The acquisition of CloudCherry will bolster Cisco’s contact centre offerings

5/5 (5)

5/5 (5)

Cisco announced their plans to acquire CloudCherry to bolster their contact centre portfolio. Launched in Chennai in 2014, CloudCherry is a customer experience (CX) management startup that helps organisations understand the various factors influencing CX. CloudCherry has employees in Chennai, Bengaluru, Singapore and Malaysia, besides the US and their team of around 90 employees will join Cisco’s contact centre solution practice as part of the acquisition

Using artificial intelligence (AI) as the underlying solution to CloudCherry’s open API platform allows for various customer data sets from  CRM systems to other communication touchpoints in the contact centre to be analysed in real-time for the organisation to deliver a personalised CX. When agents can understand what is taking place in real-time and when the contact centre team has one integrated point of data injecting analytics, improving the ability to drive greater loyalty and eventually higher revenues.

Some of CloudCherry’s offerings are:

  • Measuring customer journeys. CloudCherry provides the opportunity to follow the customer across 17 different channels, driving contextual real-time conversations with customers on the channels they choose. It is important to understand the micro journeys  – for example, their customer PUMA sells products online and in physical stores and may have two micro journeys in addition to an overall customer journey map for:
    • Online customers
    • In-store customers
    • Blended customers
  • Predictive Analytics. Their predictive engine is based on customer feedback, their actions and their purchasing data. With advanced predictive analytics, CX teams can derive what is needed to increase the ROI.
  • Questionnaire builder. They have the capability to respond to feedback collected from surveys in real-time. There are set conditions for survey questions so that when triggered by customer response, the concerned employee or department is quickly notified regarding it. For instance, when a customer gives a low rating on store cleanliness or staff behaviour, an alert can be immediately sent to the concerned employee to follow up and take corrective action. At the same time, even positive feedback can be noted in order to recognise and reward employees.
  • Sentiment Analysis. This helps organisations tap into machine learning and deep learning to identify customer sentiment associated with open-text responses and brand conversations.

These are just some of the applications and tools the CloudCherry platform offers to their customers.

Leading with data will be critical to driving personalised CX

CX decision-makers and buyers of contact centre and CX technologies have an important role to play in the next few years to look at re-inventing how they view CX. This means re-looking at the ways they have been running contact centres in the traditional way and making investments towards the cloud, machine learning and predictive analytics.

  • By having rich analytics, mobile conversation through the app can be richer. A Mobile-led CX approach is key in today’s world where most people spend hours on a phone.
  • Issues can be prevented before they happen if in-store transactions are monitored and dissatisfied customers can be identified.  The organisation has the ability to reach out to the customer through any touchpoint to mention proactively that they are aware of the issues that just happened and what they can do to help solve the negative experience. Proactive notifications demonstrate how a brand takes it, customers, seriously
  • Leveraging AI as the underlying platform to understand customer behaviour is going to be the next battleground for CX vendors. The challenge so far has been that many organisations have invested in several data and CRM tools from various vendors. When agents have to view customer information, they are dealing with data in an unsynchronised format. This explains why when we contact a contact centre, we sometimes have to repeat ourselves and state the problem we are facing. Or worse than that, the agent has no idea that we had a problem a week ago and spoke to 2 agents. These frustrations are real and still happen today.
  • Contact centre of the future will not be reactive but proactive in helping understand customer sentiment in real-time to make the necessary adjustments and actions needed to solve the issue the customer is facing. The deep analytics platform for CX also means that agents will be empowered with information and bots can be placed to help agents say the right things or make suggestions to customers. The use cases to help deliver personalised CX are enormous.

 

Ecosystm comment

This is an important and good acquisition for Cisco. Cisco has a vast set of customers globally and in the Asia Pacific region in the collaboration, voice and contact centre space. This acquisition marks how they are investing in enhancing their existing contact centre portfolio to use machine learning, cognitive and predictive analytics to alleviate their offerings. The contact centre is a key part of Cisco’s larger collaboration portfolio.

According to the company, Cisco products support more than 30,000 contact centre customers and more than 3 million contact centre agents around the world. Vasili Triant, VP and GM of Cisco Contact Centre solutions mentioned in a blog recently that the acquisition will augment Cisco’s contact centre portfolio with advanced analytics, journey mapping and sophisticated survey capabilities whether their customers are using Webex Contact Centre in the cloud or their hosted and on-premises solutions.

