Archive for the 'Cloud' Category

MSPs see strong revenue growth in business VoIP despite Covid-19

September 28, 2020

Computers and phones have converged, so the providers of IT services, known as “Managed Service Providers” or MSPs, are now selling VoIP phone systems as a natural and profitable extension of the managed services they provide to their business clients.

From the strong revenue growth we at Datagate see through these MSPs, even during a global pandemic, it is clear that businesses around the world like to buy their telecom and IT services from the same source – their MSP. This is hardly surprising, given that the network technology is common to both, and nothing can be more frustrating to a business customer than having multiple technology providers pointing to each other when something goes wrong.

After some recent conversations with Ken Davis, the president of ConnectWise BI & Analytics provider Cognition360, I was inspired to look more deeply into the numbers to draw insights into what is happening to the MSPs using Datagate for telecom billing, especially during this complex time of the Covid-19 pandemic. Cognition360 now has the capability of providing analytics specific to Datagate telecom billing within a ConnectWise Manage database – which I am very excited about.

To date, Datagate has signed up over 150 MSPs who use our SaaS billing solution to bill VoIP services, spread throughout the United States, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand (with most in the United States).

In calculating the following numbers, we looked at the period from August 2019 to August 2020 and we only included MSPs that had been with us longer than the measured 12 month period. Six of the twelve months in this period included international Covid-19 restrictions which only appears to have had a somewhat negative effect on New Zealand and Australian telecom revenue.

The international average revenue growth rate for MSPs billing telecom services through Datagate over this period was 33%. In the Australia-New Zealand region the average growth was down to an average 25%, while in the United States, the average was a whopping 77%.

Obviously, achieving a high percentage revenue growth gets harder, the larger a business is, and is was notable that our larger MSPs were still achieving impressive growth rates, with large dollar value increases.

Internationally, Covid-19 seems to have made our MSPs busier, helping their business customers reconfigure for staff working from home, and implementing “Unified Communications” VoIP systems.

My conclusion from looking at these high-level numbers, is that selling VoIP and Unified Communications, is a solid high-growth opportunity for MSPs which seems to be mostly resilient to the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Virtual events for MSPs in 2020

August 28, 2020

Covid-19 has eliminated in-person conferences for the foreseeable future, and this has forced the conference industry to “go virtual”. In addition to virtual-conferences, we’re also seeing an increased quantity of webinars and podcasts.

Whilst there are obvious advantages to the in-person events, there can also be a different set of advantages to the virtual events, if they are done thoughtfully and well.

Virtual-events are a relatively new phenomenon, so the industry is still early in its learning curve. I’m noticing that as time goes on, the conferences are getting more successful. It’s as if there is a collective learning process happening within the industry.

Last month, my company Datagate (telecom billing for MSPs) was a sponsor/exhibitor at OITVoIP‘s Cloud Connections Summit 2020 (#CCS2020)

What impressed me about #CCS2020 was the impressive line-up of very interesting and relevant speakers, over and above the sponsors, including myself, who also got to present. My team and I attended many of the presentations because they had such good material.

OITVoIP’s President, Ray Orsini did a great job as host, and Sean Lardo (OITVoIP’s VP of Channel Development) was also great as co-host and counterfoil to Ray, with constant amusing banter between the two of them.

Ray Orsini, Presdent OITVoIP

It was noticeable that the audience tended to move around together to attend whatever was the current presentation, rather than wander around the virtual conference center on their own, visiting booths etc. I think Ray picked up on this early on, and ensured that the group not only attended the presentations, but also visited the sponsor booths. This was done, for example, by organizing and announcing a demonstration at the Datagate booth at a preset time, that was complementary to the event’s main schedule. It worked well.

As an attendee of the virtual conference, it played out much like a big television show, where you had the ability to self navigate through the virtual conference center, between or during presentations. I could see it was important that they had gaps in the schedule, similar to ad breaks in a television show, so that attendees have the ability to do what they need to do from time to time throughout the day (after all, they are all really sitting at a computer screen at home, so plenty of potential distractions).

At the end of the conference, Datagate came away with a list of contacts who expressed interest in our telecom billing solution and a good level of promotion and exposure to our target market – MSPs who sell VoIP. Maybe not the same level of personal interaction we would have had at an in-person conference, but still a good level of promotion, considering we didn’t have to fly across the country to get there!

