business Chat, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, SMS, email and live chat.
Ooma expanded its channel partner program with a new white label offering for Ooma Enterprise UCaaS. Partners can now deliver their own branded UCaaS offering, bundled with their other services, and set customer pricing appropriate to their own market. A new Ooma Enterprise Communications Client creates a single interface ( Windows and Mac computers) for soft phone, presence, chat, conferencing, visual voicemail, and call history (the client became available in May 2019 at no additional cost to Ooma Enterprise customers). In other news, Ooma acquired Broadsmart Global and its UCaaS solutions for mid-sized and large enterprises, SIP trunking, network design and security.
RingCentral has integrated its Engage Digital customer engagement platform with Google Dialogflow, which uses machine learning and natural language processing to manage large volumes of digital customer interactions and prioritize agent workloads toward more complex tasks and questions (basic queries can be automated using AI). All of this helps to improve customer satisfaction (faster customer resolution) and lower costs (can handle more customers without additional resources). A beta version of the RingCentral Engage Digital and Google Dialogflow integration is available to customers worldwide. General availability is anticipated for third quarter 2019.
Sangoma unveiled V7 of its Switchvox UC software, marking the first major Switchvox release since Sangoma’s acquisition of Digium. The Meet Me conference feature is enhanced with a new conference widget that shows all conference participants, highlights speakers and enables muting or removing participants. The widget is available for the browser-based switchboard end-user dashboard and for the company’s D80 HD touchscreen IP phone. Switchvox 7 is available now for Switchvox on-premises customers with an active subscription and the following supported Switchvox appliances: E510, E520, E530, E540, 80, 310, 360, 380, 450 or 470. In other news, Sangoma released the latest versions of its FreePBX and Asterisk software. FreePBX 15 (in beta) has a new built-in API to integrate FreePBX with third-party applications, as well as improved backup and restore processes. Asterisk 13 and 16 updates (downloadable now) include feature, performance, and stability improvements.
Slack is introducing some new features, including a new email and calendar bridge between the Slack team collaboration application and the user’s email application. This allows Slack users to continue communicating with non-Slack users via email directly from Slack. Users will be able to “@ mention” email users in channels or send messages directly to a non-Slack user’s email inbox. Email replies will appear in Slack, and the email exchange will be logged as a Slack history. Slack also expanded Microsoft Office 365 support and is introducing a workflow builder, a new channel search function and shared channels. Slack and Zoom are furthering their partnership to add Zoom Phone functionality in addition to the previously available Zoom video meetings integration. To date, there are over 1,500 third party application integrations supported by Slack, allowing users to collaborate without having to switch between applications. In other news, Slack became a public company on June 20, 2019, and began trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Talkdesk has introduced a new hybrid cloud deployment model called Talkdesk Hybrid Spaces that utilizes a private cloud environment for secure storage of enterprise data (complies with enterprise-grade networking, IT and security requirements), along with a public cloud environment for Talkdesk’s Enterprise Cloud Contact Center. Also new is Talkdesk Boost that allows businesses to connect a legacy ACD to Talkdesk’s contact center as a service (CCaaS) applications. Agents can access Talkdesk's full suite of contact center technologies, including its agent desktop, AI agent assistance and speech analytics, while continuing to utilize their legacy ACD for call routing. The new product relies on Talkdesk xConnect, a SIP trunking service released earlier this year. Talkdesk Agent Assist is a new personalized conversational assistant powered by Talkdesk iQ artificial intelligence (AI). On the roadmap are plans to let businesses choose the geographic location of the cloud data centers they use and more flexibility to choose a cloud provider: Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure. Currently, Talkdesk relies primarily on AWS.
Vonage is partnering with Sendinblue, a provider of a cloud-based email marketing and marketing automation technology. This partnership expands Vonage’s API portfolio to include email capabilities, so that businesses can communicate with customers on their preferred channels whether it is email, SMS, chat, video, voice or other. With this partnership, Nexmo has also become the sole SMS provider for Sendinblue. Vonage is also partnering with Freshworks Inc. re its customer engagement software. In this case, messaging APIs via Nexmo are being integrated into the Freshdesk customer support software, so that a user can message customers using SMS, MMS, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. In other news, Vonage has launched a new Enterprise Service Package and new APIs specifically for the healthcare market, allowing healthcare professionals to add communication functionality (video, voice, SMS, and chat) to their existing business applications
VTech Communications, Inc., has adopted the Snom brand for the company’s SIP-based business products. The company will maintain the VTech brand for its residential consumer products. VTech acquired business IP phone manufacturer Snom Technology AG of Germany in November 2016.
