How to solve our biggest communications problem

By Guido Marchetti, cloud solutions specialist, MJ Flood Technology

Communication is at the heart of productivity. Our ability to reach colleagues, partners and customers by phone, instant message or email, dictates the pace at which we work and the pace at which we can get things done.

And if communications are difficult, chances are this has a direct, knock-on effect on decision-making, slowing business processes, and reducing the effectiveness of the enterprise. Speed equates to success and keeping our supply chain or service process – no matter how simple or complex – running lean and mean is where we need to be.

If you sit back and think about it, the process of communications is quite inefficient. We typically have a desk-based landline, mobile phone – which we use for voice, instant messaging, and email – and possibly access to an online video or conferencing application. Some of these can be accessed from a smartphone but that’s not always the case and oftentimes, we have to use separate applications, depending on the medium we want to use.

And if you add to the mix the enterprise cost of managing these siloed applications, you quickly begin to recognise that the cost of communications is about much more than the euro value of the infrastructure we use to deliver it. It’s at the heart of everything we do. If architected in the right way, it has the potential to deliver competitive edge. If not, well let’s not contemplate that particular scenario.

In the first half of 2015, Microsoft will launch a new platform that brings together the power of telephony, voice mail, audio conferencing, video conferencing and instant messaging in one enterprise-grade, easy-to-use application. But it’s already used by more than 300 million of us for messaging, calling and sharing. Its new name is Skype for Business, probably best known to most of you in the business world as Microsoft Lync. And Skype for Business brings together the power of Lync with the user-friendly design approach of Skype.

Skype for Business has gone through quite a metamorphosis since its first iteration as Office Communicator back in 2007. But it’s really once since its most recent reincarnation as Lync with integration into the Office 365 productivity suite, that its unique proposition of combining user-friendly communications with security, compliance and control that organisations have started to embrace the Lync, now Skype for Business platform in their droves.

So we’ve had integrated email, voice mail and instant messaging for quite some time. Many organisations have already broken out Lync for voice traffic through a SIP gateway. There’s nothing new there you might say.

But for me, the beauty and power of Skype for Business is based on the big C – collaboration.

Collaboration is a huge driver within organisations today and video is playing an increasingly important role in helping to achieve collaborative objectives. Small, agile start-ups are using video to draw together engineering talent working from geographically dispersed locations across the globe. Indigenous companies are using video to facilitate their Monday morning sales meetings, negating the need for regional sales executives to drive to the ‘big smoke’ to get their marching orders for the week. Organisations are using video to reduce the cost of sales, by conducting product or service demonstrations via the web.

New service-based industries are also springing up, based on the principle of knowledge sharing. Consider the personal trainer, offering live one-to-one or one-to-many conditioning classes via video to the local community for a monthly subscription charge or the small business offering training and education to technical staff from all over the country.

The potential is enormous and having one cost-effective interface, on either desktop or smartphone or both, to carry the weight of your sales or marketing message can revolutionise the way in which you conduct business. Add to that the power of Office 365 – cloud-based versions of Microsoft’s most powerful software suites in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and SharePoint and you have your entire business in your pocket.

Skype for Business is coming soon but the good news for existing Office 365 customers is that upgrades have become a thing of the past. Once released, the new Skype for Business will be pushed out to Office 365 accounts and you won’t have to do a thing.

Are you going to embrace Skype for Business today?

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Top Three Telco Tips to Becoming a True ICT Provider

By Brian Murphy, director of cloud services, MJ Flood Technology

As part of my role within MJ Flood Technology, I spend a significant amount of my time talking to telcos and cloud platform providers around Western Europe and beyond. Time and time again, I see a similar pattern of challenges emerging across all these telecommunications companies. Their issues or challenges stem from declining mobile and fixed revenues and a recognition that they need to diversify into new products and services. And many of these services are based on the cloud.

As these organisations have a regular billing cycle with millions of customers, the utility model of cloud services fits very well into their modus operandi. Yet this is a monumental shift from their traditional business and is critical to their survival.

It’s also a monumental shift in sales behaviour as the sales force within these organisations are more used to transactional selling of mobile tariffs and fixed line minutes rather than solution selling and understanding how this new ICT world operates. And this shift to a world based on the cloud throws up many questions for telcos to address including:

  • How do we enter this market?
  • What services do we sell and how are we going to sell them?
  • How are we going to support our customers?
  • Why would a mobile or fixed line customer buy cloud services from a telco rather than their incumbent IT provider?

However, by setting a sound business strategy, cloud services can complement and boost mobile revenues as the most popular cloud apps are consumed on mobile and portable devices. And these devices require data bundles in order to access them, thus delivering the possibility to reverse declining ARPUs, Average Revenue Per User for the telco, which in recent times has become a feature of their operating landscape.

Having seen what works well and not so well, here are my top three tips to help organisations in their transition from traditional telco to full ICT provider.

  • Secure executive sponsorshipThis is a must. Where the senior management and key stakeholders have sponsored and supported the launch of cloud services, the success rate is a lot higher. However, the support must be consistent and sustained. While the core business will always be focused on mobile there must be a sales target of cloud application licences sold monthly or annually and this has to be driven from the top down.
  • Incentivise and encourage good sales behaviourAll too frequently I hear words like “hard bundles”, “free”, “vouchers” and for sure these tactics will help drive sales volumes but may not lead necessarily to an activated licence or application usage. Something that has been given for free or “thrown in” as part of a deal may never be used and ultimately lead to customer “churn”, that most feared word in the telco world.It’s also very fair to say that once customers have been successfully on boarded and are using these services, they become more loyal and are less likely to churn. Therefore these services need to be sold and sold correctly. Sell the value and benefits of these services, what it will do for the customer, how it could potentially save them money, how flexible it is and that it’s a predictable recurring cost based on consumption. Once the value proposition is sold and the licences are activated and assigned, then and only then, should the sales person be rewarded. It sounds simple but in many cases, this sales model represents a significant cultural shift within the organisation and involves encouraging sales staff to change their mindset and sales behaviour. However, successfully managing this change is one way to ensure that those all-important ICT sales targets are met and telcos can recoup their investment in cloud platforms.
  • Create an overlay of experienced ICT solution specialists with no fixed/mobile sales targetsIf telcos are serious about entering this market, then investment needs to be made in hiring a highly skilled and experienced sales force to conquer this new world of cloud services. The team of specialists works in tandem with the sales force and helps to identify opportunities, recommend ICT solutions for the customer’s business (it’s never a one size fits all approach) and close out the business, maximising revenues for both licensing and professional services.The alternative initially, of course, could be to partner with an experienced ICT organisation to bring the levels of sales, activation and support capabilities to bear on the project. We, as it happens, provide many of these services from blueprint for cloud services workshops, sales and technical support training and fully outsourced services to telcos globally. Our approach is based on knowledge transfer, so by hiring our team, we can train and mentor your staff leading to self-sufficiency after a period of time.

For further information or assistance on how to successfully transition to an ICT provider, please use the button below to request contact with Brian Murphy.

Contact Brian Murphy