Archive for the 'Cloud' Category

MSPs are Trusted Advisers, Solution Aggregators

October 9, 2017

The ever-increasing economy of scale of the Cloud is driving the business computing world towards fewer, larger vendors offering massively scale-able public-cloud platform services, while at the same time also driving a trend towards tighter specialization of on-line applications (“Apps”) that work together to provide integrated business solutions.

Computer media and internet communication concept

The role of the MSP (Managed Service Provider) is evolving towards the following areas;

  • Providing strategic advice and planning for business IT and communication requirements. Helping clients decide on what technologies, platforms and applications are best suited for their needs and which will work together in a coordinated, integrated solution set.
  • Brokering Cloud services – aggregating solutions.  Sourcing, acquiring, integrating and optimizing applications and services to build cohesive, well integrated and economic business solutions.
  • Management, optimization and support of business applications, services and platforms; regardless of where they are located – public or private Cloud.
  • More focus on business processes and the solutions required to support them.
  • Recognizing new adjacent sales and service opportunities, in order to provide more value to clients and thereby maximize potential revenue per client.  For example, many MSPs have recognized that the convergence of phones and computers means that MSPs can extend to providing VoIP, broadband and other traditional telco solutions to their clients – becoming a single point of supply and support – which is increasingly attractive to end-customers.

MSPs are well suited to the role of trusted adviser and solution aggregator, because they typically have a much closer relationship and understanding of their clients’ business processes than the larger telcos, application developers and public cloud providers.

The challenge to MSPs is to recognize and lock in these new recurring revenue services whilst maintaining their own brand & identity, gaining differentiation & competitive advantage – and also keeping their own business complexity down to a minimum.

This is where white-label, cloud billing systems such as Datagate, capable of billing numerous telco & utility services on a single MSP-branded invoice and end-user portal are ideal.  The services, no-matter where they are sourced, appear together on the invoice and portal under the same MSP branding, thereby minimizing complexity and maximizing MSP brand exposure to the end-client.

MSPs that evolve and adapt to this new service-based, knowledge-based environment will be those that lead and win.  Recognizing, locking in and monetizing new adjacent opportunities is key to this success.

Paradox of the Telecom Sector

August 20, 2017

The telecom sector is facing a paradoxical mix of circumstances. On one hand it provides the mission-critical technology platform for innovation, growth and disruption across nearly every industry; whilst on the other hand, it faces enormous changes and disruptions to its own traditional business model and revenue streams, more so than perhaps any other sector.

Furthermore, the average revenue per user, across the entire global telecom industry, is falling every year.

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The telecom sector provides the platform for innovation and disruption across nearly every industry, yet faces the challenge of innovation and disruption itself, perhaps more so than any other sector.

Incumbent telecom providers need not be the victims of disruption and reducing revenues in their own industry; they can be the agents of change and disruption, by recognizing (or even creating) shifts in the market, differentiation and moving faster than their competitors to meet the new market dynamics.

Recognition of new trends, agility and speed of execution are critical factors. Reinventing business models, bringing new offerings and services to market must be done in quick time.  A major factor, once new offerings are selected, is how quickly billing systems can be adapted to facilitate new offerings, bundles with new services and pricing plans. Billing is so often the Achilles heel in the telecom world.

Differentiation between Telecom providers can be achieved by bundling complementary or value-adding services or offerings with standard telecom services. This can often be achieved through partnerships with service providers outside the traditional telecom sector.

A significant disruption (or opportunity) for the telecoms sector is its convergence with other on-line service providers.  Telecom services are now being successfully integrated and sold by the I.T. industry, managed service providers (MSPs) and other service sales businesses. Electricity companies are bundling telecom services such as broadband with their offerings. Cloud software businesses are also selling and bundling telecom services.  Phones and computers are now one and the same.

Billing is so often the Achilles heal in the telecom world.

Bundling different yet complementary service types under a single pricing plan, on a single invoice makes it more difficult for competitors to undercut pricing with only a single service type. Service bundling is said to make telecom customers more “sticky” and provide differentiation.

Rather than competing with and resisting new convergent players in the sector, some telecom providers are actively embracing and pro-actively driving this convergence. A prime example in New Zealand, is Spark Wholesale that offers a range of telecom services to its clients, to enable them to sell telecom services under their own branding, giving Spark access to more customers and markets that it might not otherwise be able to reach.

