Posts Tagged ‘VoIP’

Learning from our international telecom MSPs and partners

April 29, 2021

One of the things I enjoy most about Datagate Telecom Billing, is that we are an international business, with an international team and international partners, serving an international group of MSP clients. With an ecosystem like we have at Datagate, we’ve learned, and continue to learn so much about how the MSP Telecom business operates around the world.

The MSP industry itself is strong on networking, learning and sharing experiences & knowhow. This is evident in the online forum Reddit and in the great selection of well-attended MSP industry conferences, such as IT Nation, DattoCon, ConnectIT, Channel Partners, ITExpo, Canadian Channel Partners and the list goes on.

At Datagate, we’ve established a series of monthly webinars called “Talking VoIP with Datagate” where we talk with selected partners and clients about their experiences, offerings and business in general. This month we’re talking with Allegiant Technology about telecom offerings to the MSP community, and next month we’ll be talking with Eric Hernaez, the founder and former president of SkySwitch, who recently joined Datagate’s board of directors and is now the CEO of a new technology business called RabbitRun.

Our observations – what is common to all and specific to some MSP geographies

Here is some of what Datagate has observed about the MSP Telecom industry in the countries we operate in, which are the USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

  1. Worldwide, the demand for MSP services appears to be at an all-time high. Most MSPs serve businesses, and the Covid-19 pandemic has increased business reliance on IT and communication systems. The main challenge for most MSPs appears to be keeping up with demand.
  2. More and more businesses are preferring to buy their telecom systems and services from their IT provider. Increasingly, IT and telecommunications are becoming one and the same.
  3. In the United States, telecom tax and regulatory compliance is a big topic and major concern for MSPs who sell telecom services. This is why Datagate has invested so heavily in this area, supporting the best telecom tax engines and partnering with the best telecom tax & compliance service providers. Tax and regulatory compliance is not a major concern for MSPs outside of the United States, however.
  4. MSPs who provide IT and Telecom services commonly use a PSA (Professional Service Automation) system, such as ConnectWise Manage, Datto AutoTask, Kaseya BMS and others. They typically want to process and be able to see both their IT and their telecom business in the same PSA environment. This is actually why Datagate is so successful, because our strategy is to enable telecom billing for these PSA’s.
  5. Inside the United States, the most popular accounting system for MSPs is QuickBooks by a big margin. In second place would be Xero.
  6. Outside the United States (particularly Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand), MSPs more commonly use Xero for their accounting system, by a big margin.
  7. Globally, most MSPs resell UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) or VoIP telecom services provided by a wholesale provider. Wholesale providers can either be “White Label” (where MSPs sell the service to their customers on their own invoice and take responsibility for the tax and regulatory compliance), or have an Agency or Referral model (where the MSP effectively outsources the billing, tax and compliance to the provider). Examples of White Label wholesale providers are SkySwitch (US & Canada), OITVoIP (US), Gamma (UK), Access4 (AU) and Spark Wholesale (NZ). Examples of Agency wholesale providers are Allegiant Technology (US), MedTel Communications (US) and WaveFly (US).
  8. Microsoft Teams is a very strong driver of business for MSPs and the ability of Teams to act as a softphone for making telephone calls through a Cloud PBX is the most popular product offering around for MSPs around the world. The interesting thing about Teams is that it further unifies the worlds of IT and communications – so much so that we’ve added the ability to bill Teams calling to the Datagate telecom billing engine. Microsoft Teams is introducing a lot of MSPs to the world of telecom. TeamMate Technology in the US are doing great things enabling telecom providers to support Teams, as are TeleSmart (NZ & AU) with their Teams calling offer to MSPs. Teams calling is now a “must have” and most of Datagate’s telecom partners are offering this.

It’s a great time to be part of the MSP world, and we look forward to continuing our learning process, especially through Datagate’s “Talking VoIP with Datagate” monthly webinar series. I hope you’ll join us.

New Webinar Series: “Talking VoIP with Datagate”

January 25, 2021

One of the great things about the telecom – MSP industry is that there is no shortage of interesting topics within it to learn about and apply to your business to make it more successful. These include technical, product, business and regulatory subjects (yes, regulatory subjects can be interesting too).

This year Datagate has decided to run a series of webinars called “Talking VoIP with Datagate” where we delve into what we believe are the most interesting subjects to us and our MSP community. In effect, it’s a learning exercise that we want to share with anyone who wants to join us and we will be talking with some of the most interesting and qualified people in the industry on the topics we cover.

At the time of writing, we are still compiling our list of topics and guests for the year, but our first topic will be “Using Microsoft Teams as a softphone” and we’ll be talking with Micah Singer of TeamMate Technology. TeamMate develops the software that connects Microsoft Teams to phone systems and so Micah is on the cutting edge of what can be done with Teams and telecom.

Other topics that we’re considering for the series include “Building a successful telecom business”, “Telecom tax and compliance in the United States”, “Digital marketing for MSPs”, “Data analytics for MSPs”, “Adding value with professional voices” and others. We’re open to suggestions for further topics that would be interesting to our MSP community.

I hope you’ll join us in this series. It should be fun, interesting and educational.

