Archive for the 'SaaS' Category

The new normal: Now is a good time to review and upgrade your IT & communications systems

March 24, 2020

It is certain that the Covid-19 pandemic is driving immediate and potentially long-term, changes to the way the world does business.

As always, it’s those businesses that adapt and change to the new situation and the new future that will survive and prosper best. This is an ideal climate for small businesses to become large businesses and for large businesses to to potentially fail if they don’t adapt quickly enough.

If you haven’t done it already, now is the time to move off old systems that require on-premise hardware (on premise servers, computers, PABXs etc) and move onto Cloud-based systems, that you can access from anywhere you have Internet access. Remote working is the “new normal”.

Remote working is the “New Normal”

Your phone system should be a “Unified Communications” system that you can access via an app on your smartphone, tablet or laptop computer. That way you can advertise a single phone number that can always reach you, and you are always in touch with your business and your staff.

Standardize on a collaboration platform, such as Microsoft Teams or Slack, which will enable you to have meetings with your staff, share documents and communicate more easily. Microsoft Teams can also be connected to a phone system, which is a powerful combination for integrating your outside calls with your internal processes.

Move from desktop Office apps to Office 365 or Google’s “G Suite”. This will ensure you have access to your work platform from a range of devices, instead of just one.

There are plenty of Cloud-based accounting packages to suit your business, including QuickBooks Online, Xero, MYOB, Microsoft Dynamics and others.

Popular Cloud CRM systems include SalesForce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and others.

Now is the time to review your systems and upgrade where needed, to ensure your business can work from anywhere. Contact your Managed Service Provider. This is the new normal.

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).

Datagate at IT Expo and Channel Partners 2020 conferences

February 28, 2020

These days, so much business is getting done over the Internet, where the parties involved don’t even get to meet each other in person.

I believe there is a lot of value in meeting in person, and for that reason I like to attend industry conferences, because that is where I get to meet in person with Datagate’s customers, prospects and partners – all in one place!

Once you’ve met someone in person, your understanding of them and your ongoing remote communication steps up to a much more improved level.

Datagate’s Greg Robinson and I attended ITExpo 2020 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida earlier in February. The event was very well supported, with many of the key players of the IT and Telecommunications industries there, including many of Datagate’s industry partners.

A photo opportunity with SkySwitch’s Harlon Hamlin, Eric Hernaez and Ben Macalindong

At the conference we announced our new partnership with SkySwitch, where they now offer Datagate as a billing solution for their reseller clients. Datagate and SkySwitch are both ConnectWise Invent Partners, which means our solutions are designed to integrate with the ConnectWise platform, which is so popular with our MSP clients.

It was also great to meet Shawn and Jimmy from In-Telecom at the conference. They are a top Datagate client, who had just traveled in from Louisiana that morning.

Meeting Shawn Torres and Jimmy Burns of In-Telecom

In March, Datagate will be an exhibitor at Channel Partners in Las Vegas, being held at The Venetian this year (booth #1253). We are offering reduced price entry passes at this link (before March 6th), if you’d like to meet us there.

On April 23rd, Datagate will be an exhibitor at the Canadian Channel Partners event in Vancouver. Contact us at Datagate if you’d like a free pass to meet us at this event.

Stay tuned for more events!

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!

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.

The as-a-Service partnership as a long-term journey

September 21, 2019

As an XaaS (Anything as a Service) provider, you engage your customers for at least the term of your contract, but your real goal is to keep them with you for much longer than that.

If your billing model is fully or partly usage-based, then not only are you motivated to keep your customers longer-term, but you are also motivated to ensure their successful and increased usage of your product or service, because more usage translates to more revenue for your business.

This is why I like the usage-based billing model. It motivates service providers to provide better long-term service to their customers, whilst it also gives more power to the customers, where they can take their business elsewhere, if they’re not getting the service levels or value for money they desire.

