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2023 Recap – A Busy Year in the Business Communications World

21 Dec 2023

Oxford’s Word of the Year for 2023 may be “rizz,” but for those of us in the business communications world, the word of the year was definitely “artificial intelligence” (okay, that’s two words) or “generative AI” (three words?). Looking back on 2023, anything having to do with AI was hot, and anything related to generative AI was even hotter.

We can’t talk about 2023 without talking about generative AI and large language models (LLM). This AI technology is being used for automated meeting transcription and note taking, summarization of text chat and email transcripts, drafting emails and chats, and even creating presentation slides. Meeting summarization is becoming table stakes as all the leading meeting vendors now offer it.

On the contact center/CX side of things, most vendors announced generative AI-based offerings, notably post-interaction summarization to summarize the key points of customer interactions, saving time for the agent. Several vendors also announced or introduced agent assist capabilities, which uses generative AI to provide information and resources to agents, as well as suggestions on what to say next to the customer. Similar to meeting summarization, agent assist and post-interaction summarization are becoming table stakes and must-haves. I’d be hard pressed to find many vendors that haven’t either released or announced these capabilities in 2023.

Copilots, Assistants, Companions…

The past year can be dubbed the “year of the copilots,” as copilots were all the rage – whether they’re called copilots, companions, assistants, or something else. Unified communications and contact center vendors were quick to introduce various flavors of copilots:

  • Microsoft was the first out of the gate when it introduced the Microsoft 365 Copilot, followed by copilots for service, developers, sales, etc.
  • Cisco introduced Webex AI Assistant, available across the Cisco portfolio, including the Webex Suite, contact center, Control Hub, and Cisco devices
  • Zoom introduced its AI Companion (formerly Zoom IQ), a digital assistant that works across the Zoom platform
  • NICE introduced several copilot-type offerings leveraging generative AI and LLMs aimed at consumers, agents, and CX leaders – notably Enlighten Actions, Enlighten Copilot, and Enlighten Autopilot
  • Google Duet AI is Google’s version of a copilot – there’s Duet AI for Google Workspace, and also Duet AI for Developers
  • Salesforce introduced Einstein Copilot
  • The list goes on and on and on…

What’s interesting is the different pricing models – Microsoft and Google are charging for their copilots/assistants, while Cisco and Zoom are making their capabilities available to customers at no extra charge. It costs a lot to offer and run generative AI, so 2024 will see some changes to vendors’ pricing models.

And yes, there was more to 2023 than AI…

Contact Center and CX Stole the Show

Contact center, CCaaS, and CX have truly come into their own in 2023, and everyone is taking notice. Most unified communications and collaboration vendors increased their focus on their contact center capabilities. Both Cisco and Zoom gave contact center and CX center stage as they highlighted contact center announcements and demos in their keynote presentations at their annual user conferences. Even Microsoft talked about Copilot for Service during the recent Ignite conference keynote. Companies like 8x8, Dialpad, RingCentral, Avaya, and others that started primarily as unified communications or UCaaS vendors are now shifting focus to their contact center and CCaaS capabilities. For example, in the past year, Avaya’s “north star” became its CCaaS platform, while RingCentral introduced a new offering called RingCX.

There are several reasons why contact center offerings have become so crucial. Customer care and the customer experience is playing an increasing role for businesses trying to differentiate in ways other than pricing changes, and the primary way to stand out from competitors is by offering superior customer service. On the vendor side, UCaaS and UC are increasingly viewed as a commodity, leading to most of UCaaS vendors focusing on contact center offerings, which provide greater differentiation and higher revenue opportunities.

Another reason for the UC vendor shift of focus to contact center is the unstoppable dominance of Microsoft Teams. Microsoft has shown no signs of giving up its leadership position in the UC/collaboration world. Teams is now being used by over 320 million active monthly users worldwide, with tens of millions more people adopting it in 2023.

