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Calero-MDSL Acquires MetaPort to Map the Enterprise Network

Key Stakeholders: Chief Information Officers, Chief Technology Officers, Chief Financial Officers, Finance and Accounts Payable Directors and Managers, Human Resources Officers, Procurement Directors, Telecom Directors and Managers, Mobility Directors and Managers, IT Architects, Vice President/Director/Manager of IT Operations, DevOps Managers, System Architects, Product Managers, IT Sourcing Directors and Managers, IT Procurement Directors and Managers

Why It Matters: Technology is a vital component of the business, but technology inventories and analytics are often updated too infrequently, inaccurately, and incompletely for the information to be relevant to real-time business decisions. MetaPort’s capability to map network elements and provide automated updates provides enterprises with greater visibility to the network, which will have downstream effects on the importance of network data for making business decisions.

Top Takeaway: With the acquisition of MetaPort, Calero-MDSL can provide its global customers with advantages in pursuing network transformation and consolidation, aligning network elements to business decisions, and accelerating IT’s ability to be a better partner to businesses.

On April 20, 2021, Technology Expense Management market leader Calero-MDSL, owned by Riverside Partners and Oak Hill Capital Partners, announced the acquisition of MetaPort, a telecom network mapping company. Andres Aguirre, founder and CEO of MetaPort will be joining Calero-MDSL through this acquisition. With this acquisition, Calero-MDSL customers will be better positioned to map their network environments, remove redundant or obsolete circuits, and prepare for network transformation projects.

Calero-MDSL is the current market leader in Technology Expense Management based on technology spend under management, with responsibility for over $14 billion in enterprise technology spend across telecom, network, mobility, software, cloud services, and other technology categories. Calero-MDSL also has a market data management product to support financial data subscriptions where Calero-MDSL is considered the market leader as well.

MetaPort was founded in 2017 and is headquartered in Coral Gables, Florida. MetaPort was founded with the assumption that IT departments could provide greater guidance to businesses if IT infrastructure data could be more transparent and accessible. With this focus, MetaPort has developed a tool that allows enterprises to quickly visualize a full inventory of their current network environment, view and track changes for network details as they are changed through automated updates, search this network information to find all relevant details, explore this data through drill-down and category-specific divisions of networks, and align all network data with its costs. This capability was already valuable to IT departments when MetaPort originally launched, but became even more valuable in the time of the COVID pandemic when the vast majority of technology workers were banished to their homes. As companies deal with the combination of new network investments made over the past year combined with employees’ incipient return to offices, the synchronization and coordination of network elements becomes even more critical to the delivery of technology and maintaining the backbone of connectivity necessary to support businesses in the digital era.

Network visibility is also a vital capability for the technology expense management world. One of the greatest tenets of technology expense management is that any effort to manage and cut costs is only as good as the data and metadata categorization and terminology used to define each piece of technology being managed. The network has long been both vitally important to understand and notoriously difficult to manage on an ongoing basis because of the relative ease of ordering network circuits to support branch offices, pet projects, or quickly emerging business needs associated with new products or services.

In this context, Calero-MDSL’s interest in MetaPort is clear. The ability to quickly gain a full enterprise inventory of network circuits is quite valuable for setting up cost-effective and performance-enhanced software-defined network environments, providing an enterprise environment that allows every employee and project to be sufficiently trunked with data, and to support an analytical view of the business based on the existing data backbone that defines organizational access to collaboration and information.

From an analytics perspective, the MetaPort acquisition is also important because the basis of good business intelligence, analytics, and machine learning is high-quality data that is well documented and updated in real-time. This level of data quality has often been missing in the technology expense management world, where inventories are often only updated when a change is provided on the invoice or when an audit of invoices and service orders is conducted.

Amalgam Insights hopes that this acquisition is part of a new trend in technology expense management that increasingly combines cost management with IT performance and business metrics. The long-term vision of technology expense management is one where technology as a fundamental core driver of business can be tracked from a financial perspective, not only to determine which costs can be reduced but also to understand which technology investments may need to be increased in order to improve business outputs and outcomes. Technology is not just a cost center in the digital era, but often a force multiplier and profit center when used correctly. As companies start to realize that a real-time, comprehensive, and business-mapped technology inventory is a strategic advantage, they will start to use this capability to forecast revenue, operational outputs, and future demand for increased or altered technology augmentation of business efforts.

