Avaya Acquires Spoken Communications

Networking and communications vendor Avaya has acquired Spoken Communications, a provider of cloud contact center and real-time customer experience management applications built on conversational artificial intelligence. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The transaction, which includes Spoken's more than 170 patents and patent applications, will be funded by cash on hand. It follows a co-development partnership between Avaya and Spoken inked last year to provide contact center-as-a-service (CCaaS) solutions to Avaya's business process outsourcing customers.

"This is an exciting time to join the Avaya family. Our successful partnership has demonstrated that working together, Avaya and Spoken can deliver a compelling cloud-native CCaaS portfolio for Avaya customers that offers every customer, from small and mid-market businesses to global enterprises, a seamless path to a modern cloud-based contact center," said Mohamad Afshar, president and CEO of Spoken, in a statement. "Further, Avaya shares our vision for how communications, cloud, and artificial intelligence will come together to transform the customer experience and drive new efficiencies for businesses everywhere."

Avaya's president and CEO, Jim Chirico, was just as enthusiastic. "With this acquisition, Avaya's large contact center customer base around the world will have a clear migration path to the cloud," he said. "Customers can retain all the functionality of their existing premises-based technology and seamlessly migrate that functionality, at their pace, to achieve all the benefits of cloud."

Spoken's cloud-native, multitenant architecture is seamlessly integrated with Avaya Aura and Elite technologies. As a result, it also provides a robust architecture for both Avaya's omnichannel offerings, such as Oceana, and its unified communications-as-a-service solutions.

In addition, Avaya's customers will gain access to Spoken's agent software and services, as well as Spoken's IntelligentWire contact center automation solutions. IntelligentWire uses artificial intelligence and deep learning on live voice conversations to reduce after-call work, drive responses, and gain deeper insight into customer sentiment and experience.

"This transaction is a critical step in positioning our customers, partners, and new cloud business for increasing success," said Mercer Rowe, senior vice president and general manager of cloud at Avaya, in a statement. "We are now moving at cloud speed, capitalizing on Avaya's momentum to give our customers greater choice and flexibility in how they buy and consume our solutions, with the same outstanding experience whether it's on premises, in the public or private cloud, or a hybrid model."

Upon completion of the transaction, Rowe will lead the combined Spoken and Avaya cloud teams.

The Spoken acquisition, while not significant in size, is significant in that Avaya a year ago filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company just emerged from Chapter 11 in December and went public in a $1 billion initial public offering (IPO) earlier this month.

"Emerging from Chapter 11 with lower debt and $300 million of available cash allowed Avaya to make this move," notes Sheila McGee-Smith, president of McGee-Smith Analytics.

Donna Fluss, president and founder of DMG Consulting, made the same observation. "This is the first acquisition for Avaya since it went public and came out of bankruptcy," she says. "It's significant because it is a statement that Avaya is now aggressively pursuing the [cloud contact center market]."

Chirico announced the Spoken acquisition earlier today during his keynote address to kick off the Avaya Engage user conference in New Orleans. Quoting novelist Mark Twain, he noted that "rumors of Avaya's death have been greatly exaggerated."

"Avaya is moving forward," Chirico said. "We're up off the mat and positioned to win again. We're focusing on growth."

But analysts weren't surprised by the move. "Spoken Communications was identified as a potential tuck-in acquisition some time ago," McGee-Smith says.

"This was the exit strategy Spoken's been looking for," Fluss adds. "It's a very expected move.

"It's a very logical step for Spoken, because it was designed from the start on an Avaya infrastructure," she says further. "Spoken's offerings are comfortable for people who have already been using Avaya products."