When OMF, a provider of personal loans and debt consolidation products in the Old Mutual group, chose a cloud-based telephony platform and call centre application from Connection Telecom, it benefited from the solution’s cost-effective, flexible, future-proof architecture and the easy installation of its customisable call centre, delivered rapidly as a managed hosted, on-demand service.
Old Mutual Finance, the personal loan and debt consolidation subsidiary of financial services group Old Mutual, operates in a highly cost-sensitive segment of the market.
In view of its market and high-cost branch structure, OMF is primarily driven by cost containment and value creation in its purchases. So when it set out in mid-2009 to find a telephony and call centre solution, low total cost of ownership (TCO) and integration to its existing lending software were its main criteria.
Cloud – superior TCO
The company had been making use of Old Mutual’s group-wide solution for two years, but increasingly felt that a cloud-based configuration, hosted privately (in its own virtualised data centre), could offer it both superior TCO and the security it wanted.
The TCO calculation is based chiefly on cloud’s minimal communications hardware requirement, the ease with which users can be moved around, added and changed, and the hardware and HR rationalisation value of centralised support.
IT representatives said OMF was also attracted to the savings inherent in a virtualised cloud communications model. “The efficient utilisation possible with cloud makes for great savings, which the provider can pass on to customers. The model’s ability to deliver elastic communications capacity in any quantum further allows very efficient streamlining of customer expenditure.”
Other cloud-based savings include the scalability of hosted solutions at a low cost of expansion, and the economies of scale that come with such solutions.
Thus OMF decided to invite Connection Telecom, a proven cloud-based communications provider, to implement a proof-of-concept pilot of its solution. The spokesman notes that the ability to offer local support counted in Connection Telecom’s favour.
The installation ran between two OMF branches, with Connection Telecom’s Telviva PBX and call centre platform taking residence within Old Mutual’s virtualised self-hosted data centre environment. The infrastructure continued to be managed by OMF while Connection Telecom managed the Telviva application.
Satisfied with the demo experience, OMF formalised the relationship with Connection Telecom and facilitated interoperability and design approval within the Old Mutual Group policy in the interests of offering its client set – a unique demographic within the Old Mutual context – the cost-based and functionally-integrative value they expect.
In addition to telephony, OMF wanted a centralised call centre platform for seven different kinds of call centres.
Rob Lith, Connection Telecom business development director, says Connection Telecom’s on-demand call centre product, forming part of the Telviva platform, offers a quick ramp-up to standard call centre functionality without lengthy integration or management headaches.
He says the IP-based call centre plugs easily into OMF’s private hosted environment, whereas other platforms require time-consuming integration. “Old Mutual’s global enterprise architecture design authority required certification of our ability to integrate into multiple communications environments, which we provided.”
“As a result of the ease with which Telviva can be adopted, we can offer an end-to-end managed service, encompassing voice termination, infrastructure provision and on-going management, at a very competitive price,” he says. “Also, we don’t sell more than the call centre OMF ordered – it is fit for purpose, so they only get the bells and whistles they asked for. This is different from the ghastly expense of some brands, where you have to buy the entire thing. We offer the best brands at half the price.”
Lith explains the solution architecture. “The solution serving the branches and head office is run out of “Basecamp” in Pinelands Cape Town, and remotely administered by Connection Telecom,” he says.
“Telkom, the incumbent telco for all of Old Mutual, offers a voice over IP VPN Supreme network for traffic from OMF’s branches into its network operations centre, where calls originate and terminate for purposes of billing. But we provide the network infrastructure that captures and carries voice calls into Telkom’s NOC.”
Innovation and agility
“Besides the cost benefit, Connection Telecom offered a good fit with our culture of chasing new ground,” says the spokesman. “This culture has served us well; we’re given a certain amount of leeway to pursue innovation and adopt new technologies that enable a nimble, entrepreneurial response to our market’s needs.”
Lith explains that Telviva achieves agility for customers because of its standard Internet Protocol-based solution architecture, which also enables integration of multiple communication, collaboration and enterprise applications, offering a functionally-rich experience that cannot be matched by traditional telephony without huge investments.
IP is moreover completely future-proof as the unifying architecture for multiple strands of technology coming together on ICT platforms. Standards-based communications modules (e.g. videoconferencing), add-ons and peripherals (handsets) are interchangeable, so OMF is by no means tied in to a specific vendor’s solution set, says Lith.
OMF converted the first two branches into live sites in December 2011. Within a very short time, the company ramped up its sites. By August, 180 sites had gone live. Within two years the company expects to treble its current user count supported by the system.
Lith says the company went out on a limb with new technology to overcome the limitations of OM’s incumbent solution (to its unique mandate in the group). “But in the end it tied in well with their profile in the group, and really became another instance of their innovation, agility, and core value.”