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Cisco loses Trollope, acquires relationship intelligence startup

In a surprise announcement, Cisco said Rowan Trollope was leaving to lead Five9 and would be replaced by the CEO of the relationship intelligence startup Accompany, which Cisco expects to acquire.

Cisco plans to acquire relationship intelligence startup Accompany and replace departing executive Rowan Trollope with Accompany founder Amy Chang. The announcement, made this week, came the same day Trollope said he would resign as the head of Cisco's collaboration technology group to become CEO of Five9, a cloud contact center vendor.

Trollope's departure from Cisco took many industry insiders by surprise. Trollope took control of Cisco's collaboration group in 2012 and spearheaded the development of the Cisco Spark cloud platform, which will soon merge with Cisco's favored Webex online meeting product.

"It will be disruptive," Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research, said of Trollope's exit. "The thing that has been really good about Cisco over the last few years is that they have had a lot of stability, unlike a lot of their competitors."

Cisco's collaboration products generated $4.2 billion in revenue in fiscal 2017. On May 3, Trollope became CEO of Five9, which has an annual revenue of $200 million. The hiring of such a well-respected leader is a win for the startup, whose main competitors include NICE inContact, Serenova and Aspect.

Cisco partners and customers, meanwhile, are undoubtedly eager to learn more about the vision and leadership style of Cisco's new senior vice president for collaboration, Chang, who is new to the UC space.

Chang founded Accompany in 2013 after spending seven years at Google, where she rose to oversee Google's advertising measurements and reporting products. She joined Cisco's board of directors in 2016 but resigned from that post to accept her new job.

"I think people are going to want to understand what her vision is," Lazar said. "Is she coming in with a different approach than Rowan had?"

Cisco is buying Accompany to integrate its relationship intelligence technology with Webex. Accompany will give Webex users easy access to contextual information about the people with whom they are meeting. Sales teams, for example, could use the tool to identify and learn more about potential customers.

The software should help Cisco better compete against Microsoft, which is taking advantage of its 2016 purchase of professional networking platform LinkedIn in similar ways. Cisco's $270 million acquisition of Accompany is expected to close in late 2018.

Accompany's relationship intelligence platform scans internet databases to generate profiles on people and companies. It determines which corporate executives are rising stars and which are industry veterans. It also culls recent news articles and tweets and maps relationships among high-level executives.

Accompany's technology should help make meetings more useful, said Alan Lepofsky, principal analyst at Constellation Research Inc., based in Cupertino, Calif. For example, an Accompany briefing sheet created for attendees an hour before a scheduled Webex meeting could provide important news that's relevant to the meeting, he said.

Cisco may also be looking to gain an advantage over its competitors by using Accompany's relationship intelligence tool to internally track news about rival vendors and their key clients and executives, said Alaa Saayed, analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

"Accompany has the right tools to help Cisco stay on the edge when it comes to relationships and profile knowledge," Saayed said.

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