Recommendations for the Technology Expense Management Community

Based on this acquisition, Amalgam Insights provides the following suggestions.

First, from a strategic perspective, Amalgam Insights urges all Technology Expense Management professionals to figure out how often their inventories are being updated and how complete these updates are in terms of updating cost centers, geographies, use cases, and other business-relevant information. It is not good enough to simply update this information once a year or upon request. Think of your inventories the same way that accountants look at their financial books as something to be monitored and verified on a monthly basis, if not more often. To do this means getting some help from technology built to discover and verify networks, device fleets, and access to cloud and software services. Find out how to accelerate inventory updates for the areas where you are responsible for expense management.

Second, Calero-MDSL customers should work with their Calero-MDSL account teams to get access to MetaPort as soon as possible. Getting automated updates to network hardware and services inventories is a key component to supporting a more connected business. This visibility is especially important for companies that are invested in the Internet of Things, edge computing, or distributed workers that use and share significant amounts of data. This is an area where customers should push Calero-MDSL both to make the capability available and to integrate with Calero-MDSL’s analytics, cost management, and inventory capabilities. Over time, this capability can also be mapped with network performance solutions and business performance maps to determine areas that may need more or less technology support over time.

Third, consider how to use technology inventories, tracked changes, and utilization to provide guidance to business environments. For instance, how does bandwidth support differ for sales-oriented locations compared to research-oriented locations? Are contact center locations ready to support a video-centric, data-centric, or augmented reality approach for high-touch service environments? Have specific areas required more frequent changes or updates because their performance is more variable or because they are having trouble forecasting their demand? Technology is part of the business and needs to be treated as such. Taking this approach is both an opportunity to make technology expense data more respected in the business and to be more involved in the strategic efforts of the business.

Overall, Amalgam Insights is bullish on this acquisition as it represents an opportunity for a major Technology Expense Management vendor to push the market forward in improving the quality, frequency, and variety of data being collected for network inventories. This change can potentially feed a variety of efforts to bring technology discussions and business imperatives closer together. As Calero-MDSL continues to integrate MetaPort into the core technology expense platform and starts to create products around MetaPort’s capabilities, Amalgam Insights expects that new opportunities will come up for technology expense that are more relevant to the CIO, CTO, and enterprise architect roles that are responsible for the strategic acquisition and deployment of technology.

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Vena Raises a Monster $300 Million Round to Improve Business Planning

On April 27th, 2021, Vena announced raising a CAD$ 300 million C Round led by Vista Equity Partners. Vena’s prior investors, JMI Equity and Centana Growth Partners, remain active investors and Vista adds two board members, Managing Director Kim Eaton and co-Head of Vista’s Foundation Fund, Marc Teillon. Vista’s current Foundation Fund IV was raised in 2020 and is approximately $4.5 billion, making this US $240 million+ investment a significant portion of this portfolio.

Vena is a business planning, budgeting, and forecasting solution that uses Excel as a front-end interface while coordinating data through a back-end Vena Growth Engine. Since it was founded in 2011, Vena has stood out in the business planning market as a solution that was built to support Excel as a front-end interface while supporting the governance of collaborative consolidation and close management, account reconciliations, and intercompany transactions through back-end coordination that synchronizes the user experience. Vena has traditionally had a strong relationship with the Microsoft technology stack, including running on Azure and supporting Power BI. Over the past decade, this technology support has evolved to support all major data sources used for finance planning. Vena provides a horizontal solution, but has experience in verticals including Banking, Healthcare, Higher Education, Insurance, Manufacturing, and Software.

Over the past decade, Vena has provided supported multiple customers that have achieved 500+% ROI on their investments as organizations have been able to use Vena’s business planning approach to save time, add governance to business reporting by ensuring users always have approved data, provide repeatable structure to previous ad-hoc finance and accounting reports, and accelerate executive time-to-action.

With this investment, Vena Solutions plans to pursue growth. Given the size of this investment, Amalgam Insights expects to see the acceleration of global sales channels as well as increasing verticalization to take full advantage of the value created by developing more dedicated industry-aligned solutions. Given the current $9 billion market cap that Anaplan enjoys on roughly $450 million in annual revenue and the success of Workday Adaptive Planning, it is not difficult to imagine Vena achieving both similar growth and valuations with its new round of funding. Amalgam Insights believes that Vena’s approach is potentially well-suited to general business planning challenges beyond finance and operations, but could be improved additional investment in native data connectors to compete with Workday, Anaplan, and insightsoftware.


