IDC

October 2021

Worldwide General-Purpose Conversational
AI Platforms 2021 Vendor Assessment

David Schubmehl

David Schubmehl

Research Vice President, Conversational Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Knowledge Discovery

Hayley Sutherland

Hayley Sutherland

Senior Research Analyst, Conversational AI & Intelligent Knowledge Discovery

Product Type:
IDC: MarketScape
This Excerpt Features: Avaamo

IDC MarketScape Worldwide General-Purpose Conversational AI Platforms Vendor Assessment

Capabilities Strategies Participants Contenders Major Players Leaders

Leaders

Amelia

AvaamoFeatured Vendor

Cognigy

IBM

Kore.ai

Microsoft

Oracle

Verint

Major Players

Google

Nuance

Omilia

Avaya

Boost.ai

Alibaba

Contenders

Inbenta

IDC MarketScape Methodology

IDC Opinion

Conversation is a part of daily life. Humans use conversation to answer questions, solve problems, and interact with other human beings. In today’s enterprises, people use conversation to find out how to fix their laptops, how to find out about the new job opening, or to find out why a package hasn’t been delivered. Conversation is a key component for the IT help desk, human resources, sales department, and the customer service department and has been an increasingly costly part of the enterprise. For years, organizations have wished for “virtual” or “digital” assistants that could carry some of this conversational load. The good news is that recent breakthroughs and improvements in speech recognition, natural language processing/natural language understanding (NLU), and conversational artificial intelligence are making that wish come true for an ever increasing number of organizations.

Over the past three to five years, due to advances in deep and machine learning, conversational artificial intelligence (AI) applications can understand and respond to conversation in all its various forms, including telephony, voice, text messaging, web messaging, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger. The conversational AI software platforms that IDC has evaluated as part of this IDC MarketScape have shown that organizations can develop and deploy sophisticated AI-based conversational agents that can interact with employees, customers, consumers, and the public at large to answer their questions, help them conduct transactions, and provide a wide range of self-service that wasn’t possible only a few years ago.

As part of this evaluation, IDC spoke with dozens of organizations using these conversational AI software platforms to develop and deploy applications that are providing great customer and employee service and generating significant return on investment. Among the technology buyers IDC spoke with, we noted a range of maturity in implementations of conversational AI, from point solutions to enterprisewide deployments. If your organization is not using or evaluating conversational AI applications, it should be. 

The technologies behind these conversational AI software platforms are good and getting better by the day, but that shouldn’t stop organizations from evaluating and implementing these solutions as soon as they can. Conversational AI tools and technologies are rapidly evolving, and new vendors, products, technical innovations, and acquisitions are a frequent occurrence. General-purpose conversational AI platforms can be used for a broad set of use cases, and these platforms can vary greatly in terms of prepackaged offerings and templates, low-code/no-code tools for business analysts and line-of-business (LOB) subject matter experts, and customizability/developer tools. For example, some organizations will benefit from vendors that offer low-code/no-code tools and other features that can eliminate the need for one or more of the initial three steps in the conversational AI-build process (see Figure 2). Other organizations will need the ability to work directly with one or more of these areas to customize aspects such as language, conversation flows, and workflows.

Figure 2: Conversational AI-Build Process Steps

Source: IDC, 2021

Tech Buyer Advice

IDC offers the following advice to technology buyers considering conversational AI:

