Tech in 20 Minutes Ep. 9: Meredith Caram, Intrado

In this episode, Max Clark talks with Meredith Caram, Intrado’s VP of Global Distribution, Insights, and Growth. Meredith offers insights into how Intrado’s technology provides mission-critical communication solutions and how Intrado enables remote work and employee wellness across its portfolio.

Episode Transcript:

INTRO: [00.00] Welcome to the Tech in 20 Minutes podcast, where you’ll meet new tech vendors, and learn how they can help your business. At Clarksys, we believe tech should make your life better, searching Google is a waste of time, and the right vendor is often one you haven’t heard of before.

Max: [00.18] Hi, I’m Max Clark and I’m talking with Meredith Caram, who is the VP of Global Distribution for Intrado. Meredith, thanks for joining. 

Meredith: [00.23] Thanks for inviting me, Max, I appreciate it.

Max: [00.27] So Meredith, what does Intrado do?

Meredith: [00.29] We are a technology enablement company, focused on mission-critical communications; that is everything that we do, it’s all around mission-critical communications, and we have four sections of growth, when you double-click into the Intrado portfolio to see what’s under the hood. And so we have: enterprise collaboration, we have digital media, life and safety, and then health and wellness. And if we start first with enterprise collaboration, it’s all about being a video-first, communication, collaboration company; UCaaS, hosted voice, it’s about enabling remote work, to keep teams engaged, to keep teams productive… We support business continuity, to ensure that teams remain connected, but also collaborative, and we focus our work to deliver business outcomes and to make sure that everybody’s communicating the way that they want to communicate. We have unparalleled partnerships with Cisco and Microsoft, we also have our own proprietary solutions as well, that allow us to go downmarket, upmarket; we can stay within North America, we can also expand globally, too.

Max: [01.45] And then you have, you said, digital life and safety, and health and wellness. 

Meredith: [01.50] So if we start with digital media, this is really all about enabling companies to take events virtually. So if you think about investor [UNINTELLIGIBLE 01.58], we work with those officers – firms – so that they can communicate stakeholder value, and we have conversations with them on how to maximize that stakeholder value, coupled with working with their public relations teams on how can they influence the media, and build trust in their brand. And then also internally, we work with their communications team to strategize on how can we use our virtual events platform to fuel motivation and culture? 

Max: [02.33] So in the life and safety world, Intrado is literally powering E911 communications between other service providers and the 911 dispatch centers? Is that correct?

Meredith: [02.47] Yeah, it’s actually really powerful. We actually – in our life and safety portfolio – we keep people connected with everyone that they need to be connected to, from a critical alerts perspective. And so when you think about the call routing technology and how do first responders know where to go when an enterprise customer dials 911 – that’s us, behind the scenes, making sure that the calls are getting answered, and that the answering points have the location data they need, to get the emergency dispatch done.

Max: [03.26] So I mean, when you say mission critical, this is seriously mission critical, in a sense of… People dial 911 if they’re having an emergency, they need to get to a dispatch, they need emergency services to respond… I mean, this isn’t about just an enterprise being able to communicate internally/externally, this is life critical communications that you support.

Meredith: [03.45] It’s about saving lives and there’s nothing more important than that, you’re absolutely right.

Max: [03.50] For people that don’t know, what is Kari’s Law, and what does it mean for an enterprise?

Meredith: [03.56] Kari’s Law is a legislative work that came out a couple of years ago, in response to a woman who died in a hotel room. And her children were in the room, she needed help, and they were trying to dial 911. Well, we all know in Grade School that when you’re in a hotel, you’ve got dial 9 to get an outside line, but in Grade School, no-one tells you to dial 9 first, or to get a hold of a 911 responder you have to dial a 9 to get an outside line. And so, the children there, trying to save their mom, were trying to get 911 and couldn’t get an outside line because they weren’t aware of that 9, that first digit that they had to dial to get an outside line. And so, Kari’s Law is all about making sure that you don’t have to dial that 9 at first to get an outside line, and what’s really great about it is that with the technology routing that we provide, the first responders know exactly where to go, so it’s about enhancing that location data and going beyond an address. So, they know what hotel room you’re in; or if you’re in a school, what building in the school you’re in, what floor you’re on, where in that building: north, south, east, west… It tells them exactly where to go to help keep communities safe and to respond the right way.