Vena Solutions continues to be a business planning solution that Amalgam Insights recommends, as its experience in providing an Excel-based planning solution is unparalleled in the market and its user adoption metrics are Best-in-Class because of its approach. Companies seeking to quickly scale their finance, sales, or workforce planning initiatives should consider Vena. With this increased investment, potential clients should ask Vena for plans on localization, vertical solutions, new products and integrations, and regional partners to support global implementations as the financial barriers to pursue both innovation and growth have obviously been removed.

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Market Alert: Datarails raises an $18.5 Million A Round to Support SMB Planning and Budgeting

On April 20, 2021, Datarails, which focuses on financial planning and analysis solutions for small and mid-market organizations, announced raising an $18.5 million Series A round led by Zeev Ventures Fund and joined by existing investors Vertex Ventures Israel and Innovation Endeavors. With this round, Oren Zeev joins the board. Previously, Zeev has invested in finance and accounting firms including GT Nexus and was a co-founder of Tipalti.

Datarails started as a data compliance solution to support financial services companies in 2015, but found market fit in 2020 by offering its data governance capabilities as part of a financial planning tool focused on small and medium-sized businesses using spreadsheets to manage their financial budgeting and planning needs. This pivot makes sense considering that financial planning and analysis has been a hot market over the past decade that has supported the growth of multiple vendors including Adaptive Insights, Anaplan, Board, Jedox, Planful (previously Host Analytics), and Prophix.

However, Amalgam Insights actually considers Datarails to be part of a second generation of FP&A vendors that are focused on making planning solutions more accessible, which also includes Budgyt, Centage Planning Maestro, Cube Software, Fathom, Jirav, Limelight, Pigment, and XLerant.

Among this peer group, Amalgam Insights finds Datarails’ Excel-based approach to be a differentiator. Datarails’ approach allows users to continue using Excel as their interface, but then saves the data in an Azure-hosted SQL database to provide business governance.

In reviewing the product, Amalgam Insights found the Datarails product to provide both the obvious advantages of working within Excel as well as a SaaS-based software interface that provided the full history of cell value and forumla changes and strong visualization capabilities.

Amalgam Insights notes that this approach is similar to the approach that Vena Solutions uses to govern data from an Excel interface. Since its founding in 2011, Vena has raised $173 million in funding with the latest round being raised in September 2020. However, Vena’s typical contract is over $100,000 per year to support business planning across finance and operations while Datarails is targeting smaller companies at a starting cost of $15,000 a year to support a team of up to 8 users and viewers along with an initial one-time installation fee of $5,000.


Overall, Amalgam Insights believes that Datarails’ approach and funding make it a viable option for consideration for organizations between 50 and 500 employees that are working on creating a collaborative budgeting and forecasting process. For these companies, Amalgam Insights expects that Datarails will be fully installed within 8-12 weeks of contract signing and provide a payback period of 6 months or less based on improvements to provide more timely reporting and forecasting, time saved by relevant finance and accounting professionals, and the risk mitigation associated with having data centrally managed compared to being in Excel spreadsheets.

Based on previous analysis, Amalgam Insights believes that this investment would typically provide a 300-400% annual Return on Investment based on the process improvements, productivity increases, and reduced risk associated with budgeting and forecasting reporting on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. (Note: This is a general estimate based on past analyses of FP&A projects. If you would like a detailed analysis, please feel free to contact us at

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ThoughtSpot Acquires SeekWell to Bring Insights Back to the Masses

Key Stakeholders: Chief Information Officers, Chief Technical Officers, Digital Transformation Heads, Director of Engineering, Enterprise Architecture Directors and Managers, Application Architecture Directors and Managers, Financial Systems Directors and Managers

Why It Matters: Analytic and business intelligence deployments struggle to bring insights and analytic outputs back to their initial sources or to enterprise applications because analytics has traditionally been a one-way path from the data source out to the data analyst creating the report or visualization. With this acquisition, ThoughtSpot as an analytic solution can now complete this two-way path to bring data analysis outputs directly back to the data environments and software solutions that the entire company uses.