Another virtual event that worked well for Datagate in early July, was a webinar we held in partnership with ConnectBooster (the automated payment collection portal). Datagate and ConnectBooster are complementary products, both aimed at MSPs, so holding a joint event meant that we both benefited from each other’s community. We had around 80 attendees, which resulted in some good sales activity afterwards.

Ryan Goodman
President ConnectBooster

The webinar featured presentations from Datagate and ConnectBooster, including ConectBooster’s president Ryan Goodman and me.

A video recording of the Datagate-ConnectBooster webinar is available online, here.

A short while later, Ryan and I recorded a podcast interview that will be released on ConnectBooster’s web site soon.

Early next month, Datagate will be a sponsor-exhibitor at Channel Partners Virtual 2020. If you’d like to join us, click here for a free or discounted pass.

With all this activity… I sometimes have to remind myself that, well – it’s all virtual. We haven’t actually gone anywhere to do this…

Conferences “go virtual”

June 30, 2020

IT industry conferences have always been a big part of our marketing strategy at Datagate, particularly in the United States, where there are so many great conferences that are very well attended.

Our target market is defined as “Managed Service Providers (MSPs) who sell VoIP and other telecom services”, so the conferences we target to market our telecom-billing solution are those that cater to MSPs and the telecommunications industry. Our regular favorites are; Channel Partners, IT Expo, Robin Robins and ConnectWise’s IT Nation. Our white-label telecom partner SkySwitch, also has an excellent conference, called Vectors.

These conferences are where we make new industry contacts, and meet with potential partners and clients. Meeting face to face with someone is the best way to start any kind of relationship where trust is required. After meeting at a conference, it’s more easy to continue the conversation remotely via email, phone or web conference.

As a general rule, it’s easier to do business with someone you’ve met in person. This is not to say that meeting someone in person is essential to doing business.

Datagate at the IT Nation Connect Conference in Australia, 2019

Having an exhibitor booth with good clear signage about what you do, is the best way to meet relevant industry contacts. When you don’t have a booth you are more limited to seeking out relevant people who have booths, but when you have a booth, relevant people will come to you and you can still go and talk with others who have booths.

The advent of COVID-19 this year has seen all of the 2020 conferences we’ve been booked into since early March 2020, get initially postponed from their original dates, and then finally switched over to become “virtual conferences”. A virtual conference is an event held over the Internet using a software platform that mimics and enables many of the activities that happen in an “in person” conference.

From our perspective at Datagate, there seem to be positives and negatives with virtual conferences compared to real in-person conference, which I’ve listed below:

Positive aspects of
Virtual Conferences
Negative aspects of
Virtual Conferences
Greatly reduced COVID-19 infection riskHuman interaction is reduced. Relationship building ability is compromised.
No travel and accommodation costs. Less time away from the regular business environment. Some attendees like visiting conference destinations as a vacation, for them and/or their families. This attraction is lost.
Attendees can split their time between the conference and their regular work.Attendees will split their time between the conference and their regular work, adding the risk of distraction and forgetting about the conference.
Less cost or no cost to attendees.Less commitment and buy-in from attendees.
Larger potential audience, because people can attend from anywhere and cost is not such a barrier.It’s harder to make the conference “special” and differentiate from other Internet/web content.
Positive and Negative aspects of Virtual Conferences

With all the necessary restrictions in place to slow down the spread of COVID-19, real in-person conferences are not going to be able to be held in North America for at least the next six months, possibly longer.

The conference industry is still the early stages of learning how to make virtual conferences work. I believe we will see significant improvements over the coming months and years, which may well make virtual conferences a permanent and viable option.

For now, businesses will make the best of the options available to them and many of these options, including virtual conferences, might become a more permanent option beyond the COVID-19 era. However, I’m confident that the “good-old” in-person conferences will come back with a vengeance as soon as the COVID-19 situation permits.

Cognition360 analytics is boosting visibility and profitability for ConnectWise and Datagate users

May 23, 2020

In this time of Covid-19, more than ever, business leaders need to keep a close watch on what’s happening in their businesses in real time. They need to see trends, issues and opportunities as they occur, so they can swiftly tune their businesses to protect and maximize their bottom line.

