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Make a profitable service from unified communications
01 April 2008
View from the Top: Jon Doyle of CommuniGate. Smart network operators should learn a lesson from Salesforce.com and offer software services to small and medium enterprises
Jon Doyle: web-delivered applications will be a welcome
I still have to get my head around and smile when I hear the
term "SaaS" — software as a service — versus
the old term ASP — application service provider. But
nevertheless the trends are strongly validating this
It's many years since ISPs began to offer messaging and other
technologies as an outsourced "pay as you go" model. This
became increasingly popular as technologies became more
complex, and smaller businesses wanted access to technologies
that only large corporations could traditionally afford.
One of the rising stars of the SaaS model in the last couple
years is certainly Salesforce.com and it amazes me as I travel
around to see the international scope of its user base.
Salesforce.com also gains from the fact that business users are
much more mobile today, and they access corporate services a
lot more from outside the office.
Thus, web 2.0 delivery is king, and the VPN is like a bad
hangover from the past.
As was the case with powerful CRM systems, many small to
medium enterprises are trying to get their hands around the
idea of moving to unified communications. Many of these
companies have not really come to terms with messaging or other
Ever ask your doctor or lawyer what they are doing about a
website, or IM and VoIP? Many highly educated and highly
profitable companies simply do not have the right critical mass
to digest the forklifts of complex UC solutions from big
vendors that want to send armies of services personnel and
hardware to some non-existent loading dock.
Many of the larger companies I have spoken to over the last 24
months see huge advantages in using the technologies that are
on the market to disseminate corporate info across the
British Airways and many others are similar to an ISP with a
centralised data centre and employees all over the world. Users
often find themselves on various networks, and they need to get
to the UC backbone — web 2.0 delivery is the key to
unleash the power of mobility.
I see a big trend in thinking about the user and their usage
model, rather than making the users adapt to some
The gains for the SME market certainly mirror many of the
benefits a large corporation would seek, but the real sizzle is
gaining access to technology that simply is far more complex
than the small IT department might be able to digest.
The network operator seeking out new areas of value added
services certainly needs to pay attention to UC SaaS for the
SME market. The sheer volumes of businesses of this size make
it a quite impressive area for growth as the operators lose
revenues from "access models" for their broadband and telephone
I have never seen such a pent up urgency in the market as I
find today in the operators I speak with in Europe, the Middle
East and in the US to get new value added services on their
Many product managers tell me about their planned reaction to
Google and other free services on the internet by conceiving
plans to copy these services.
I think that is dead wrong: what will they gain if they do
lure away some massive group to use their free applications?
Will they gain revenues from advertising like Google? Will they
bait and switch users to paid models?
I see the really strong opportunity is not consumer services
but in business subscribers, who are willing to pay for a
service that is reliable and has powerful features.
Network operators have a great opportunity to build out a
multi-tenant UC service for SME customers. With the diverse
landscape of business subscribers, using anything from an
iPhone to a web browser in the car infotainment system, the
provider must adapt, and bring the economies of scale to bear
on the market.
For the user, the market will bring a welcome change of
flat-rated access to fixed and mobile broadband services with
new web delivered applications, including unified
communications. The smart network operators will see this
change as an opportunity and not a threat.
Jon Doyle is VP of business development at CommuniGate
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