Oak's product family continues to Evolve
Six months on from Oak's launch of its on line real-time comms management solution Evolve, Comms Dealer caught up with joint CEO Phillip Reynolds to assess how the channel has reacted to an industry game changer.
The management and analysis of voice calls via a value-added ‘bolt on' to the most popular telephone systems has been the lifeblood of Oak Telecom for almost 30 years. Oak's development of a Microsoft Windows-based solution was a major step forward in the nineties and given the explosion of online business monitoring in recent years it was no surprise early last Autumn when Oak unveiled its totally web-based solution, Evolve. Reynolds' enthusiasm for the solution is palpable but he readily admits to some paternal bias as his son David has masterminded the Evolve project from day one. So, was it a case of ‘come on Dad smell the coffee, the world's going online!'?
"It wasn't exactly like that as I have been developing web-based solutions for years, but David was a key driver," said Reynolds. "I needed somebody with a younger vision who already had an understanding of call management, but also knew how the web and device integration worked. Family prejudice aside, he was the perfect man for the job."
David Reynolds actually started developing software for telecoms back in 1998. He wrote the award winning RecordX call recorder in 2008 and started building Evolve in 2011. He is now based at Oak's office in Canada and works alongside William Emm, the son of Oak joint CEO James Emm, so effectively the two sons are building a doppelganger of Oak ‘across the pond'. "To accelerate the growth of Evolve into new markets we set up a dedicated team that spans both Canada and the UK," added Reynolds. "We love to invest every year in R&D to make existing products better and to create new products like Evolve and it's working well. I guess because we're all ‘family' we share the same goals and work values."
Evolve combines leading-edge telephony, Internet, database and mobile technologies in a single solution that does everything through the web. Fundamentally, it works with any operating system and on any communications device including tablets for maximum flexibility. "Business is increasingly carried out remotely, on the hoof, on tablets and smartphones, in homes and at restaurant tables," said Reynolds. "We believe that today's technology must be as flexible and mobile as we are. Evolve uses CTI technology to give managers and supervisors a real-time, bespoke overview of their business wherever they are, using whatever device they have to hand. It works on Apple Macs as well as PCs, on a personal tablet in Starbucks and your laptop at the dining table. Fully interactive, neither vital communication nor management responsibilities are compromised as supervisors can handle all calls, prioritise them, record them, listen to them, intervene with them, transfer them, and even receive them!
"There are a number of software solutions out there to help businesses manage their informal call centres, but many are highly priced, difficult to use and don't have fully featured web interfaces or interactive control over calls and queues from a browser."
Clearly, giving business managers the opportunity to view what's happening at that very moment in their business whenever they want and wherever they are in the world, is key to its success and Reynolds claims channel and customer feedback has been excellent. "The product has already been chosen to replace current market leading products in many cases and is seen as more usable and more affordable," he added. "In today's world, secure Internet access is a must to any next generation product. By being able to access up-to-the-second stats about your call centre from anywhere with any device is seen as a big positive.
"Our reseller customers particularly like Evolve's flexibility. It means they can design call centre wallboards that are tailored to their business, they can run a large range of reports and they can use the cradle to grave reporting to trace call activity through their business. It can adapt to any type of business and the way any business operates."
Reynolds says resellers can earn good margins from Evolve as it represents a new product folio that will help them achieve higher sales and higher profits. "We've launched many great products over the years such as RecordX and ReportX but this one is a bit special," he added. "It's both innovative and technically advanced and uses the best technology available in 2014 to deliver something exceptional which will enable existing resellers in the call centre marketplace to close more sales with a much more affordable solution, as well as enable other resellers to dip their toes into this growing market."
The first version of Evolve was built to work on Avaya IP Office but Oak's Evolve team are promising integration with others in the near future. "They're looking for switches where a high degree of integration is available," said Reynolds. "Evolve seeks to maximise the capabilities of the switch thus adding value to the overall proposition of switch and software as a complete solution. The more APIs available, the more powerful the TAPI interface, the more advanced the CTI interface, the more we can do. In our book, the more integrated we become, the better the solution."
With a young team driving Oak's next generation growth the final question to Reynolds senior had to be the exit question. "Of course it's tempting but James and I enjoy what we do and we think we still have a lot to offer the channel. So the answer is simple - we are going to be around for a few years yet."