Oak in 2008

April 09th, 2008 12:00am | Call LoggingCall RecordingPartnerships

Providing real choice in the enterprise marketplace...

Oak, one of the best-known names in call billing, logging, recording and CTI solutions moved into 2008 with a renewed commitment to the indirect channel, where it has relationships with over 1000 VARs and resellers. Like most of its reseller partners, Oak has an eye on the enterprise market – so what does that mean for the channel?

Last year, the company commissioned a thorough, independent business review to take an objective view on whether its technical and commercial offers continue to be aligned with the changing business needs and aspirations of its reseller partners. As a result, Oak is pro-actively identifying potential for more strategic, collaborative sales campaigns that support its 2008 focus on growing sales of its enterprise and VoIP call recording and CTI products.

“We know that staying in business long term is achieved through constant development and improvement, so it was important to step back from the day to day running of the business and take a longer, objective view of what we are doing“ said Oak joint founder and CEO Phil Reynolds.

“We’ve got a team of 10 full-time developers and will continue to produce superior products, but recognise that technical excellence alone is not enough. We must keep the commercial relationships right – and recognize how the commercial needs of businesses in the channel are changing.”

Working with Neil Moulton’s new consultancy Chaucer Channel Solutions, Oak has addressed the key question of what it needs to do to keep resellers happy and to build revenues with them. Neil, well known and respected throughout the channel after many years working on the manufacturer side with Siemens and, more recently, in distribution with Westcon, was ideally placed to conduct market research for Oak among business owners and senior managers of resellers.

“When you drill down, many of the so-called channel strategies in our marketplace are little more than volume-based commission schemes,” said Reynolds. “Our partners have enough on their plates in meeting customers expectations: the VoIP floodgates are open. Desktop integration is filtering down to the SMB marketplace and the richer pickings of the medium and enterprise markets can be elusive. It’s a hugely competitive marketplace out there - the last thing resellers need is supplier relationship that doesn’t recognize the need for flexibility and genuine support.” 

Oak in the medium and enterprise markets


Oak recognises the need to partner resellers as they move beyond the SME arena and attack the enterprise market and has addressed this with ProVoice IP and ProVoice Enterprise call recording solutions and the SmartApplications suite for automated dialing and business database integration. It clearly has the products in place but not yet, perhaps, broad recognition of its enterprise market capabilities.

So what makes Oak the developer different from any other vendor and an attractive alternative bundled applications? 

The products

Enterprise call recording:


Last year, Oak announced the release of its new call recording platform ProVoice 4.0. This new software platform, developed in-house at Oak, addresses the needs of both the SME and Enterprise markets with one reseller solution. ”Whether it’s 4 channels or 4000 the scalable ProVoice 4.0 solution delivers,” says Phil Reynolds

ProVoice 4.0 can record telephone calls on analog and digital trunks, on analog and digital extensions and on VoIP extensions all in one box. The reseller simply needs to identify what needs to be recorded and the relevant ProVoice PCI cards added to the PC, then add ProVoice 4.0 and you’re up and running. If it’s a simple SME solution that’s required then again just simply select the relevant ProVoice DX USB unit and add ProVoice 4.0.

ProVoice 4.0 has a new XML based web front end that allows for search and playback through the web interface and a powerful SQL database backend which means that it’s robust and expands as the end users needs grow.

ProVoice 4.0 integrates with a large number of PABX’s using CTI, TAPI and SMDR links which allow each call recording to have enhanced search information associated with it thus allowing individual call recordings to be found with ease. It’s even possible to have user definable fields associated with a call such as a campaign name.

ProVoice 4.0 has additional modules for Agent Evaluation and Agent Hotdesking which are integrated into the web front end. 

IP call recording:


Development work on Oak’s ProVoice IP call recording application for IP PBX’s and trunks will be continuous to ensure that supports emerging audio signaling protocols and their extensions as they emerge.

“We believe that the ProVoice family is a superior offering in call recording and will ensure that its ongoing development enables all VoIP users to benefit from its proven features,” says Phil Reynolds.

"Right now, G.711 is best for LAN applications within a building and Internet-based communication between sites would tend to use either G.729 or G.723 - ProVoice IP covers all of these and more the specialised protocols.

“We’ve made a large investment in this new development which shows our continuing commitment to the channel. We believe the call recording market is set for further growth and that our channel partners will reap the rewards of our ongoing investment” 

Contact centre:


Oak was a pioneer of CTI and it SmartApplications suite has now evolved to provide an ‘off the shelf’ integration with all of the commonly used business databases enabling customers to deliver faster, more-personal customer service. The basic of CTI are well known: customers can streamline the way they handle inbound and outbound calls with customer records automatically popped onto agents’ screens.

This Spring’s addition of SmartDial intelligent dialling enables users to set up managed campaigns in minutes, with quick, simple data capture ensuring that agents spend more time talking and less time on routine administration.

SmartDial is easy to use and flexible with all of an agent's activities driven by on-screen prompts and outcome scripts. Options for campaign and agent-centric reports enable users to monitor campaigns as they happen - when there is still time to take corrective action to optimise outcomes.

The partnerships


Oak is a market leader. It has sold over 20,000 software licences and has a unique perspective on the marketplace. It has a sophisticated support and training infrastructure and because it is still a privately-owned company – as are most of its partners – it makes decisions quickly with no imperative to impose a corporate norm in its reseller relationships.

“Put it this way,” said joint founder and CEO James Emm “We’ve been around long enough to see an awful lot of people who knew it all come and go,” he adds

Naturally he declines to name names – but reminds us of the open invitation to visit the Oak stand at Convergence Summit North where he’ll be more than happy to chew the fat. While he is happy to acknowledge having gleaned many a gem of wisdom from the pronouncements of transient management teams of many vendors, Emm says that he and co-founder Reynolds have never doubted that Oak’s policy of business basics has served them, and their customers well:

“Listen to the customers, reinvest in product development, deal with everyone honestly - and listen to the customers again,” he says.

But do the customers tell you what they think or what you want to hear? Ask anyone in the industry about Emm and Reynolds, and you’re unlikely to hear a bad word said about them. That’s why a third party in the shape of Neil Moulton of Chaucer Channel Services was invaluable in drawing an accurate picture of what the market thinks of Oak. So what did he discover?

The Oak channel has been established over many years on the good reputation of the organisation to deliver innovative products at competitive prices. These solutions have kept pace with market developments, enabling resellers to use new technology, particularly IP, to expand their offers to the end user. Often, as with CTI, Oak has been at the forefront of pushing these technologies in advance of mass market adoption.

The organisation’s sales reputation is largely good, with the consensus that account management is professionally delivered, and that Oak are trusted and are “nice” people to do business with. Some historical service related issues that had negatively impacted relations with some customers in the survey group were identified, as was the fact that these are now historical and have been successfully resolved. “But the marketplace has a long memory and we have learned our lessons well ” says Emm.

However, the channel’s general perception of Oak’s market positioning is not currently of a partner for developing business into the higher-end mid and enterprise markets it aspires to.

“Yet we do have the products in place, and we are willing to explore the commercial models to ‘free’ resellers bundled solutions,” says Emm. “It’s now our job to get out there and to keep telling people about the whole portfolio so they can evaluate the competitive opportunity objectively.”

One of the most encouraging findings of the oak research was that resellers WANT to hear about the wider Oak offering and would like to do more business with Oak: that’s what 20 years investment in good business basics will buy you. By coupling that goodwill with consistently good products, Oak will stay ahead.