West Corporation rebranded its company name to Intrado, with the tagline “Information to Insight,” reflecting a mission to connect and engage people and businesses with each other at the right time and with relevant, actionable information. Along with the name change, the company also realigned into four operating segments: Life & Safety, Enterprise Collaboration, Digital Media and Health & Wellness. West also acquired NSO Group AB, d.b.a. Notified (“Notified”), a Swedish-based provider of cloud media monitoring and measurement tools for public relations, communications and digital media. Notified’s products provide West with additional monitoring capabilities, including media monitoring with search capabilities and sentiment analysis, a global contact database of media and influencers with integrated customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities, press release distribution, and measurement tools to better understand the performance of media initiatives.
Windstream Enterprise has added Fortinet as a second technology partner for its software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) portfolio (already offers SD-WAN technology powered by VeloCloud). SD-WAN is now seen as a better approach to handling the high-bandwidth requirements of the modern workplace, including the increasing adoption of cloud-based applications for information technologies (IT) and unified communications and collaboration (UC&C). SD-WAN technology can simplify branch office networking and the delivery of WAN services, and can also improve application performance and lower costs compared to traditional and less flexible network techniques such as Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Internet Virtual Private Networking (VPN). In other news, Windstream is acquiring 24- and 28-gigahertz (GHz) blocks of 5G spectrum in 14 states, with plans to expand the availability of high-speed broadband to consumers and SMBs in rural areas. Windstream is currently in the midst of Chapter 11 proceedings (filed in February 2019) and will appear before the federal bankruptcy court in New York City later in 2019 or in early 2020.
Yealink continues to release new collaboration devices, most recently introducing the new Smart Video Phone VP59 for executives and teleworkers. VP59 has an 84˚ HD front camera for a broad conferencing view, and the screen can be extended via HDMI cable to a PC monitor or TV to transform a desktop meeting into a huddle room. A new Collaboration Touch Panel CTP20, with an active capacitive pen, pairs with Yealink’s video conference solutions to enable easy annotation on shared content and a built-in whiteboard.
Zendesk has acquired long-time partner Smooch and its omnichannel messaging platform (hosted on AWS) that collates messages across web, mobile, and social messaging. Smooch supports speech on popular voice assistants, like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as text on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Line, WeChat, Telegram, Twitter DM, Viber, Kakao Talk, SMS, and Rich Communication Services (RCS). Smooch also offers an embeddable software development kit and APIs for Android, iOS, and the web, for building customized business solutions. Zendesk already offers WhatsApp integration, enabling conversations between businesses and their customers on WhatsApp within Zendesk. Zendesk also announces some new partnerships and integrations for its Sunshine CRM Platform, including Qualtrics, Atlassian Opsgenie, Vidyard, PagerDuty, Zaius, Moltin, Particular, CloudSet, Envoy, and Magento (already partners with Pendo, Segment, Stella Connect, and Oomnitza). Zendesk and Domo launched the Zendesk Customer Success for IoT App to help companies take action based on data from their IoT machines. The new app merges Zendesk data with data from other sources, then sends that data back to Zendesk Sunshine to automatically initiate a ticket for Zendesk support. This app offers an end-to-end solution for companies to take action based upon the data from their IoT machines.
Zoom Phone, the company’s cloud PBX introduced in North America in January 2019, is now in beta trials in the UK and Australia, with official availability there expected in summer 2019. The company also introduced “bring your own carrier” support via PSTN SIP trunks, and certified 10 additional desk phones from Poly and Yealink (now 50+ endpoints compatible with Zoom Phone). Zoom also enhanced its Zoom Rooms room-based video conferencing system with a new People Counting feature (due out end of June), a Device Manager tool (in beta) and new hardware partnerships with Lenovo, DTEN, Poly and Shure. Hardware providers Crestron, Logitech, and Yealink are now shipping Zoom Room kits on a global basis. Zoom’s channel partner program has been expanded with a library of assets and resources, updated learning tracks, and an MDF module in the partner portal for requesting funds and submitting claims. Zoom became a public company in April 2019.
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