HEAD IN THE CLOUDS: Week 5


Man with clouds for a head and wearing a bowler hat

It is hard to stay on top of the latest news, events and rumblings tied to cloud computing and the cloud vendors responsible for it.  For many of us, our memories are not what they use to be, making it even harder to keep up.  Here are a few conversational topics that have come up recently, along with my thoughts, perspectives and observations:

Cisco Doing What It Can to Better Compete

Can Cisco and their planned upgrades to Webex win the battle to be the enterprise collaboration tool of choice and keep hold of their lead in the market?  That is a question they themselves are trying to figure out.  If done correctly with attention in the right areas (like innovation), there is certainly a chance, given Cisco already has a foot in the door at many enterprises.  They currently host more than 360 million meetings each year and 95% of the Fortune 500 are using Webex.

The bad news for Cisco, as they try to become less of a hardware company and more of a software company, is there are many strong rivals in this space.  They are up against heavyweight Microsoft who also already has a foot in the door at enterprises with their Teams solution that is being aggressively pushed.  Then there is Slack, which already has a strong base of customers and will have even more funds available to them to grab more market share after their upcoming IPO.  There is even Facebook (as covered before,) and their Facebook Workplace offering that is grabbing enterprise customers and certainly needs to also be taken seriously.

Amy Chang, former global head of product at Google Analytics, is now senior vice president of Cisco’s collaboration technology group and responsible for getting Webex to where it needs to be to better compete and keep competitors out.  Ms. Chang started leading Cisco’s collaboration business back in May of 2018, when Cisco acquired her relationship-intelligence company, Accompany, for $270M.

Cisco, under Ms. Chang’s leadership and through the acquisition of Accompany, has decided to focus its efforts on enhancing and upgrading Webex to better compete — always a good approach and in some ways a refreshing one.  Simply dumping more dollars into sales and marketing seems, unfortunately, to be too often the approach in the industry.

Cisco has decided to enhance Webex with new artificial intelligence-powered services.  Specifically, they have been working on integrating/merging facial-recognition technology with auto-generated personal profiles in order to allow users to identify meeting participants.

I am not yet sure, though, the addition of facial-recognition technology or new artificial intelligence-powered services are going to be as impactful out of the gates as hoped.  To me, and based on conversations I have with Cisco enterprise customers daily, they need to get Webex to do what users are already hoping for before adding even more bells and whistles (as good and innovative as they may sound). We shall see. One thing is certain, the enterprise collaboration battleground is going to be worth keeping an eye on and if you are an enterprise making investments, it is critical you navigate appropriately.

Zoom – What a Great Story

The story of Zoom is a great one.  Without even touching upon founder and CEO, Eric Yaun — specifically his story, and the vast amount of praise that could be shared — the simple fact that Zoom has been able to succeed in the crowded video conferencing market, while being up against some of the biggest technology vendors in the world like Microsoft, Google and Cisco, is impressive and noteworthy.  Mr. Yaun actually once ran engineering for Cisco’s Webex video-conferencing business.

Zoom has also been able to amass 50,000 corporate customers (including Walmart, Uber and Capital One), it currently has $331M in annual revenue with growth of 118% year-over-year, and it was actually able to IPO debut with a profit.

Now that they have gone public and have raised substantial funding, it will be interesting to see where things go from here.  If Mr. Yaun and Zoom want to expand their portfolio beyond video conferencing, which the assumption is they do since they went public, and if they want to further ramp adoption and get more sticky within the corporate customers they have already landed, they will need to continue to do what they have done to get this far, but they are also going to need to rely on partners like Atlassian, LinkedIn and Slack.

Zoom should also consider (if they have not already) bringing in a seasoned veteran from an established enterprise technology company to work alongside and with Mr. Yaun.  The scale is much different, but it may be worth following in the footsteps of Google in this regard.   After Google made the decision that they wanted to be a true enterprise vendor, they made the purposeful decision to bring in former Oracle executive Thomas Kurian to be CEO of Google Cloud and recently brought in industry veteran and former SAP executive, Robert Enslin to be President of Global Customer Operations. The key, of course, is to balance the shift in attention on the enterprise and provide decision makers with the value they are looking for while also maintaining the culture and goodwill that has been established.  They will also need to start to prepare for even more attention from current competitors with even more competition down the road.

I have a feeling the great story of Zoom will have many new chapters added and ones with enterprise success stories throughout.

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