The unveiling reprints a paradigm shift for Oak and Comms Business was keen to understand the thinking behind the strategy. Having invested £1m in researching, developing and launching the new Evolve range, Phil Reynolds, joint CEO at the communications management market leader, was happy to expand on what he describes as ‘the big one’
“This is unquestionably the biggest launch in Oak's 30 year history. We have never been more focussed and more excited about any software product we’ve ever developed and that includes our multi-award winning RecordX,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds and his son David have spent months building the new Evolve solutions from their respective bases in Poole and Toronto, Canada.
“Since 1985 I have been writing market leading communications management software which is used by millions of end users across the globe. This has been combined with David’s in depth technical skills and we have created something very unique. I honestly believe this launch will have an impact on the telecoms world for many years to come. This is the big one.”
Evolve is a brand new web based product that incorporates Evolve Report, a real-time call centre reporting solution and Evolve Record, a real-time call recording solution.
“If you are an ambitious reseller looking for a real-time scalable call recording solution or a state-of-the-art drill down cradle to grave reporting solution, then Evolve will win you a lot of profitable business,” claimed Reynolds.
The solution has a fully web based and mobile front end and a sophisticated back end that sits on a Windows platform. According to Reynolds, the software can process millions of calls instantly with its advanced database indexing and it uses a range of CTI connections for real-time call handling and recording.
“It's very secure and uses a very powerful policy system to manage access to all parts of Evolve, yet it still remains unbelievably user-friendly due in part to having dedicated user experience designers as part of the development team. With a team approaching ten developers on Evolve we also see further rapid development to meet all future needs of our resellers.”
In its 30 year history, Oak has always focused on serving SME customers via channel partners, but Reynolds is confident they can move seamlessly into mid-market opportunities with their help.
“It would be a little too simplistic to suggest that SME needs are simple and mid-market needs more complex, but there’s a basic truth within.
“What is probably more relevant is the degree of complexity within the solution rather than the size of the switch. What’s also very apparent is that the cost of the solution and the amount an end user is willing to pay, is not directly related to the size of the switch but much more to the needs of the business.
“An SME business will spend £30,000 on a solution if it solves a big problem for them. And these higher value sales will have to be tailored to the exact needs of the end user’s business.
“So, we now have more sophisticated and bespoke solutions for any business and also off-the-shelf solutions where simple and cost effectiveness is the order of the day.”
Historically, Oak could be branded as risk averse having myopically focused on the the SME reseller market for so long, but the company’s expansion into the mid-market and contact centre business sectors is purely market-led, as Reynolds explained.
“Resellers were once SME only, but that is no longer the case. Switch manufacturers now offer solutions that don’t stop at 20, 50 or 100 extensions but expand to 500 to 1000 extensions and beyond on the same platform. The knowledge and skill set needed to sell and support the 50 extension solution has now become transferable to much larger opportunities.
“We want to highlight that our solutions are also expandable in the same way, not just that they can record or report on larger or more sophisticated solutions, but that they have been enhanced to cater for the new demands.”
Reynolds is therefore keen to widen the view of reseller partners and think of Oak as a much broader market supplier.
“We still want partners to regard us as SME focused because having a large number of small sales every month is a great business model, but we want to highlight that we can now help resellers address mid-market opportunities.
“We now have two product ranges, one called Advance and one called Evolve. The Advance range is focused on call recording, call reporting and CRM integration for every business type. Evolve offers the same modules of Record, Report and Integrate but is focussed on call centre reporting and advanced real-time business applications.
“In some ways Advance is our SME product and Evolve our mid-market product, but of course there is always an overlap where some small companies want a large degree of real-time reporting and sophistication found in Evolve and some large companies want a range of cost, response and traffic reports found in Advance.
“Our largest single site using Advance Report has 7000 extensions and we have multi-site systems with up to 100 remote sites. Evolve is in use in managing call centres with as few as five agents.
“In reality, if customers want a powerful call logging system they’ll buy Advance Report and if they want a powerful call centre management solution they’ll buy Evolve Report. When it comes to call recording it’s a much simpler choice, Advance Record is your standard product and Evolve Record is the more advanced product with mid-market features such as speech analytics, quality measurement, and more complex CTI/TAPI integrations to the telephone system.”
Oak’s Evolve solution started life as a complex call centre management solution for the Avaya IP Office.
“It’s positioning was almost self-determined,” said Reynolds.
“We’ve taken that to the next level by adding not just call centre functionality but more sophisticated options for real-time business applications. It was initially designed to address the needs of the call centre market, but it quickly became apparent that it could also handle larger more complex real-time business opportunities.
“In version 2.0 we've added advanced real-time call recording functionality, drill down cradle to grave reporting, a powerful dashboard, a real-time wallboard, and real-time fraud detection. In essence we've added advanced functionality to address the mid- market.”
Fundamental to Oak’s planning is giving resellers the confidence and knowledge they will need to sell to larger organisations.
“We always aim to upskill our current partners as well as look for other partners who might be vertical market focussed. We're planning a roadshow across the UK to promote both the Evolve Business Edition as well as the Call Centre Edition. This will give all our partners the chance to see the product first hand and of course if we can attract a few new resellers along the way that would be great.”
Reynolds says individual Oak account managers and specialist technical support people will be on hand to assist both the Oak sales team and its resellers in driving the more complex mid-market opportunities which he believes are growing fast.
“We see a growing demand for larger bespoke call recording solutions which is a perfect fit for Evolve 2.0 and our resellers. If an end user opportunity needs speech analytics, quality management, multi-platform playback, mobile access, enhanced security, scalability, PCI compliance, and a state of the art user experience then Evolve meets these demands and more.
“The call centre and real-time reporting opportunities will also offer high value sales opportunities. End users are looking for solutions that integrate with their business and are prepared to pay top prices to get it. A fully integrated business solution saves so much time and allows companies to attract and process more sales and provide a better service to its customer. The return on investment is always assured.”
Reynolds maintains that although Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) has been around for a very long time it’s only been used in earnest by a handful of end users. This means that resellers have the opportunity to unlock the potential of a huge raft of news sales that focus on business performance in real-time as opposed to the more normal historic analysis of calls.
“With this mind, as part of our ongoing reseller training program, we’ll be showing resellers how to get the most from the telephone systems they sell in terms of value-added and solution type sales, as well as uncovering some of the mystery that surrounds CTI and TAPI.”
And in the background, channel partners can be assured of Oak’s support services which according to Reynolds remain second to none.
“We have always been a channel-only sales company. Oak’s infrastructure is totally geared to channel sales which includes 10 sales staff on the road visiting resellers all over the country, a large helpdesk to field resellers support calls as well as a regularly updated reseller web portal. Our product pricing structure is geared to ensuring resellers can maximise the profit on every sales opportunity.
“We even have regular Google marketing campaigns to build demand further for the Oak brand and generate regular leads for our channel partners.
“Oak has always offered an installation service for all of its products. With new products like Evolve we’ve now extended that to include project management and bespoke software development. This allows new dealers to be promoting and selling our products from day one and, as they grow and take on more staff, they can install the products themselves. We even train dealer engineering staff on all of our products.
“Unlike many of our competitors we invest heavily in R&D. In the last two years alone we’ve spent nearly £1M on software development, and if you look at the technology in the new Evolve range it’s easy to see where the money has gone.
“These products are not just sold on day one and forgotten about, they are continually updated and it’s these updates and new features that are available as part of an annual software assurance and support agreement.”