It truly has not felt like seven years at all – we have had, and continue to have, such a nice run that the time has just flown by. When the opportunity to join Calabrio came up, it was a pretty easy decision. I felt Calabrio, due to its size and history, offered a great platform to change an industry that had become a little set in its ways.
As for my fit, it was what I didn’t have that I think worked as much in my favor as what I did have. I had never worked in the telecom space before, only software. Without a bias toward what had always been done, I brought a clean slate of thinking to the business. I remember many early meetings where people both internal and external to the company would say things like “that isn’t how we do it” or “it has never been done like that before.” Being stubborn, I enjoyed the challenge.
Talk about the company when you first joined and how it has changed under your leadership.
The best thing about this company when I joined was the people. I know it sounds cliché, but I immediately recognized we were sitting on a gold mine of people that were as passionate as they were smart. While I say the industry needed to change because of evolving telecom technologies, people that understood that infrastructure were still needed in order to get things done.
As I entered the industry, too many providers were focused on deploying technology that was not only complicated on the back end, but remained complicated on the front end. At Calabrio, we defined the company and what we wanted to do with three simple words: Easy, Personalized and Smart. With these words, we moved to make our products easy to deploy, administer and use. We personalized all of our products, putting the user at the center of their experience.
Fast forward seven years and I think the biggest change is to our attitude toward the problems we are solving. When I arrived, many thought of what we were doing as simple compliance and reporting. Workforce Optimization was just that, making the people that use our tools more productive. That is important, but clients are now looking to unlock all of the great data in the call center and use it to become more engaged with their customers.
What do you view as the keys to your role as CEO?
I think my role is pretty straight forward. First is to assemble a world-class team. I can honestly say that I don’t think I have worked with a better group of people as a whole. Second is to set a vision, and that vision must be relevant to what is needed in the marketplace. Next is to communicate that vision to stakeholders. With these constituencies on board, you have a team that multiplies the effort exponentially. We take great pride in the fact that when you talk to stakeholders, they all understand the goals and desires of the company. The result is that we spend the majority of our time moving in the same direction which allows us to get more done in a shorter time.
I also see my role as the chief instigator. When there are tough decisions to be made or conflicts in the organization, it is my job to pull the players together and channel that conflict productively, in order to get the team thinking and pulling in the proper direction again. As part of that, I must understand our team’s personalities and how they might make decisions. For example, I have team members that can make a decision in a split second, while some might need to sleep on a discussion we have had. It is my job to recognize that and make sure we revisit important things in a day or two to make sure we have received the best work when needed.
Finally and most importantly is to be close to customers and partners. This is where our product is being sold and used. It is critical that I understand who, why and how are our customers buying and using Calabrio’s products. Only with this understanding can I realistically continue to adjust our vision for what the product can and should do.
How has the customer interaction changed during your time at Calabrio, and what has that meant to your products?
I think the biggest change that I have seen in my time is customers finally recognizing the richness of the data that exists in an organization. From phone calls, to texts to social media, there has never been such access to the actual voice of the customer. This phenomenon mixed with analytics technologies maturing rapidly means that we can provide insights like never before. What that has meant to our products is the need to continually monitor the tools and trends to make sure we continue to bring the best and most relevant products to market. For example, in our next release, we will be moving from reactive analytics to a set of predictive analytics.
What drives change and innovation at Calabrio?
At Calabrio, we strive to be a visionary company, leveraging both customer input as well as market indicators to drive innovation into our technology. Our customers and potential customers are the number one influence on Calabrio’s product roadmap. The general guideline we use in our product development process is to have approximately two-thirds of the feature set for each major release come from customer requests. One-third then comes from our team and our knowledge of what is possible with all of the great data that we have access to. The coolest part of this is that we have a development team that believes anything is possible. Therefore, we rarely come across a problem that we don’t think we can solve.
There has already been a lot of consolidation in the contact center space. Do you see that continuing? How has it impacted Calabrio? Do you have any acquisition plans for Calabrio?
The trend around consolidation is almost 15 years in the making at this point. But most of the consolidation in the industry has been with companies that are attempting to simply redefine themselves. For Calabrio, we have seen this as a unique opportunity to differentiate ourselves and actually redefine the industry. We have continued to build product that allows us to address customer needs, thereby allowing us to remain independent and viable. This independence has allowed us to do the more visionary thinking and solving problems a little more creatively for our customers.
As for our acquisition plans, whenever we are evaluating new capabilities for our product, we do a thorough make versus buy analysis. We have previously been quite close on a couple of opportunities, but, in the end, we have defaulted to building our product from the ground up. With our unique suite approach this has helped us maintain a consistency throughout the product that ultimately helps our customers succeed.
How has cloud computing changed your approach to the market? What new opportunities does it create?
Great question! Given current trends, we believe that true SaaS (News - Alert) deployments will absolutely continue and grow throughout the software world. And this trend has absolutely affected our roadmap. In fact, Calabrio released a fully multitenant product earlier this year. We believe that our philosophy around and approach to cloud computing is rather unique.
With the cost of servers and storage coming down so radically over the past decade, we predict that enterprise clients will start to move back to a hybrid of SaaS and premises-based software in their own private cloud environments. This has driven us to architect our solution to run seamlessly in both settings, so that today our customers can consume the software in the way that is best for them – putting the customer in charge, not the technology.
Are there challenges that come along with those opportunities?
Absolutely. While cloud computing has been around for almost two decades now, I think we are in a unique industry. If you consider the dependencies the various applications have on the contact center and telephony infrastructure, they provide unique challenges not faced by the pioneers of the cloud computing movement.
In the early days, the companies that built cloud enabled SaaS companies were their own data mechanism. Though most of the successful SaaS applications have morphed and continue to build more and more APIs that connect to other data sources, none of them are as dependent on external data sources as those of us delivering software to support contact center efficiency. While Calabrio has solved for these dependencies, it has not been the lightest of lifting. As the industry evolves, we will continue our strong focus on the various integration layers to make sure our customers have continuous, uninterrupted access to all of the data that is available.
What are your plans for Calabrio in the next five years of your tenure as CEO?
I certainly hope the next five years continue to bring with it the same success we have seen in the past seven years. We have a great company poised to really break out from the pack and become a true enterprise solution.
In the next five years, we will see an ever-expanding data set which will need to be taken into account. Last year, I wrote and spoke about the contact center of 2020. At the center of this piece, is the rise of Internet of Things. With M2M communication, we will need to be able to record and assess these transactions just as if a person were calling the old fashion contact center. We will continue to see the walls of the contact center break down and everyone in the company becoming a “customer agent.” As you can imagine, this multiplies the data opportunities and our work to make sense of it. The good news is I believe that we have the team to accomplish all of this.
Edited by Dominick Sorrentino