Summer 2020 Business Communications News Update

28 Jul 2020

Despite a global pandemic and summer vacation (sort of), the world of business communications hasn’t taken a break, with tons of new products and updates being announced in the past few weeks.

Here’s a quick run down of some of the relevant announcements (apologies to anyone I inadvertently omitted):

  • 8x8 made several big announcements recently, including direct routing for Microsoft Teams and the 8x8 Open Communications Platform, which brings together voice, team chat, meetings, and contact center capabilities. 8x8 also announced the availability of Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) programmable applications and APIs, including SMS and 8x8 Video, and CPaaS expansion to the US and UK (the service is already in the Asia Pacific region).

    Another important announcement was the introduction of 8x8 Voice for Microsoft Teams, providing direct routing for Teams. 8x8 claims to be the first to “fully integrate with Microsoft Teams without changing the experience for end users.” According to 8x8, it offers cloud-to-cloud direct routing integration with the Microsoft Phone System, providing IT with a single, global telephony solution across multiple countries and locations directly from any Microsoft Teams interface. According to Bryan Martin, 8x8 Chairman and CTO, the company started working on this a year ago to open up and marry up the 8x8 platform with Teams to provide end-to-end telephony while using Teams as a common front end to access the 8x8 platform. Users can continue to use Teams as they always have, but now it works underneath the covers with 8x8’s cloud platform. This simplifies administration for IT while eliminating the complexity of managing a global infrastructure. In addition, with integration to third party apps such as Salesforce, Teams users can get a screen pop, answer calls in Teams, and have full call control within Salesforce.
  • Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) launched the latest version of its Rainbow Communication and Collaboration platform, featuring an updated user interface, expanded features, and greater administration controls. The new user interface features a fully-customizable look and feel, making it easier to see important and relevant contact information. Some of the key enhancements include new views for video conferencing, including active speaker, active gallery view, active grid view, as well as an extended number of audio participants. One nice feature is the ability to seamlessly change devices during a conference and easily switch a conference from a mobile device to a PC, for example. Other capabilities include Meeting Scheduler to schedule meeting times based on participants’ calendars, and Time Tracking to monitor and track the time conference participants are speaking to identify who’s been the most engaged, who contributed and who didn’t, etc.

    ALU Rainbow


  • Atos and RingCentral have expanded their strategic partnership with the launch of a co-branded UCaaS offering, Unify Office (UO) by RingCentral. Adding to its Unify Openscape premises-based platform, Unify Office will now be Atos’ exclusive UCaaS offering. Atos will continue to support but will discontinue selling Unify’s collaboration platform Circuit, and instead will offer RingCentral Glip as part of Unify Office. Contact center services are not part of the current arrangement (both companies currently partner with NICE inContact). Similar to the Avaya-RingCentral partnership, the goal is to provide Atos and its channel partners with a leading UCaaS offering. Atos partners can leverage new migration tools to migrate their customers to the cloud, while ensuring compatibility with Unify desk phones. As a large system integrator, Atos can add value to the UCaaS offering additional capabilities such as IoT and cybersecurity for its large enterprise customers. According to Atos CMO Mark Smith, “The integration play is where our differentiation is.” Atos will begin moving Atos UCC employees, the former Unify division, to the new platform, with plans to migrate the company’s 110,000 employees over time.
    • While I’m sorry to say goodbye to Circuit, which was an innovative product that never lived up to its potential, the move is a good one for Atos, its partners, and RingCentral. Atos now has a strong UCaaS offering for its partners, providing the opportunity to migrate its large installed base of premises-based customers. RingCentral, of course, gains new distribution channels, increased revenues, and better access to international markets, especially France and Germany where Atos has a large customer base.
  • Bandwidth introduced Duet for Microsoft Teams, providing Direct Routing and E911 services. What sets this apart from other Teams Direct Routing offerings is that as the only CPaaS vendor that is also a carrier with its own Tier 1 network, Bandwidth owns and operates its underlying infrastructure and manages a nationwide E911 network. Bandwidth is currently one of only two providers certified by Microsoft to provide dynamic E911 calling capabilities for Direct Routing, and claims to be the only provider with comprehensive solution and E911 direct from a carrier. With these E911 capabilities, Bandwidth enables organizations to meet E911 regulations such as Kari’s Law and RAY BAUM’s Act. Duet for Microsoft Teams is aimed at large Fortune 1000 customers.
    • As Bandwidth representatives told me, E911 is a unique story for the company, as businesses need to be responsible for the lives of workers, many of which are in large campus environments, and having accurate E911 services is the difference between life and death, especially for non-deskbound workers. While there are many direct routing options for Microsoft Teams these days, Bandwidth is setting itself apart in some important ways.
  • Google announced a new version of its G Suite of collaboration and productivity tools, focused around Gmail. Gmail will serve as a hub for collaboration, featuring access to video, chat and shared files. Google now has a more integrated solution, with a unified app for all of Google’s communication platforms, including Gmail, Chat, Rooms, and Meet. Google also announced new enhancements to Google Meet, including background blur and custom backgrounds.
    • I was very excited to hear that Google is finally taking a more integrated approach by bringing its various tools more closely together. Google is in a unique position to leverage its ability to “meet people where they work” while enhancing G Suite with chat, meeting, video, and conferencing capabilities. I’ve been waiting for a while for Google to have a more integrated approach to its various offerings, and I expect this will tighten up the competition with Microsoft and others.
  • LogMeIn is bundling its video software with hardware video bundles from partners Dolby, Logitech, and Poly. These all-in-one video conferencing offerings will make it easier for in-office and work-from-home workers to stay productive while social distancing while supporting hybrid work environments. All of the GoToRoom bundles will be available for purchase utilizing LogMeIn’s Room-as-a-Service (RaaS) model. In addition, GoToRoom now has an updated user experience and user interface, with over 30 new features including dark mode, sleep mode, revamped meeting controls, meeting lock and more.
  • Microsoft has been extremely busy and made several enhancements to Teams. The feature that perhaps got the most notice is the new Together mode, a “new meeting experience in Teams that uses AI segmentation technology to digitally place participants in a shared background, making it feel like you’re sitting in the same room with everyone else in the meeting or class.”  