Cognition360 Business Analytics platform

This is why I’m so impressed with Cognition360, which a “next generation” analytics solution that uses machine learning and predictive AI. It’s optimized for users of ConnectWise Manage and is now being further optimized for users of Datagate telecom billing.

Cognition360’s president and co-founder is Ken Davis, who has an impressive IT industry track record, having built and exited a large and successful MSP business in New Zealand. Ken understands the MSP business model implicitly, and that expertise, combined with his knowledge of ConnectWise comes through clearly in Cognition360.

Instead of static monthly reports that show where the business has been, Cognition360 drills down into interactive reports using live data to reveal what is happening in the business right now, day by day. Instead of reacting to what happened last month and not understanding why, you can track your KPIs day by day, immediately seeing what changes you need to make. Your reports become a dynamic part of your day by day tuning of your business.

Now with more than 30 million tickets in its database, Cognition360 is the largest repository of industry-wide ConnectWise data in existence. This enables Cognition360 to show MSPs how they are performing compared to current and accurate industry benchmarks, for all their key metrics. Importantly, this gives them the ability to home in on the areas of their business which can be improved.

Of particular interest to Connectwise MSPs who use Datagate for telecom billing, is that Cognition360 will soon have the ability to recognize Datagate telecom invoices and report on these specifically.

I recommend that all MSPs who use ConnectWise Manage, should have a close look at Cognition360.

There’s never been a better time to work from home

March 10, 2020

The argument in favor of working at home has been getting stronger and stronger, year by year, as a result of the following factors;

  • Major advances in communication and collaboration systems
  • Major advances in Cloud-based business systems
  • Increased congestion on roads and public transport
    • Increased time wasted on travelling to a work place
    • Increased awareness of environmental issues
    • Costs associated with travelling, parking etc
  • Increasing costs related to buildings (in many geographies)
  • Increased productivity due to less distractions and less wasted time
  • Increased staff retention (studies show most staff prefer working from home)
  • Increased potential profitability due to decreased costs and increased efficiencies

Now, adding the current coronavirus crisis to the list, the argument for working from home has just become more compelling than ever.

Working from home is now more practical and compelling than ever before

If all or most of the staff at your business are still working from a business premise and the nature of your business is not dependent on your physical location (for example, shops, warehouses, factories and other businesses dependent on location and/or physical goods or equipment), I suggest considering the following actions;

  • Review the advantages (if any) of having your staff located in your business location and how these advantages stack up against the above list of reasons for working at home.
  • Implement a Unified Communications system. This enables your staff to be accessible and on-line to your business via their smartphone and/or computer, no matter where they are, from a single phone number.
  • Implement a team collaboration system for your business, such as Microsoft Teams or Slack, to enable fast and efficient communication, collaboration, meetings and co-working between your staff. Microsoft Teams can also be configured as a Unified Communications system, and also be used for communicating with customers and other people outside your business.
  • Switch to using Cloud based business software, such as Office 365, Google Apps and on-line accounting systems that can be accessed from anywhere, including staff working from home.
  • Establish regular catchup-up meetings (stand-ups) with your staff to ensure your team(s) gets to communicate and know what’s happening around the business.
  • Arrange social activities periodically where practical, so that your staff have opportunities to interact in a social setting. This contributes to maintaining a healthy team culture.

Working from home is the way of today and the way of the future for many businesses. If you need help in setting up your business for remote working, contact your Managed Service Provider (MSP).

Partnerships, Integrations and Game-Changers

January 28, 2020

It’s rare to find a business application these days that can work as an island and doesn’t need to integrate or inter-operate with other business applications. The 2020’s is shaping up to be a decade where we will see the integration of businesses and applications continue to accelerate, to define a new set of winners with a new set of disruptions to the existing ways of doing business.

At Datagate, our focus is on bringing new options and capabilities to our Service-Provider clients as quickly as possible, and we don’t do this all on our own. Bringing in new partners and integrating with their products and services opens up exponential new possibilities for our clients.

The Datagate SaaS product is designed to automate and streamline the billing of usage-base and subscription services. Our vision is to empower our clients in all of the countries we operate, to bring new services and products to market faster and make their own decisions and strategies for what they sell, how their price it and who they sell it to. Speed to market is all-important.

