Bob Ritchey, President and CEO, Intervoice

Intervoice recently completed its acquisition of Edify, a global supplier of interactive voice response solutions, from S1 Corporation, Edify's parent company. During the last four fiscal quarters, Intervoice and Edify have produced combined revenue of more than $200 million.  The combined company will have more than 850 employees worldwide handling more than 5,000 customers. Under terms of the definitive agreement announced November 18, 2005, Intervoice has paid S1 $33.5 million in cash to acquire Edify. Intervoice was founded by two engineers, Dan Hammond and Mike Tessarowicz, in Dallas under the name of Interactive Technology Associates (ITA).

Speech Technology Magazine sat down with Bob Ritchey, president and CEO of Intervoice, to talk about its merger with Edify and the consolidation of the speech industry in general.

Q.  People say that the merger of Intervoice and Edify was a consolidation move.
A.  Consolidation in an industry as complex as ours is inevitable.  It's a natural evolution of business growth, the progress of technology and certainly the demands of the marketplace.  The market is requiring companies to be stronger and more comprehensive solution providers.  Our customers want to better serve their customers, and by combining two leading organizations like Intervoice and Edify, we are better positioned to meet our customers' requirements.  Consolidation is not just about getting bigger, it's about a specific motivation to add value to our mutual customers' positions - provide faster time-to market, higher quality solutions, and better customer service. 

The Evolution of Intervoice

1983 - ITA founder Dan Hammond and Mike Tessarowicz make their first sale.

1985 - The company's name is changed to Intervoice and it goes public.

1989 - Intervoice moves into new corporate headquarters on Waterview Parkway in Dallas.

1991 - Intervoice switches to the OS/2 operating system and opens a Paris office.

1995 - Intervoice attains ISO certification.

1999 - Intervoice acquires Brite Voice Systems of Orlando, Florida and doubles its size.

2002 - Intervoice-Brite changes its name to Intervoice.

2004 - Intervoice is first to announce suite of business process-based voice applications that support SALT, VoiceXML and classic environments. Robert E. Ritchey is appointed to chief executive officer of Intervoice.

2005 - Intervoice signs agreement to acquire Edify. Intervoice attains VoiceXML certification.

2006 - Intervoice completes acquisition of Edify. Bob Ritchey will continue as president and CEO of Intervoice.

Q. What do you think about industry consolidation, and how does the Intervoice/Edify merger fit into that?
A.  We believe our merger is a perfect example of how consolidation benefits everyone.  First, consolidation has to be good for the market space you serve.  It has to be viewed as well considered, and appropriate for the players and their respective customer bases.  The timing also has to make sense.  Consolidation can't leave current customers out in the cold, and it shouldn't penalize future customers, who are in the process of making new product decisions.  Bringing Intervoice and Edify together makes perfect sense right now, because our market is changing.  New technologies and open standards make it an ideal time to consolidate and provide our customers a seamless path forward. Customers are looking for strong companies that can provide the total solution, the best-of-breed, quality solutions to make their lives simpler.  Our merger has been well received by analysts and other industry watchers, who understand that consolidation simply has to be in the best interest of the customers of the merging companies, too.

Q.  How will Edify be incorporated into your organization, and how do you feel this will affect your strategic and growth plans?
A.  One of the genuinely great parts of this merger is how well our companies fit together.  The cultural fit is outstanding.  And, we don't really have a lot of duplication, so it means we gain depth and breadth in key areas like engineering, research and development, professional services and sales and marketing.  Another value add is the strengthening of our network service offering to balance our strong family of enterprise self service solutions.  The ongoing convergence between underlying network and enterprise technologies makes this a positive move.

Q. What does the merger mean for your enterprise clients?  And your partners?
A.  Enterprise customers will benefit from a broader set of packaged applications and vertical market solutions, especially as the industry embraces more open standards.  This merger will also offer enterprise clients greater scalability in voice self-service applications, and a wider range of choices overall, whether custom, packaged or hosted.  As for partners, remember, we really have two kinds of partners - those who provide technology to us, and those we go to market with.  With our technology alliance partners, we already shared many of the same group, so our consolidated business should strengthen those relationships.  With our channel partners, we share a complementary set of organizations, few, if any of which, really overlap.  Therefore, these companies provide improved global market coverage and enhance our ability to reach new customers.

