CXTech Week 27 2020 News and Analysis

The purpose of this CXTech Week 27 2020 newsletter is to highlight, with commentary, some of the news stories in CXTech this week. What is CXTech?  The C stands for Connectivity, Communications, Collaboration, Conversation, Customer; X for Experience because that’s what matters; and Tech because the focus is enablers.

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Google continues to Expand Business Messaging

Google are expanding Maps and Search to support Business Messages, and giving businesses the ability to integrate Business Messages directly with their customer service platforms.

Rather than calling a business directly from a mobile search, you can now message. For the business its all managed through the “Google My Business – Connect with your Customers” app. In the ‘customers menu’ you can add messages, and from there set up your bot.

Business Messages provides brands a messaging solution across Android devices, and through Maps on iOS. To improve connections with customers, they’ve introduced new smart replies, visual product carousels, and unique welcome messages. There’s also a smooth transition from automated replies to a customer service agent, so that it’s not disruptive when the customer messages a business. Though if you do not respond within 24 hours, the message button is removed from your page.

Google has also announcing a raft of companies integrating directly with Business Messaging; such as RingCentral, LivePerson, and not just the CXTech service providers, also directly with enterprise customers like Woolworths. So Google is doing aggregation across carriers, the API, integration with popular Google services, customer service platform integration, integration with end business customers with AND all the messaging CRM through the Google My Business app. The space for traditional CPaaS to fit in this space looks slim.

Hence the pivot MessageBird is making into business messaging discussed in CXTech Week 24 2020. Also, I understand MessageBird did a round of layoffs recently. I am seeing the pandemic impact some CXTech businesses more than others. The rosy picture from Twilio and Bandwidth are not that common.

Also compare the above Google Business Messaging stack and market engagement to the recent announcement on RCS interconnect between Telefonica, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom. That’s the tiny bit of the stack Google has put together. It’s the full stack that matters, as it makes it easy for business either directly using ‘Google My Business’, or via their preferred CRM platform to use messaging.

It reminds me of the challenges facing the Japanese carriers in competing with LINE using +Message (Japanese version of RCS discussed). LINE has a full stack and packaged offers matching the needs of small and large businesses. The transport piece is important, but just as important are all the other layers to make business messaging easy. Making it easy and successful for customers is the most important thing; transport is generally taken for granted.

Note with Business Messages, the focus is all the snazzy things RCS makes possible, but SMS is possible as that will work for most customers for the foreseeable future.

Amazon Launches Honeycode: Build apps with no coding

The most popular part of IdeaMart (most successful carrier CPaaS) wasn’t the APIs, it was the templates. Web pages with prebuilt popular applications, which small businesses could adapt to their specific needs, e.g. customer alerts.

It’s still early days with Amazon Honeycode, but it’s surprisingly accessible. Simply: make apps using a visual builder, manage data in tables, and use automations to replace manual steps

Popular apps include: project management, operations, customer pipelines, resource tracking, and approval workflows. A simple automation is the list the actions after a regular project meeting. All the team can access that list from the app, confirm they are working on their actions, receive alerts before meetings and due dates, etc. Rather than a google sheet that is forgotten until the next meeting. And where changes are made, but the history of why those changes were made is rarely recorded.

Adding in communications to the automations makes things really interesting. It’s the vision behind Communications Enabled Business Processes, a 20+ year old idea. Any voice, video, message communications associated with the project’s action list where changes are agreed could be included. For example, a slack chat where an action responsibility is changed.

Congratulations to Working Group Two!

Congratulations to Working Group Two on being added to Cisco’s General Price List, Cisco DevNet. Working Group Two offers a mobile core network built the Internet way. They give mobile operators enhanced innovation capacity, while reducing cost and complexity. They’ve been part of TADS (about TADSummit and TADHack) for many years.

They’ll be leading several TADHack Global 2020 locations, more details coming soon!

Karel Bourgois becomes the CEO of Slatch

Congrats to the Slatch and Voxist teams. Slatch is the first messaging app with instant translation. Voxist is smart personalized voicemail.

It’s easy to scoff at the word voicemail. BUT some industry segments use it intensively, e.g. construction, field service, local small businesses. Carriers have generally walked away from improving voicemail because there’s no business case in improving it. Or have a bare bones Visual Voicemail service which sort of discourages use of voicemail

Slatch addresses an important need for ‘language gimps’ in multi-national conversations. My wife’s family mostly live in France. On group chats it’s generally in French, unless I’m part of it, then the ‘language gimp’ (me) forces them to shift to English. But they soon move back to French. With Slatch, I can hide my gimpiness, and they’ll know I’m not being ‘excluded’ from the conversation.

Yes its not a universal use case. But we’ve moved past the global / national domination phase of messaging. We all use multiple messaging platforms. Almost a platform per conversation. So Slatch addresses the many multi-lingual use cases.

You could be running a home equipment repair business in Singapore, confident in Mandarin and Cantonese, but less so English. With Slatch and Voxist, you have the solution to help win more business.

In the limit such a service will likely be bought up by a large messaging platform, forming part of their commercial offer to particular market segments as it focused more on monetization than growth. But such large platforms are unlikely to focus on such problems given all the other opportunities. See Google’s business messaging in Search and Maps.

