The 2013 Speech Luminaries

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Speech technology has come a long way in recent years, largely due to the impressive efforts of innovators and influencers who keep raising the bar. This year is no different.

Whether it's helping customer service strategists, speech technology developers, or healthcare professionals, the industry at large benefits from the marks that this year's Luminaries have made.

The Breakout Star
Paul Segre, President and CEO, Genesys

Paul Segre, president and CEO of Genesys since 2007, has been the driving force behind what can only be described as the turnaround story of the year. Operating as a subsidiary of Alcatel-Lucent from 2000 to 2012, Genesys built on its market-leading portfolio of contact center software and services, maintained consistent double-digit growth, and drove innovation, but many felt that Alcatel-Lucent was keeping Genesys from living up to its true potential.

Early in 2012, Alcatel-Lucent sold Genesys to Permira Funds for $1.5 billion, and Segre was given the chance to shine. He's proven himself worthy of the challenge, leading the company in 2012 to record revenue and growth, taking it into new markets, and aggressively fostering innovation. He has brokered key acquisitions that have expanded the company's reach into new geographies and positioned it as a strong competitor in the cloud-based solutions space.

Through the acquisitions of Angel in February for $110 million and SoundBite Communications in May for $100 million, Segre helped grow Genesys' cloud business by more than $135 million a year. These acquisitions give Genesys "additional cloud credibility," following its creation of a cloud division last September, says Sheila McGee-Smith, president of McGee-Smith Analytics, and reinforce "the perceived opportunity in cloud-based customer care."

The January acquisition of Utopy, a provider of speech analytics, workforce optimization, and voice-of-the-customer solutions, squarely moved Genesys into the analytics space, and its acquisition of LM Sistemas last July gave the company an immediate presence in the emerging Latin American market.

The deals also allowed Genesys to enrich its portfolio of solutions for mobile and Web customer service, marketing, sales, and collections, and significantly enhanced its employee head count around the world.

Segre, who joined Genesys in 2002 as chief technology officer after holding senior leadership positions at DSC, Bell Labs, and AT&T Network Systems, also revamped the company's strategy to move it beyond the high-end, Fortune 500 customers who had been its staple. "We will be really focused on democratizing our solutions to support a much broader enterprise market," Segre told investors earlier this year.

In addition to those gained through the acquisitions, Genesys in 2012 also organically added more than 200 new customers and strengthened its partner relationships through new agreements with Salesforce.com, Bell Canada, KDDI of Japan, and Telekom Deutschland, among others.

The Hyper Drivers
Martin Geddes, CEO, Martin Geddes Consulting
E. Kelly Fitzsimmons, Cofounder, HarQen

In November, the Hypervoice Consortium officially launched with the mission to advance hypervoice, an emerging model for organizing and navigating conversational data by transforming voice components into native Web objects and breaking them down into smaller bits of audio that can be searched, shared, and secured independently.

The consortium includes thought leaders in Web, voice, and telephone application and platform design, but the real credit goes to founders Martin Geddes and E. Kelly Fitzsimmons.

Geddes is president and CEO of Martin Geddes Consulting. Fitzsimmons cofounded Web telephony company HarQen in 2007 and still serves on its board of directors.

The term hypervoice, which Geddes and Fitzsimmons coined, involves not only Web-based applications of voice, but also encompasses emerging voice applications and capabilities.

The first of these apps debuted in October at Oracle's OpenWorld conference, where HarQen unveiled an app that added hypervoice conversations as a service to Oracle Social Network.

Hypervoice conversations can be initiated from any digital channel, such as Facebook or Twitter, a CRM system, or an instant messenger platform. Natural behaviors—taking notes, assigning tasks, or sharing slides—create metadata for the recorded audio. New behaviors, such as tagging the conversation with important information, enable new work flows.

Deborah Dahl, chair of the Multimodal Interaction Working Group at the Worldwide Web Consortium and principal at Conversational Technologies, calls hypervoice "a pretty cool concept," but wonders if it will catch on in its current form. "Right now it seems to involve some extra manual steps on the part of users to capture the semantics of the audio in real time," she says. "That could change if technologies like speech-to-text, keyword spotting, voice biometrics, and natural language [understanding] start to be incorporated into hypervoice applications."

Fitzsimmons isn't short on enthusiasm. "Hypervoice conversations hold the promise of enabling a whole new paradigm for human communications," she says. "Hypervoice gets more done faster, better, smarter, and even cheaper."

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