When my company Datagate signs up a new client for our billing solution, we view it as a commitment to a very long-term partnership. Our own charge model is based on a small percentage of what our clients bill, so our success is mathematically linked to their success.

We invest heavily in providing services and support for our clients and the ongoing improvement of our product. I see this as an investment in generating more business for our clients and us, rather than as just an overhead cost. The average Datagate client grows their business by 22% per year and so as long as we keep our churn rate to be minimal (as it is), then our revenue would grow by about 22% each year, even if we didn’t make any new sales.

My recommendation to any business that has a recurring revenue model, is to include at least some usage-based component to your billing, because it will drive better behavior in your client relationships and increased revenue growth opportunities for your business.

Good luck on your XaaS journeys!

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.

Strategic partnerships as a high-growth strategy

June 26, 2019

One of the most common mistakes made by early-stage businesses, is going it alone and trying to do everything themselves.

Strategic partnerships can be a cost-effective and efficient way for a business to add channels to market, brand value, access & relevance to customers, localization and other strengths to their business proposition.

Partnerships will only work when both partners win from the partnership.

To identify potential partners, businesses should identify and understand what value the partner will add for them and in-turn, what value they will add for their partner. Sometimes it’s simply an exchange of margin and additional sales reach, other times it might be adding functionality to their product offering and opening new market opportunities together that the partners may not be able to address on their own.

Ideally, there should be a signed partnership agreement, to define the details of the agreement and hopefully prevent any misunderstandings later on.

To illustrate how strategic partnerships work, consider the example of my company Datagate.

Datagate is a SaaS billing solution for businesses who sell usage-based and subscription-based services, such as as telecom services, water, electricity, cloud services etc.

Datagate’s primary market is Managed Service Providers (MSPs) who sell telecom services. We recognized that a larger, more established software business called ConnectWise also targeted MSPs, has a compatible offering to Datagate that does many awesome things, but not what Datagate does (bill telecom services) and has regular conferences that we can sponsor and a partner program we can join.

We partnered with ConnectWise in 2017, signed up to their partner program, and built extensive integration functionality into the Datagate product to enable Datagate to share data and inter-operate with ConnectWise. Then we sponsored a booth at ConnectWise’s IT Nation conferences in 2017 and 2018 (we will be back in 2019) and this put us in front of thousands of potential MSP customers who use ConnectWise. There is no way we could have reached that size of specialized audience (who were genuinely interested in our product), without our ConnectWise partnership.

Datagate America’ s banner for ConnectWise IT Nation

The value to Datagate in this partnership is access to large volumes of relevant and interested sales prospects. The value to ConnectWise is that Datagate adds telecom billing functionality to their product offering, enabling sales for them that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. Datagate is also a regular sponsor and participant for their conferences.

Among Datagate’s many valuable partnerships, another is with Wolters Kluwer and their CCH SureTax offering. CCH SureTax is a powerful cloud-based tax calculation solution that calculates and adds all the various telecom taxes to telecom invoices generated by Datagate. This is challenging in the United States, because of all the tax jurisdictions (federal, states, counties and cities) that have taxes that must be applied to telecom invoices and remitted to the appropriate authorities.

The value to Datagate of the CCH SureTax partnership is that it enables us to service the US telecom billing market, safe in the knowledge that the complex telecom tax calculations are handled correctly. Through that partnership, we also gained partnerships with their tax & compliance partners who help us offer an easy and tax-compliant package to our respective customers. CCH SureTax and their partners gain access to more clients from Datagate’s sales and our ConnectWise partnership.

These are just some of the strategic partnerships that Datagate has formed to build its international sales. I believe that a strategic partnership strategy can be one of the best ways to scale a business and can it be applied to most industries.

Vancouver as an ANZ beachhead to North America

May 10, 2019
Vancouver’s other airport

When high-growth businesses from Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) look to expand their presence into North America, they have a range of cities to choose from. Sometimes they don’t even need to choose a single location, when staff can work remotely from different locations. When they do need to choose a beachhead location, most will choose a west coast city within easy reach of ANZ. This will ideally have a major airport close by that has good access to the rest of North America and of course New Zealand or Australia.