The market for predictive analytics and customer analytics in the contact centre and across the CX segment will be big and we are at the beginning of a new era of organisations using data as the platform to deliver a new way of engaging with customers. CloudCherry offers a CX management platform that uses predictive analytics to derive insights for contact centre agents.  The market for deep analytics is becoming an important area of investment for organisations as a way to decrease customer frustration. It is by applying analytics before, during and after the call that will allow contact centres to deliver a personalised CX as was mentioned in my last blog. This is the reason why a data-driven culture will be key to driving rich outcomes for the contact centre. Contact centres will have to lead with analytics so that every experience across every single touchpoint the customer has with the brand is analysed and observed in real-time. We will see many contact centre vendors and players in the CRM space acquire companies with capabilities like what CloudCherry offers.

4
Ecosystm Snapshot: Cisco betting big on mergers and acquisitions

5/5 (3)

5/5 (3)

Cisco is on a mission of market acceleration, market expansion, and new market entry points.

On 9th July 2019, Cisco announced it’s intention to acquire Acacia Communications in a deal worth USD2.6 billion. Acacia communications make optical interconnect technology and is an existing supplier to Cisco. This was Cisco’s biggest acquisition since its USD3.7 billion purchase of AppDynamics in 2017. Acquiring Acacia will enable its customers to drive more data over high-speed optical interconnect and the company is also looking to take advantage of the company’s optics, digital signal processing, transceivers and other gear used in networking equipment. The deal is expected to close in the second half of Cisco’s current fiscal year following which Acacia will become Cisco’s Optical Systems business.

In June 2019, Cisco announced that they will acquire Sentryo – a French industrial IoT company. The acquisition of Sentryo’s platform will combine their capabilities with Cisco’s offerings in order to better manage the challenges that customers face while deploying IoT projects, scaling production, and managing and securing infrastructure.

Similarly, in February 2019, Cisco acquired Singularity Networks – an analytics platform. Cisco has integrated Singularity Networks platform into its Cross Network Automation portfolio, a solution that embraces multi-vendor networks.

In 2018, Cisco completed the acquisition of a cybersecurity firm, Duo Security for USD2.35 billion and also announced that it will acquire Luxtera, a semiconductor company, for USD660 million which was fully acquired in Feb 2019.

 

Cisco’s underlying strategy

As technology evolves so quickly, new ideas can come from anywhere and its companies are always on the lookout for business models which may shape their future markets and direction.

While we saw an acquisition and merger strategy by media companies to acquire content companies, the same holds true for Cisco but from the perspective of network traffic data management. Cisco’s response to this is to buy companies that will ensure that Cisco’s network performance can scale for the predicted massive amount of IoT-based data from smart cities, 5G, Industry 4.0 and of course A.I,” says Ecosystm Executive Analyst, Vernon Turner. “Having stronger network and application performance analytics also feeds into its broader Intent-Based Networking strategy which recently has been extended to include Edge network devices as well as the Enterprise based devices.”

Cisco has established a highly structured innovation strategy consisting of 5 pillars – build, buy, partner, invest and co-develop – to drive its innovation engine.

Turner commented “Cisco has always based its network strategy on architectures and frameworks. This compliments CIO’s strategies on how to build a multi-cloud based infrastructure and they will look to Cisco for a single solution provider. Application and device management are the topics that companies generally don’t like to farm out to multiple vendors.”.

 

Market Gaps

Despite all the growth and acquisitions, there are still areas that Cisco can look at, in order to further strengthen their position.

The market is looking for full end-to-end solutions to manage devices, their network and application data traffic, security across multi-cloud service providers and communication services providers. Cisco has to look to companies such as VMware, and RedHat to take the discussion to levels such as container and bare metal server management. In addition, there are emerging needs within software-defined networks that will require Cisco to consider further acquisitions,” explains Turner.

3
VendorSphere: Cisco IoT at C-Scape 2019 in San Diego

4.7/5 (3)

4.7/5 (3)

During the past 12 months, Cisco has worked hard at refining and relaunching their IoT strategy. Initial overall impressions of the progress are good with strong alignment with both Cisco and their customer needs. Launching IoT to three different audiences at Cisco Live Barcelona, Hanover Messe and Cisco Live San Diego was critical as it enabled Cisco to talk to network, industry and enterprise audiences in a focused and personalised manner. However, there are other market dynamics at play that will challenge Cisco’s IoT Edge strategy and ecosystem play. Both the progress and challenges are discussed in this review.

Overall Rating B+

Much of the 2018-2019 efforts may be collated under three main categories.

