Culture was Key for My Five9 Move – Rowan Trollope

Read our interview with Five9 CEO, Rowan Trollope, on why he left Cisco and how he views the contact centre industry

At the start of the summer UC Today reported on the huge fluctuation within Cisco’s collaboration division. One of the main changes was the departure of their SVP and GM of the Applications Group, Rowan Trollope. A technology industry veteran, Trollope, was a crucial member of, Cisco CEO, Chuck Robbins’ management team. The departure caused much speculation within the industry as Trollope’s departure to Five9 left many questions unanswered.

Now at the helm of one of the leading providers of cloud solutions for the contact centre, Five9, we were lucky enough to get some time with Rowan to find out why he made the move from Cisco.

Why did you move from Cisco?

Trollope explains the move materialised after he had considered his next progression within the industry. He joined Cisco in 2012 and had been a senior member of the team there for over five years. He was tasked with transforming Cisco’s collaboration division, which was no mean feat considering the competition in that space. Reinventing their approach to collaboration required much change and Trollope was key in that transformation both within the collaboration portfolio but also with Webex.

“That was a big success, and I said well what is my next step going to be? While contact centre had been a part of my portfolio, it was coming up more and more with CEOs and CIOs that I was talking to. It had been increasingly surfacing as a major priority for them. As I looked into it, it occurred to me that there is going to be a major shift here.”

“I have spent my life looking for these big tectonic shifts in industries and it seemed to me that the compliments of cloud and AI, along with the new age of the customer were all going to conspire to create a condition where the contact centre became rapidly more important to business – and that all led me to Five9 – the company had approached me and then that’s how it went.”

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So once you had decided on contact centre why did you choose Five9?

Five9 are one of the leaders in the cloud contact centre space with innovative solutions and a position within the market that made the move appealing for Trollope for a number of reasons. The main reason however might seem slightly surprising for such a technologically focussed character. In previous interviews with senior executives at Five9 their culture has been cited as a huge asset and this proved to be the deciding factor for Trollope.

“That was the main attraction. Comparing this opportunity to others, maybe not in the contact centre, a big differentiator for me was culture of the company. If a company doesn’t have a great culture it is not something that is easy to fix. It’s hard to create and it’s even harder to fix if it’s broken.”

Trollope also explains that Five9 are in the golden window of contact centre providers. For him they were established at just the right time to catch this new wave of innovation with AI, without being too well established and unable to react to market changes.

“There are many other companies in this space that were either too early or are too late. If anyone is coming to the game now it is going to be in some ways too late for this next trend of disruption, around AI and the cloud, and if someone was there too early they’re probably not really in business anymore.”

What are your thoughts on the contact centre industry?

Unified Communications and Contact Centre

Rowan Trollope, Five9
Rowan Trollope, Five9

There is a narrative in the industry relating to unified communications (UC) and contact centre (CC). There are two sides to this argument, one is that the two, UC and CC, should be together from a technology perspective. The other is that the two should be separate. Five9 have no unified communications proposition focusing solely on developing their contact centre solutions.

Trollope explains that first argument, for the combination of the two propositions, is generated fundamentally for the wrong purpose. Historically some buyers have expected to buy both solutions in one and therefore there is go-to-market advantage for those provider’s which can provide both solutions. Trollope explains though that this does not provide any benefit for the customer themselves.

“I believe (that combining UC and CC) is fundamentally inhibiting the innovation that those vendors can do.”

The development within contact centre technology over recent years has undoubtedly outpaced the development within unified communications and Trollope believes that combining the two platforms will only slow development within the contact centre. He explains that the existing vendors, that do provide both UC and CC solutions in combination, are ‘concocting’ reasons for the two products to be pitched together, rather than there being any genuine benefit to the customer. Buying the best product is surely the key to providing the best value and that is the approach that both Rowan and Five9 have adopted.

“Choose the individual product based on getting the best outcome.”

The False Cloud

A well-established industry argument on the purity and benefits of pure cloud solutions is another industry trend that Trollope and Five9 feel strongly about. Trollope postulates that the legacy on-premise vendors are effectively trying to remain relevant, to a cloud audience, by offering their traditional solutions hosted in a data centre but that this doesn’t provide the real benefits of cloud to customers.

“That gets me the benefits of shifting from CAPEX to OPEX, of not having to own the hardware but it doesn’t get me the most important benefits of cloud. No multi tenancy, no agile delivery of features, no elasticity, none of those true benefits of the cloud.”

Five9’s solutions built from a cloud native starting position can offer all of those features, and more, and that is where he sees their competitive advantage.

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Artificial Intelligence

Many people will know that Trollope has been an advocate of AI enhancement for many years. He believes in its capability even more so now, as the cloud contact centre provides one of the optimum sources for data. The rise in omnichannel communication will allow contact centres to be at the forefront of data analysis and AI will play a critical role in that. The cloud based contact centre will be able to revolutionise the use of data in comparison to its legacy forefathers where the data was sat unused, and inaccessible in server rooms for the allotted retention period.

“The wave of AI and all these sorts of magical things we have seen delivered by AI were fundamentally underpinned by having access to data. These machine learning models take tonnes of data to train. Where can I go and get really interesting rich data, that I can use to train machine learning models? Contact Centre is probably one of the richest sources. The challenge had been that the data has been dark, in other words only sitting in an on premise server.”

It is exciting to see how Trollope’s background in product development and his passion for emerging technology like AI will develop at Five9. There certainly doesn’t appear to be any limitation to their aspirations.

“Really why I came to Five9 is that I have a vision to create the world’s best, self-learning, intelligent contact centre that is completely powered by AI.”

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Patrick Watson

Written by Patrick Watson

A Tech Journalist working at UC Today. Generating content, developing stories, interviewing, presenting and analysing. Have a story? Get in touch on Twitter @patrickwatsonuc