My SaaS billing software company, Datagate (which was established in New Zealand), looked at all the following location criteria for setting up a new presence in North America, to complement our existing sales office in Jacksonville, Florida and extend our reach from our base in Auckland, New Zealand;

  • Good time-zone overlap with New Zealand (we still have a many of our customers, partners and key staff located in Auckland, New Zealand).
  • Good time-zone overlap with the North American continent (our major focus and we have customers, partners and prospects spread throughout the wider USA).
  • Some workday time overlap with Australia and the UK (where we also have important customers and prospects).
  • Easy access to a major airport, whereby we can take a single flight to most major cities in North America, UK, Europe, Australia and of course New Zealand (multi-leg flights with stopovers are far more time-consuming and energy-draining)
  • Ease of getting established (incorporating a company, setting up bank accounts, renting premises, telephone systems, utilities etc).
  • Good public transport.
  • The costs of running a business are not overly high.
  • A great place to live, where we can easily attract talented, high-grade employees.

We ended up choosing Vancouver, Canada, ahead of other west coast cities that also met our time-zone and accessibility criteria. We liked that we could set up here relatively quickly and everyone we engaged with was positive, friendly and very helpful.

For me personally, the speed of getting established in Vancouver was boosted by my dual citizenship of Canada and New Zealand, but regardless of this, Vancouver still stacked up well as a place to live and work in North America.

Canada Place

The shift to Vancouver from Auckland, New Zealand has been a positive experience for my wife Lee and I. Vancouver is a beautiful, vibrant, multi-cultural city, surrounded by water, snow-capped mountains and the great outdoors. We live near our office in the downtown city area, where everything we need is within walking distance, including a train to the airport. People here are friendly, helpful and welcoming of newcomers.

From a business perspective, we’ve found it easier to communicate with our North American customers, prospects and partners for longer periods of the day than we could from New Zealand, plus it’s been very convenient to have closer access to the conferences and trade shows that we regularly attend.

Coordination and collaboration with our US sales office in Jacksonville, Florida has also improved greatly. American customers no-longer say our time-zone is “on the dark side of the moon”.

It was fast and easy to register a British Columbia company and open an account with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), who can handle both Canadian and American banking. American business is easy from here and most Canadian establishments are experienced at supporting businesses that operate in the USA.

We’ve had great assistance in getting set up here from New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE), Nick Fleming the New Zealand Trade Commissioner, Callaghan Innovation and our local Canadian immigration consultants Sas & Ing.

Lee on the Vancouver waterfront

My advice to high-growth businesses from New Zealand and Australia, who want to set up in North America is… make sure you check out Vancouver!

Datagate’s integration certified by ConnectWise in time for IT Nation

October 5, 2018

ConnectWise-Manage-Certified-Integrator

This week Datagate‘s integration to ConnectWise Manage was officially certified by ConnectWise’s Invent Program.

This is great timing, because Datagate will be attending and sponsoring a booth at ConnectWise’s IT Nation event in Orlando, Florida from November 7th to 9th.

We will present Datagate at IT Nation as the ideal telecommunications billing platform for MSPs and CSPs that use ConnectWise Manage.

For our American customers, we’ve also integrated Datagate with Wolters Kluwer’s CCH SureTax telecommunications tax engine for calculating all the taxes applicable to billing communications in all the state, county, city and federal jurisdictions in America.¬† CCH SureTax is now bundled and included in the price of Datagate for all our American customers.

I’m really looking forward to IT Nation this year.¬† In addition to sponsoring a booth, Datagate will also be hosting a breakout session at 2:30pm on Thursday¬† Nov 9th, with our panel of experts on US telecommunications billing, tax and compliance to talk about how we can make selling telecommunications easy, profitable, safe and compliant for ConnectWise MSPs in America.