Archive for the 'Communication' Category

Why “owning” the customer relationship is so important for service re-sellers

November 15, 2017

Sales and billing models have been top of mind for me recently, particularly as Datagate is in the process of expanding into the North American market and getting an understanding the dynamics of the service re-sellers and vendors who operate there.

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In the ICT industry – in particular, business computing and communications – we have seen a huge shift towards the “as-a-Service” model and a shift away from the earlier model of selling hardware and desktop software solutions.  This has brought about what we refer to as the age of the service re-seller.  Service re-sellers are everywhere at this time – you just need to know how to recognize them.

Service Re-sellers

Within the ICT industry, service re-sellers are businesses that sell on-line services that are built, owned and supplied by another another party – a service vendor.  Typically in the ICT Industry,  service re-seller are Managed Service Providers (MSPs), Business Solution Providers, Value-Added Re-sellers (VARs) and Telecommunications specialists.

Often, service re-sellers have the advantage of being able to offer a closer, more personalized service than what the large service vendors can offer. MSPs can often position themselves as a single point of contact for all ICT services to their end-customers. Service re-sellers will often combine and bundle services together from different vendors to create unique value offerings – which are more difficult for competitors to displace.

With any online service sold by re-sellers, such as cloud solutions, telecommunication and data services there are a number of different marketing, sales, billing and support models that are possible.  Each is model is significant as to who “owns” the customer relationship.

Who “owns” the customer relationship?

Any relationship has at least two parties and obviously the customer owns one side of the relationship.  But on the the other side, the ongoing supplier relationship; who “owns” it will depend on who controls it and who is more visible to and engaged with the customer.  Most important is the flow of money; who bills the customer and under what brand?

If the re-seller sells, bills and supports the service under the re-seller’s brand and also holds the supply agreement with the customer, then clearly the re-seller fronts and owns the supplier side of the customer relationship.  If the re-seller allows the service vendor to perform any of these functions under the vendor’s brand (particularly billing and the flow of money), then it cannot be said that the re-seller owns the relationship.  If the service vendor performs all or nearly all of these functions under their brand, then the service vendor owns the relationship.

Why is owning the customer relationship so important?

The “owner” ultimately gets the most business value from customer relationship, in terms of control of the service and also the boost in valuation of their own business.

If the re-seller is the relationship owner, then the re-seller has more power in negotiations with service vendors and is often able to change or re-negotiate service contracts or change vendors in the background to the customer relationship.

Business valuations are most often calculated on multiples of revenue.  Locked-in monthly recurring revenue  (MRR), such as what you have with contracted on-line services, is valued significantly higher than other types of revenue.  This is because MRR is the best quality revenue – in that it is regular, ongoing and largely predictable – a solid cash platform for building valuable businesses on.

How to own customer relationships in the service re-selling model

For a service re-seller to “own” a service relationship (such as telecoms, Cloud software & services etc), those services must be named, billed and supported under the re-seller’s name and/or brand.

This typically requires a white-label service-billing solution, such as Datagate that can plug into usage data supplied by service vendors, apply pricing plans created by the re-seller and the automatically create & distribute re-seller-branded bills to the end-customers.  Datagate also provides re-seller branded portals where the end-customer can view invoices, reports and analysis of their service consumption.

Datagate’s mission is to enable service re-sellers (who are typically MSPs in the ICT industry) to maximize the value of their business and “own” their customer relationships in the areas of telephony and other on-line utility services.

We are also committed to helping service vendors maximize their sales channel growth through service re-sellers.

 

 

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…

 

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

May 10, 2017

DimensionData_CoreLogo_Landscape

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.

DSQ – Enprise acquisition, cloud & growth strategy approved

September 24, 2012

Last week, on Friday 21st September at DSQ Holdings Ltd’s Annual General Meeting, shareholders voted to approve the acquisition of Enprise. This is the beginning of a major new chapter in the evolution of both Enprise and DSQ (formerly Datasquirt), which will now become one and the same.

The new combined business will be named Enprise Group Limited, which will be a public New Zealand company, listed in Australia with over 350 shareholders.

This is a very positive development for all stakeholders (customers, partners, staff and shareholders) of both Enprise and DSQ.

The new Enprise Group will retain its focus on all aspects of delivering high-quality business software, solutions and services to small and medium sized enterprises. It will have offices throughout New Zealand and Australia (Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne, Wellington and Hamilton) in addition to its international channel of around 100 reseller partners throughout the USA, Canada, UK, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Enprise is a stable and profitable platform for growth, with three business units; Enprise Solutions NZ, Enprise Solutions AU, Enprise Software plus the joint venture, 2Cloud.biz.