Top Takeaway: We are still in the earliest stages of integrating data, analytics, and business practices. With this acquisition, ThoughtSpot is continuing to take a leading role in making analytics easier to access and consume at scale.

About the Acquisition

On March 31, ThoughtSpot announced the intent to acquire SeekWell, a reverse ETL solution designed to bring analytic insights and processed data back into applications. This bridge is vitally important to the enterprise analytic world for a couple of reasons.

First, one of the biggest problems in the current world of enterprise analytics is that the end result is all-too-often a static dashboard, visualization, or table that stands alone and needs to be entered into another application for other people to see the insight. Without this entry, the value of that new report or insight is limited to the report writer and the people who have access to the business intelligence or analytics solution in some way. Although analytics platforms have made significant progress over the past decade in making analytic results more available and embedded, the vast majority of enterprise analytics environments today still require significant design and development work to bring analytic insights to end users. Seekwell has solved this problem by bringing processed and analyzed data back to either the initial sources or to new applications that can use aggregated data to present better options and context for its users.

From a practical perspective, this brings analytic insights back to business users even faster than an embedded BI approach that requires prior preparation. This is because business intelligence and reporting still require end users to conduct queries and analysis to get to Insights while bringing analytic data back to core applications brings that data to customized applications and logic that are already aligned to employee workflows. As of today, SeekWell capabilities are available for ThoughtSpot users and are still available as a standalone capability.

Second, this acquisition speaks to a broader challenge in the technology world: the deceptive challenge of a “simple” interface. To create a simple experience, technology vendors need to provide an integrated two-way experience between the user and every system involved. The iPhone is the stereotypical example of this challenge, where the combination of touch interface, smartphone, app store, cloud services, and related devices create a seamless ecosystem via a design-based thought process. This design-based ecosystem still does not fully exist in the analytics world. When ThoughtSpot debuted as a text and search-first solution, it broke the paradigm of business analytics being solely the purview of trained data analysts and report writers by bringing analytics into natural and ordinary language.

Recommendations for the Analytics Community

Our key recommendation is a simple, yet transformative one: enhance your standard business intelligence practices as they are not sufficient to create an analytically-driven business. We are still in the earliest stages of integrating data, analytics, and business practices and the vast majority of employees lack relevant data for the time, location, and context of decision. The vast majority of investment, training, and resources placed into data, analytics, and machine learning over the past 30 years have been focused on simply structuring data so that it is accessible and queryable. However, this structure still requires an intermediate layer of data analysts, data scientists, and application developers simply to translate this data into basic business outputs. This paradigm continues to this day and we are just starting to identify and develop the capabilities to translate data into relevant, contextualized, and timely decisions.

In this context, the combination of Seekwell’s reversed ETL to pull analyzed data back into applications along with Thoughtspot’s focus on making data available to all employees through human language is a powerful combination for opening up data for practical consumption.

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Tellennium Announces Management of Things Approach

On April 5th, 2021, Tellennium, a technology expense management company based in Louisville, Kentucky, announced the launch of its Management of Things approach, which includes pursuit of a registered trademark and the expansion of its telecom expense management platform to include software licenses, utilities, waste, and other operational expenses.

Amalgam Insights believes that this approach is important to consider as technology has fundamentally become a tool that can help reduce the cost of many non-technology based operational expenses. To understand the true value of technology, companies must gain a better understanding of the full operational footprint affected through technology investments.

To find out more about our perspective, check out our Market Alert on this topic written by Senior Research Analyst Kelly Teal.

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Productiv Closes a $45 Million C Round to support SaaS Management

On March 31, 2021, Productiv, a SaaS Expense and Operations Management company, announced closing of a $45 million dollar C round led by IVP (Insight Venture Partners) joined by current investors Accel, Norwest Venture Partners, Okta Ventures, and new investor Atlassian Ventures. With this round of funding, Productiv has now raised $73 million to support SaaS Management since its founding in 2018.
IVP is known as a growth investor focused on investing in the later stages of growth. Prior IVP investments include Appdynamics, Domo, Dropbox, G2, GitHub, Hopin, Looker, Slack, Tanium, and Zendesk, just to give a flavor of the firm’s background in SaaS, data, and enterprise software, in general.