Max: [05.23] And so Intrado is enabling Kari’s Law not just for your service provider customers that need to be able to comply and integrate with the PCAP system but also for enterprises that need to support and extend their operations to speed response time for emergency – you know, personnel to actually reach people.

Meredith: [05.44] You’re absolutely right.

Max: [05.46] So you know, when we go back and we say… Okay, obviously mission critical and you’re powering E911, that would mean that Intrado is probably suited excellently to provide amazing service and quality when you look at collaboration, video, UCaaS and voice – and chat – because you have this… Very critical infrastructure underlying all of that. So when we talk about – and look at – enterprises, evaluating and thinking about… What do we want to do? Do we want to be a Cisco, or do we want to be a Microsoft shop? How do you help them with those transitions, that migration and understanding where they should actually fit and how you facilitate that? 

Meredith: [06.23] Yeah, so you’ve hit it spot on that we are uniquely positioned to enable organizations throughout the journey, and that’s what we focus on in our needs assessment with customers and partners is having that conversation around where they are in their journey, so that we can then knit together – whether it’s Cisco or Microsoft or our proprietary, and we’ve actually been taking out ‘or’, and making it about the power of ‘and’. It’s really about Cisco and Microsoft integrating together, into customers’ environments. And so with the portfolio that we have and with the expertise that we have, we can pivot whichever direction a customer needs to go, but it all starts with having the right conversation. And so, right now especially with the pandemic going on, customers are coming to us saying, “How can we think outside the building now?” Or, “Hey Intrado, with all the different backgrounds of our employees, what do you suggest for us to work harmoniously together?” And you know, “What do we need to understand about this growth and the new reality?” And there’s this whole aspect of social selling and how can we have relationships with customers, how does that change in the new world order? And so with our hosted voice portfolio, we can achieve anything and everything a customer wants to achieve on their time schedule, and that’s what’s really, really important as a phased approach. 

Max: [07.55] It’s such an interesting conversation topic, because you know, COVID and the reaction to it became very rushed: okay, we have to immediately change our operations, and what do we do… But you’re talking a little bit more about a strategic, long term plan of: okay, now we are altering the way our business and our employees are going to communicate with each other and collaborate internally and externally, and with customers, and where does this fit now in the world? 

Meredith: [08.19] Yeah so I think you’re right; at first everyone was just grabbing whatever they could, for survival mode – that’s what it was. And now we’ve gone into like, phase two and three, which is, “Okay, how do I dig into my larger ecosystem and talk about full integration?” And then the next part is, “Okay, who needs to work from home and how do we enable them to work from home?” And so from our perspective, the way we work has forever changed, and work is no longer where you go, it’s what you do. We make remote work, work – that’s what we say. And we’ve seen like some mega trends around this, and there are some other things that’ll follow, but I’ve never, ever seen business continuity become more of a strategic imperative than where we are right now.

Max [09.16] Something else that you said earlier that I really liked was not Cisco or Microsoft, it was Cisco and Microsoft, and… This is a dialogue that I know a lot of enterprises are having, as they’re evaluating their communications portfolio: are we Cisco HCS and Webex Collaboration and Teams, or are we Microsoft Office 365 and direct routing… I mean, how does Intrado help an enterprise go through that decision and you know, are they one or the other, or are they both, and what does that look like?

