How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected ASC and your customers?
The COVID-19 pandemic affects ASC because it affects our customers who are currently questioning their investment decisions - like probably all companies worldwide. However, our software continues to be an absolute must in the core processes of many of our customers; therefore, projects cannot be canceled like that. In addition, our business consists of a considerable proportion of recurring revenue due to cloud and maintenance turnover. We thus do not that much register canceled new orders but rather the postponement of investments. Insofar, the COVID-19 pandemic does not affect ASC and the decisions of our customers whether they want to invest in our products and solutions in general as much as is the case in other industries.
In October 2018, you have taken your entire solution portfolio to the cloud by releasing ASC neo cloud. To which extent does this step pay off now?
I am an optimistic person always looking for the positive aspects – even and especially when faced with a challenge. If you want to see something positive in the crisis so far, then it is that it has accelerated digitization and cloud business as has nothing else in this past decade. Our customers have been forced to deal with cloud solutions. Even customers from the financial industry or the public sector – both of them industries that had previously been very reluctant regarding cloud solutions – do no longer question that taking their business to the cloud is a reasonable step. The general discussion about the necessity of cloud solutions has suddenly been silenced. The fact that companies investigate this topic intensively now is reflected in the increased demand in our cloud solutions and in growing cloud revenue. The result: The proportion of our cloud business will double this year.
Has this changed the way that ASC works with customers and partners?
Yes. We note that many of our larger enterprise customers appreciate to be in direct contact with us as technology provider to accompany them on their journey to the cloud. In this context, it is important to know that ASC banks on the principle of cooperating closely with business partners. This means that we usually sell our solutions through system integration partners, resellers, and local business partners. So, while we continue to cooperate with these partners and support them also and especially in the cloud, we are now additionally in direct contact with end customers in the cloud business wherever our customers require support.
ASC is a globally active company first and foremost in the sectors contact center, public safety, and financial services. Did you notice any industry-specific differences regarding the order situation?
The effects on the order situation are a mirror of the extent that the companies are affected by the crisis. Especially for our customers from the regulating industries such as financial services and public safety, the question is not as much whether to invest at all but when and to which extent. These companies are obligated to guarantee communication recording to comply with legal regulations. Accordingly, the effects on our business are notably less pronounced there. But we also have several call center customers from the travel industry which suffer massively from the crisis. For them, any investment is entirely out of the question. Instead, we discussed how to support these customers to get through the crisis.
What did you do?
The probably biggest challenge for many of our customers was that they were facing an entirely different working situation overnight. Suddenly, they required a solution to record and analyze the communication of their employees working from home and using mobile devices. We did everything we could to support our customers in doing justice to this new working situation. For one thing, we have joined hands with Microsoft to set up a Corporate Relief Offer for our latest cloud solution ASC Recording Insights – a native app for compliance recording and analytics in Microsoft Teams. For another, we have launched ASC Dial-In Recording, a service that enables customers to record their mobile phones in a legally compliant way by means of our cloud recording system.
Have you at ASC been well prepared for the majority of your employees working from home?
Overall, we have been very well prepared. After all, we had been banking on cloud solutions for a while and did not have to transition first. In our latest employee survey, we were given a positive feedback for how quickly and smoothly we had been able to set up a flexible mobile working concept for all. Kudos to our IT department for their contribution to making this possible.
How has working from home affected cooperation within ASC?
In the beginning, almost all of us were working from home. Communication, data exchange, cooperation – basically all processes which used to take place at office – have been taken to Microsoft Teams, the collaboration platform of our choice. But in the long run, we had to learn that exclusively virtual communication is falling short. While collaboration within individual teams works really well, coordination across teams and departments proved to be less than ideal when working from home. We were missing real human interaction and face-to-face communication. Meanwhile, we are gradually returning to the office, trying to find the right balance between office presence, working from home, health and safety regulations and our need for face-to-face communication.
What was/is the biggest challenge?
I actually think that our biggest challenge was not as much of technical nature but rather communication-wise. The crisis triggered a lot of insecurity and anxiety in all of us. And unfortunately, as a CEO you do not have all the right answers ready in such a situation either. All the more important was it to remain in a constant dialog with the employees as well as with customers and partners. We have increased the frequency of our communication and regularly schedule virtual meetings for all employees to ensure that colleagues are always up to date about what we are doing and why. And of course, we also wanted to prove our customers and partners that we can provide them with excellent service even in times of crisis in addition to letting them know how we at ASC are handling the situation.
What future effects will the crisis have on your industry? How is ASC set up for the future?
The crisis fosters the evolution towards more flexibility at the workplace and thus nudges our industry towards the cloud. In this sector, we are excellently prepared. We have been developing future-oriented cloud solutions for quite a while already and cooperate closely with industry partners such as Microsoft and Mitel. In addition to offering on-premise solutions, we can also accompany our customers in their process of taking their on-premise solution to the cloud. By enabling our customers to use their mobile phones as well as their solutions for telephony and collaboration in compliance with legal regulations, we are exactly where our customers need us most right now. Our solutions help our customers through the crisis and beyond that, too.
The crisis is painful, but it is also actually driving the industry into the direction that ASC has been heading to for several years. In the end, it leads customers to solutions that ASC has already developed. We are the hedgehog in the Grimm fairytale of “The race between the hare and the hedgehog”: We are here already!