This round of funding comes at a time when the need for SaaS Management is growing rapidly and SaaS management companies are ripe for acquisition. Amalgam Insights estimates that the global SaaS market will grow to $275 billion in 2025 based on 20% CAGR as the software market continues to grow and as more on-premises software migrates to SaaS. SaaS will make up the majority of new software spend going forward.

The Global SaaS Market continues to grow over 20% year over year.

In February, SailPoint acquired SaaS operations management company Intello. Earlier in March, LeanIX purchased Cleanshelf to bring SaaS Management into its Corporate IT and Product IT portfolio. Zylo continues to build its executive team with experienced enterprise veterans as it continues to double in size year-over-year. In short, this market is both growing rapidly and seen as an acquisition target by larger security and IT management firms.

In this context, Productiv is holding its own as a leading SaaS management firm. Productiv has doubled its employee count and tripled its revenue over the past year. Productiv is now the second-most mentioned vendor in Amalgam Insights’ SaaS Management inquiries. Over the past year, Productiv has started a free SaaS Management tool, Productiv Essentials, built out a variety of software integrations necessary for IT management and collaboration, and improved analytics and visibility across users, teams, and vendors.

Amalgam Insights’ Take

Of course, Productiv raised this money to sell SaaS Management, but Amalgam Insights expects several specific initiatives going forward.

First, Productiv will improve its partner program to allow more consultancies and systems integrators to build SaaS Management practices around the Productiv product. This represents an opportunity to bring Productiv in through your existing IT managed services providers.

Productiv will also continue to improve real-time insights. It already provides real-time application usage visibility, but Amalgam Insights believes there are additional opportunities to align usage patterns with other corporate metrics, such as project and portfolio management, workforce training, productivity, and budget forecasting as SaaS management supports employee management.

Finally, expect Productiv to start taking fuller advantage of its automated account management capabilities to drive deeper into IT automation. If “there’s an app for that” and Productiv manages all the apps, then Productiv has a lot of administrative and workflow control over the heartbeat of SaaS-using organizations.

Amalgam Insights’ Recommendation

Productiv should continue to be considered as an enterprise SaaS Management vendor with a focus on solving IT challenges. Amalgam Insights continues to recommend Productiv as a potential solution for mid-sized and enterprise IT departments considering SaaS Management solutions and points out Productiv Essentials as a starting point for firms seeking a free introduction to SaaS cost and renewal management.

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LeanIX gets SaaSy by Acquiring Cleanshelf

On March 24th, 2021, enterprise architecture management company LeanIX announced the acquisition of Software as a Service (SaaS) management company Cleanshelf. This acquisition brings together two pioneers in their respective markets and brings together the combination of two large themes in IT: the increasing consumerization of IT that allows end-users to pick and combine their tools easily conflicts with the enterprise need to productize and manage IT so that technology investments are aligned with revenue.

About Cleanshelf, the Acquired Company

Cleanshelf was founded in 2017 as one of the first vendors focused on the business challenges of managing SaaS. Cleanshelf is based in San Francisco with subsidiaries in Denver and Ljublijana, Slovenia. The company had previously raised an $8 million A round in March of 2020 lead by Dawn Capital with participation from LAUNCHub Ventures.

Cleanshelf manages over $700 million in spend under management, has over 3,000 integrations with SaaS applications, and uses its operational data both for license optimization and to audit access and security issues. With this acquisition, Cleanshelf will continue as a standalone product, but will be renamed “LeanIX SaaS Intelligence” as of May 1st, 2021. SaaS discovery and cataloging functionality is scheduled to be provided as a complimentary component of the LeanIX Application Portfolio Management module in Q2 2021.

About the buyer, LeanIX

LeanIX was founded in 2012 to help businesses with continuous digital transformation and is headquartered in Bonn. LeanIX is an enterprise architecture management company with a focus on ease of use, providing business context to enterprise architects, controlling cloud environments and providing alignment between IT and product-based technology use cases. LeanIX has raised over $120 million, including an $80 million D round in July 2020 led by Goldman Sachs Growth, and has been noted as a market leader or leading solution by a variety of analyst firms and review sites.