Meredith: [09.43] Yeah so it’s really fun actually. So when we are meeting with business customers, we’re focused on what their objectives are, and what their outcomes are, and then propose and deploy solutions with those features and capabilities that meet their specific needs. Everything is very tailored, it is not a, you know, one-size-fits-most type of approach. With our unparalleled relationships with Cisco and Microsoft, we’re a technology provider for them, and a learning partner with them, and so they will come to us with new technologies and want us to pilot them and put them in our incubator, and figure out all the bugs and how do we go to market? And so because of that, we have more deployments than anybody in the world, from HCS perspective or hosted voice perspective, which means that we’re extremely well-versed in those solutions, and when you add in the Microsoft – when you talk about Office 365 and you talk about Microsoft Teams – we have options that meet the needs, starting with the small business customer as they grow to mid-size, all the way up to global enterprise organizations. 

Max: [11.03] So since you mentioned small business and global enterprises, I mean what kind of customers are you servicing today? I mean, how small a small business do you support, and how big of enterprises do you have in your customer base?

Meredith: [11.14] Yeah so, when we talk about hosted voice specifically, we look at everything from a seat count perspective, and when you look at… On the large, global end, we have over seventy percent of the Fortune 100 companies that lean on us as a global provider for them, you know, services for technology from a hosted voice perspective. And then now, with our Microsoft Teams offer that we’ve rebranded called MaxConnect, we can go all the way down market to a single location that has twenty-five employees. And so, we really are around the globe and up and down.

Max: [12.01] So do you end up with a specific sweet spot in terms of you know, industry or segment or geography or vertical? I mean, E911 obviously has a very specific service provider or PCAP centers, but what about the enterprises? I mean, how do they find and select you?

Meredith: [12.15] Yeah, so typically whenever we look at verticals, you know, retail’s been a really hot topic right now, manufacturing, oil and gas, financial, education… And so, we have vertical expertise across all of that, and we have a really strong partner community, like yourself Max, where we marry you – if you will – with experts on our side, so that we can talk about the needs out there in the market, and how – and we build a joint, you know, go to market strategy together, of how we’re going to go out there shoulder to shoulder, to make it easier for our business customers to find us.

Max: [12.55] So this idea is interesting because you talk about enablement of remote work you know, as work, and maybe a misconception of, “We’ve got a phone and we can just take that phone home and now we can work from home.” I mean, that’s really only scratching the surface of what remote work really looks like and what it means, and as you layer into it and you start talking about your digital and health and wellness practices as well, I mean it’s a much bigger conversation with somebody, to help them navigate and changing how their workforce actually… Works! I mean, what are you guys doing for that and how do you see it evolving now over the next year to two years?

Meredith: [13.31] Yeah, so one of the questions from a health and wellness perspective is – and you might have heard this also, but it’s – how can corporations untangle society’s current and future complex problems? How can we create this psychological safety during a time like this, that’s just been so disruptive out in the market? And so our health and wellness portfolio, it really is critical here, because it helps to improve employee health and wellness, increasing productivity, and working with – or augmenting, or extending – the benefits teams and the HR teams, to make sure we’re really driving the utilization. Even internally, here with Intrado, our Human Resources team is sending out notes on… You know, tips of the day, of how to take a break from your laptop, and the types of foods we should be eating, and to get moving and if anybody is experiencing any sadness, how to treat some of that and… Ways to be better leaders in the business, and kind of giving us skills and capabilities that we would need to thrive, not only in our business life, but also in our personal life. 

Max: [14.52] It’s going to be a very interesting process I think, for all involved, to make this transition. And you know, leaning on people that can help and provide that skillset is going to be essential for so many. 

Meredith: [15.03] I think what you’re on to here Max, is that this remote work revolution is really only the start of a much bigger, digital transformation, which will profoundly change the nature of work; how organizations are designed, and really this human element of, what does it mean to be an effective leader? You know, this is the dawn of a new age. 