The Power of the Platform

The year 2023 also witnessed the power of the platform, with many UC and contact center vendors touting their “platform” offering rather than individual applications or products. For example, Cisco, Microsoft, NICE, Zoom, and many other vendors can now be considered platform players, making it easier to add on new capabilities, integrate with third-party vendors and applications, and provide a more complete offering. Various applications on a vendor’s platform can leverage core capabilities such as AI, enabling vendors to more quickly add the capabilities across their portfolios.

Many UC and contact center vendors also expanded their offerings in 2023. Zoom keeps adding O’s to the Zoom logo with email, calendar and scheduling, and Zoom Docs, along with events and webinars which were previously added. RingCentral acquired Hoppin and added events capabilities, as well as a new contact center offering, RingCX. Several CCaaS vendors added their own workforce optimization/workforce engagement management (WFO/WEM) capabilities, including UJET (and Google) and Zoom.

M&A and Layoffs

2023 was a tough year as far as layoffs in the tech industry, with many UC and contact center vendors, including Amazon, Cisco, Salesforce, Twilio, Zoom, and many others, experiencing large staff reductions. Much of this was due to tighter economic conditions in 2023, in addition to the fact that some of these companies went on hiring sprees during COVID when there was increased demand for their products.

There were several notable mergers and acquisitions in 2023:

  • Mitel acquired Unify from Atos, which was seen as a positive move by most industry watchers as it helped Mitel continue its role as UC consolidator. Since both Mitel and Unify resell RingCentral for UCaaS, this merger was seen as a natural fit. And Mitel hit a major milestone as it celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2023.
  • NICE acquired LiveVox, known for its AI-powered outbound engagement capabilities, giving NICE more outbound capabilities and filling some gaps in the company’s portfolio.
  • Five9 acquired Aceyus, which provides data integration services, which are especially useful for premise-to-cloud migrations.
  • Zoom acquired Workvivo, an employee engagement company providing a employee communication platform geared to elevate the employee experience.
  • Ooma acquired CPaaS vendor 2600Hz, providing Ooma with new capabilities, customers, and partners.
  • Cisco acquired Splunk, adding AI-enhanced cybersecurity capabilities to the company’s portfolio.
  • Salesforce acquired, a creator of AI-powered customer service applications and experiences.
  • Verint acquired Qudini, which offers queue management, as well as appointment and event booking technology.
  • There was a good deal of discussion about Zoom and Five9 reigniting previous acquisition discussions, but that turned out to be more rumor than reality.

Of course there were many leadership changes – here’s a small sampling:

  • Sam Wilson became CEO of 8x8, while Lisa Martin joined as CRO, and Bruno Bertini was named chief marketing officer (CMO).
  • RingCentral’s CEO Vlad Shmunis stepped down as CEO to become Executive Chairman and focus on innovation for the company, while Tarek Robbiati became CEO. Mo Katibeh resigned as President and Chief Operating Officer and remains a special advisor to the company. A few months later, Robbiati left and Shmunis was back in as CEO.
  • Five9’s Genefa Murphy left to join Udemy, and former Five9er Niki Hall returned as the new CMO.
  • Talkdesk named Neville Letzerich its new CMO, and Christie Blake returned to Talkdesk as SVP Corp Communications.
  • Marcus Hänsel, former CEO of Unify at Atos, was appointed chief sales officer (CSO) at Mitel after the Atos Unify acquisition. Charles-Henry Duroyon joined Mitel as Chief Operating Officer (COO) and head of M&A initiatives.
  • OpenAI lost a CEO, who subsequently returned as CEO within a few days.
  • Avaya hired several new executives. Soren Abildgaard joined the company as Chief Technology Officer (CTO), and Marylou “ML” Maco became Chief Revenue and Customer Experience Officer. Omar Javaid is now the new Chief Product Officer, and Josh Mueller is CMO and GM of Hardware. Both Javaid and Mueller worked with Avaya CEO Alan Masarek at Vonage. And speaking of Avaya, it’s fair to say that Avaya is back in the game and rebounded from its bankruptcy with a renewed focus on customer engagement.

As you can see, it’s been another eventful year for the business communications industry. It will be interesting to see what 2024 brings – aside from AI, AI, and more AI.

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season!


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