  1. Hardware. Establish a hardware foundation from which any IoT device or customer can reap the benefits of Cisco’s larger corporate strategy built around initiatives such as Cisco DNA Center, Intent Based Networking, ACI and Security. With the acquisition of Sentryo and the refresh and launch of their routers, Cisco is now well placed to have legitimate discussions with Industrial IoT or IIoT customers and prospects. Bringing IBN functions to the edge of the network will enable Cisco’s customers to begin to develop richer business outcomes from the network. Rating: A-
  2. Developers: Raise the availability of IoT-based applications through Cisco’s DevNet developer community. Cisco has a significant advantage over their competitors by having over 500,000 developers who understand how to write apps for Cisco’s product line and who now have access to new types of data that can enrich traditional network outcomes. Over time this advantage will become more and more valuable as data becomes utilised across markets as well as within markets thus creating wealth in a much larger ecosystem. Rating: B+
  3. Partners: Transform their partner management through the Customer Experience (CX) program. Much of Cisco’s business is conducted through partners. It is a critical success factor for Cisco to enable the partners to be IoT-data savy. IoT will enable Cisco to accelerate the transition from product sales to higher value subscription services. However, based on discussions with customers, partners and Cisco management, we believe that there is much more work to integrate an IoT strategy in to CX. Rating: B-

The Industrial IoT (IIoT) and Cisco

Cisco identified the IIoT market as one where Cisco’s strengths in hardware, software and partner ecosystem will play well with their customers and prospects. While having a strong foothold in the industrial space, we believe that Cisco’s success will be much dependent on the customer’s workloads and what they want to achieve with their data as it is reducing the complexity between IT and OT (Operations Technology) issues. Cisco has addressed the IoT connectivity and network security at the edge of the network through its ruggedized routers while their competitors are building distributed computing environments. Competitors who are adopting a full IT stack at the edge of the network aim to offer up more OT-based industrial services as well as emerging innovation services such as digital twin, augmented reality and robotic process automation. One key consequence of a customer choosing either approach will result in differing partner ecosystems to form and support the customer. These ecosystems will also be different in how they are managed and by who manages them.

Our recent IoT study shows that while security (a sweet spot for Cisco’s strategy) remains extremely important to an organisation’s solution, technology integration is equally important. When vendors are considering implementing an industrial solution, they need to be able to provide an end-to-end solution that encompasses both the IoT Edge and the IoT Enterprise while smoothly bringing together the OT and IT procedures.

This all starts with an easy on-boarding of any IoT device that is secured and managed with confidence and reliability. The good news for Cisco is that these challenges are also a natural opportunity for Cisco’s partner organisation and systems integrators by creating a new styled IoT ecosystem. However, despite which hardware path an end-user takes, we believe that Cisco and others do not have all of the necessary components of the full ‘IoT’ stack to fulfil a complete solution. To that end, everything will pivot to the vendor who either has the better systems integrations partnership, or, plays in the strongest ecosystem.

IoT Services

Most of Cisco’s business is driven through partners and therefore any success for Cisco’s IoT strategy is dependent on how well they execute it. IoT will accelerate the shift from product based solutions to subscription/as a Service deliverables as more information is generated from the connected devices. and as such the Cisco partner community should be trained/incentivised to offer up IoT. Cisco partners are already undergoing their own business transformation as Cisco’s Customer Experience (CX) strategy is introduced to them. Having the IoT hardware align with the broader Cisco vision was critical to enabling any CX IoT strategy. However, partners may be in ‘transformation’ overload as they embrace the traditional Cisco customer needs and requirements and may be slower to take up the IoT opportunities.

Our IoT study shows that customers believe that the transition from products to services innovation is the highest scoring benefit from an IoT implementation.

However, this is a difficult but critical part of any company aspiring to become a digitally driven business. An IoT strategy is a corner stone of this vision as it will provide the data to be able to run a services or subscription-based business model

Cisco is well positioned here but there is a maturity and readiness gap between Cisco and their customers. Patience will be a key asset as Cisco and their partners close technology gaps for their customers (e.g. adopting and implementing widespread analytics as part of the corporate digital strategy. Most customers are not ready to take advantage of IoT-based analytics outcomes and therefore the RoI case has not been fully articulated).

Finally, Cisco needs to address the mid-tier market with solutions that are compatible with budgets. While it is important to have an ecosystem of high calibre partners within systems integrators, we feel that there will be many customers who cannot afford Cisco’s end-to-end solution. As a result of this Cisco partners are still not ready to address the mid-tier market. Cisco will need to promote offerings across all markets by participating in high-, mid-, and low-end ecosystems. This may mean acknowledging non-5G licensed spectrum/ non WiFi solutions for the most cost sensitive customers for the sake of broader market and industry share.