Max: [15.32] So this isn’t a very technical conversation at this point, we’re talking about much different things in terms of soft skills, and enabling soft skills with technology. And you know, I eman that would lead into – from an organization – if you… I mean, you have experience with this in Intrado and with your teams – what happens if this is not addressed and if companies don’t get ahead of this shift and support their employees through this change, and supporting them through, you know… Right now, remote work, or future options for remote work – what are the stakes here?

Meredith: [16.01] This is my opinion, but from our perspective – and the reason I bring this up and share it with you is because I don’t see enough or hear enough people talking about it – and I think it’s important for everyone to know that we take employee safety and business continuity very seriously. Conducting meetings without sitting right there with each other, there’s a way to still do it with video, face-to-face experiences, where you don’t have to compromise your safety. Everyone needs to be leveraging these collaboration solutions to keep teams engaged, and to keep them productive. And so, I think there’s going to be winners, and there’s going to be losers, and that’s just how it is in every industry in the world, but I love that you’re doing this podcast, because it’s important for us to get the word out, and to share with people their options on how they can continue their business and also expand their business, you know, in this new culture that we’re in.

Max: [17.07] I mean, normally a conversation line would be: how would a business leader know that they have a problem to solve? Right now that is… I need to support remote work, or I need my employees to be able to work from home and collaborate internally or use their phones externally, right? It’s a pretty simple problem solution. We had an on-premise system, we want to go to a cloud-based system. You know, as we’re talking about this though, we’re getting into a much deeper dialogue, right? Talking about how do you enable taking your phone home, or using a soft client, or getting onto video remotely, or talking about how do you change the nature of your business to support that, and that’s a… It’s a very unique dialogue at this time.

Meredith: [17.48] Well, it is! And it’s about us taking a pause and figuring out what do we now need to understand in this new reality? And how do we tap into opportunities to create new markets during this disruptive time? And together, how do we work harmoniously? At Intrado for example, every week, I get a text message and an email, where HR is saying, “Hey, I care about you – tell me you’re okay. Tell me where you are, and how are you doing?” And then we’ve been doing some fun things to get people engaged over video, that typically we would do on-site, but it’s an interesting feeling to invite everybody into your home, and everyone has seen my pets, and I’ve been on calls where one of the kids has come in the room saying, “Hey Daddy, why don’t you stop working and take a break and dance with me?” And so I think we’re just having to have a lot more patience and to realize this human element here, and all the stuff that we’ve been balancing… It’s no longer about you know, putting it off, it’s about having you integrate your work life together.

Max: [19.03] So, as we go back to your portfolio here and we talk about digital and life and safety and enterprise and health and wellness… At first it feels a little confusing, of why these different verticals, but then as we talk about it more you can see how it layers on top of each other. I mean, you have this life and safety, how do you communicate in an emergency, and how do you communicate as a day to day, and how do you communicate externally, how do you support your internal employees and staff, across different methods of communication, to improve their health and wellness and… Which in turn should improve productivity and satisfaction, and employee care, and customer care, et cetera. I mean, am I stretching too far? Is that actually the intention here?

Meredith: [19.42] You know, I mean I wish you sounded like me when you said that, because that was perfect. We’ve been enabling remote work for over thirty years, with this broad portfolio that we’ve had, of tools that really focus on keeping employees safe and connected. That’s why at the beginning I said everything that we do is around mission critical communications, and we enable those technologies so that everybody can do what they need to do, and what they want to do, and wherever they want to do it – it doesn’t matter anymore. That’s why we’re saying that it’s no longer about work is where you go, it’s just what you do.

Max: [20.18] Meredith, thank you so much for your time, this has been very interesting for me.

Meredith: [20.23] Thank you Max, I hope you have me back soon!

Max: [20.25] So do I, thank you very much!

Meredith: [20.27] Thank you!

OUTRO: [20.28] Thanks for joining the Tech in 20 Minutes podcast. At Clarksys, we believe tech should make your life better, searching Google is a waste of time, and the right vendor is often one you haven’t heard of before. We can help you buy the right tech for your business, visit us at Clarksys.com to schedule an intro call. 

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