Currently, LeanIX’s platform consists of: 

  • Enterprise Architecture Suite consisting of Application Portfolio Management, Technology Risk Management, and Business Transformation Management modules
  • Cloud Intelligence module supporting cloud services across AWS, Azure and GCP and spend showback for cloud architects and managers
  • A newly announced Microservice Intelligence capability providing cataloguing and discovery capabilities for all microservices in an organization and to help DevOps teams manage complex microservices environments 
  • And, with the acquisition of Cleanshelf, a SaaS Management solution to provide discovery, catalog, cost and user metrics, and renewal management

Why This Acquisition Matters for Managing Massively Distributed IT

Foundationally, Amalgam Insights believes this acquisition is important because it provides IT departments with an opportunity to manage their growth portfolio of microservices, SaaS, and public cloud resources through a single vendor. Although the public cloud, multi-cloud support, and microservices have been used over the past decade to build and support massively scalable products and businesses, the management of these technologies has been widely distributed, siloed, and often dependent on the manual tracking conducted by individual architects, analysts, and developers within IT. 

This challenge has become increasingly difficult to manage as the granularity of microservices, the wide variety of SaaS vendors, and the ever-expanding breadth of public cloud services have led to a complex and ever-changing set of catalogs and spend management. And, frankly, IT managers lack the time and expertise to be the accountants and service trackers that these services increasingly deserve as they have become million-dollar line items in corporate budgets.

Amalgam Insights notes that LeanIX is differentiated based on its ease of use and implementation, which are especially important traits for managing the more “agile,” decentralized, and end-user-oriented aspects of IT and technology such as software and microservices. LeanIX’s approach aligns technology to externally facing products and services is also a valuable approach for understanding why technology is being used within an organization. With the addition of Cleanshelf, LeanIX will be better positioned to provide granular management capabilities at the end-user level to help managers handle their technology portfolio within the umbrella of the broader governance of enterprise efforts. 

Recommendations for the IT Community

In light of this acquisition, Amalgam Insights provides the following recommendations for the IT and enterprise technology communities.

Amalgam Insights recommends that companies develop both a strategy and a toolkit portfolio to manage a new generation of technologies across all areas of cloud (infrastructure, platform, and applications) that are accessible and can be sprawling in nature. Remember the trend of Bring Your Own Device, which wreaked havoc on IT asset management, governance, compliance, and security efforts? With the evolution of public cloud, Software as a Service, and microservices, the “Bring Your Own” IT trend has grown to encompass practically all data, services, and digital processes that an employee may use. In short, employees are increasingly able to do the majority of their work outside of enterprise-approved tools if organizations fail to effectively govern and track vital IT services. Now we are in an era of “Bring Your Own IT” as well as an era of “digital transformation” that is driving the paperless office and rapid automation. 

Amalgam Insights also recommends that businesses treat “IT-business alignment” as a mandatory task rather than simply providing lip service to the phrase and treating it as a fluffy MBA buzzword. To do so, companies must align technology to a value chain that is associated with a key performance indicator or business objective. This allows companies to both gain a better sense of the true Total Cost of Ownership associated with business transactions as well as the lineage and governance needed to detect whether there are opportunities for maintaining a more optimized technology environment. There may be opportunities to consolidate multiple products conducting the same task or to bring in new technologies that can bridge opaque or error-prone process steps. 

Finally, Amalgam Insights recommends that companies look specifically at managing the applications, APIs, and microservices that employees and customers are accessing. It is easy to assume that just because a SaaS app or a cloud-based microservice does not require internal resources, that it does not need to be managed. But this approach will lead to a financially unsound approach where the IT Rule of 30 will come into play, which states that any unmanaged technology category will accumulate 30% in waste over time. 

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Market Alert: Calero-MDSL Develops a UCaaS Management Solution to Rationalize Enterprise Telephony

Key Stakeholders: Chief Information Officers, Chief Technology Officers, Chief Financial Officers, Finance and Accounts Payable Directors and Managers, Human Resources Officers, Procurement Directors, Telecom Directors and Managers, Mobility Directors and Managers, IT Architects, Vice President/Director/Manager of IT Operations, DevOps Managers, System Architects, Product Managers, IT Sourcing Directors and Managers, IT Procurement Directors and Managers

Why It Matters: The era of the business desk phone is coming to an end, but employees still need a variety of unified communications, conferencing, and collaboration apps to maintain productivity. To support this multi-modal communications environment, enterprises need a single view of inventory, cost, and usage for their full telephony and unified communications environment.

Top Takeaway: With this Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) cost management module, Calero-MDSL is providing a specialized toolkit to analyze and compare both fixed wireline and UCaaS services to right-size and rationalize telecom investments. 

