By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini
SM: So, you have done more on the pure telecommunications side, where there is call routing and such.
CK: It’s the ‘contact center’. We are in the contact center business, so it is all the way up and down the stack. If it is about the contact center, whether it is intelligent voice response (IVR) such that it is self-served, or whether it is Web, chat, voice channel, or call routing, all applications that support an agent are our focus and core competency. I don’t necessarily see other providers in the technology space that have anchored that, top to bottom, as a core competency. I can talk about a lot of players that are specific product or segment players. Now it would be a hard thing for me to say, but there a few that have really said that our business is about the customer experience and our technology is going to support the customer experience, and not only are we going to use that to make our core business better, but it is so great that we are going create a business by itself.
SM: Are you using a flexible ‘infrastructure as a service’ to augment whatever needs you have in that domain?
CK: Well, we would love to, but we have done so only selectively. It is not because I wouldn’t like to do more of it; rather, some of the suppliers have not been willing to. We do have models with per agent log in licensing or per current use. I have such models in my hosted contracts. Clearly, a portion of the business is predictable and a portion is seasonal. I would love to do more of buying ‘by the drink’ in telco infrastructure or in my storage infrastructure. I don’t see that everywhere, but I would love to.
SM: It sounds as though, at least in storage, the ‘infrastructure as a service’ model of buying by the drink as offered by Amazon and others is becoming more available, more viable in terms of the technology.
CK: Yes, it is, and I think Amazon and IBM have offerings that will pay for provisional hours or provisional services on an hourly basis. Our view is that those are legitimately the cloud, and that is when you go to the public cloud. Well, there are clear opportunities from where I sit as a CIO and look at business and where storage predominantly happens. Most of our storage is in agent call recordings. But those belong to our clients, and it is sensitive information. If it is our agents recording, I do that in our private cloud. I am not taking that to a third-party cloud.
SM: But that is clearly an area where you need flexibility, for precisely the reasons that you stated earlier – your business has a seasonal element, and some times of the year you have much higher call volumes than at other times of the year. That is an area that lends itself to using a fluid infrastructure, isn’t it?
CK: It is clearly a possibility. I think there are a handful of reasons why we have not taken that step yet. Storage, I never seem to have enough of it, as much as I think it is cyclical, or I should have peaks around it. I have programs where I have gotten to a record 100%, and there are other programs where I have to be able to keep storage for seven years, and there are programs that I’ve got to be able to retrieve it in two hours. I have varying degrees of storage requirements, all based on client needs, and that drives me to different business decisions for storage.
SM: Okay. Let’s turn the conversation to something slightly different. You have an interesting viewpoint in terms of technology, the evolution of technology, and blue-sky, entrepreneurship opportunities. I would like to discuss any open problems for which you don’t see good solutions.
Could you take us through some of your thoughts based on what you, as a cloud technology adopter, see out there that has yet to be solved? What are some of the problems you see from a cloud adopter’s point of view, problems for which there are no cloud-based solutions? If there are any problems that you would like entrepreneurs to step up and solve, what are they?
CK: I don’t know if I’m going to go where you want me to go, but let me just talk through this. I think in a traditional enterprise, the way companies view the market – and you have companies that view the enterprise space, where it has been primarily premise-based license models – those are now trying to figure out their way to a more flexible on-demand or per use license-based model. For such enterprises to be able to move to this new model, either the support models or the volumes or the transition isn’t there for them to move to a host of providers of that infrastructure. I would say that need would create opportunities [for entrepreneurs]. You have players that are, say, the integration players, that are trying to help get legacy systems into the cloud, such Cast Iron (now IBM) and others. They see legacy, the integration from legacy to the cloud, as a huge opportunity as more and more businesses that have these legacy environments try to move to the cloud. There is a fair amount of work to be done to get from the ‘as-if’ to get to the ‘to-be.’ To me, it feels like an opportunity as well.
Then there are companies like Salesforce.com that have embraced the thought of 10,000 companies that need CRM and that should be able to enjoy true CRM; we should be able to provision that down to the 25-person shop, right? A company that has a philosophy like that has been able to take market share. They look at it so dramatically differently from how traditional software [companies] would. I think that creates an opportunity for enterprises that can think about how they would serve in that model.