Collaboration Tech Should Become Part of Disaster Recovery Program: Nextiva CIO


“When it comes to UCaaS, most providers have the same list of features. What really matters is the network and platform the provider has built. The coolest feature doesn’t matter if your calls are not going through.”

Six months into the COVID-19 crisis and organizations have realized why it is important to take a proactive rather than a reactive approach to cloud communications. Collaboration software and video conferencing solutions have finally joined the ranks of core IT tools organizations need to compete in today’s fast-paced environment. 

Though much of the narrative is fixated on power players like Microsoft, Cisco or Slack that are racking up users,  pure-play vendors are also heating up the competition. There’s a lot of value at stake that reaches into the millions — industries as diverse as healthcare, education and government agencies have become major consumers, a scenario that wouldn’t have been possible six months ago. The Unified Communications market is definitely on an upswing and is expected to hit $167 billionOpens a new window over the next five years, per Grand View research. 

The magnitude of crisis suggests there’s room for all to seize market opportunities and capture value across industries that are stretching the boundaries of their business with digital capabilities.  As Nextiva’s Josh Lesavoy, Chief Information Officer puts it, from the business perspective, the company has helped hundreds of thousands of users migrate from an in-office to home setting (including 1,000 employees of their own). 

Scottsdale-headquartered Nextiva saw a sizable increase in demand for services from new customers, including state and municipal agencies. And while cloud is becoming ubiquitous in a digital world, Lesavoy reveals IT leaders need to plan ahead for infrastructure maximization from a capacity standpoint. 

In this Q&A, Lesavoy tells how companies can grab more value in the shift to digital and how AI in UCaaS is only beginning to evolve into useful technology. IT leaders take heed, don’t fall for the shiny AI trap unless the data can be turned into smarter decisions.  

Key takeaways from this interview:  

  • When evaluating UCaaS solutions, pay heed to network and platforms 
  • Businesses should work cloud collaboration into disaster and recovery programs  
  • Why legacy network infrastructure is a major technical impediment 

Learn More: Taking Stock of UCaaS Tech Stack: 10 Tips to Build Smarter Roadmap

Here’s the edited transcript of the interview with Josh Lesavoy:

1. Can you tell us about your role at Nextiva and how you shaped the company’s tech backbone?   

I was invited to join Nextiva by the founders in 2007. I became the first employee, which meant there were now four people in the company. When you start at zero, there are no defined “roles” or titles. My primary responsibilities were focused on building the technology and infrastructure. The vision and intent was always to build the most reliable platform in the industry, and that is what we did. We had geographic redundancy before we had paying customers. As the company grew, we continued to invest in scale, performance, and redundancy. One initiative that has been critical to our success was the effort to “bring our network to the customer”. We expanded from two points of presence in the Southwest to eight major metropolitan locations across the country in less than 18 months. 

That meant building out complete replicas of our platform, peering with at least three of the most popular ISPs, and backhauling over several redundant private fiber networks in six cities. We did this using all carrier grade hardware and full redundancy at each site. It was a massive effort completed by a small team of very talented Nextiva engineers. That project was completed more than six years ago. We haven’t rested since, either. Our most recent initiative involves building a next generation private cloud environment to host and support the NextOS platform. The Nextiva Private Cloud (NPC) is a fully virtualized solution that leverages the latest automation and scaling technologies. Being able to design and build NPC from the ground up enables us to create a significantly higher performing and more reliable solution for our NextOS platform and applications than any public cloud solution can provide.

2. Compared to other vendors, how does Nextiva’s solution NextOS provide more control over cloud security, integrations and flexibility in incorporating partner feedback for customizations? 

It takes more than technology to provide real value to customers. NextOS is the best solution in the market because of the intent of the people who designed and built it. Features, security, integrations, and capabilities can be built by most engineers. What separates NextOS from the rest is that we identified the business problem first. Then we started designing and building with the intent to solve it. What we build, how we build it, and how we deliver it all starts by asking ourselves if this is the best way to help our customers. We follow that methodology down to the individual feature level. Even something as simple as the design of an icon has to pass the test of “as a customer, does that make sense to me?”. 

That might sound simple, but many companies start by building something and then hope they find a problem it can solve. Then they keep adding things they think are important without talking to actual customers. That’s not the Nextiva way. 

3. Nextiva leaned into AI and automation capabilities early on with NextOS. Going forward, will there be a greater focus on AI for collaboration? 

