Cisco to boost contact center offering with IMImobile buy

Cisco plans to acquire IMImobile for $730 million to improve Cisco's contact center offering through the U.K. company's messaging and voice APIs.

Cisco plans to acquire IMImobile for $730 million and incorporate its communications-platform-as-a-service product into Cisco's contact center offering.

Cisco announced the acquisition this week and said it would finalize the deal by the end of March. Cisco plans to fold IMImobile into the Webex Contact Center.

IMImobile is a U.K.-based communications platform as a service (CPaaS) company that specializes in cloud-based messaging APIs. Customers use the APIs to interact with clients over voice, SMS, email, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Apple Business Chat, WeChat and Google RCS. IMImobile adds to the number of applications agents can use on Cisco's contact center.

Through IMImobile, Cisco customers can also construct contact center workflows without much coding. According to COMMfusion analyst Blair Pleasant, customers can add steps such as identifying a caller, looking a caller up in a CRM database, matching up a caller with their history, sending out notifications and routing a call without going through IT.

"In the past, it's been really hard to create these workflows for the contact center. You had to do A, B, C and D," Pleasant said. "If you need to make a change or you want to add another channel or something, you had to bring in IT. It's a big deal. With the IMImobile capabilities -- what they call the flow builder -- it's more drag and drop."

IDC analyst Courtney Munroe said IMImobile is one of the top 10 players in the CPaaS field. Twilio currently leads that section of the market, while IMImobile had about a 5% market share last year.

"I think it's a good move on the part of Cisco," Munroe said.

But Monroe cautioned that Cisco had trouble with its first CPaaS acquisition, Tropo, in 2015. Cisco was unsuccessful in integrating the service into its collaboration, communications and contact center strategy.

Cisco also announced this week plans to acquire survey application company Slido, yet another investment in its video and collaboration platform Webex. Cisco expects to complete the acquisition in the second half of the 2021 fiscal year. The company did not disclose financial details.

Slido, based in Bratislava, Slovakia, is a privately held company whose technology allows video conference hosts to conduct polls, quizzes and Q&As. Participants can ask questions and reply to surveys within video conferencing apps including Webex, Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Hosts can manage quizzes, answer participants' questions and manage how they present data.

Earlier this year, Cisco acquired noise suppression startup BabbleLabs. Other recent Webex-related acquisitions include business intelligence company Accompany in 2018 and transcription technology company Voicea in 2019.

"Cisco's intent to acquire Slido marks another highly relevant addition to the Webex portfolio that can provide greater meeting engagement," said Futurum Research analyst Daniel Newman.

Newman said that addition would be useful for Webex customers not only during the coronavirus pandemic, but also when customers return to in-person meetings, events and classrooms.

Slido said in a blog post that the company will continue to run as a standalone platform. The Slido app is available on the Microsoft Teams marketplace and the Zoom marketplace. Slido has more than 7 million monthly participants, according to Cisco.

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