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Crowdsourcing: Old Hat at Equinox

By Byron Middendorf
December 5, 2013

Seems like everyone is using the term 'crowdsourcing' these days. While I'm not sure why or how this term recently gained popularity in the industry, I am certain that it's not a buzzword at Equinox Information Systems...it's a way of life! Call it what you will—crowdsourcing, collaboration, collegial development, listening—we've been creating telecom solutions using this very principal for decades.

One of our largest crowdsourcing events is the annual Users Group Meeting (UGM). Each fall, our Protector Fraud Management System (FMS) customers gather at our offices in Nashville. They do not come to listen to us; instead, they come to listen to each other, and we listen to them. Although their companies, customers, needs, and business models differ, the common denominator is that they all effectively use our software to combat lost revenue attributed to fraud on their networks. They all have a common enemy: the nameless, faceless hackers who attack each of them on a daily basis.

Without exception, the most meaningful information exchange at the UGM each year is the conversations around the table between some of the country's thought leaders in combating telecommunications fraud. What hubris it would be for Equinox to spend two days talking to these experts rather than listening to them! A key challenge these folks face is protecting and optimizing their bottom line. A solution is valuable only if it creates benefit in one of those two areas. We've found a sure fire way to achieve that outcome—all changes and enhancements to Protector are based solely on customers input. By crowdsourcing, we ensure that each new feature and function provides true value for existing users, makes the product a truly competitive option for potential customers, and addresses actual business needs. And, we are proud to attribute credit for these new ideas to the largest FMS user base in the United States.

That is why one the most popular and rewarding part of the UGM is a session we call Wish List. The company owners, developers, sales team, and customer support representatives sit on the perimeter of the room with notebooks in hand while each Protector user presents a list of desired enhancements for the system. The entire group discusses each “wish”, clarifying and brainstorming the best method of implementation for the item. The wish is then recorded for all to see on the overhead projector. The first session of the following year's User Group Meeting kicks off with a report and demonstration of that year's product enhancements (i.e., wishes fulfilled)! Call it crowdsourcing, call it collaboration, call it listening, call it good business sense...it works beautifully for all of us.

Over a decade ago, one of the “wishes” was the ability to share information about fraud hits among our vast network of users. The wish quickly became a reality as Protector's HOT LIST feature. The Hot List contains numbers defined as high risk for fraud, including GMSA data. Each time a carrier reports a fraud hit, the pertinent phone numbers are added to the Hot List. Protector immediately flags calls involving any Hot List numbers and generates notifications. The Hot List is a shared feature, meaning customers have access to the composite Hot List (compiled based hot numbers from all participating users) that Equinox maintains. Imagine the power of such a vast database in combating fraud. Call it crowdsourcing, call it collaboration, call it listening, call it good business sense...it not only works beautifully to combat fraud but it also prevents duplicate effort among Protector users.

Fighting fraud is a universal battle for everyone in telecom. Equinox customers benefit every day from a spirit of collaboration unmatched in the industry!

About the Author: Byron Middendorf is the CEO, owner, and founder of Equinox Information Systems, where he oversees the company's sales, marketing, implementation, and support initiatives. With over 30 years' experience in the telecommunications industry, Byron provides vision and long-term strategic development for the company and its complete suite of software solutions. Although he enjoys those tasks, he is most passionate about his mission to ensure that Equinox is a great place to work. To learn more, visit www.equinoxis.com or call (615) 612-1200.