Paul Ricci, Chairman and CEO of Nuance

Speech Technology Magazine's Q&A with Paul Ricci, Chairman and CEO of Nuance

Q: What were the thoughts behind the name change from ScanSoft to Nuance?
A: As the nature of our company shifted from purely a provider of imaging products to one that is broader and encompasses a wide variety of solutions, we felt it was important to select a name that was more representative of our entire organization. The name Nuance is widely recognized in the speech industry, but is also inclusive of our other technologies. We believe a technology-independent name better represents the nature of our solutions, both speech and imaging.  We will continue to use ScanSoft, based on the recognition it has earned over the years, as the family name for our imaging applications. 

Q: There has been a lot of activity at the company in recent months - the Nuance acquisition, a new name.  Any signs of slowing down?
A: These certainly have been busy times for us - and we don't expect to slow down at all, although we will be focused on different projects.  We completed the merger of Nuance into ScanSoft in mid-September and emerged as the world's most comprehensive provider of speech solutions. Our pace is still as brisk, but we've shifted from organizational integration to implementing some exciting new customer solutions, developing new products and expanding our sales capacity and other things related to serving our customers.  In sum, we believe the company is now positioned better than ever to serve our customers, partners, employees and investors and to deliver value through every interaction. 

Q: In four years the company went from relative obscurity to being a leader in this field.  What was behind this success?
A: We've been successful because we made a plan and have been sticking to it.  We believe that speech can fundamentally change the way people interact with digital systems and access information across a wide spectrum of devices.  We have carefully assembled a portfolio of solutions and a team of experts that can deliver these technologies to businesses around the world, and we've focused on expanding our channels, addressing global markets by supporting multiple languages, learning from the experts in all the speech disciplines and carefully planning our growth.

Today, we are now the largest provider of speech solutions in the world, participating widely in the market and across all of the major speech sectors -- enterprise and network, automotive, handsets; and desktop, medical and server dictation.  With our breadth and through our talented R&D and services teams, we can deliver speech solutions to any number of devices and systems, from the smallest cell phones to large servers in call centers today. 

Q: What is your vision for the organization?
A: We have built the company around a core belief that speech technology is going to enhance the way people use computers and communicate.  We believe that speech will enable better experiences - more satisfying ways to interact with companies, access information, work with devices, and connect with others.  Nuance has the technology, experience and commitment to turn that vision into reality.

Our industry has tremendous promise and we have only scratched the surface of what is possible with our technology.  Today, Nuance automates more than 20 million calls per day in contact centers and directory assistance applications; brings speech to millions of people through mobile phones, automobiles, consumer electronics and games; and provides dictation solutions for more than 3,000 hospitals and more than one million consumers worldwide.  Ultimately, we believe we have the opportunity to bring speech to new markets and to expand the use of speech so that it is as ubiquitous and common as the Web.

Q: What are your core areas of focus now?
A: As a leader in this space, we believe that it is incumbent upon us and our partners to continue investing in and expanding the market.  Nuance will continue to address areas where we see the strongest opportunities for speech and for growth.  This includes call center automation and customer self-service, especially in data and labor intensive verticals such as financial services, travel and entertainment and telecommunications.  We also continue to see tremendous opportunities in automotive and handset manufacturers where the convergence of network and embedded speech will be new sources of opportunity.  And of course, the health care industry will continue to be the single greatest driver for our dictation applications, particularly in hospitals and health care organizations that have heavy transcription requirements.

With regard to partners, the company has grown through a commitment to open solutions and nurturing a partner network that spans all areas of the business and multiple geographies.  Our partners continue to be the cornerstone of our success, and it is these strategic partners that help bring our technologies, applications and solutions to global markets. 

Q: Do you have any additional thoughts that you would like to share?
A: We are excited at the prospects for Nuance, and at what our customers, partners and employees have accomplished.  I continue to be impressed by what our employees have been able to accomplish.  Today, Nuance comprises world-class engineering teams, outstanding professional services and support, and excellent sales, marketing and channel coverage.  Combined, these assets give us confidence for the times ahead for both our company and the industry at large.

Paul Ricci joined as the company chief executive officer in September 2000 and has served as chairman of the board since 1999. During his tenure, Ricci successfully led the company through several strategic acquisitions, including Lernout & Hauspie, SpeechWorks and Nuance, and transformed the company into a global leader of speech and imaging solutions. Previously, Ricci spent nearly a decade at Xerox Corporation, where he began as president of the desktop systems division and later led Xerox's business development efforts through several key acquisitions, including XLConnect and Tektronix' printer division. Ricci holds bachelor's and master's degrees in economics from Stanford University.

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