communication and control systems for ITT (much of which became Alcatel as we know it today) where he was Manager of a communication and control systems division.
At the time of our interview Reynolds was two weeks in to his new executive role and therefore, in his own words, ‘two weeks away from having his internal “this is what we have to do” plans for the company.’
“Looking at the market place it is pretty clear to us that we are in a position where George Zeremba (MD) and his team have done a lot of substantial development in an area that is still a little bit tricky. In particular he had done a lot of work in putting in place the operational support structure that was required to make the fundamental technology of VoIP into a service that you can actually deliver. If you look around the market this is probably what distinguishes AlwaysON from the rest – most of the people that have tried to buy VoIP out of the box have found there are no support services.”
According to Reynolds the support needs to comprise a number of elements.
“First of all you need user self management from provisioning all the way through. If you can’t achieve low costs through the customer being able to do it themselves then a business of this type is not sustainable. Customers can self provision, self order and self maintain for adds moves and changes. By customer, I mean the reseller, though we have a package that the end user can use if they wanted to but in practice the reseller would use on their behalf. Whilst a customer could take on this role many in the SME space have no interest or desire to undertake this. Having a package such as ours means we can go the channel with an offering that lets the reseller manage their own customers and build their own service income streams. We do not intend to put in place the scale of resources to do this work ourselves for the resellers’ customer – you need a system that works as far as possible without human touch.
Secondly is the need to have a range of value added services. Once you put voice inside an IP data stream it is a fairly trivial exercise to add value to that process. I envisage on the fly language translation for example – a feature unimaginable on older phones systems with closed architectures. I’m not suggesting that AlwaysON will be any good at language translation but what I am saying is that once you have IP networks the world of application developers will arrive. IP is the open world we have all been waiting for and in that open world the role of an AlwaysOn will be to bring those applications into a user service model so that we can provide the applications to users without their need to get involved in the depth of technology and without the user necessarily having to care that voice used to be different to data.
I would like to see business applications start to embrace voice as an element rather than as a separate item. Today business applications for voice exist but about the only place you can see them coming together are in the call centre where you see on the desktop an integration from the data world and the voice world. But in the model I envisage everybody’s phone will be enabled to interact their voice to their data; to send their voicemail to their email for example. To go from there to speech to text or through a translator is an adjunct to the model.
To have every call not only recorded but attached to the data file of a customer record so that a contact centre not only has immediate access to all the records of what the customer has done, but also all of the phone calls they have made. With VoIP it is so easy to do because it is an open world.
The market is now ready for VoIP but we still have a channel legacy of up front payments for tin. That legacy of big capital spend and commissions based upon that spend is a model we have to break if we are to sell services in the hosted market. For the SME the hosted market is an irresistible proposition in that it removes the complexities of management from the customer premises and it removes the lockin time that a piece of tin delivers. Three years down the road the PBX is old whereas the hosted service is right up to date.
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