2020 – a year like no other at Datagate

December 17, 2020

At the start of this year, we thought 2020 was going to be “special” because it marked the start of an exciting new decade for Datagate. While that might still be the case, that particular aspect of 2020 was about to be overshadowed by what unfolded in the coming months with the global Covid-19 pandemic.

2020- A year like no other

For Datagate, being an international business, a major impact of Covid-19 for us was finding that we were restricted from travelling, both locally and internationally, and we were forced to do 100% of our meetings and interactions on-line. All our staff suddenly had to work from home, and we soon found that working from home was actually more productive and efficient than working from a city office. We’ve now decided to stay with the work-from-home model, as it works better for our staff and our business.

The whirlwind that was 2020

Despite all the Covid-19 carnage and disruption around the world, and being forced to work from home and not travel, the Datagate team, along with our partners and clients, managed to achieve a lot.

In January we formalized our new and very successful distribution partnership with SkySwitch – a leading US white-label wholesale VoIP, UCaaS provider for MSPs, who are based in Florida.

In February, prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, we attended what was to be our last in-person conference for a while, the ITExpo in Fort Lauderdale FL, where we met with a number of our partners and clients.

In March the Covid-19 outbreak took hold, and our plans for travelling and industry conferences came to an abrupt halt. At the same time we could see that our MSP clients were becoming even more busy than usual. The world had changed and the demand for VoIP and UCaaS solutions from businesses everywhere was skyrocketing, to enable staff to work from home. Fortunately for us, being a Cloud-based business, we could keep up with this higher level of demand under our new working-from-home configuration.

Our MSP-Telecom industry conferences started announcing that for health & safety reasons, they were “going virtual”, so that meant we became booth-sponsors of Canadian Channel Partners 2020- virtual, Cloud Connections Summit, Channel Partners 2020 Virtual, and ConnectWise‘s IT Nation Connect 2020. We found that virtual conferences were a great option when there are no in-person conferences, but they really are not as good as the real thing for the purpose of connecting with people. We certainly missed all the great MSP & Telecom conferences that we normally attend, and look forward to when they restart.

In addition to SkySwitch, we also signed Datagate distribution deals with OITVoIP of Miami, Florida and Access4 of Australia, so we now have three strong white-label VoIP -UCaaS providers selling Datagate telecom billing solutions to their MSP resellers.

During the year we also formed a number of new integrated-product partnerships – all of whom we consider important to our MSP customer base. These include Avalara and their AvaTax for Communications tax engine, ConnectBooster and their popular payment automation solution, the quoting solution Quoter, payment solutions IPPay, Stripe and Authorize.net and MSP analytics solution, Cognition360.

We produced and participated in MSP-focused webinars with AdavantageIVR (professional voices for phone systems) and Cognition360 (advanced analytics for ConnectWise and Datagate), as well as with ConnectBooster, SkySwitch, OITVoIP and Avalara.

Geographically, we expanded our footprint in 2020 to include Sydney, Australia and London, UK. These added to our existing locations of Jacksonville Florida, Vancouver Canada and Auckland, New Zealand. We’ve also added five new staff to our North American customer services team, to increase capacity to serve our MSP clients.

Further to all the above, we did a lot of great work in collaboration with our established industry partners (in no particular order): ConnectWise, Microsoft, CCH SureTax, Compliance Solutions, GSA/CLA, RTC, Xero, QuickBooks and others,

It’s been quite a year!

Happy New Year! Roll on 2021!

Datagate featuring at IT Nation Connect 2020 – Virtual

November 2, 2020

Next week (November 10th, 11th & 12th) Datagate will be a gold-level booth sponsor for the fourth time in a row at the ConnectWise IT Nation Connect conference, which is traditionally held in Orlando, Florida each year.

This year, due to Coronavirus-related health & safely concerns, the event will be “virtual” for the first time, instead of in-person. This presents a great opportunity for MSPs around the world to “attend”, what I believe to be the greatest industry event for MSPs, without the expense and time commitment that is normally required.

Datagate wins “Best Newcomer” award at IT Nation 2017 in Orlando, Florida

Datagate’s first appearance at IT Nation was in November 2017, which marked the first time that we connected face to face with American MSPs and started to understand their requirements for a telecom-billing solution that would integrate deeply with ConnectWise Manage and handle the inclusion of numerous telecom taxes at the federal, state, county and city level.

We also won the “Best Newcomer” award from ConnectWise and along with that, received a lot of publicity within the ConnectWise MSP world.

We came away from IT Nation 2017 with over a hundred sales leads for MSPs wanting a solution like Datagate, that would save them days of work each month, share its data with ConnectWise Manage and make the complicated task of telecom billing very easy and quick.

This started the ball rolling for Datagate with ConnectWise, and since then we’ve grown to serving over 150 MSP clients using Datagate for telecom billing with ConnectWise Manage. We’ve sponsored each IT Nation Connect event since then, and this year we’re doing the same – except for the first time, it will be a virtual event.

Anyone wanting to virtually attend IT Nation Connect 2020 can register here.

I hope to see you there.

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!

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.

Telco_1

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.