  • Assess your starting point. If your organization is new to conversational AI or embarking on a new use case or channel, decide up front how you will train and develop the system, educate users, and measure success. Consider the following questions:
    • Does the organization already have a knowledge base and/or archive of past conversations that can be used for training? If not, will the vendor or public sources provide adequate training data?
    • To what extent will you want to use in-house resources for training and development versus having the vendor manage this for you? Depending on your organization, you may want to consider working with the vendor to train internal resources.
    • How important is customizability (i.e., the ability for in-house developers to tinker directly with code to make changes wherever they see fit) versus low code/no code (i.e., tools that often include a GUI and are aimed at enabling business analysts and LOB experts to develop with little to no coding expertise)? While some platforms offer both, there are also a number that focus on one of these over the other. Buyers should also be aware that so-called “low code/no code” tools may vary in terms of user-friendliness for those with no developer experience or expertise. Many vendors will offer training on these tools where/as needed. 
  • Develop requirements. Regardless of whether you are focused on voice- or text-based channels, consider the type of knowledge, interactions, question answering, and task completion that the conversational AI application will need to handle. Important questions to ask include:
    • What languages will the platform need to support? How flexible will it need to be in moving between languages?
    • What channels of interaction are most important for users? 
    • How domain specific will the application need to be? How accurate will it need to be on domain-specific terms?
    • What other back-end systems will the application need to connect with to answer questions and complete tasks?
  • Decide what reporting capabilities you want. Consider whether and what reporting capabilities you will need to both monitor conversational AI performance and build on the capabilities of the conversational AI. Some of the buyers IDC spoke with wished they had spent more time up front ensuring they could use reporting and analytics to capitalize on the rich conversational data generated by user interactions with conversational AI.
  • Test conversational AI in one area, then embrace across the enterprise. General-purpose conversational AI systems can provide value across a variety of internal-facing and external-facing use cases. These systems can be costly and time consuming to develop, so it is worth considering early how you will build on initial use cases and adjust business processes to expand the reach of your conversational AI investment.

Featured Vendor

After a thorough evaluation of Avaamo’s strategies and capabilities, IDC has positioned the company in the Leaders category in this 2021 IDC MarketScape for worldwide conversational artificial intelligence software platforms for general-purpose use cases. 

Avaamo is a provider of conversational AI technologies and services for developing conversational AI applications. It offers out-of-the-box support for a wide variety of channels, including phone, email, and collaboration applications such as Microsoft Teams and Slack. It offers a full set of APIs, low-code tools, and developer capabilities for building conversational AI applications. Its product, the Avaamo Conversational AI platform, includes a visual drag-and-drop interface for building integrated workflows, and its Avaamo Conversational IVR can work with existing contact center technologies. Avaamo is headquartered in Los Altos, California, with three additional offices worldwide and is privately owned.

Quick facts about Avaamo include: 

  • Year founded: 2014 
  • Total number of employees: 150+
  • Total number of clients: 150+ 
  • Globalization: Supports sales and deployments globally with offices in the United States and India and multilingual support for over 70 languages 
  • Industry focus: Manufacturing, retail, professional services, transportation, utilities, telecommunications, software, healthcare, financial services (including banking, insurance, and investment), and education
  • Deployment options: Avaamo’s platform built for cloud-based multitenant deployments; Avaamo’s conversational AI applications deployed on premises, via public cloud or private cloud, or a hybrid
  • Pricing model: Annual or multi-annual subscription model, based on a variety of consumption models depending on customer needs and preferences 
  • Partner ecosystem: 25+ partners including Intel, UiPath, Automation Anywhere, Accenture, Wipro, Tech Mahindra, and Ericsson 

Strengths

  • Strong technology support: Avaamo has developed very strong natural language processing capabilities as well as speech recognition capabilities for deploying conversational AI applications across a variety of text- and voice-based channels. Its multilingual capabilities include over 70 languages, including “hybrid” languages. In addition to its own developer and low-code tools, Avaamo also offers a “skill store” where customers can choose from thousands of prebuilt skills provided by Avaamo and its partners. 
  • Broad-based channel capabilities: Avaamo supports a wide range of digital and voice-based channels out of the box, including phone, SIP, text messaging/SMS, rich web chat, email, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack, and Microsoft Teams.

Challenges

  • Highly competitive market: Avaamo faces competition from vendors with strong domain expertise and/or security and compliance capabilities for sensitive on-premises deployments. To remain competitive in this market, Avaamo should continue to keep an eye on what specific customer segments need.
  • Global market visibility: Avaamo is currently competing in a very crowded market space with literally hundreds of vendors. Avaamo will need to increase its marketing and partnering activities, especially in the United States, to ensure that potential customers are aware of its products and offerings. 

Consider Avaamo When

Consider Avaamo if you are looking for strong multilingual and omni-channel support, including replacing or upgrading your IVR.

Find out more about Avaamo here.

Methodology

IDC MarketScape Vendor Inclusion Criteria

The criteria used for the selection of IT suppliers that were evaluated are the following:

  • The offering should be commercially available for use as a single product family or a suite of services and purchased by customers for at least one year. IDC will also consider and include new product features and capabilities introduced through the calendar year 2021 as part of vendor strategy evaluation. In addition, IDC will consider these features as part of its capabilities evaluation if there is sufficient customer adoption and use for IDC to properly evaluate them. 
  • It must have the ability to develop conversational AI services that organizations can deploy and/or also can include in their enterprise applications. 
  • The product must have at least 50 customers that have used this solution/service in production in calendar year 2020.
  • The product must be offered and available on a worldwide basis.
  • The offering must include capabilities and APIs for creating, developing, and deploying conversational artificial intelligence solutions. 
  • The ideal offering should include the following capabilities: 
    • Support multiple channels.
    • Offer multilingual support.
    • Offer customized language/dialog support.
    • Integrate with enterprise applications.
  • It must have achieved at least $10 million in software revenue from the product/service in calendar year 2020.

Reading an IDC MarketScape Graph

  • For the purposes of this analysis, IDC divided potential key measures for success into two primary categories: capabilities and strategies. 
  • Positioning on the y-axis reflects the vendor’s current capabilities and menu of services and how well aligned the vendor is to customer needs. The capabilities category focuses on the capabilities of the company and product today, here and now. Under this category, IDC analysts will look at how well a vendor is building/delivering capabilities that enable it to execute its chosen strategy in the market.
  • Positioning on the x-axis, or strategies axis, indicates how well the vendor’s future strategy aligns with what customers will require in three to five years. The strategies category focuses on high-level decisions and underlying assumptions about offerings, customer segments, and business and go-to-market plans for the next three to five years.
  • The size of the individual vendor markers in the IDC MarketScape represents the market share of each individual vendor within the specific market segment being assessed. 

IDC MarketScape Methodology

IDC MarketScape criteria selection, weightings, and vendor scores represent well-researched IDC judgment about the market and specific vendors. IDC analysts tailor the range of standard characteristics by which vendors are measured through structured discussions, surveys, and interviews with market leaders, participants, and end users. Market weightings are based on user interviews, buyer surveys, and the input of IDC experts in each market. IDC analysts base individual vendor scores, and ultimately vendor positions on the IDC MarketScape, on detailed surveys and interviews with the vendors, publicly available information, and end-user experiences in an effort to provide an accurate and consistent assessment of each vendor’s characteristics, behavior, and capability.

Market Definition

  • Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) refers to product/services that are used to develop conversational solutions, like chatbots or voice assistants, which users can talk to via a text- and/or voice-based interface. They use large volumes of data, machine learning, and natural language processing to help imitate human interactions, recognizing speech and/or text inputs and translating their meanings across various languages. Conversational AI products/services are used by organizations to create solutions that can communicate like a human by recognizing speech and/or text, understanding intent, deciphering different languages, and responding in a way that mimics human conversation. This evaluation is focused on those conversational AI platforms that can create conversational AI applications for a wide variety of use cases.

Related Research

  • Worldwide Conversational AI Tools and Technologies Forecast, 2021–2025 (IDC #US48051121, July 2021)
  • Worldwide Conversational AI Tools and Technologies Market Shares, 2020: Conversational AI Ramps Up (IDC #US47993321, June 2021)
  • Creating and Deploying Conversational Artificial Intelligence Interfaces (IDC #US47571221, April 2021)
  • IDC Market Glance: Conversational Artificial Intelligence Technologies, 1Q21 (IDC #US47540221, March 2021)
  • IDC PlanScape: Conversational Artificial Intelligence (IDC #US47354821, March 2021)
  • How Important Are Voice-Based Interfaces for Contactless Experiences in the Era of COVID-19? (IDC #US46855320, September 2020)
  • Conversational AI in the Era of COVID-19 (IDC #US46212119, April 2020)
  • Smart Assistants: Moving Digital Assistance and Worker Augmentation from the Consumer to the Enterprise (IDC #US45674319, December 2019)

IDC MarketScape: Worldwide General-Purpose Conversational AI Platforms 2021 Vendor Assessment

A vendor assessment of the conversational artificial intelligence (AI) software platforms market for general purpose