Wholesale telecom providers enable service businesses, such as Managed Service Providers (MSPs) – who have trusted adviser status with their customers, to market and sell telecom services such as broadband, SIP, VoIP and mobile offerings to predominantly business customers.

Telecom resellers require specialized automated usage-billing solutions. Datagate is an agile, white-label, cloud-based billing solution which partners with Wholesale Telcos to get new telecom re-sellers up and running quickly, with billing functionality that integrates with the Telco’s usage data to rate, produce and distribute invoices to their end customers. Datagate can connect to and bill most usage-based services and make it easy for convergent bundling of service types, where multiple service types are combined on a single invoice.

Embracing new business models, new offerings, partnerships, agility and speed to market are the key requirements for success in the telecom sector of this new disruptive, paradoxical world.

Building Business Networks

July 19, 2017

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is a well known statement that I partly agree with. It implies that powerful business networks are all that matters, but I would argue that you also need a good reputation and a strong value proposition to go with it.

Can you imagine how hard it would be to be successful in business with a strong network but a bad reputation?  The strong network would certainly ensure that nobody would do business with you.

Building your business network and building your reputation go hand in hand.  You must invest in both throughout your career. Doing this will make your business career easier and more rewarding as time goes on.

I am very fortunate to have worked for the last 30 years within the same closely connected industry sectors and have built up networks throughout New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada and other countries.  I consider my participation and membership of these networks to be a major asset, that I would argue is worth millions of dollars – certainly that would be the cost of rebuilding networks of that size and reach.

By staying within the same industry sectors throughout my career, the networks that I have built up over time are now shared with and valuable to my company and employer, Datagate Innovation.

To maintain any asset, you must continue to invest in it. Datagate and I continue to invest in our networks through participation in industry events, conferences, newsletters, Social Media and industry networking groups.

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Ryan Ashton, AFQY

This month, Datagate signed up with a New Zealand ICT networking group called AFQY (A Few Quiet Yarns). It’s leader, Ryan Ashton is a prolific networker and LinkedIn guru. AFQY has strict rules, such as “no selling allowed” and “meet as many people as you can” in place for the networking events, that are held in bars at strategic locations around the countryside.   The events are great opportunities to invite people from the respective regions around New Zealand to come in, have a drink and get to meet and talk with new industry contacts.

My advice to people at all stages of their career, is to keep investing in your networks and reputation.  Make sure all your business deals are a winner for all parties where possible, whether the deal is with an employer, colleague, customer, investor, supplier, partner or acquirer of your business – that way you are building a positive network, not a negative one.  Get out and meet new people on a regular basis – join networking groups and associations. Keep investing…

 

Datagate opening for business in America

June 7, 2017

During my time in the United States last month, I received very positive interest in Datagate’s billing solution from numerous local and global industry contacts that I met with.  Many of these parties were known to me through my previous role as CEO of Enprise Group and my decade as a member & chairman of SAP’s Global Business One Solution Partner Advisory Council.

As a result of these positive responses and evidence that the same market forces driving demand for Datagate in New Zealand are also present in America; Datagate is now in the early stages of setting up sales partnerships in North America, to drive sales throughout that region.  We are excited about the potential of Datagate in the American market.

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Greg Robinson (L) and Kevin Smith (R)

As a result, Datagate has now formalized an agreement with Greg Robinson and Kevin Smith (pictured) of Pilot Solutions to represent us in the North American market as Datagate America. I’ve worked with Greg and Kevin before in my previous role with Enprise.  It’s great to work with people that I already know and trust to get the job done well.  Greg (who formerly worked for SAP in America) joined me in most of the meetings held during my trip and is now up to speed and instrumental in taking things forward with the various developments taking place for Datagate in America.

This is the first of a series of American partnerships, that we will be announcing in due course.

 

Dimension Data successfully brings telco services to NZ clients, with Datagate

May 10, 2017

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This week at Datagate, we published a case study detailing our successful partnership with Dimension Data New Zealand and Spark Wholesale, in bringing a full telco service offering to Dimension Data’s clients.

Dimension Data New Zealand is part of  the wider Dimension Data group, which has revenues of over US$7.5 billion, staff of over 31,000, offices in 58 countries and is a member of the NTT Group.  Dimension Data’s clients include some of the largest organisations in New Zealand, with typically hundreds or thousands of staff.

From Datagate’s perspective, it’s great to see that larger customers, like those of Dimension Data’s, are showing a preference for sourcing their IT and telephony from the same trusted supplier.  We have also seen this trend in the SME market, so we can now say that business customers of all sizes are receptive to having a single trusted supplier for all their ICT services.  It stands to reason, as phones and computers have converged and it is clearly preferable for one supplier take sole responsibility for the performance of the complete picture.