Recommendations For Cisco IoT

The following are our recommended actions for Cisco IoT based on C-Scape and the prior 12 months of strategy rollout:

  1. Create stronger value proposition for network based IoT business outcomes. Customers are asking for end-to-end validation which means that Cisco needs to articulate a role with the likes of Salesforce, SAP and Microsoft to enhance customer’s enterprise management systems. This is where Cisco’s CX and partner organisation will also be challenged but can open up a lot of opportunity. Move the message up the value chain. More work has to be done with CX. More has to be done with developers.
  2. Articulate a stronger comprehensive Industry 4.0 solution that gives customers all of the application qualifiers to run on Cisco’s hardware. Cisco will be challenged by the IT-lead distributed IoT compute stack over its industrial strength routers. More marketing has to be invested in the IoT Edge campaigns.
  3. Segment the IoT market by customer maturity/readiness/size and their IoT connected assets. Based on asset churn and customer size will dictate the type of new IoT ecosystem that Cisco will either build, manage or participate. For example, an IoT solution of Capex intensive assets with longevity is very different for agriculture supply chain management. Segmentation is critical for Cisco to be successful.
4
Nvidia and Intel Race For The Future Of Machine Learning

4/5 (4)

4/5 (4)

Two things happened recently that 99% of the ICT world would normally miss. After all microprocessor and chip interconnect technology is quite the geek area where we generally don’t venture into. So why would I want to bring this to your attention?

We are excited about the innovation that analytics, machine learning (ML) and all things real time processing will bring to our lives and the way we run our business. The data center, be it on an enterprise premise or truly on a cloud service provider’s infrastructure is being pressured to provide compute, memory, input/output (I/O) and storage requirements to take advantage of the hardware engineers would call ‘accelerators’. In its most simple form, an accelerator microprocessor does the specialty work for ML and analytics algorithms while the main microprocessor is trying to hold everything else together to ensure that all of the silicon parts are in sync. If we have a ML accelerator that is too fast with its answers, it will sit and wait for everyone else as its outcomes squeezed down a narrow, slow pipe or interconnect – in other words, the servers that are in the data center are not optimized for these workloads. The connection between the accelerators and the main components becomes the slowest and weakest link…. So now back to the news of the day.

A new high speed CPU-to-device interconnect standard, the Common Express Link (CXL) 1.0 was announced by Intel and a consortium of leading technology companies (Huawei and Cisco in the network infrastructure space, HPE and Dell EMC in the server hardware market, and Alibaba, Facebook, Google and Microsoft for the cloud services provider markets). CXL joins a crowded field of other standards already in the server link market including CAPI, NVLINK, GEN-Z and CCIX. CXL is being positioned to improve the performance of the links between FPGA and GPUs, the most common accelerators to be involved in ML-like workloads.

Of course there were some names that were absent from the launch – Arm, AMD, Nvidia, IBM, Amazon and Baidu. Each of them are members of the other standards bodies and probably are playing the waiting game.

Now let’s pause for a moment and look at the other announcement that happened at the same time. Nvidia and Mellanox announced that the two companies had reached a definitive agreement under which Nvidia will acquire Mellanox for $6.9 billion.  Nvidia puts the acquisition reasons as “The data and compute intensity of modern workloads in AI, scientific computing and data analytics is growing exponentially and has put enormous performance demands on hyperscale and enterprise datacenters. While computing demand is surging, CPU performance advances are slowing as Moore’s law has ended. This has led to the adoption of accelerated computing with Nvidia GPUs and Mellanox’s intelligent networking solutions.”

So to me it seems that despite Intel working on CXL for four years, it looks like they might have been outbid by Nvidia for Mellanox. Mellanox has been around for 20 years and was the major supplier of Infiniband, a high speed interconnect that is common in high performance workloads and very well accepted by the HPC industry. (Note: Intel was also one of the founders of the Infiniband Trade Association, IBTA, before they opted to refocus on the PCI bus). With the growing need for fast links between the accelerators and the microprocessors, it would seem like Mellanox persistence had paid off and now has the market coming to it. One can’t help but think that as soon as Intel knew that Nvidia was getting Mellanox, it pushed forward with the CXL announcement – rumors that have had no response from any of the parties.