    Microsoft Teams

    In addition to Together Mode, Microsoft also introduced Dynamic View, which uses AI to dynamically optimize shared content and video participants in meetings. It adds new controls for personalized views, such as the ability to show shared content and specific participants side-by-side. Also, video filters can be used to adjust lighting levels and soften the focus of the camera (yes please!). Meetings now also include Live Reactions using emojis, chat bubbles that let users send messages directly within a meeting window, speaker attribution for live captions and transcripts, and interactive meetings for 1,000 participants and overflow. Other capabilities include Tasks app in Teams to provide a unified view of tasks from across Microsoft To Do, Planner, and Outlook; Suggested Replies in Teams chat, Cortana in Teams to provide voice assistance in Teams, a new category of all-in-one dedicated Teams devices called Microsoft Teams display, and touchless meeting experiences to let people join meetings and share content to meeting room devices from their own mobile device or PC. This is just a partial list of the many new Teams features. Additionally, Microsoft will expand the number of on-screen Teams meeting participants from nine to 49. Users can view nine participants simultaneously, and Microsoft plans to increase this even more.

    To support Microsoft Teams, several vendors introduced new devices, including Yealink VC210, an all-in-one video collaboration bar, and Poly Studio X30 and Poly Studio X50 video bars that run Microsoft Teams natively right out of the box.
    • In some ways Microsoft is playing catchup to Zoom (e.g.; virtual backgrounds), but has gone one step further with the Together Mode, which provides a range of group backgrounds. While Microsoft and Zoom continue the feature battle, end users are the real winners, with an increasing array of video and meeting capabilities.
  • Slack introduced Slack Connect, “a secure communications environment that lets you move all the conversations with your external partners, clients, vendors and others into Slack, replacing email and taking business collaboration to the next level.” Going beyond corporate boundaries and expanding to customers, partners, suppliers, and others, Slack Connect lets up to 20 organizations come together in a single Slack channel. The company notes that “All of Slack’s enterprise-grade security features and compliance standards extend to Slack Connect, including data loss prevention, retention and e-discovery.” Slack Connect provides administrators with control over their organization’s data while enabling them to monitor external access, ensuring that teams receive messages and files only from verified members. Slack Connect is available for all paid plans. 
    • At Slack’s 2019 industry analyst conference, the question that came up repeatedly was how Slack would safely and securely enable communication and collaboration outside of a company’s firewall. The biggest inhibitor to the use and growth of team collaboration is the ability (or inability) to use these tools externally, while maintaining security and compliance. With Slack Connect, Slack is overcoming this challenge, making Slack a more meaningful tool that greatly enhances its value. While email will continue to be the primary communication channel for external communications, Slack Connect can help reduce the use of email while enhancing external collaboration.

