A call center.
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Protocol Enterprise

Hello and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: why the contact center market is still red hot, how Cerner thinks data can solve the opioid epidemic and a quick peek at the upcoming four-day week.

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C3 AI CEO Tom Siebel admitted this week during Needham’s investor conference that some people who have worked for the company “are very damning” on Glassdoor and “throw us under the bus.” So be it – Siebel said the company still managed to attract 18,600 job applicants for just 200 positions in the last quarter. That’s “an order of magnitude more selective than Princeton,” according to him.

Contact centers in the post-pandemic world

Zoom’s acquisition of contact center company Five9 looked like a sure deal after it was announced in July 2021. But Five9 shareholders rejected the $14.7 billion deal, and Zoom’s second act seemed to be on hold.

But Zoom isn’t done with the contact center yet. The company plans to release a Zoom Video Engagement Center later this year that will add a modern flavor to the traditional call center. And it isn’t the only one: In a series of investor conferences this week, Zoom, Salesforce and UiPath all offered their take on the call center of the future.

Customers expect ‘always on’ service. And Salesforce’s Service Cloud is trying to deliver.

  • The world of customer service changed forever after large-scale contact centers were forced to shift to digital-first operations in the wake of COVID-19, said Bill Patterson, Salesforce’s head of Service Cloud, in a talk Tuesday.
  • That shift helped set new customer expectations for service. “I don’t think we're going back to a world in which service is not always on,” Patterson said.
  • Customers now want to communicate on their terms, whenever they have a need — not just during business hours.

Demand for service automation is increasing. And that’s why UiPath sees the contact center as another great use case for robotic process automation.

  • CEO Daniel Dines told investors that contact-center spending will be a key part of digital transformation initiatives at large enterprises. And UiPath clients like NRG are already using the company’s RPA software in their customer operations and contact centers.
  • Salesforce seems to agree: Patterson told investors that service automation was one of the most active parts of the company’s portfolio in the early days of the pandemic.

Contact centers will have their cameras on. Kelly Steckelberg, Zoom’s CFO, told investors about the vision for the company’s upcoming Video Engagement Center, which it plans to evolve “into a full-fledged omnichannel contact center.”

  • But as Steckelberg also shared, contact centers are complicated — they can encompass everything from chat, video and text to supporting functionality like scheduling and workforce management.
  • Still, the company’s video prowess could prove a powerful addition to the contact center model: Imagine showing a repairman a broken item in your home over video chat, rather than requiring an in-person diagnostic trip, Steckelberg said.
  • Zoom might have to make some acquisitions to get to that point. However, the failed Five9 deal hasn't changed the company’s approach: Zoom still plans to scan the market for new tech to beef up its contact center capabilities.

The contact center market is still up for grabs. Salesforce, Zoom and UiPath aren’t the only ones who want a slice of the contact center pie. They’ll still have to contend with competitors such as NICE inContact, Genesys and — of course — Five9.

— Aisha Counts (email | twitter)


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Oracle’s Cerner thinks data can solve the opioid epidemic

Oracle spent $28.3 billion to acquire healthcare data and software company Cerner in part because of its data prowess and AI potential. Now, Cerner is pushing the healthcare industry to share even more data and break down barriers that block data linkages.

De-siloing and connecting de-identified, real-world data will “help bring clarity to life sciences, researchers and clinicians and guide better care,” the company said in a blog post this week.

Cerner pointed to use of its data and AI models in the mission to limit the use of opiates. The post spotlighted its work with Children’s Mercy Hospital, based in Cerner’s hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. The hospital said it used Cerner’s data showing opioid use to alter its algorithmic treatment models to reduce opioid use in emergency rooms to “almost zero.” The company also told Protocol recently that use of its AI at a VA hospital in Spokane, WA resulted in alternative treatments to opioids.

But Cerner is under scrutiny from Congress for its problematic health records system roll out at that VA hospital, and has struggled to retain large hospital customers. It remains to be seen whether Cerner’s data strengths and AI potential will make Oracle’s gamble pay off.

— Kate Kaye (email | twitter)

Coming next week

Don’t miss Protocol’s low-code/no-code event on Wednesday at 10am PT. Protocol’s Kevin McAllister will be joined by Nutanix CIO Wendy M. Pfeiffer and Kerim Akgonul, chief product officer at Pegasystems, in a discussion about the best ways to make low-code and no-code tools work for you. Sign up here.

The Index Ventures AI Summit on Wednesday and Thursday will feature talks on topics like AI ethics and practical AI applications for business with speakers including Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Kevin Scott, Nvidia’s director of machine learning research Anima Anandkumar, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and others.

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger will be speaking at Bloomberg’s Year Ahead event on Wednesday.

Around the enterprise

Rimini Street, the tech support company and perennial thorn in Oracle’s side, was found in contempt of court for “continued copyright infringement” and ordered to pay Oracle $630,000, or nearly as much as Oracle’s Larry Ellison probably has in the couch cushions on one of his yachts.

The U.S. Army plans to make a big cloud push this year, as various branches of the military continue to plot their own enterprise tech modernization efforts while the massive Pentagon Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability project drags on.

SAP’s cloud transition continued apace in the fourth quarter, as revenue from cloud software increased 28% compared to the prior year.

Worldwide cloud infrastructure spending increased 6.6% to $18.6 billion in the third quarter of 2021, according to IDC.


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Thanks for reading — see you Tuesday!

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