Dowbiggin on strategy

From SIP trunking security to automation and self-service provisioning, founder and CEO of Acuity Unified Communications John Dowbiggin has big plans for the future.

When Caterham-based Acuity Unified Communications acquired the customer contracts of SIP trunking security firm 500 in March, along with a self-service provisioning portal, it put the company on track to deliver accredited fraud protection software while adding emphasis to the role of automation as a means to manage some of the key growth challenges faced by today's ICT providers. "One of our biggest challenges is time management as there are only so many hours in the day," stated Dowbiggin. "So we are looking at ways we can develop more automated processes to help us with the time pressures we encounter."

The 500 acquisition increases Acuity's customer base and product portfolio, adding fraud mitigation which protects customers from the financial and legal consequences of toll fraud on SIP. "The fraud protection software portfolio is currently our biggest opportunity, delivering security for mobiles and SIP connectivity while meeting the suite of telecoms service standards defined by the Federation of Communication Services," explained Dowbiggin. "Our accredited cyber secure telephony solution is proven to significantly protect businesses from toll fraud, auto dialler and mobile fraud and other forms of cyber attack aimed at the telephony estate. We can now offer security fraud protection to the whole of the Acuity base and all new customers, as well as giving them the option of self-service provisioning."

Dowbiggin is building up the Acuity business on a bedrock of 27-plus years industry experience, including a notable stint as Managing Director of AboveNet UK where he led the company from near bankruptcy and transformed it into one of today's top managed fibre service providers in the City of London. Prior to this rescue mission, which he regards as his biggest career achievement to date, Dowbiggin was VP for IP Solutions at Cable&Wireless UK&I, a role he undertook following C&W's acquisition of tier 1 ISP Internet Network Services where he was National Sales Director. Here, he was responsible for building and running the UK and European sales operation, and spent two years developing and deploying one of the largest Internet market acquisition strategies in Europe. Rewinding the clock further, Dowbiggin was Director of the South East Region for Telewest Communications (now Virgin Media) which at the time was the UK's largest telecommunications, ISP and cable TV provider.

"During my time at AboveNet I identified a gap in the market that concerned the level of service being offered to SMEs in particular," said Dowbiggin. "So eight years ago I established Acuity Unified Communications to bring a business grade cloud telephony service initially to SME and lower corporate businesses, but we now have customers across the size spectrum. We have grown year-on-year by around 50 per cent. In recent years average customer sizes have ranged between 50 and 250 users with our sales pipelines showing a continued increase in average customer size."

The company deployed its own hosted platforms in 2012 which removed any reliance on third parties, a move that quickly brought on board a major UK PLC followed by a big public utility. Four years later Acuity acquired the customer related IT and telecommunications trading assets of The Integral Group which increased its software development portfolio. Acuity is focused on organic growth as well as acquisitions and two years ago embarked on a strategy of in-house development with its own software developers. The company has also increased automation, streamlining processes and boosted efficiency as a result, while augmenting related processes such as the self-service provisioning portal which benefits dealers and resellers. Acuity has also been busy deploying its own infrastructure such as Citrix Xen Server based on industry standard hardware and Storage Area Networking (SAN).

"We have worked hard to differentiate ourselves with our fully integrated Unified Communications services," commented Dowbiggin. "For example, with some clever engineering we have fully integrated our AcuityMobile SIM offering, enabling mobiles to be a fully integrated part of the UC platform, becoming an extension of the office phone system, with the added bonus of the handset being able to roam seamlessly across all UK mobile networks combining maximum coverage with maximum functionality.

"Because we have a strong engineering focus and offer a bespoke service we are also able to assist hardware providers such as Cisco with the integration of their products into the end user's business. Working with strategic partners like this is another big opportunity."