Q. What are your plans for the separate platforms/media servers?
A.  It's interesting to note that we approached this issue early on in our due-diligence efforts.  As stated previously, consolidation isn't good unless it's good for your customers too, and we have ensured that no customer will be left behind in this merger process.  We have launched a series of technology convergence initiatives to maximize open standards opportunities, ensure interoperability in our tools and content management, leading to a common platform.  Our customers have made significant investments in their solutions and we are going to protect them with specific programs, including a five-year product support program, software upgrades, and migration strategies and tools to ease the movement to open standards.  Open standards migration is happening and would be occurring even if our merger never happened.  The value as we see it is that Intervoice and Edify are jointly prepared to not only transition with the industry, but offer our collective customers our full support and expertise in making the transition. 

Q. Since one of your combined strengths is in deploying speech applications, what future plans do you have for speech?
A.  Intervoice has been on a path of convergence from touch-tone to speech over the past few years, and the addition of Edify's capabilities is a catalyst to make this strategic direction even more viable.  Our professional services team is already one of significant size and growing.  We have some of the industry-leading voice user interface (VUI) designers and speech technology thought leaders.  But, we always temper our technology story with the understanding that it's what you do with the technology that really matters.  We align ourselves closely with our customers' business objectives and help them manage the entire process of putting speech technologies to work in their organizations.  Intervoice maintains our Center for User Experience (CUE) at our headquarters in Dallas.  It is as much a physical "lab" as it is a state of mind when it comes to application design and deployment for voice solutions.  In this facility, customers can simulate actual application interactions to resolve issues and tune applications before they are ever deployed in production environments. We engage all our customers in the basics of business opportunity assessment, and work with them at each stage of analysis, design and implementation, including long-term technical support. 

Q. Why should an organization, which has not already done so, deploy speech?
A.    Today's competitive marketplace requires companies of all sizes to do more with less - to work smarter, remain agile and responsive to customer needs.  Organizations recognize that providing great customer service is essential to retaining customers and staying ahead of the competition.  At the same time, tighter margins are forcing companies to reduce the cost of customer service delivery.  Speech technologies can be the bridge to better customer service, while reducing costs associated with customer transactions.  Some caller's needs are better served in other ways, but speech-based interaction can be a big factor in the overall improvement of customer service and the customer experience.  We contend that automated processes must be tempered by a genuine understanding of a customer's customer.  Our approach is to use what we call Adaptive Interaction, a method of personalizing the customers' experience through knowledge gained in every customer transaction.  The new demand of the business enterprise extends beyond mere efficiency.  The new demand is for cost saving and cost reduction, closely coupled with constantly improving the customer experience and increasing customer retention.  We believe speech is ready for mass distribution in many business applications and that when deployed correctly, speech can be a defining technology for those companies.

Q. Do you have any additional thoughts that you would like to share?
A.   According to respected market analysts, Intervoice and Edify were both leaders in the voice self-service market.  The new Intervoice is well positioned to continue this leadership role. As a market leader, we have award-winning products services and customer support.  Our employees are industry leaders, renowned authors, educators and university scientists.  But, we go even further.  This is our only business and we are dedicated to this industry and to the customers it serves.  As an example, we directly support and underwrite The Intervoice Center for Automated Conversational Technologies at the University of Texas at Dallas, a true lab environment dedicated to pursuit of cutting-edge research in specific areas of voice automation.  This support enables a wide range of commercial and academic applications in the voice arena.  We hold or have pending more than 100 patents, we have been recognized with numerous industry product achievement awards and we have deployed thousands of applications for our customers worldwide.  This merger was a natural progression in the scheme of things.  It will simplify and speed the delivery of better solutions, it merges two corporate cultures that are successful in their own right, and it adds value to an industry committed to improving business processes.  Intervoice today is a global industry leader with a commitment to providing high-quality, innovative solutions to our customers and the market and furthering our vision of connecting people and information.

Robert (Bob) Ritchey, Chief Executive Officer & President
In addition to being president of Intervoice, Bob Ritchey assumed the additional responsibilities of chief executive officer in November of 2004. Ritchey joined Intervoice as president and general manager, enterprise solutions division, in December 2000. In July 2002, Ritchey was appointed president of the company. He was elected as a member of the board of directors in July 2004.

SpeechTek Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues