First contact

Interactive Intelligence's Gary Blough sees significant potential for operators to improve their contact centres.

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First contact
By Staff Writer Published  January 27, 2011

With telcos in the region keen to find new revenue streams, Gary Blough, executive vice president of worldwide sales at Interactive Intelligence, is convinced that his company can expand its business in the Middle East and Africa.

CommsMEA: What does Interactive Intelligence do and what does the company hope to achieve in the region?

Gary Blough: Interactive Intelligence develops software designed for the telecommunications industry. Our software is geared towards internal use by organisations to run their IP telephony and PBXs (private branch exchanges). They may be running an IP contact centre or inbound and outbound calling. We also have a product for process automation.

Interactive Intelligence was established in 1994 and has been publicly traded on Nasdaq since 1997. We are owned by the shareholders and employees. There is no venture capital or private equity funding at all, which allows us to choose our own direction without being dictated about where we need to go or what type of decisions we need to make based on someone else’s financial decisions.

Our customers use our products in several ways. A good example is KPN in the Netherlands. They use our software to create efficiencies in their own contact centres for their customers, to automate and create efficiencies. The second way they use it is they have a division called Newtel, which resells our product to other call centres and enterprises throughout the Netherlands, the Benelux and central Europe. The third way that a telco will use our product is to provide the services to their enterprise customers, and that will typically be on a hosted basis.

CommsMEA: Do you see a lot of interest from operators that want to create new revenue streams?

Gary Blough: A lot of telecom operators are trying to provide additional content and additional services rather than just providing the lines, because the cost of the lines as a service is being driven down. Telcos are in search of value added services that can maintain their revenues. We have become one of those value added services.

CommsMEA: How do you work with the operators? Do you train them to install it, or do you manage it all for them?

Gary Blough: Both ways. Typically what we find with the larger operators that we have partnered with is that they want to train up their staff to be able to do the installations and provide the services themselves. We have a full curriculum and courses allowing them to educate themselves completely on the products and on the technical capability, so they can install and maintain these products. For operators that don’t have that as a core part of their business, we can also provide all of those functions through our professional services organisation.

CommsMEA: How much of your business comes from the operators?

Gary Blough: At this stage, I would say, less than 10% of our business comes through the operators themselves, although our largest partner globally last year was Newtel, so there is evidence of the success that can be experienced there with the correct focus and the correct group within the telecoms sector.

CommsMEA: How is business in MEA? Do you have many clients in the region?

Gary Blough: We have always had a good presence in South Africa and we have had a good start in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a leading pan-African operator. The interesting thing about Africa is they have leapfrogged the necessity to put infrastructure in for land-based lines and have moved directly to satellite and cellular based communications.  It is one of the most rapidly growing markets in the world for cellular based communications.

We have only recently started to develop a presence in the Middle East. We opened an office in Dubai about three years ago and we have recently opened a second office in Riyadh. As we grow in the EMEA region, we see the Middle East and Africa as two areas of substantial growth. You will see us bringing additional resources, both technical and marketing into the region.

We currently have four members of staff servicing the Middle East and Africa, two people on the technical side, and two involved in sales and marketing. We plan to double the size of the team in the next 12 months. Outside of the US, we do 80% to 90% of our business through partners, and these partners want to see that there is support in the region for our products. That is one of the reasons why we need a local presence.

CommsMEA: Do you see the share of your business from operators increasing?

Gary Bough: Yes, the operators are becoming increasingly aggressive in trying to find value added services that they can provide. Our product is a prime example of a value added service that they can provide, and one of the things that operators have that makes our product appealing is their customer base, and the data centres and connectivity to be able to provide services in a hosted environment.

We have opened up two of our own data centres in North America and single data centres in the UK, Sydney, and Tokyo, to provide hosted or cloud based contact centre and IP telephony. In areas where we are not present with our own data centre, we will be looking to partner with third party companies.

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