An Interview with GENBAND by Zia Askari in Los Angeles, USA | ChannelDrive.in
As enterprise community looks up to increase meaningful interactions with their customer base – they must develop a flexible UC driven communications fabric that can empower their customers to take informed business decisions – when they want, how they want and where they want. This is where GENBAND is positioning its UC innovations and reinventing the game for enterprise customers.
At the company’s annual mega event – Perspectives17 in Los Angeles – Greg Zweig, Director of Solutions Marketing, GENBAND interacts with Zia Askari from ChannelDrive.in about the way GENBAND is bringing innovations to the Unified Communications space and helping CSPs, enterprise achieve growth at a rapid pace.
How has the Unified Communications space evolved in recent years?
To some extent the term has become a shadow of itself. Users of Facetime or What’s App or countless other communications apps don’t refer to them as UC apps but certainly today’s “typical” communications tools use all the elements that have traditionally been defined within UC (IM, presence, voice, video, sharing). Some might say that users’ lack of awareness of the technology is the most telling sign of adoption and acceptance.
Ironically, businesses, the primary target of UC, have been the slowest to adopt. Often, they have been held back by integration/technology challenges, regulatory requirements and institutional inertia. As we move forward it seems likely that business UC will evolve to better meet the needs of virtual groups and teams – including embedding artificial intelligence to help us sort through all of the content these groups generate.
It’s a rational response to work environments that are frequently dispersed across multiple continents and time zones. We can also expect communications services to become embedded services within business tool versus remaining as discrete clients. Rest APIs and WebRTC make it practical to put UC services in almost any business tool, without a massive development effort.
Greg Zweig, Director of Solutions Marketing, GENBAND
And, as we put more of our communications and work output into more tools, across more environments, it also stands to reason that CIOs will seek out UC tools that assure privacy and security.
How is UC changing to accommodate the rapid changes in converged devices and more importantly users’ habits towards mobility?
One of the most promising changes for UC is coming in the next 90 days, the addition of WebRTC support in Safari 11. With Apple supporting WebRTC, IE users will be the only users left out of the WebRTC party. Practically speaking, it means it will finally be possible to deliver UC services without a client.
WebRTC is great enabler of UC as it eliminates one of the biggest barriers, loading a use case specific app or client. The “Apple gap” has sometimes made it easy to marginalize WebRTC, however with Apple onboard we should see a reinvigoration of customer facing UC tools and a new set of efforts to improve interoperability. Expect to see a major push to UC-enable websites (particularly around customer care) in 2018.
All that said, the entire communications industry still has to prove it can deliver compelling mobile UC apps that can simultaneously manage complex call behaviors, powerful sharing and sophisticated messaging tools. Some of that is a result of shortcomings in mobile operating systems (Apple’s plan to expose the file system in the iPad is great example of a change that will soon help).
But the reality is that a fair number of the solutions in the market still require a Windows PC to deliver a sophisticated UC experience. We don’t think our solutions are perfect, but we appreciate the need and are heavily investing in our unique Omni technology to build a more uniform UC experience across devices. Omni brings together client container technology, embedded browsers and WebRTC-based signaling and media to help overcome many of the common shortfalls of traditional UC clients.
How does Kandy look at the opportunities in this ever-changing UC space? What are some of Kandy’s offerings in the space and how do they address key issues and strengthen enterprise productivity?
As UC gets more sophisticated and embedded in a wider variety of apps the use of cloud-based services and open APIs makes more and more sense. In essence, we see the use cases for Kandy growing every day.
Kandy has several different offers to directly target the space, depending on the use case:
Kandy Business Solutions (KBS) offers traditional hosted PBX and UC technology and then layers on top compelling UC services. These include the ability to dynamically integrate our Smart Office UC clients with third party business apps. Administrators can logon to the KBS portal and add custom services to the clients. The next time the user logs in they will see new icons on the side of the client that can launch new services such as integration into business apps (CRM tools, web services, support tickets, etc.) In addition, Kandy Business offer pre-packaged applications that we call Kandy Wrappers, which make it easy for businesses to communications-enable their website or add chat, video or screen share to a traditional call center in a ready to deploy app.
Kandy Platform delivers a compelling set of APIs and SDKs that organizations can use to empower developers to extend their existing business processes with UC elements. The toolset makes it cost-effective for a traditional web developer to add one or multiple UC services – depending on the need or use case.
What is your business strategy to target different verticals in the UC space? What kind of partner ecosystem do you work with?
Embedding UC into vertical apps has clear ROI and can make UC adoption far easier to justify. So, it’s no wonder verticals are a hot discussion across multiple technology segments (not just UC). Unfortunately, creating vertical-specific offers often sounds better on paper than in real life.
It’s great to tout an ecosystem but that is actually a symptom of the core issue. If the only way to integrate is for the UC vendor to create a business partnership with the business process software vendor, it’s going to exclude a tremendous number of organizations. What about a hospital’s home grown patient management system or a manufacturer’s custom assembly line software – they will never be served in that model. And how often do we see ecosystem partners go their separate ways – leaving the customers behind?
We’ve taken a different approach. Our focus on standards, open APIs and pre-packaged apps (we call them Kandy Wrappers) doesn’t assume a specific platform. The goal is to make it cost-effective to embed communications into a web page or in a mobile app or to mash-up a traditional UC client with a few key aspects of a business app. Not only does it appeal to a wider audience, it is also more likely to stand the test of time when one or more of the pieces changes (vendor changes, technology changes, etc.).
How do you differentiate your offerings in today’s highly competitive marketplace? What are some of the big innovations that customers can expect from GENBAND/Kandy?
Differentiation is really about creating value for our customers. Some of that comes from pure innovation and some of it comes from focusing on solving common problems. While many of our competitors continue to position proprietary solutions we’ve focused on leveraging industry standards like SIP, WebRTC and REST. Standards create more choices and more competition, creating better value and lower costs. They also reduce the risk of a UC investment becoming obsolete because a vendor leaves the market (we’ve already seen that several times in 2017).
At the same time we never stop innovating. We’ve already announced our Digital Cognitive Agent that uses Watson chatbot technology to level off-load first level contact center inquiries and we expect to leverage even more cognitive tools moving forward.
We already leverage our Omni technology for Smart Office clients, RTC for Skype for Business clients and our Realtime Communication Client for IBM. Expect to see more of those mash-ups between common business tools and UC services moving forward. And of course, look for new Kandy Wrappers.
The author was hosted in Los Angeles by GENBAND to attend Perspectives17.