I’m excited to see where Karel Bourgois takes purpose-focused text and voice messaging. In a way it reminds me of immmr’s focus of multi-national small business and consumer comms. The offers are different, but immmr was building a great business. And we covered that story here at TADSummit 2018. Seriously, if you have questions about CXTech, blog.tadsummit.com, is a great learning resource.

Agora raises $350 million as IPO prices above expected range

Agora Inc. are an in-app WebRTC based SDK, they position as WebRTE (Real-Time Engagement) SDK. Like Vidyo, sold to Enghouse for $40M on $60M annual revenues as discussed in CXTech Week 21 2019. Also like Temasys, which has had a few people changes of late.

The company recorded a net loss of $36.9 million on total revenue of $35.6 million during the three months ended March 31 2020, after a loss of $13.1 million on revenue of $13.4 million in the same period a year ago. Their F1 filing (not S1) stated 2019 revenues of $64M across 1200 customers.

I’m better connected than most in the CXTech landscape. Agora was not on the radar of many in the same space. I considered most of their business to be China based, and this IPO surprised me. Their revenue is the same as Vidyo’s which was bought for $40M, versus Agora’s market capitalization of $4.6B (shares currently trading at $45 from a peak of $54, Enghouse market cap is $4B). I’ve played with both their technologies, Agora is good, but not so much to create 50 times the value.

Yes, the stock markets are wholly disconnected from the economy. We’re in the midst of a great depression, with the US potential heading for the largest homeless crisis in its history. So this context makes the disconnect very stark.

Something is fishy. Agora is not Zoom. They are in a category where productization has been challenging as its a professional services wrap around WebRTC. Yes usage has spiked significantly, but given the pandemic situation and many countries partially returning to work, is that rate of growth sustainable?

Syniverse Splits into Carrier and Enterprise Divisions

Syniverse is reorganizing into two separate business units: Carrier and Enterprise.

John McRae, former Group Vice President and General Manager of Operations for EMEA and Asia at Syniverse, has been appointed President of the Carrier segment, which will serve Syniverse’s mobile network operator customers.

Chris Rivera, former Chief Technology Officer at Syniverse, has been appointed President of Enterprise, which will meet growing demand from enterprise customers for technologies that enable direct end-user mobile engagement.

This is overdue. The enterprise group needs a customer-focused culture, that moves much more rapidly to keep up with the fast moving business messaging market. See above Google business messaging article.

A Slice of TADSummit: Industry Status

In this series of weblogs, A Slice of TADSummit, we review a few of the themes from TADSummit Asia. This slice focuses on Industry Status.

Thank you to our sponsors for making TADSummit Asia 2020 possible:  SangomaAsteriskVoIP Innovations (Apidaze), and TeleSign.  As well and the many presenters contributing their experiences, insights, and support.

TADSummit is unique because we explicitly have a no BS policy. The telecoms / enterprise communications industry is filled with nonsense, and we try to cut through that for the benefit of everyone involved.

The Welcome to TADSummit Asia 2020 presentation quantifies the impact TADSummit and TADHack have around the world. The no BS policy enables us to “keep it real”, helping people make better decisions based on facts not hype.

Welcome to TADSummit Asia 2020 (link to weblog with discussion, video, and slides).

Without Sangoma’s support TADSummit would not happen. Here is a great weblog from Sangoma on why they support TADS. Jim from Sangoma provides a great presentation that captures the breadth and status of the enterprise communication market; and equally the breadth of the Sangoma product stack, the broadest in the industry.

Sangoma Keynote: Welcome from Jim Machi and the Sangoma Product Stack (link to weblog with discussion, video, and slides).

The aim of CXTech Landscape session is to provide an open, independent, and industry-wide review of the impact of programmable telecoms on business. We cover CPaaS (Communications Platform as a Service), UCaaS (Unified Communications Platform as a Service, AKA virtual or cloud PBX), CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service), open source telecom software, authentication and customer experience, omni-channel customer communications, WebRTC (Web Real Time Communications) and much more reviewing the landscape and market sizes.

CXTech Landscape Across Asia by Alan Quayle (link to weblog with discussion, video, and slides)

Click on the link in the title of this section to review the rest of this Slice of TADSummit: Industry Status.

People, Gossip, and Frivolous Stuff

Eric Lagerway has founded POH (Plenty of Hats) Partners, previously with Signalwire. From this announcement it appears to be focused on SBC hosting / SBCaaS.

Dan Nordale is now Chief Revenue Officer at Koopid. I’ve known him since his time at Flowroute.

Robert Dyer is now as Software Engineer at Mailchimp. I’ve known Rob since Tropo.

Eric Horesnyi is now VP, Catalysts EMEA & APAC at Axway. I’ve known him since he founded streamdata.io.

Simon Fisher is now Principal Architect, Access Networks, BT Technology. I’ve known Simon for nearly as long as he’s been at BT, that’s 30 years! I may look quite different from when I joined BT, but I do not feel any different, yet.

Peter Kacandes is now Sr. Product Marketing Lead at Imply. I’ve known Peter for 13 years! Time flies since we first met when he said I looked like Will Ferrell 🙂 Will falls into the category of American comedians I just don’t find that funny. Like chocolate, I guess your taste in comedy is built through childhood.

Recommended Blogs: DIGITS TO DOLLARS by Jay Goldberg. Check out his latest “TEARS IN THE RAIN – ARM AND CHINA JVS

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