Contact Center Announcements

On the contact center side of things, there were several notable announcements:

  • CoreDial launched CoreNexa WFM, a cloud-based, fully integrated Workforce Management module to let businesses plan, monitor, and adjust employee schedules, track adherence to plan, and forecast incoming demand. As a fully-integrated part of the CoreNexa Contact Center, CoreNexa WFM provides scheduling, forecasting, and adherence, providing customized views and real-time data. Aimed at SMBs (many of which currently use spreadsheets for scheduling), CoreNexa WFM provides tools that are even more important in today’s WFH environment, where supervisors can’t physically see agents. Supervisors can see when agents are out of adherence and drill down into specific days to get more detailed information. Scheduling can be done with drag and drop tools, and views can be totally customized by queue, team, shift, location, or other factors.

    Aimed at channel partners, the new WFM capability provides CoreDial partners with more opportunity to upsell or expand contact center seats, while providing additional value for customers. The WFM capability will only be available as part of the CoreNext Contact Center, and not sold as a stand-alone offer.
  • Lifesize, which recently acquired Serenova, announced CxEngage Video, a native video solution providing on-demand HD video capabilities for contact centers. With CxEngage Video, contact center agents can initiate video-based interactions from the phone, email, chat, SMS or social media. This is especially useful for growing services such as telemedicine. CxEngage Video also provides document and screen sharing enabling agents to share their screen with a customer during the video call.
  • Talkdesk announced $143 million in Series C funding from a combination of new and existing investors. The company notes that “The amount raised, and the company’s valuation of more than $3 billion, reflects both investor confidence in Talkdesk’s business and the strategic role that superior customer experience plays among top global brands.” As a private company, Talkdesk does not divulge revenue information. In addition to funding from existing investors, new investors include Franklin Templeton, Willoughby Capital, Skip Capital, Lead Edge Capital and Top Tier Capital Partners. Talkdesk has been adding new enhancements and capabilities at a rapid pace, and this additional funding will help the company further invest in research and development, as well as go-to-market, sales, marketing, channel development, and global expansion. R&D is an essential area for Talkdesk, as the company launched a 20-in-20 release program at the beginning of the year, releasing 20 products in the first 20 weeks of 2020, for a total of more than 600 product innovations in the last 12 months.
  • Voximplant announced a simple one-click integration of Google Cloud Dialogflow into Voximplant's CPaaS platform. While VoxImplant has been integrated with Google Dialogflow since 2018, the new one-click integration makes the integration easier with a new set of Contact Center APIs. In addition, Voximplant’s CPaaS platform lets developers add more contact center intelligence capabilities. The company notes that in addition to being easy to get started, the integration with Google Dialogflow provides full developer control as well as advanced interaction features such as customizable DTMF, barge-in, no input detection, recording, full audio playback controls, and more. It also provides integration into Voximplant Kit, a drag and drop visual IVR and customer experience automation builder.



  • UJET is another company making news for raising funding. The company has raised $55 million in a Series C round of funding, bringing the company’s total to just over $100 million to date. The company plans to expand its domestic and international sales and marketing teams, and scale its platform with new products and features. UJET has seen significant growth, with its total number of licenses increasing by 400% over the past 12 months.

    The company also recently launched its first partner program. Partners have the option of white labeling UJET's CCaaS offerings or working in a referral model. This new channel program, which now includes 11 partners, is intended to help UJET expand its business domestically and globally. The company also announced a partnership with Calabrio, integrating Calabrio’s workforce and customer engagement solutions to provide out-of-the-box access to the full suite of UJET and Calabrio ONE – including Workforce Management (WFM), Quality Management (QM), Analytics and Advanced Reporting.
    • After seeing a demo of UJET recently, I strongly recommend that in order to get a real understanding of what UJET does and how it differentiates itself in a crowded CCaaS space, make sure to get a demo of the mobile capabilities and the mobile SDK, as well as the CRM integration.

That’s just a partial list of all the new summer announcements – and the summer isn’t over!


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