In the past few years there has been tremendous interest paid to VoIP and the underlying internet protocol which allows IP communications to take place. For those people who started to pay attention to the communications space in the last few years, you may not be aware that over a decade ago the CTI market heralded the first time telephones and computers communicated with one another.
My long-time readers know that about two decades ago the birth of CTI systems were a result of a collaboration between IBM and Rockwell and if you had a mainframe and a Rockwell ACD lying around and a few hundred thousand dollars to spend on connecting it all together, you could be among the first in the world to take advantage of computer telephony integration or CTI. The first application of such integration? Screen pops or the ability to see the customer record of who is calling.
But for most companies it was the nineties when they could first afford CTI systems based on operating systems from Microsoft and Novell.
The IP communications market was really born from the building blocks of CTI as gateways which allowed the PSTN and VoIP to interconnect were based on boards from leaders in CTI like NMS and Dialogic. The technical expertise to build soft clients that handled internet telephony came from the CTI space as well.
In an era where there are so few reminders as to the history of IP communications, one company not only remembers the past but has the word CTI in its name. I am referring to Mind CTI
, the company that handles customer care, billing and call accounting for service providers around the world.
The Israeli based enterprise was founded in 1995 (the same year TMC launched CTI Magazine in fact) and is publicly traded on the Tel-Aviv stock exchange. Some of the company's customers include ARTelecom, China Unicom, Telefonica Del Peru and Verizon.
It has been a while since I covered the company so I thought it would be a good idea to connect with the President and CEO of Mind CTI, Monica Eisinger.
I asked Eisinger how business is going and she told me things are extremely active as the North American wireless carriers are migrating to a single platform. In addition, she tells me her company has spent the last few years investing in a J2EE platform and adding enhanced functionality. In addition, they have been focusing on scalability and subsequently supporting millions of prepaid and postpaid subscribers.
She went on to describe how the company's business has shifted to sell more managed service agreements which last between 3-5 years. As part of such agreements, customers pay for implementation at the outset and through the time of the contract they pay for the right of use, maintenance and enhanced support.
As a result, MindCTI can sell their solutions as a licensed, managed services and completely outsourced business model and this helps them serve customers more effectively.
I asked why she thinks customers are leaning towards managed services and she says it is because this solution allows customers to make a smaller investment up front and they subsequently pay as they grow.
Furthermore, these customers are generally not interested in building billing expertise themselves and as a result they work with Mind CTI or similar vendors.
When asked about how Mind's solutions interface with taxes, Eisinger tells me they work with Vertex
to handle taxes as Vertex is an expert in the space.
I asked about the company's customer care operations and she told me they have a flexible workflow engine which monitors the various steps of the business processes. Examples include order management, trouble tickets and payments. As the workflow engine is flexible, she tells me that the engine can adapt as the business changes.
I asked about growth in other parts of the world and to this Monica responded there is growth in Europe and other parts of the world but they focus on Western Europe and the US at the moment. She sees the wireless market in the US as very active and growing fast.
I asked about success stories and was told KDDI US, a large carrier in Japan and they world with Mind CTI in the US to provide billing for their wireless services and after a successful wireless deployment they were chosen to provide wireline services as well.
The goal now is to combine the mobile and fixed applications onto a single platform she says.
When asked about whether being a publicly traded company is a benefit or not, Eisinger responded that it is indeed a benefit as when carriers choose a vendor for billing it is almost a vendor for life. As such they need to be able to assess the partner's health and strength and as public company this is far easier to do.
I asked about how convergence with IPTV and other new technologies are affecting business and Monica was quick to point out her company started in the IP space and moved to the wireless and wireline spaces. She said, "We have strong understanding of IP services," she continues that her company just recently implemented an IPTV solution in Central America.
She continued by saying their solutions are inherently ready to handle new IP-based solutions like WiMAX.
When asked what customers should expect in the next few years she says solutions that are reliable, scalable and are developed to answer the market needs while continuing to be state of the art. All this while providing a single platform for mediation, provisioning, rating, billing, customer care and other services. In addition, expect to see the company's products continuing to be flexible in order to accept various customer business models.
Back in 1995 when I was fortunate enough to launch a magazine titled CTI, the mantra at the time was that communications was becoming more customized and flexible. For the first time in fact, companies were able to make telecom systems do whatever they wanted. This inherent flexibility was apparently not lost on Monica Eisinger and Mind CTI as they use it as a differentiator to this day.