Richard Firth, CEO and Chairman, MIP Holdings Pty Ltd
The next Q&A in our “Meet the PAC” series features Richard Firth, CEO and Chairman of MIP Holdings Pty Ltd.
MIP has been a Progress Partner for 20 years and is now an Elite ASP and Application Partner. Headquartered in Bryanston, South Africa with additional offices in Pretoria and Cape Town, MIP delivers software solutions across financial service verticals. Their clients specialize in the financial services industry; specifically managed healthcare, employee benefits, personal finance, lending, research and development, mobile banking and tracking, “Pay As You Go” billing, and reconciliation systems for mobile network operators in the developing world and mobile locations. MIP manages more than 11,000,000 policies and 120,000,000 subscribers across its administration systems base.
After holding Chairman positions with Auto-Mate, Itemate Solutions and Waytag Pty Ltd, Richard has led MIP for more than 19 years. Today he gives us insight into his company and how they are addressing their challenges in 2015 and beyond.
MIP has worked hard on rolling out its service orientated architecture and our internal workflow administration systems. With this architecture comes the challenge of truly integrating mobility as part of our infrastructure, and not just adding it on! The “Pay As You Go” services in the developing world have increased dramatically. This demand is driven by the economic boom in developing markets where daily wages change the spending habits of consumers in a context in which most financial services administration systems are built on a basic assumption that people get paid monthly!
We believe that the true power of mobility is going to come to the fore in our financial service verticals over the coming 12 to 18 months. The need for connectivity, anywhere, at any time, has driven organisations of all sizes to look for ways to automate business processes and ensure seamless and measured communication between the company, its employees and consumers.
In addition, these needs have forced businesses to provide mobility to their workforce in order for companies to take their services to consumers rather than consumers searching for them. This can only be done by enabling access to workflow applications in what is essentially becoming a virtual workplace. There are many factors driving this change: service levels, communication, travel costs, petrol prices and expensive office spaces.
However, businesses today can’t take advantage of the myriad benefits mobility offers unless they understand how to harness workflow effectively and how to properly automate business process functions between companies and their consumers. I believe that these capabilities will become the single biggest risk to the burgeoning call centre industry being rolled out in many third world countries. FAQs will replace the call centre agent as the communication method of choice within large consumer-driven organisations. Can you imagine what this is going to do countries like South Africa, Kenya, India, China, Ireland, Mexico and Brazil?
Workflow has been high on the CIO agenda for some time now, as a solution for improving business efficiency, measurement and processes. However, with applications and systems becoming the front end of business, devices potentially become the front end, too. Companies need to strategize how their consumers communicate with that front end rather than through expensive call centres. Outsourced or internal call centers still exist only because in 85% of most businesses, consumer questions and answers can be automated and responded to by using relatively low-cost staff.
The next logical step is moving the call center from a resource-based initiative to a mobile-based one. Companies traditionally use cheap labor to answer 90% of company FAQs. However, today social media has created a paradigm shift, and organisations must get a handle on social media, chat, sharing apps and review sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp and YouTube as these have become the de facto way consumers reach out to brands with complaints and queries.
This is where workflow becomes important. No business can be automated 100%, but there has to be an interface between apps and traditional back-end business administration systems where responses and service levels are managed between company and consumer. The ideal mix is 95% workflow and process automation and 5% human. This shift is going change developing markets.
The impact this new means of interaction could have on countries such as Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and India, which have put massive strategic importance on call center investment, is huge—and not in a good way. The mobility trend could result in hundreds or even thousands of jobs being lost because of increased self-service capabilities.
Ultimately, this trend in mobility brings with it the Internet of things (IoT) and “devices for devices.” Devices are now talking to each other and not only to the back-end workflow processes. Ultimately, this will lead to improved efficiency and automation of systems and consumer communications. MIP’s challenge over the next 18 months is to ensure the consumers, employees and devices interact with each other seamlessly through managed service level interaction.
We see the advent of the “Super App.” The Super App will integrate services into a single application interface across multiple vendors in a value chain. For example, think about the life cycle of booking business travel: a weather app, diary app, hotel booking app, airline app, taxi app, receipt and expense app, and GPS will co-ordinate and share information. The single app interface will communicate data items with different process functionality to provide a seamless experience when consumers interact with a multi-functional business process.
Both automation and devices for devices are leading to a plethora of new functions that can be measured, risk rated and assigned to service levels. This is once again highlighting the importance of employees within an organization. For example, workflow solutions can now measure keyboard keystrokes for worker output and quality management of business processes. And don’t assume those come from a traditional keyboard either!
The advent of the single app server is our technical highlight and our participation on the Partner advisory council is our business highlight. Progress has a plethora of technical functionality that any business needs to operate succinctly in the new world of technology and mobility. These items need to come together as one product, and finally MIP can see that vision coming to fruition.
In a similar way, the Partner Advisory Council is allowing MIP to interact with Progress on a completely different level. For the first time we as Partners have vision and the ability to influence outcomes before unnecessary work is done that may not fit what is needed in the field. I want to highlight that both Progress® Corticon® and Telerik® fit the unified application server strategy “hand in glove.”
There are seven main forces driving tech futures for any new programmer plotting a futuristic technology strategy. A programmer, to my mind, should understand these traits backwards. Let’s look at each of these in detail:
The most innovative moment of my career was participating in the invention, design and delivery of a new product on the bleeding edge of technology when I got involved as a founder of the start-up called Waytag. I was contacted by a client and his colleague who were frustrated by the way that which locations or Points of Interest (POIs) on a GPS device were so inaccurate and almost impossible to find. The conundrum we discussed was, “In this new connected world why could individuals and businesses not own, manage and share their location by simply linking their name to a co-ordinate just like a web site address links to an IP address?” This was the first time I was intimately involved in conceptualizing a product this unique, and it was the first time I needed to sell a concept rather than a product.
An experienced content and social media marketing professional, Michelle writes frequently about the practical applications of information technology.
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