Bertrand Pourcelot, Managing Director of Enreach for Service Providers, reflects on what has changed in the communications industry in 20 years, what he has learned along the way, and what to expect next. He also shares some of his personal experiences and viewpoints based on his career, including many years leading Centile Telecom Applications, now part of the Enreach group as Enreach for Service Providers.
Before becoming involved in the communications technology world, I worked in the space industry, a demanding mission-critical environment that taught me a few valuable lessons. These included: continually strive to improve through feedback loops, innovate and think differently; collaborate with teammates for the best results; and be prepared to respond to change and the unexpected.
All those points also matter in the communications market. For example, it is impossible to predict who will be the long-term winners: some top brands such as Nokia in mobile and network equipment manufacturers of 20, even 25 years ago, are no longer in that position. Similarly, many years ago, satellite was viewed as a strong contender for higher-speed communications. Then came DSL, followed by fibre, and satellite has not had the role (so far) anticipated initially.
Also, the pace of change has not always been smooth. For example, when we launched our cloud-based PBX at that time under the name Centile Telecom Applications, we did not even use the word ‘cloud’ because it was a new term for customers. For a long time, cloud adoption did not happen as fast as we had hoped or guessed, though finally, that is changing quickly (further accelerated by the recent pandemic). So, history has taught us that it is essential to be prepared to adapt but also to be patient, timing is key.
Some of us also thought that the rapid adoption of widespread B2B mobile services might have happened earlier: the benefits were clear, and the enabling technology was there (though it has continued to improve massively). Through our Centile heritage, we have long been believers in ‘mobile-first’, including supporting Elisa, Finland’s leading mobile operator, with our mobile-centric unified communications platform, for many years. However, for a while, it felt like the rest of the industry, except in nordics did not have the same focus.
Now, mobile services are gaining momentum and driving innovation. As a result, other organisations are knocking on our door and asking if they can work with us to utilise our mobile experience. I should mention that other teams within Enreach – such as Enreach Netherlands (former Voiceworks), The Netherlands' first-ever B2B full MVNO — also bring extensive mobile know-how. ‘Mobile-first’ or even ‘mobile-only’ will be further widespread soon.
Of course, none of us can guess what will happen in the future. Twenty years ago, how many of us would have imagined some of the ways in which we use digital technology in our everyday lives? So again, a willingness to be open to change and explore new opportunities is the message that has come through loud and clear over the past couple of decades.
And that is our role: to help service providers be agile, respond to opportunities and deliver modern services and not be bypassed by others. We also need to help them always be customer-centric: access to cloud communications and offering competitive pricing is not enough: adding value matters more than ever. We can help them achieve this through Enreach UP, which incorporates ISTRA, Centile’s mobile-first, market-proven unified communications engine that has been supporting service providers internally, at scale, for many years.
Enreach UP is a cloud-native platform supporting communication, collaboration and productivity, which integrates best-in-class technologies from businesses across the group. It supports a wide range of options and services, including: cloud PBX, fixed mobile convergence, video collaboration, messaging, inbound/outbound contact centre functionality, conversational bots and seamless integration with mobile services, Microsoft Teams, CRM and ERP systems.
Enreach UP is offered as a multi-tenant, white label platform, with several deployment options for partners, including server/virtual machine cluster, carrier-hosted native cloud,Enreach’s own native-cloud infrastructure and soon public cloud. Enreach is itself using Enreach UP to deliver its Software-as-a-Service product Enreach Contact, providing contact solutions to SMEs across several European countries. Enreach also offers Enreach Contact hosted in its own cloud to channel partners, such as IT resellers, looking for a fast route into the unified communications market.
As well as sharing its technology and international experience, the rest of the original Centile team and I have benefitted from being part of the larger group, not just the scale of resources but also the individual areas of expertise. For example, Enreach Netherlands has brought extensive business and operations support expertise, while Enreach Germany (former Swyx) has a long track record of how to work successfully with value-adding resellers. Other acquisitions have introduced a wide range of ‘best of breed’ advantages on which Enreach can build. We all have something to learn from each other, and being present in multiple countries also means we have a true local approach combined with a great multi-cultural mix.
Furthermore, Enreach’s entrepreneurial spirit keeps everything moving forward with a focus on “caring”(or something around big enough to matter, small enough to care …). For example, while our ISTRA platform was very innovative in the early years of the century, we have iteratively redesigned some core technologies and features to be more relevant today. And with Enreach UP, we will continue to revisit and modify the platform so that it remains state of the art 20 years from now: standing still is not an option. This is why we have moved to a microservices architecture because it gives us the foundation for continued, faster innovation.
So what’s next? One of the most significant transitions we see is the blending of unified communications, collaboration and productivity, which we call converged contact. In addition, the mixing of contact centre features into that converged environment is expanding massively, helping SMEs provide ‘casual contact centre’ support for customer-facing employees, but without the commitment of a traditional contact centre solution. Through the existing contact centre features within Enreach UP, plus the considerable customer experience technology brought into Enreach by Enreach Spain (former masvoz) and Enreach Campaigns (former Herobase), we will collectively be able to drive innovation in this area, such as integrating more channels like Whatsapp into the user experience.
Other growth areas we are addressing include helping people to achieve a better flow and control across their business and personal lives. The growth of voice in chat or for voice-activated commands is another interesting area. Voice is not going away; it is here to stay and in different forms. To draw a parallel, people thought TV would replace radio, yet consumption of audio-only entertainment has grown and now includes podcasts and books too. Technology is an enabler, but people decide how to use it, and the results can sometimes be surprising.
Clearly, we need to be open, welcome the chance to adapt, improve, and know that — whatever else happens — change is inevitable and should be embraced. Personally, I am looking forward to seeing how Centile’s experience and technology continue to play a valuable role within Enreach and help us take what we provide to partners and end users to a new level.
This blog was published by Comms Business