Serenova recently launched CxEngage, our new contact center-as-a-service platform built and run entirely on Amazon Web Services (AWS). I recently spoke with Jeff Barr at AWS about our process to design and build CxEngage and how we selected the best platform to support it.
— Jeff Thompson
We like to say that Serenova is a 16-year-old startup. We’re a new company carved out of LiveOps Inc., and our mission is to take the original company’s long history of providing contact center solutions into a new era of cloud-first convenience, performance and lower costs.
The contact center business is huge, with estimates of at least 15 million seats worldwide that comprise a multi-billion-dollar market. But the industry is a late-comer to cloud computing, with only about 10 percent of contact center operations working in some capacity with cloud infrastructure and tools. So there still are a lot of legacy, on-premises call center systems in place—especially in traditional industries like banking and retail—that are quickly reaching their expiration date. These systems are inadequate for meeting the demands of today’s market, with companies having to hold down costs, provide ever-better performance and sophistication and serve emerging markets.
Our plan was to create a pure cloud contact center-as-a-service (CCaaS) that could deliver an always-on, secure, multi-tenant and instantly scalable platform so businesses can deliver exceptional customer experiences anywhere, anytime. We anticipated that if done right, our CCaaS would take off in in a true ‘hockey stick’ growth pattern. To get there, we needed to carefully consider what platform would make the most sense.
We held a bake-off that looked at a number of alternatives. Azure, Rackspace, Google and AWS were in the cloud provider mix, and we also looked at using a colocated facility. That last one was the first to go. We knew from experience that running the platform out of a co-lo would simply not provide the redundancy and scalability we wanted to bake into the new platform. We ruled out Azure because we’re not a Microsoft shop, and were using a lot on non-Windows tools and Linux to create the platform. Rackspace has good IaaS, but their global reach was insufficient for our business goals. We also ruled out Google because they didn’t have the breadth of apps we felt were required to build our platform.
A Clear Winner
In our view, AWS was the clear winner. It delivers all the features and benefits we were seeking. It has an incredibly rich catalog of services, with new ones being released at a pace that competing cloud providers simply are not matching. We might not need them all now, but knowing those services are there, and that AWS is innovating and adding to them all the time, instills real confidence. We know that if we have some need or feature request in the future, chances are AWS already has a service that can address it. Good examples—and just a small portion of the AWS services that we use—are Amazon Redshift and Amazon Kinesis, two powerful data services that are essential to our platform, and Amazon Simple Queue Service, which drives messaging out to agent toolbars.
AWS also has broad global reach, which is critical to the CxEngage business model. The North American and Western European markets are certainly an important source of revenue. We also see great opportunity in emerging call center markets in places like China, India and the Asia-Pacific region. AWS operates in 15 regions around the world. That means we can provide services in close physical proximity to new customers, which boosts performance by reducing latency. When a call comes in, the businesses using our platform don’t want lag times in the system. And in some cases, it helps when there are sovereignty issues related to keeping data within particular boundaries.
AWS also provides major benefits in terms of flexibility and financial performance. For example, we can carefully plan for specific Amazon EC2 instance types to match the performance needs of particular services in the CxEngage platform. Some may require more I/O, some more memory. We can pick exactly what we need and not overprovision, which helps us not only optimize for performance, but also meet our financial goals. That, and the pay-as-you-go model of AWS, has made AWS very popular with our finance department.
Simple, with No Drama
AWS also makes it easier to build the business. For example, the built-in support for PCI and HIPAA and the compliance and regulatory standards included with AWS GovCloud, help us quickly overcome potential barriers to signing new and important customers. We can check off those boxes and keep moving.
We started the journey of building the next-generation solution for call centers in 2014. We placed our bet on AWS, and 18 months later when we launched CxEngage, all of our financial and performance predictions for the platform were borne out. Everything we thought would happen by using AWS happened. It was simple, with no drama. We’re looking at AWS as a partner that is fundamental to our business and to our growth plan.