Technology has made all of us fundamentally more productive in business and in life in general, but communication challenges will always exist – especially as businesses grow and expand across geographies and time zones. That’s the word from Flowroute Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer Sean Hsieh. Here’s more on what he had to say about that; his thoughts on the channel, the cloud, collaboration, security, UC, and WebRTC; and his plans for ITEXPO, in which Flowroute will participate next month in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
You note that communications technology has come a long way, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Can you please elaborate what you mean on both fronts?
Hsieh: The technology powering communications – devices, networks, infrastructure, and so on – has transformed business so dramatically over the past decade or so – it’s truly mind boggling! But it’s important to note that the human side of technology – the actual users – is still a work in progress. I think there’s still a long way to go in how we interact with, and depend on, technology in business. That’s where much of the communication challenges stem from and where we see the greatest opportunity to make a difference.
Flowroute will be at ITEXPO in January. What will you be talking about there?
Hsieh: We at Flowroute are seeing an exciting new wave of innovation in telecom being driven by application developers who are incorporating communications services such as real-time voice and messaging within their apps. But innovating with a traditional telecom carrier as a supplier is like trying to create an interactive infographic with a typewriter. Modern communications have to adapt at the speed of thought. Too much time is lost (and money wasted) force-fitting old models to meet new demands. It’s time for app developers to consider something we’re calling the be-your-own-carrier model for communication services. By providing carrier-level access to the software development community, the BYOC model supports innovation while focusing on core service delivery. Carriers that provide scalable, highly available services that can easily be manipulated by third-party developers will earn a role in the resurgence of telecommunications. Third-party developers are going to be the greatest contributors to the creation and delivery of unique experiences through telecom. That is what our focus is day in and day out, and that is what our ITEXPO session will be focused on.
What has development or trend is playing the biggest role in changing how industry players need to do business?
Hsieh: Niche players like Flowroute are gaining ground on the big unified communications players by delivering innovative communications technology. UC providers need to take a long hard look at the utility of their suite or platform to ensure it’s evolving in a direction that will continue to drive adoption, which can be through APIs or add-on applications. They are going to aggressively go after them. If UC providers aren’t in the communication flow, their inherent value will decrease, and they will ultimately be cut out of the mix.
What technology has had the greatest impact on your work in the past year?
Hsieh: Over the last year the team at Flowroute has implemented Slack, which has enabled a whole new level of communication – which has been mostly positive. Slack gives every individual in the company transparency into what the other teams are working on and provides a forum for team members to ask questions and challenge decisions. The success of our implementation has now been extended out to a handful of our top customers to give our employees insight into the challenges our customers face so they can focus on providing better customer experiences with Flowroute and our service.
What do you say to industry observers who say UC is dead?
Hsieh: Unified communications vendors are still approaching the communications market in the exact same way they were a decade ago, which has slowed the growth rate of UC platforms. Where we are seeing tremendous growth is in messaging – from innovative vendors like Slack and HipChat. Their approach is now starting to become the de facto standard for enterprise collaboration. We also see tremendous growth from our customers delivering vertically focused UC offerings that offer the right technology, configured in a way to dramatically improve productivity of their customers.
Have we finally reached an inflection point with unified communications adoption? What is driving or hindering the market?
Hsieh: Unified communication suites have definitely reached an inflection point. What we are seeing is a lot of traction with niche players focused on specific vertical solutions or functionality such as messaging. In this day and age, the way people consume their communications is varied, which is going to require UC vendors to evolve the way they approach their market. A cookie cutter approach simply won’t work anymore – you have to be nimble and able to meet a huge variety of market demands to gain meaningful traction.
Will WebRTC live up to the hype?
Hsieh: How big it becomes remains to be seen. Linking pure WebRTC interactions with those that bridge WebRTC and SIP is an important intermediate capability that will drive further adoption of WebRTC-powered interactions.
How do you use social media in your daily business?
Hsieh: Social media is definitely part of Flowroute’s marketing mix, but it is still a work in progress as it requires a high level of attention and participation to really understand, for example, the type of content that resonates with followers, the best time of day to post, and what platforms deliver the highest concentration of our target audience. I would recommend that if your organization is going to have a social presence, find the platform(s) that will get you in front of your core audience and prioritize those. Then focus on doing it right, or you will risk backlash from the audience you have built.
What is the biggest security threat currently facing businesses?
Hsieh: In our business (SIP trunking), the biggest security threat stems from a lack of network security that exposes the company to breaches via VoIP toll fraud or stealing resources. SIP trunking security is not only a question of securing SIP connections. To keep SIP credentials and all other sensitive information out of the hands of fraudsters the entire network must be secured, including Internet phone lines.
How has the cloud impacted business in general and your company in particular?
Hsieh: Cloud computing has fundamentally transformed the IT market. Flowroute’s entire production infrastructure and supporting systems are in the cloud. We are currently building out new office space because we’ve outgrown our current offices, and we only have data networking equipment in the server room in the new office. We have no servers running for any purpose in our offices.
What big data and analytics tools are you using and why?
Hsieh: We use big data and analytics tools like Interana, which takes the onus off of Flowroute’s business intelligence team from having to run reports and manipulate data to answer questions that span the organization. Having tools in-house provides our team with an interface that anyone in the company can manipulate based on their specific requirements.
How are channel partners doing in keeping up with the latest products and services?
Hsieh: My experience is channel partners do just enough to lock down a sale, which is the goal considering they aren’t focused on just one product or technology. I believe there will always be a role for partners, and that role will continue to evolve into more of a consultative role versus strictly a technology sale and implementation.
What is the greatest challenge the channel is up against today?
Hsieh: Maintaining relevance. Great reseller and support organizations will continue to thrive, but mediocre ones won’t because cloud providers can be half the way around the world and compete with local service organizations
What are you most looking forward to at ITEXPO Ft. Lauderdale?
Hsieh: It’s all about the networking and conversations that will take place at the show. ITEXPO brings together the people that are driving innovation across their organizations. To have the opportunity to hear from and connect with many of them is what I am looking forward to most.