Datagate Integrations

Currently, the biggest area of market disruption for Datagate clients, is the Cloud VoIP revolution. All over the developed world, businesses are looking to their local MSPs (Managed Service Providers) for their voice communications or UCaaS systems. Datagate makes telecom billing, tax and compliance easy and automatic for our MSP clients.

This year Datagate will announce a number of new and exciting partnerships to extend the markets, the capabilities and the scale at which we operate. We will also be announcing new team members throughout the year, starting very soon, to maintain and lift our levels of services as our client-base continues to rapidly grow.

An exciting year decade ahead!

Datagate sponsors three Florida MSP conferences

November 20, 2019

Datagate has been out among the people, at three great MSP-focused conferences in the sunny state of Florida over the last four weeks.

Our strategy is all about collaborating and working with our partners who target the same MSP audiences that we do. Specifically, our target market is defined as MSPs who sell telecom services.

The best way to connect with new prospects is to meet them in person and that’s what trade conferences are all about to us. It’s even better when you can do this with complementary partners to reinforce your offering.

Vectors by SkySwitch 2019, Orlando, October 27-30

Firstly, Datagate sponsored and attended Vectors by SkySwitch which was held at the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Universal Orlando, October 27-30. This was a well run event, a credit to our partner SkySwitch, with over 330 attendees, of whom most were MSPs who sell SkySwitch UCaaS VoIP services. Datagate was warmly received by the SkySwitch community and we are now scoping up telecom billing solutions for many of the MSPs we met there.

The second conference was ConnectWise’s IT Nation Connect 2019, a huge event with thousands of MSPs, which was also held in Orlando, Florida immediately following the Vectors event.

“With some help from our friends” at IT Nation Connect 2019, Orlando, FL
From L to R, Greg Robinson, Karine Vosberg, Evan McLean, me, Shauna Brauchler and Matt LaHood

At IT Nation, Greg Robinson and I were joined by Karine Vosberg and Matt LaHood of GSA as well as Shauna Brauchler and Evan McLean of Wolters Kluwer, CCH SureTax. This was a powerful combination of people, because we had all the expertise on-hand to talk with MSPs about telecom billing, tax & compliance, as well as how we integrate with ConnectWise Manage. The response from ConnectWise MSPs visiting our booth was fantastic!

Greg Robinson and I catch a quick photo with Ryan Goodman, President of ConnectBooster, at ConnectWise HQ – Fall Festival – Solution Partner Showcase, Tampa, FL

The third event was held at ConnectWise’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida. This was the “Fall Festival Solution Partner Showcase”, where Datagate and six other ConnectWise Invent Partners got to meet with a over a hundred of ConnectWise’s sales, marketing, tech support and management personnel and familiarize them with what our solutions do with the ConnectWise platform.

It was an ideal venue to promote the powerful telecom billing capabilities of Datagate with ConnectWise Manage.

Greg and I both enjoyed meeting the ConnectWise team members, as well as the other ConnectWise Invent Partners in attendance. This included Ryan Goodman, the president of ConnectBooster, an on-line payment portal that is very popular with ConnectWise and Datagate clients.

That concludes all the conferences for Datagate in 2019, but we’ll back for more next year!

Business benefits of a laser-sharp focus

October 21, 2019

At some point, whether consciously or unconsciously, every business must decide on the range of products and/or services they will provide to their customers and what type(s) of customers they target.

If the accessible target market of a business is small, then the business will likely need to offer a wider range of products and/or services in order to generate sufficient revenue from its relatively small customer base. Conversely, if the target market is large, then the business can afford to specialize and focus it’s products and/or services to a narrower band. Thereby they remove a lot of complexity from their operations, while offering greater expert value to their target customers.

I have found this correlation between market size and business focus is especially valid in the software industry, while it also applies to many other business categories.

My company, Datagate Innovation started its life in New Zealand as a SaaS billing and reporting solution for businesses that sell usage-based services, such as telecommunications, electricity, water, Software as a Service etc. Given the relatively small size of the New Zealand market, our initial approach was to apply our sales and marketing efforts across all the various industries for which our software could be used. I call this having a “wide focus”, which seemed logical at the time, to win as many customers from our small New Zealand market population as we could. In hindsight, it was a great opportunity to test and evaluate the various different industry opportunities within a small and accessible population.