Calero-MDSL Announces a UCaaS Expense Management Module

On March 17th, 2021, Calero-MDSL announced the launch of a UCaaS Expense Management module designed to support both the fixed and variable costs associated with collaboration. This module is designed to provide one perspective for both landline telephony usage and UCaaS and to provide both end-users and cost center managers with both visibility and self-service options to optimize their calling and collaboration environments. There are several key market trends driving increased focus to UCaaS management.

First, this decade, the 2020s, will lead to the decline and fall of the desk phone.

As of the end of 2020, Amalgam Insights estimates that approximately 70% of employees are assigned a desk phone and 55% of employees use smartphones and cell phones for work purposes. In the face of COVID and the digital transformation and remote work tasks that have been made necessary in a quarantine, Amalgam Insights expects that these numbers will flip-flop by the end of the year as half of the workers who went home for the quarantine will not come back to the office every day. We are moving from a pre-pandemic environment where less than 10% of employees worked from home to a post-pandemic environment where roughly 25% of employees will primarily work from home and another 20% will only come into the office part-time.

All of a sudden, 30% of desk phones will be rendered permanently obsolete at the end of 2021 when remote and in-office work has been rationalized.

Source: Amalgam Insights

Enterprises will need to increase their support and ownership of mobile devices and apps to ensure governance and control of the primary communications channels used by employees going forward.

Second, as enterprises continue to shift both towards Unified Communications as a Service and Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) to support telephony, it is no longer sufficient to simply treat the PBX as the end-all and be-all of enterprise telephony. Not only does telephony need to be treated as a potentially cloud-based function, but also as a set of APIs and services that can potentially be embedded into other applications and processes. Telephony is increasingly fragmented and granular, making it harder to compare the supply, demand, and cost for the various on-premises, cloud, and app-based options for telephony services without having a single inventory and cost management source.

Third, the obvious expansion of conferencing solutions ranging from Zoom to Microsoft Teams as well as stalwarts such as Cisco WebEx have resulted in the need to better manage usage, employee plans, accounts, and add-on functionalities to support larger meetings, recording, calling features, and enhanced security. To avoid wasting time in ensuring that appropriate roles are empowered with the right level of access, businesses need to manage their conferencing and UCaaS.

Amalgam Insights considers Calero-MDSL’s development of a UCaaS specific expense management module to be an interesting product launch that will provide value to IT departments. In this case, Amalgam Insights considers UCaaS to be a subset of the larger SaaS management category rather than a telecom expense management topic, as UCaaS is driven by SaaS-like economics and demand. However, the biggest difference between a SaaS Expense Management solution and Calero-MDSL’s UCaaS solution is in understanding the granularity of management. SaaS management tends to focus on the license level of procurement and expense, with some basic visibility into whether functions are being used and if users are logging in. However, by focusing on UCaaS, the unit economics of usage and cost are driven down to the call level where companies can get a per-call or per-conversation cost basis for their UCaaS investments as well as an understanding of how, when, or if the business is better suited to move from landline or app-based services based on employee preferences and remote work trends.


Based on the emergence of this UCaaS module in context of broader IT and economic trends, Amalgam Insights provides the following recommendations.

First, aggregate the usage and cost management of landline, conferencing, mobility, and relevant voice applications into a single area. The tradeoffs between landline, wireless, endpoint-neutral apps, and embedded voice-related APIs cannot be fully analyzed or rationalized unless the business gains visibility to all voice usage in one area. This view allows companies to see if there are duplicate solutions in place or whether specific solutions have been abandoned or used to a greater extent. This perspective is especially important in light of the tumultuous business environment of the past year where the combination of remote work, work-life balance constraints, time-shifting, process automation, and the increased use of video are leading to fundamental and rapid technology shifts. Changes that used to take five to ten years to occur are now happening in months and this is the new normal.

Second, drive beyond license and account-level economics for your voice, telephony, mobility, and endpoint spend and consider how to analyze cost at the level of calls, transactions, and data across all areas of telephony. As voice has become an app, it is important for companies to treat voice as the data that it has become and to track not only call traffic and minutes of usage, but also bandwidth usage and the security of the endpoints involved in the conferencing and calls being made. To know how much an organization needs to invest in bandwidth and data plans, one must first track telephony on a per-call and per-megabyte level as well as understand which calling, conferencing, and data plans are most appropriate for employees to use.