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“Businesses prefer to deal with one supplier across all services, which are becoming more intertwined and harder to differentiate” says Dimension Data’s Shaun Bell.

Enabling IT companies, or Managed Service Providers (MSPs) of all sizes to become re-sellers of telephony services, by using our Cloud-based billing and reporting platform, is a big part of what we do at Datagate.  It’s great to be a part of Dimension Data’s success story and we look forward to continuing to work and innovate with Dimension Data New Zealand.

MSPs champion Telco sales

April 3, 2017

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are making major gains in the business and government telephony markets, as customers show a clear preference to buy their IT and telephony services from a single source.  This stands to reason, as phones have become computers and computers have become phones.  The two product lines have converged, making it nonsensical to continue treating them as separate service lines.

Most of the tier-1 Telecommunications providers around the world have now established Wholesale business units to cater for “indirect sales” as they are seeing an increasing proportion of their business and government market shifting away from their own direct sales, in favour of those who have a closer relationship to – and knowledge of the target end-customer.  A sensible and logical business strategy for the Telco’s is therefore to provide a wholesale offering and pro-actively build a channel of re-sellers.   Those re-sellers are in most cases, MSPs.

Examples of Telco’s with Wholesale business units are; Spark, Telstra, Optus, TELUS and Verizon, to name a few.

A major stumbling block for MSPs moving into selling Telco services, such as VoIP, data circuits, mobile, MVNO etc is the billing process.  Telco billing can be very complex, especially in the areas of mobile, tolls, toll-free and other usage-based services.  Billing complexity and the time & effort needed to produce Telco-style billng and reporting is often the barrier to sales and success in this space. This is the problem that my company Datagate solves for re-sellers of Telco services (as outlined in this brief YouTube video).

With a suitable billing solution in place, MSPs are adding significant extra recurring revenue to their businesses, by selling and providing the data connectivity, VoIP and mobile solutions that they source from their local Wholesale Telco provider.  This is also good news for the end-customer, who gets a full-service offering from their MSP, less bills to pay and access to better analytical reports and information via an on-line portal.

Read more from the perspective of Spark Wholesale and VoIP HQ.

Billing sorted for Telco resellers

December 9, 2016

Spark Wholesale

This week Datagate received a great endorsement from Spark, New Zealand’s leading Telco, for the work we’re doing with their wholesale resellers.

Spark and Datagate have worked together to make the normally-complex job of billing Telco services as painless and efficient as possible for Spark’s wholesale resellers, – whilst also providing portal-access for their reseller’s customers, so they can analyse their service consumption and view & pay their bills on-line.

Making Spark’s resellers more competitive and profitable is what it’s all about. Their success is our success.

Read all about it in the Spark Wholesale Case Study.

Opportunities in the “Usage Economy”

November 20, 2016

Given my location in New Zealand and all the earthquakes that have occurred here recently, I’m not sure if it’s in good taste for me to talk about “seismic shifts” in business, but that’s certainly how I would describe the enormous change in consumer behavior that’s been evolving over the last decade and which is still evolving rapidly at this time.

The Cloud and smart phones have influenced customers’ attitudes and expectations. Consumers now expect a more immediate service experience and they are more inclined to subscribe to services than in previous decades. I refer to this as transition to the “usage economy”.

The “usage economy” is that which is based on consumers paying to use a product or service. Rather than buying an asset, they are more inclined to just pay for the use of that asset. The amount they pay is usually based on how much they use the product or service. This is the fundamental business model of the Cloud, on-line services, IoT, utilities and many other business categories (both new and old). This is the “usage economy” and this is where fast business growth is happening.

An interesting development within the “usage economy” is the emergence of service re-sellers. These re-sellers are businesses that typically have existing customer bases, maybe they are I.T. service companies or support organizations, utility re-sellers or agencies. These service re-sellers have the opportunity to aggregate numerous complementary services within their offering, to become a one-stop service shop – in the same way bricks & mortar shops sell numerous products to a defined customer demographic. Combining services, gives them more sales traction, more opportunities for increasing their sales margin and differentiating themselves from their competitors.

My company, Datagate is in the business of Usage Billing for Re-Sellers. We provide a white-label, on-line billing and reporting portal that connects to usage information and generates bills and reports that can be accessed by the re-seller and their customers via on on-line, re-seller-branded portal. Today we provide this essential service to re-sellers of telephony, utilities and on-line Cloud services, but the growth of the wider “usage economy” is bringing in new opportunities for us to service an increasing range of usage-based businesses.

