Mitch Mandich, President and CEO, Edify
Congratulations on your new position as president and CEO of Edify. Tell us where you came from and what you bring to Edify?
Mitch Mandich Thank you for your interest in Edify and for taking the time to chat with me. As I am certain you have noticed, Edify has had a lot of good news recently regarding product acknowledgements, customer implementations and partnerships so I won't take too much time talking about myself here. However, I believe the high-level details that support my taking the new post as Edify's CEO regard my depth of knowledge and experience working with companies that deliver enterprise-based solutions. Working at organizations including Apple, NeXT, Pyramid Technology and Tandem Computers as well as with a number of projects for Kleiner Perkins, I have been able to develop a solid understanding of the challenges that face businesses everywhere today. Additionally these opportunities have helped me cultivate a sense of how you differentiate real solutions such as those I see Edify providing as opposed to a piece-meal approach.
What is your current outlook for Edify?
MM Edify has a number of unique qualities and is consistently generating exciting news across the market as I indicated earlier. Starting with an excellent staff of dedicated, intelligent and highly motivated employees Edify has been able to build a very loyal partner and user community and that has enabled us to grow our customer base to well beyond 2,000 corporations around the globe in vertical markets such as financial services, travel and transportation, retail, telecommunications, and a host of others. We are very optimistic about coming market opportunities and based on expanding partnerships with companies including S1, will soon be more accessible to key vertical markets such as financial services than we have been in the last year or so.
What are your short-term and long-term goals for the company?
MM Over the past several weeks we have been focusing our positioning and marketing messages to reflect what a lot of our customers and members of the analyst communities have been telling us. We want to make it clear to our new prospects as well as to those existing customers that haven't yet built out their enterprise to support speech and natural language applications, that Edify is the the trusted voice and speech recognition expert. Working with S1 and other strategic partners, we intend to re-introduce our proven technology to the financial services market and we will accelerate implementation time and ensure project success by leveraging a broad range of professional and educational services in conjunction with our award-winning platform.
Edify has signed up for the Speech Solutions CHALLENGE, an event that will take place at SpeechTEK 2003 on September 29. Why did Edify decide to participate?
MM Edify Voice provides users with unrivaled stability, scalability and flexibility and we believe SpeechTEK provides a unique and productive opportunity for networking, examining technology trends and meeting with customers as well as sales prospects. This year, with its focus clearly on how business and IT professionals can leverage speech to improve overall communication effectiveness, we see a very natural fit for Edify. The conference's Speech Solution CHALLENGE provides attendees with an exciting real-time demonstration of how Edify enables users to easily build, deploy and run effective speech operations essentially on demand. This is an industry first that will provide a significant value to those assessing their enterprise speech needs.
During your two months on the job, what are customers saying to you about speech technology?
MM We held our annual user conference in February this year and focused a large portion of our program on speech and using VoiceXML as a technology adoption driver and it was a huge success. Since that event we have heard from leading analysts such as Bern Elliot of Gartner, Mark Plakias of Zelos Group and Steve Weissman of Kinetic Information as well as customers that speech and voice technology will absolutely be the cornerstone of service and support communications moving forward. We are seeing a growing number of cases where our speech applications are being used internally to improve and streamline corporate communications as well as externally to enhance partner communications and the overall customer interaction experience.
Edify's speech solution to automate Ticketmaster's voice self-service applications received a lot of publicity. What does the industry need to accomplish in order to get additional mainstream deployments?
MM As I mentioned we see a very keen and growing interest in the use of speech. I believe that the market understands the benefits and no longer views this as experimental, it is more a matter of looking at how all of the enterprise can be tied together and what project needs the solution the soonest. That is why we place such an emphasis on professional and educational services. We want to have all of the questions answered and the whole scope of the initiative understood up front before we begin implementation. This ensures success and solid ROI.
What new solutions or services should we be looking for from Edify?
MM We will be coming out shortly with major announcements on our voice product offerings. In the meantime, we are developing new processes with our professional services team that will ensure our customers' ability to design, build and implement innovative and personalized voice and speech applications that increase operational effectiveness to help them gain the greatest return from their enterprise-based speech investment.
What should the developers of 'speech engines' be doing to improve the end solution you provide to customers?
MM We believe an open standards approach to development is critical and hopefully vendors will be looking for ways to provide greater flexibility and ease of integration capabilities in all solutions. We have to make this not only work, but work readily in the enterprise. All speech vendors need to be committed to not only making excellent speech engines, but also to making integration to their systems an easy, standards-based task. We are seeing great strides in this area already through new standards like MRCP, and we are excited about what's to come.