The best way to solve a customer’s problem is to prevent it from happening in the first place. That requires a few important ingredients. You need to understand your customers, how they use your products and services, and what their experiences have been. All of that information is in your data. Which means the other ingredient is the technology to understand that data and translate it into meaningful actions. That’s what the intent is behind NextOS. We want to help your business to have the best relationships with your customers as possible. That means using whatever technology is available to increase the number of positive interactions and decrease the number of negative ones. 

Learn More: 7 Reasons Why Unified Communications Can Save Your Small Business Time & Money

4. Do you believe AI will become more pervasive across the entire cloud communications tech stack? 

AI is a very exciting topic and it is just beginning to evolve into actual useful technology. The use cases are nearly unlimited. Simple AI tools to predict and solve technical problems and advanced solutions that constantly improve efficiencies and reliability are all either here today or around the corner. 

5. Large players like Microsoft and Cisco have won the market by unifying their core solutions. How does this move affect traditional UCaaS players? 

There are more than 20 million businesses in the U.S. Although many have common requirements, they’re all unique in one way or another. There is room in this market for everyone.  What enables Nextiva to be successful is our focus on solving a singular problem that a large number of businesses have. The intent of NextOS is not to be an “everything for everybody” solution. 

For us, video, chat, voice, and conferencing are all important channels of communication. But this is only a piece of the puzzle. It is what we do with the data from those channels that creates real value for our customers.

6. Can you share tips on how small and mid-sized technology buyers can avoid the “bells and whistles” in UCaaS evaluation? 

When it comes to UCaaS, most providers have the same list of features. What really matters is the network and platform the provider has built. The coolest feature doesn’t matter if your calls are not going through. Second to that is the support available to you as a customer. 

Make sure you ask questions about what happens after you make your purchase. What is the process for getting you up and running? What happens if things don’t work the way you expect? Most problems are not technical ones. It’s critical to make sure the company you are buying from has a great reputation for standing behind their product.

7. Going by Zoom’s ongoing battle with security, companies of all sizes demand features that balance security and user friendliness. How does Nextiva address this pain point? 

The conflict between security and convenience has existed long before the first key was ever forged. Nextiva has multiple teams dedicated to security throughout the organization. Besides the high level of security we integrate into our standard products, we also offer services on dedicated platforms to meet specific requirements like HIPAA and PCI.  Security and reliability go hand and hand at Nextiva as core tenants in everything we do. 

Learn More: 5 Reasons Businesses Should Tap Cloud to Power CX

8. Do you believe hybrid cloud deployments will rise? 

I think a lot of companies are starting to see how public cloud can end up costing more than private cloud over time. This is changing the value proposition of public cloud and leaving only convenience as a motivator for adoption. That is why we see a number of large public cloud companies starting to launch or acquire other services. One of the hesitations for adopting public cloud was always the security and control aspect. So, yes, I do.

9. Post the crisis, do you expect to see ITDMs prioritizing cloud collaboration solutions in tech budgets? 

I don’t think the pandemic has structurally changed the types of solutions businesses demand. The move to cloud collaboration was already well underway. The pandemic has definitely accelerated that demand. Will the pandemic permanently change the way businesses look at workforce placement, work from home, etc? That is yet to be seen. I would hope more businesses are leveraging cloud collaboration and at least working these solutions into their disaster recovery and emergency response plans.

10. What are some of the bigger changes coming to cloud collaboration space over the next five years and how is Nextiva positioned? 

It is easy to say innovation will solve all problems. While there is some truth to that, the only way to flourish is to innovate with meaningful and thoughtful intent. NextOS is available today, but we are just getting started. The question is not really how will we compete with companies like RingCentral, 8×8, etc. in the future. The question is how effective will Nextiva be in taking advantage of the position in which NextOS is putting us in a market that has yet to be fully defined. The answer is simple. By listening to our customers.

About Opens a new window Josh Opens a new window LesavoyOpens a new window : Josh Lesavoy joined Nextiva in 2007 and currently serves as Chief Information Officer. He is responsible for directing the company’s technology planning and investments. Josh manages the data center operations and all relationships with carriers and vendors. Josh also plays a key role in strategic planning and product development. Josh brings 20+ years of experience in designing, developing, and delivering mission critical voice and data systems to business markets.

About NextivaOpens a new window :  Nextiva is a business communications company dedicated to empowering organizations to manage their communications, productivity, and customer relationships on a truly unified platform.   

About Tech TalkOpens a new window : Tech Talk is a Toolbox Interview Series with notable CTOs and senior executives from around the world. Join us to share your insights and research on where technology and data are heading in the future. This interview series focuses on integrated solutions, research and best practices in the day-to-day work of the tech world.

Do you think AI in UCaaS can deliver real value? Comment below or let us know on LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window or FacebookOpens a new window .  We would love to connect with you!