A spell as a Non-Exec on the IP Integration (IPI) board exposed an opportunity that former co-owner of DatapointEurope Sat Sanghera could not ignore.
He stepped up as CEO in January and wasted no time in setting out his plans to triple the size of the business.
IPI was established in 2001 by Joe Prentis, Dave Glasgow and Jamie Little. It was formed out of an MBO led by the team to break out the voice division from ML Integration which was part of Cable&Wireless. Today the company has 120 people and a turnover of £23 million, supporting 450 clients. Here, Sanghera spells out his strategy and leadership philosophy....
Why did you take the CEO role at IPI?
I began working with IPI in the summer of 2019 in an advisory capacity. What started off as a two-week contract evolved into a year-long engagement and I found myself more and more ingrained in the DNA of IPI and shaping the future direction of the company. I wasn’t looking for a new executive role but liked what we had started building, so when owner and CEO Joe Prentis and I spoke about the future strategy we agreed that I would take the reins.
What is your primary growth objective?
We achieved 100 per cent profit growth in financial year 2019-2020 and have ambitious growth plans for the next five years. Our aim is to be three times bigger than we are today with more than half of our revenues derived from our own IP and services. IPI has always focused on delivering enterprise scale contact centre solutions with a focus on engineering and integrating IPI developed innovation.
How would you describe yourself as a leader?
I am energetic and throw myself wholeheartedly into everything I do. If you are going to do something well you want to come at it with passion and dedication. I have a clear vision for IPI. I also value teamwork. I am not one to sit behind a door, secluded in a corner office. I will be out in the open-plan with the rest of the team, working together to find collective solutions to problems. That’s when we’re allowed back in the office!
What got you into comms?
I started my career in IT sales at Touchbase where I gained international experience. I then held various leadership and advisory roles before co-founding DatapointEurope where I discovered a passion for innovation and the global marketplace. All of my roles exposed me to global markets which fostered a zest for working internationally. At DatapointEurope, for example, we developed the Intelligent Communications Alliance, a collaboration of like-minded international partners across Europe, LATAM, North America and APAC. At IPI, this commitment to innovation and cooperation will be a key focus as I look to drive the development of our own products.
What does leadership mean to you?
Today, good leadership is creating a better workplace. I want to make a positive impact by improving the working environment, helping people to move on to better roles and encouraging them to believe more in themselves. Inspiring in others a sense of worth and self-belief is central to my role as CEO and that motivates me every day. My leadership strategy will be shaped by five key guiding principles – people, clients, propositions, fiscal and operational brilliance. Everything we do is based on these principles and they will keep us all focused across the business.
What are your other main priorities?
IPI’s job is to get close to our clients and effectively walk in their shoes. We want to remove the complexity for our clients and cut through the noise in the marketplace to develop the best solutions for their challenges and opportunities. We call these purpose-led solutions. The global events of the last 12 months have increased the pressure on our clients to do more with less, respond faster and with a more empathetic, personalised touch and do this with shrinking budgets. Understanding this helps us drive a client focused agenda and roadmap.
Your key markets and tech partners?
Our target markets are insurance, finance, retail, travel and leisure, utilities, technology, public sector and housing. IPI has developed relationships with Avaya, Genesys, Microsoft, Amazon and Speak. We have applied a lot of analysis to our new vertical market approach, and we are driving innovation with the continued focus on the development of our own applications. Recently we were accepted onto the Crown Commercial Services government framework and within the first 12 months secured a contract for 8,000-plus users for an NHS Trust.
How will your portfolio develop over time?
There are a number of technologies on our radar including automation, bots, workflow technology, managing a remote workforce, AI and machine learning. Underpinning all of this will be analytics that provide the insight needed to determine the success of solutions and services. Video, self-service and a shift to digital channels will also be key trends to focus on. The move towards consumerisation is also shaping our evolution of technology and our service proposition. Clients want and expect consumer grade technologies that are simple and easy to adapt. We are looking at how we can adapt this for the enterprise market by developing agile models based on consumption strategies.
Tell us about IPI’s in-house developed products and services
Recent activities have been focused on building out our own cloud and platform services business so that we have the structure in place to deliver our own applications with speed and scale. We have also invested in our Applications Development team so we can continue to develop an integration service capability while driving new applications innovation. Proposition-wise we have invested in and launched the IPI Cloud and Platform services. Last year we completed the migration of our own suite of AI applications to the IPI Cloud. We are totally focused on innovation and have a team of product group owners whose responsibility is to continuously be looking for ‘what’s next?’.
How do you think the contact centre will evolve?
The next generation of contact centre workers will not be in the office, they will be at home (or maybe on the beach!), they may be single parents working flexibly or students working in between their studies. So, a lot of the work we are doing now is to prepare our clients for these changes by building in the flexibility and agility needed to deal with a new marketplace. Training and upskilling will become ever more important in supporting this, as well as analytics to help provide the insight needed to understand how to make greater efficiencies.
With the advent of bots, we will also see a new role emerging for human contact centre agents. Rather than bots replacing agents, a new market will emerge that will see contact centre workers move into experience management roles. Bots will handle the routine and mundane enquiries, while the human is focused on creating exceptional experiences that enhance the brand and deliver value. As the agent’s role evolves and becomes more specialised, we would also expect industry attrition rates to reduce considerably. The impact this will have on the end consumer is significant, further enhancing their experience with a brand in the long run.
How will the role of ICT resellers develop?
We will see an increase in individual resellers entering the market. As the accreditation process becomes more attainable, and as more technology is hosted in the cloud, the whole reseller model is turning on its head. We will see more sales or consulting specialists partnering with SaaS providers and there will be a move towards greater specialisation within the industry. Long gone are the days of resellers doing and selling everything, now clients are starting to demand pockets of specialities.
Just a minute with Sat Sanghera...
My parents. They have amazing values and an unbelievable work ethic. They have their own textiles and fashion business and their work ethic remains exemplary.
What talent do you wish you had?
To fly and see the world as quickly as I wanted.
Your greatest strength and what could you work on?
I have a real zest for meeting and engaging with people. But I could work on my impatience and impulsiveness as it sometimes takes people off in the wrong direction.
What do you fear the most?
Not making a contribution to society.
Biggest career achievement:
There are a number of milestones. Selling Datapoint Europe is one, starting at IPI another. It is all a journey.
One example of something you have overcome?
I used to take setbacks personally and mull over them for too long.
What possession could you not live without:
My acoustic guitar. I can get lost for hours playing it!
Tell us something about yourself we don’t know:
I have taught meditation for more than 20 years. I have a deep interest in the human mind and how people can live a happier and more fulfilled life.
The biggest risk you have taken?
The MBO at Datapoint in 2013 before we changed it to DatapointEurope. We did that in what was a hugely challenging economic environment in continental Europe. Everyone thought I was mad.
What is your biggest opportunity?
The continual innovation and development of IP and new service categories, as well as understanding where we can remove pain from our clients.