Datagate’s “Ecosystem-as-a-Service” Strategy

October 13, 2016

The path to value creation in business is very much about managing and balancing your tactical everyday decisions with the strategic big picture of where you are heading.

A year ago, I took on the CEO role at Datagate, an exciting fin-tech start-up, after spending over a decade as CEO of a larger business group. In an early-stage business, this balance between tactical and strategic is even more critical, because your decisions will shape the nature of your business for (hopefully) many years to come.

Datagate as a business and a Cloud service, can (like many technology businesses) be described at both a tactical level and a strategic level;

Datagate at a Tactical Level; Datagate is a white-label, Cloud-based billing and reporting portal for service resellers. We connect to all sorts of different service usage data (mainly from Telco’s, Electricity companies and Cloud services) from which we produce invoices, reports and customer portals for resellers of those services and their customers.

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Datagate at a Strategic Level; Datagate is an “Ecosystem-as-a-Service”. We are building our base of service resellers and our base of service suppliers and enabling them to work through each other to strengthen their business reach and profitability. As we add more resellers and suppliers, the strategic value of our ecosystem increases dramatically.

  • We are strategic to our service resellers because we enable them to sell a range of services from a range of suppliers and combine or bundle them on to a single offering and/or a single invoice. For example we enable Telco resellers to sell Telephony combined with Electricity.
  • We are strategic to our service suppliers because we enable them to sell through our channel of resellers, who all use the Datagate billing portal.

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On a day-to-day basis it’s easy to get entrenched in the important but tactical demands of your business, such signing up deals, building revenue etc, but it’s important to keep in mind where it’s all heading. Do the suppliers, deals and customers you’re signing up fit with your strategic long-term view of the business? In my case, Datagate is building a valuable ecosystem through our product and the partners we sign up – and that value will become more self-evident as the business grows.

At the start it is a visualization, but over time it becomes a reality.

Five changes in the market that underpin the value of Datagate

May 18, 2016

I get asked why I stood down from my role as CEO of Enprise Group and diverted my focus and investment to Datagate, which at the time, was the newest and smallest of Enprise’s businesses.

I did this because I recognised the very strong demand for Datagate by companies that sell IT, Telco and/or Utility services, driven by five big changes that are happening right now in the marketplace, as listed below;

  1. The rapid rise of Cloud computing is leading IT Companies of all sizes to shift their business models towards selling services (instead of selling hardware). Subscription service revenue instead of product sales revenue. For IT Companies, this has progressed through selling data circuits, Internet connects and on to SIP / VOIP Telephony. Datagate makes this type of subscription billing easy.
  2. Computers and Phones have become one and the same. Businesses of all sizes are deciding that one supplier is preferable to provide their IT and Telecommunications services, because the technologies have merged. A relationship with fewer service suppliers is easier and less expensive to manage, whereas having more suppliers is more complex and costly to manage. Datagate enables resellers to aggregate multiple service types such as Telco and IT services in their billing and portal services.
  3. Power companies are starting to sell broadband successfully. At the reseller level, we are starting to see an emerging pattern of convergence between electricity and telephony (at least at the broadband level at this stage). Telephony & IT resellers are interested in selling electricity to their customer bases – essentially it’s just another on-line service to add to data services. Electricity companies are interested in selling broadband and other Telco products. Datagate provides billing and portal services that can combine different services types, such as Telco and electricity.
  4. Billing of telephony and electricity is complex. A product like Datagate is needed to make this billing easy. Furthermore, it’s even more complex when you try to mix different service types. Standard accounting and billing systems cannot handle this complexity efficiently. A specialised product, such as Datagate is required.
  5. Further to billing, customers’ service expectations are increasing. They expect immediate on-line access to their bills and reports analysing their consumption of services. The large established electricity and telco vendors all offer on-line analytical portals and so have already set the market expectation. Resellers of these services therefore need to offer similar on-line portals. This requirement becomes more complex when the reseller is selling a combination of services, such as electricity and telephony. Datagate is built to handle this requirement.

Datagate exists to help IT, Telco & Utility resellers capitalize on the opportunities that these changes in the market are driving.

We are experiencing fast uptake of Datagate by resellers in the New Zealand market and we plan to take Datagate to overseas markets, where the same market changes are happening, in the very near future!