Finally, as a broader recommendation, Amalgam Insights believes that the combination of public cloud, the shift of telephony from hardware to software, and the trends towards remote work all require telecom expense managers to look beyond carrier management and to consider all of the applications, subscriptions, and services associated with communications and collaboration. The world of telecom expense management provides a mature framework and rigor for cost management, invoice processing, dispute management, vendor management, and contract negotiations that is increasingly needed in the rest of IT. This is a time for CIOs to take best practices from their telecom expense teams and to work on their center of excellence for IT expense management and technology rationalization.

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Market Alert: Zuora Launches Collect AI to Increase Subscription Revenue

On March 17th, 2021, Zuora announced the launch of Zuora Collect AI as an addition to its suite of subscription management applications. As a research firm focused on the practical use of AI in the enterprise and a firm that provides guidance on subscription finance, expense management, invoice processing, and business model management, we explored this announcement to consider what aspects of artificial intelligence have been brought into this product and the business value that can be expected from this launch.

Zuora Collect AI is focused on the value of payment processing and collections. This application analyzes a variety of transaction characteristics to discover top drivers that affect payment and revenue recognition. These characteristics include payment methods such as the bank, credit card, or payment gateway involved as well as client characteristics such as the region, payment value, and history of payment success.

Rather than simply treat all customers as a single payment cohort under the same calendar for all payment processing activities, Zuora Collect AI allows for greater granularity of payment pursuit, transaction channels, and recovery tactics. As a result, Zuora customers can be expected to reduce the dunning rates and delinquent payment status while providing a more efficient dunning process for late payers. In addition, Zuora Collect AI collects data daily from a variety of payment gateways and payment methods to continue updating parameters associated with payment success over time.

This use case is a strong value proposition for machine learning in that it combines the volume of billions of transactions across hundreds of currencies and regions and uses this information to solve a million dollar problem for enterprises. Zuora’s use case fits into the framework for practical, high-value AI that Amalgam Insights has advocated for years.

To elaborate on how this is a scalable issue, consider that Amalgam Insights estimates that the average subscription revenue company faces revenue leakage of 2% when using a billing system and will only recover 40 – 50% of that revenue over time. With better tuned and scheduled payment processes, organizations could gain an extra 10 – 20% in revenue recovery.

This difference would have equated to a 5% – 10% percent increase in net profit in 2020 for the average non-financial services firm that registered a 4% net margin in 2020.

In Zuora’s public-facing documentation, they have documented three organizations (Whitepages, RankingCoach, and Motortrend Group) with results ranging from 10 – 18% increases in payment recovery through the use of Zuora Collect AI compared to manual payment retries and an umbrella policy for retrying payments within collections dunning cohorts.

Although this type of payment analysis could theoretically be done by an on-site data scientist, Amalgam Insights notes that one of the key challenges with expense and payment optimization is the changing nature of the data as new payment types, schedules, quantities, and patterns emerge. Because of these changes, transactional optimization is not served well by creating a one-time model to find optimal payment processing times and patterns for each customer and payment type. At volume, it requires ongoing data intake and monitoring to maintain the efficacy that maximizes revenue optimization which is better served through treating revenue optimization as an ongoing process and service rather than a one-time audit and model creation.

Based on this announcement, Amalgam Insights makes the following recommendation for subscription and usage revenue-based organizations:

First, pursue the use of machine learning to support revenue recovery.

This one activity has the potential to increase your net profit margin by 10% or more even if your organization already has a mature dunning process for subscription customers.

Second, invest in the ongoing maintenance and updating of these models.

To maintain these gains over time, your organization will need to invest in daily data processing and ongoing model optimization to ensure that your payment collection schedules and processes keep up with ongoing trends. Otherwise, Amalgam Insights estimates that the models created will lose their value within 18-24 months and leave the organization back at a point where significant revenue is being unnecessarily lost due to poor dunning and payment processing schedules.

The big takeaway here is that machine learning continues to be brought into the business world to solve the highly transactional analyses that are too time-consuming to be solved through manual analysis or even through traditional data analysis tools. Take advantage of the increasing availability of productized AI and the data associated with digital payments to solve operational issues with million-dollar payback potential.

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