Enprise Software is an SAP Gold Software Solution Partner that develops solutions for SAP Business One which is sold through an international partner channel.

Enprise Solutions is a top MYOB Platinum Partner in both New Zealand and Australia, which sells and supports the market leading MYOB EXO suite of business software.

2Cloud.biz is a joint venture, offering Cloud delivery of popular ERP solutions through established reseller channels. Presently, the business is focused exclusively on Cloud delivery of MYOB EXO and associated solutions to the Australasian market.

The new Enprise Group will exploit a range of growth-driving opportunities for its customers and for itself; including the shift to Cloud Computing, Mobile Solutions, Regional Expansion and new “Big Data” processing technologies.

I will be discussing various aspects of the new Enprise Group and its growth opportunities on this blog, over the coming weeks.

New Era for Enprise and DSQ

September 5, 2012

On September 21st at the Annual General Meeting of ASX-listed DSQ Holdings Limited, shareholders will vote on a proposal to acquire the Enprise Group of businesses. If accepted, this will effectively enable the back-door listing of Enprise where it will transform from being a private company to becoming an Australian-listed public company. DSQ Holdings Ltd will transform from being a publicly listed “cash-box” (with no business operations) to becoming the Enprise Group.

For me, the idea of DSQ and Enprise becoming one and the same is certainly an exciting prospect. I have always wanted to build an innovative, expansive and profitable public company and I have been extensively involved in both of these two businesses over the last decade, being a founder and director of both.

In the past, Enprise & DSQ have been successful in building up international software businesses which were then acquired by major American companies. In 2011, Enprise sold its EMS-Cortex business to Citrix and DSQ sold its Datasquirt business to LiveOps.

The new Enprise will maintain a strategy aimed at sustainable growth, running the business as a cash earner rather than a cash burner. Enprise is the perfect platform for growth with its extensive global channels-to-market for business management software.

2Cloud.biz
Included in the proposed Enprise Group acquisition is a one third share in a great new start-up business called 2cloud.biz which is a specialized Cloud Hosting Service provider aimed at the SME ERP market. At present it offers automated provisioning of hosted MYOB EXO systems and is marketed through the channel of MYOB EXO resellers throughout New Zealand and Australia. This business is experiencing rapid early stage growth and is a perfect example of how the Enprise Group can leverage its existing channels-to-market to launch new opportunities.

Enprise Solutions
Enprise Solutions is a Platinum MYOB EXO reseller in both Australia and New Zealand. It has offices in Auckland, Hamilton, Melbourne, Sydney and Wellington. The business is experiencing considerable demand from customers in Australia and our two Australian offices which were established earlier this year are driving a significant portion of our growth. Enprise’s goal is to achieve full regional coverage of Australia and New Zealand within the next 24 months.

Enprise Software
Enprise Software is a Gold Certified Solution Partner for the globally-marketed SAP Business One ERP platform. Enprise’s solutions include the popular Enprise Job Costing and Enprise Rent packages, amongst others. Sales and distribution is via a global channel of SAP certified resellers. There is much growth potential in this business unit as new demand grows for Cloud-based and mobility solutions in addition to SAP’s exciting new in-memory HANA platform.

Datasquirt Sale Completed

December 20, 2011

Today Datasquirt completed the sale of its assets and undertakings to LiveOps Inc of California USA. The employees of Datasquirt are now employees of LiveOps, Datasquirt’s products are now LiveOps’ products and Datasquirt customers are now LiveOps’ customers.

To me this marks the successful conclusion of a ten year journey with Datasquirt that started back in 2001. There have certainly been many interesting and challenging adventures that have involved a wide range of different people along the way.

Datasquirt was initially an experimental business that built business solutions around SMS Text messaging (which was all new and exciting at the time). We were ‘experimental’ in that we built various different types of bespoke messaging solutions for different types of businesses. After a while we started to see a pattern of what were common requirements for most of these business, so we developed a product called CONTACT that covered the common requirements, yet could be flexible and adapt to the specific needs of the various businesses that we targeted.

In 2008 we floated Datasquirt on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), just before the global market meltdown. With the proceeds of the Initial Public Offering (IPO) we set up sales offices in Australia, Germany, USA and the UK.

