Unified communications vendor Zultys has been hard at work coming up with a new release and since it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to share what they are up to, I reached out to interview Neil Lichtman, Chairman & CEO of the company. He was gracious enough to give his views on a range of areas from the future of unified to communications the challenges facing channel partners.
Is technology changing business for the better? Why/why not?
We believe, if used properly, technology definitely can change business for the better. By improving communication both internally within an organization and with a business’ clients and vendors. The better and more efficiently a business can handle communications with both groups the better for that business economically and for customer satisfaction. Look at the changes mobility-BYOD- have brought to the business world. Whether it be by voice, instant messaging or texting, organizations can now respond faster to the needs of their clients anytime, anywhere.
Tell us about your newly launched MX Release 11.0 Unified Communications Software
Zultys has always focused on improving our client’s ability to communicate more effectively and efficiently both internally and externally. MX release 11.0 delivers many exciting features and expands upon our strategic goal of cross platform compatibility. MX Release 11.0 has the same exact user and administration experience regardless of our customer’s method of deployment-cloud, premise, or hybrid deployment methods which we have been delivering for quite some time.
MX release 11.0 continues our multi-media queue strategy for contact centers. The strategic feature introduced with release 11.0 is our Web Chat feature. Web Chat provides another customer engagement point that business can offer their customers. This capability allows contact center agents to chat with external clients/vendors. With our clients having a web chat button on their website their customers can simply depress the button and be placed in queue to chat with a representative. Now whether their customer decides to pick up the phone or chat via the web to place an order or request support they have a choice. And this capability is at no additional charge from Zultys!
We have also enhanced our Salesforce Communicator application using Salesforce OpenCTI which allows for a tighter integration between Zultys and Salesforce. This also allows our Zultys Salesforce Communicator to operate on most web browsers and operating systems. Zutlys Salesforce Communicator maintains robust call control functionality within the Salesforce interface. Release 11.0 also delivers improved disaster recovery, faxing, further security enhancements and many other requested features to our customers.
What are the biggest benefits to customers?
The biggest benefits to customers is both improved customer service and being able to respond easier and faster to their clients’ needs and do it cost effectively. In the end we all believe world class service not only wins more business but retains it! Technology today, whether it be SIP to reduce a company’s monthly trunking costs or the ability to handle your customers calls faster and more effectively, all benefit our customers
Have we finally reached an inflection point with Unified Communications adoption? What is driving or hindering the market?
Larger enterprises based on what we are seeing understand and implement UC. It’s the smaller enterprises that are starting to realize the benefits and are acquiring UC faster than in the past. It’s similar to how SIP was several years ago and now more organizations are accepting the benefits that SIP has to offer. We believe that UC used to be viewed as this mysterious complex way to communicate and was difficult to deploy and people are now seeing that the right UC solutions are easy to use and deploy. In our case the majority of our users are using our UC client to enhance their communications. We believe another driver is the millennial generation which according to some reports is greater than 30% of the workforce today and they seem more comfortable with the technology that is changing the communication landscape.
What do you say to industry observers who say UC is dead?
Not to be a wise guy but I say they should go home!! The industry and the users continue to evolve in their method of communicating and require more efficient, better ways of communication. UC not only allows business to do business better but it allows employees to be more productive. If they think its dead then they don’t understand the value it offers businesses. Ok, now I will be a wise guy-They probably still use a flip phone J
When it comes to unified communications, do you believe it’s better to meet customers where they are (i.e., popular business applications like Salesforce, or social networks like LinkedIn) or to use your interface as the front-end and then do integrations with those popular applications?
We like to make it easy for our customers. The direct integrations we have done make it more efficient for our customers to use the tools they have today and for the future. We also have what I’ll call a pretty universal way for companies to do integrations which is called our Zultys Flex Communicator. Our goal is to help improve productivity in the organizations we partner with, and since every company is different we will meet each company where they will need to be met in order to provide the right solution.
How do you use social media in your daily business? Should social be a major initiative for all businesses
We use social media in several ways in our business but we should be doing much more. It’s a great way to reach an amazing number of people everywhere- from using it for marketing purposes to recruiting of partners and employees.
How are collaboration software/services are helping workers today?
Collaboration software and services help workers in many ways today and in the end the company also benefits. It works to help team building especially in the remote worker environment where employees may feel they are out there on an island. It helps in support to customers and in the sales process. And it can save companies money by reducing travel expenses.
What is the biggest security threat currently facing businesses?
This may sound like a simplistic answer- Hackers, whether domestic or international. Unfortunately the individuals/organizations that hack disrupt businesses, put individuals at risk and are a threat to our national security. Servers and databases that do not have the highest level of security put their information at great risk. I’d also say that ignoring the security threats in one’s business could be their greatest risk.
Has corporate awareness of security threats increased over the past year? Have security practices been adjusted as a result?
Absolutely awareness has increased. Just about daily, some system, somewhere is being hacked or an attempt to hack is being made. We see security practices being adjusted but it is a continuing evolution – as hackers try something new every day, security of systems must be monitored 24/7/365.
Should mobile devices have integrated software allowing for separation of business and personal apps and data?
I personally have mixed feelings about that. Do we let people use their desk phones for personal reasons? Do they use their computer for personal reasons? Probably. Personally I haven’t seen that need on mobile devices as a major concern as long as the user isn’t downloading apps that negatively impact the company’s network.
How is cloud computing shaking up your product/service offerings? How has it impacted your competitive market?
Based on everything we read and are seeing in the field cloud computing is a rapidly growing business. We are very fortunate in that our engineering group was able to develop our software to run either on premise or in the cloud long before our competitors. Our software is exactly the same in any deployment model- it’s not less featured nor lower in functionality- it’s exactly the same! It’s the same user and technical experience. Our end users can either deploy a premise version on our MX systems, a cloud version on VMware in their data center, in our channel partner’s data center or in our data centers. We introduced Zultys Cloud Services, our fully hosted phone system offering so that customers can rent a total communication system on a monthly basis and we provide a single monthly invoice for all our services. To answer your question directly, it has positioned us to be extremely competitive and to give customers the ability to deploy a communication system the way they want it versus the way other competitors may only be able to offer it. We believe our customers should have the freedom to choose the best deployment method for their business.
What has been the most impactful development or trend in 2015 that is changing how industry players need to do business?
In my opinion, first, those within our industry, especially channel partners, need to make sure they are building a sustainable recurring revenue stream for their business. With the growth and acceptance of hosted products in the marketplace now the window of opportunity exists for them to be able to do this successfully and profitably with the right partner. The other trend I see is the beginning of a real period of consolidation within the industry over the next few years. I believe this will eventually be as impactful on our industry as we saw earlier on in the telecom industry during the 1980’sand 90’s.
Are channel partners keeping up with the latest products and services or is more training and education required?
With the multitude of product offerings out there I feel the pain for all channel partners. Keeping up with the latest is a function that needs to be on everyone’s daily to do list. And they need to be able to run their business at the same time! Continuing education and training is critical or you get left behind. In our case, this was one of the driving forces to make our software the same regardless of deployment so that the channel partners would not need to train technicians or sales people on additional products.
What is the greatest challenge the channel is up against today?
Really a great question Rich! My first thought would be change. Change as we all know can be tough for individuals and business as a whole. The industry is continuing to evolve and channel partners need to evaluate and adjust/modify their business models so that they continue to have a successful business in the future. Changing a business’ way of generating revenues and greater profits for the long term must be done cautiously so as not to effect the business adversely today.