The downside to a wide focus is complexity, and complexity generally makes it harder to scale-up a business.

Datagate found that there was plenty of demand and opportunity for our product in each of the industries we engaged with, but we soon realized that each was pulling us in a slightly different direction. Each direction involved a different learning curve, more costs, different marketing, different pricing, different language and slightly different functionality and integrations in our product.

We wanted to scale-up our Datagate business as quickly as possible, but the complexity of supporting multiple customer categories made this difficult, with extra costs and less repeat-ability and re-use of existing resources, the wider we went.

The answer to our scaling-at-speed challenge, was to narrow our industry focus, while at the same time increasing our geographic focus. So to do that, we picked one target industry, while expanding our target market beyond New Zealand, to other larger economies such as North America, the United Kingdom and Australia. The industry we chose was telecommunications and more specifically, we focused in on the fast-growing segment of MSPs (Managed Service Providers or IT Services Companies) who are now selling telecom/voice solutions, due to the convergence of computers and phones.

The widening of Datagate’s geographic focus did introduce “some” extra complexity to the business, with the slightly different language, tax and compliance requirements of each country, but the complexity was far less than that of targeting different industries.

As our software product matures, we continue to add functionality that is more specific to telecom billing and integrations to other software products, such as ConnectWise, QuickBooks and Xero, that are commonly used by our MSP target market. This gives us a high level of efficiency, where everything we do in product development and marketing is mostly relevant to our whole target audience. This would not be the case if we had a wider focus and were targeting multiple industries.

We have found that customers (and investors) in the larger economies, such as North America, generally expect software solution companies like Datagate to be very specialized in what we do.

There is less need to go wider in a larger economy, especially when it can be more efficient, lucrative and easier to go deeper instead.

Datagate on the roadshow with Robin Robins

August 30, 2019

This week I was in Los Angeles, where Datagate was a sponsor at Robin Robins’ Marketing Implementation Roadshow.

Robin is a well-known personality in the American MSP industry. Her events are very popular because she knows her target audience and she gives her clients great advice, blueprints and inspiration on how they can be extremely successful in their businesses. I’ve sat in on some of her sessions and I find her advice and material very motivating and inspirational.

Datagate’s main purpose for me being there was to connect directly with MSPs who are serious about growing their businesses, becoming more profitable and becoming the single point of supply to their customers for voice and data applications.

I connected with some great Los Angeles MSPs at this event and look forward to following up with them over the coming weeks. One thing I’ve noticed, is that the challenges and aspirations of MSPs are similar, no matter where you go. The common goal is to build good “sticky” customer relationships and strong recurring revenues – and Datagate is designed to help them achieve that.

I also enjoyed talking with the other vendor-sponsors, a few of which could become potential partners for Datagate. This type of interaction and what you learn from it, adds to the value of these events for a sponsor.

Anyhow… now it’s time to close off this chapter and head back up to Vancouver.

Integrations key to business software success.

July 25, 2019

These days it seems like most, if not all technology products are getting smaller and more powerful, smaller and faster, smaller and less expensive, smaller and smarter, smaller and better connected.

In business software we’re seeing the same trend, away from the large monolithic systems of old, towards smaller, more targeted “apps” with a specific purpose. These apps connect to other apps and work together to form a larger overall “integrated solution”.

I first noticed this “smaller and connected” trend a few years ago when I worked in the ERP industry. We started seeing smaller accounting systems being used by larger and larger businesses. How could this happen? The answer was and is that the smaller accounting system is plugged into add-on solutions that enable the combined solution to cater to the specific requirements of the industry or user.

In the case of my company’s Datagate Billing Solution, we’ve decided on a product strategy where we focus on the rating and billing piece of the solution for telecom and other utility resellers, and leave the accounting, CRM, and business management functions to other popular solutions dedicated to those purposes. This means each software company focuses on what it’s good at and the integrations between the software packages enable them all to work as a single “integrated” solution.

Being integrated with other popular software products also increases our appeal to prospective customers who already use those products. This in turn leads to partnerships with those software vendors, as per the topic of my previous blog article.