In early 2011 we partnered with a leading Cloud Contact Centre Provider ‘LiveOps’ as a distributor of Datasquirt’s products – primarily focused on the North American market. Later in the year we and they realised that our non-voice product set and their voice product set (both Cloud Based Solutions for Contact Centres) belonged together, so hence acquisition discussions began.

I wish LiveOps and the Datasquirt team well going forward and will watch their progress and successes with much interest over the coming years. I think they will make a formidable combination and they will have an extremely compelling Cloud-based offering for Contact Centres.

Sale of Datasquirt approved by Shareholders

December 14, 2011

This morning I chaired a General Meeting of Datasquirt Limited, where the the shareholders voted to approve two resolutions relating to the sale of Datasquirt’s business to LiveOps Inc (a leading US-based cloud contact centre provider).

The first resolution approved the sale of the business to LiveOps for US $12.5M cash and the second resolution approved Datasquirt buying back 83.33% of its shares from Shareholders at NZ $0.499 per share (one share purchased for every 1.2 owned).

The sale transaction still remains conditional on a number of technical issues, but I’m confident that it will take place before the end of this year.

I believe this will be a great result for Datasquirt, LiveOps, their respective customers and the New Zealand IT industry, for the following reasons;

  • The sale brings together two world-class, complementary contact centre technology providers who share a common passion and purpose.
  • It means customers will be able to access all the communication channels they need to run a modern call centre – sms, email, fax, web chat, social media and voice – from one expert provider, LiveOps, via the ease of the cloud.
  • All of Datasquirt’s staff are being retained and will continue operating from their current locations in Auckland NZ and the United Kingdom.
  • The retention of Datasquirt’s development team in Auckland will undoubtedly lead to further investment and jobs within the local IT industry.
  • Datasquirt’s shareholders get the option of a return of their capital at a very fair price.

Datasquirt UK Customer Wins #1 in Service over Email

October 5, 2011

Congratulations to Wokingham Borough Council for winning #1 in “Service Over Email”, at callcentre.co.uk‘s Call Centre Focus Awards, held in London recently.

Wokingham Borough Council’s contact centre uses Datasquirt‘s CONTACT cloud-based messaging console for managing and processing their email communications.

Datasquirt AGM 2011 – Chairman’s Address

October 2, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Chairman’s Address to Shareholders
Datasquirt Limited
Annual General Meeting
30 September 2011

FY11 has been a hard-working and productive year for Datasquirt, which has seen us increasingly selected as a best-of-breed provider by clients and channel partners internationally. We were delighted to achieve a profitable result for the last quarter of the year, and take the loss from ordinary activities for the year down to $NZ 599,000; a 51% improvement on the previous year’s loss of $NZ 1,233,000.

Our Cloud-based solution “CONTACT” is giving Corporate Contact Centres around the world the ability to communicate easily in real-time with their customers through increasingly popular channels, such as SMS, Web Chat, Email, Twitter and Fax.

Datasquirt is well positioned from a technology standpoint and is capitalizing on some major growth drivers in the marketplace, including;
• The growing preference for Cloud Computing and Software as a Service
• Rapid Smart Phone adoption
• The increasing use of Social Media by businesses
• The growing demand for faster, more immediate business communication.

This year saw continued growth in sales through reseller partners internationally, culminating in Q4 with an agreement to supply a leading North American call centre provider with CONTACT under their own branding; a deal worth over US $1M, which will see Datasquirt’s software deployed across the United States and Canada. The global technology search that preceded this organization selecting CONTACT illustrates the quality and differentiation of the Datasquirt product offering.

In October 2010 Datasquirt became one of the first software providers in the world to offer a call centre specific platform for managing Twitter interactions with customers. Datasquirt clients such as Royal Mail Group and Wokingham Borough Council in the UK are now using CONTACT to manage Twitter-based service delivery in their call centres.

Only this month (September 2011), we were delighted to be voted first in the “Top 25 Contact Centre Technologies” by readers of a leading UK Contact Centre Magazine called “Call Centre Helper”. This affirms that our product offering is in tune with the needs of our target market.

The company expects sales from both current and new clients to continue to increase and we anticipate on-going growth in the strength of our reseller channel. We will maintain a continued programme of product enhancement to deliver further social media and reporting functionality in line with client demand.

The directors remain confident in the success of Datasquirt and wish to thank our customers, staff, shareholders, suppliers and partners for their on-going support.

Mark Loveys
Chairman, Datasquirt Limited