Advice for Tech Suppliers:

The two announcements are great for any vendor who is entering the AI, intense computing world using graphics and floating point arithmetic functions. We know that more digital-oriented solutions are asking for analytics based outcomes so there will be a growing demand for broader commoditized server platforms to support them. Tech suppliers should avoid backing or picking one of either the CXL or Infiniband at the moment until we see how the CXL standard evolves and how nVidia integrates Mellanox.

Advice for Tech Users:

These two announcements reflect innovation that is generally so far away from the end user, that it can go unnoticed. However, think about how USB (Universal Serial Bus) has changed the way we connect devices to our laptops, servers and other mobile devices. The same will true for this connection as more and more data is both read and outcomes generated by the ‘accelerators’ for the way we drive our cars, digitize our factories, run our hospitals, and search the Internet. Innovation in this space just got a shot in the arm from these two announcements.

2
MWC 2019: Why can’t we build the telco networks like the clouds?

4.7/5 (3)

4.7/5 (3)

Rightly so, the first day of the Mobile World Conference was taken up by more and more air time on the ever coming 5G networks. Was 2019 going to be the year when operators around the world would finally deploy 5G in volume? The booths in the halls at the Fira Grand would indicate that ‘if you build it, they will come’. Indeed the speculation that 5G is the next big game changer is over – it is the game changer for this next turn of the technology dial.

However, let’s assume that the 5G hype is in the rear view mirror and we look to see what could be ahead of us in the mobile and telecom industry. At the end of the first day of this year’s MWC, I may have seen the future opportunity – and it is awesome! Pat Gelsinger asked the question “why can’t we build the telco networks like the clouds have been built for with scalability, flexibility, efficiency, and agility”? It’s a very fair question. After all, we do have Network Function Virtualization (NFV), and we will have new 5G services, so why not a new telco cloud?

I spent time with two companies that may show us a glimpse of the future network and cloud infrastructure. The first is the Israeli software startup, DriveNets with its solution “Network Cloud”. DriveNets is focused on helping service providers disaggregate proprietary routers from their networks as they move to 5G. DRiveNet’s Network Cloud solution aims to disrupt the current network business model by separating network costs (e.g. proprietary hardware functions) to create network functions from its software stack and two ‘white label’ hardware building blocks. The entire network infrastructure is software-centric allowing for agility, scalability, and normalizing costs with business growth.

However, Network DriveNets is an unusual startup in that it came out of stealth mode with $110 million in its first round of funding. The company was founded in 2015 by Ido Susan who should be familiar to Cisco watchers as he sold his first startup, Intucell (self-optimising network technology), to them for $475 million in 2013. DriveNets other co-founder, Hillel Kobrinsky founded Interwise (web conferencing) which was snapped up by AT&T for $121 million. To that end, the company is well funded and has the ability to sustain itself long enough to potentially disrupt the $50 billion network hardware business.

The second is Rakuten Mobile, a well-known name in Japan, but the first mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) to launch there in over 10 years. MNOs are not new so what makes Rakuten different? The company’s CTO, Tareq Amen explained to me that they are building the world’s first end-to-end fully virtualized cloud-native network running all of its workloads in the cloud. Being a fully virtualized network enables Network Function Virtualization to take advantage of cloud computing basis assets where a service delivery platform can be implemented, customized and scaled at speed. Finally, all of Rakuten’s core technology including its Radio Access Network (RAN – a topic that has been highly discussed at this year’s MWC) on 5G thus delivering immediate and actual 5G services. This compares to most of the rest of the industry who will have to build an uncomfortable transformation roadmap from 2/3G and LTE to 5G. While Amen’s strategy is compelling, there are a few technical hurdles to overcome. For example, enterprise-grade 5G indoor coverage isn’t fully there yet so Amen will have to rely on the operators that he is competing against who have that real estate.

So why highlight DriveNet and Rakuten in the same blog? In Rakuten’s case the CAPEX and OPEX business models for operators may be turned on their heads by the fact that its network is taking all of the competitive advantages of 5G while offering customers as disruptive pricing models and services. In a country such as Japan where traditional operators have struggled to modernize their networks, this could be a competitive threat. Equally, there could be a global rise in copy-cat pure 5G/cloud-based MVNOs spring up and fiercely compete against the incumbent local operators as well as give other MVNOs a tough time. As for DriveNets – it’s simple…it’s software and virtualization of the switch and router market which is very appealing to the service providers. It will commoditize the hardware, lowering their costs while allowing them to continue to focus on new 5G services.

2