The landscape of business communications is, yet again, experiencing rapid, significant changes. From sales models to voice networks, the industry continues to overhaul the old systems in favour of newer, technologically-advanced platforms and applications that benefit both the companies and their clients. One company in particular continues to exemplify how best to embrace these changes: that company is Smart IP Inc., headquartered in Brampton, Ontario.
The changing landscape
The first of many current major changes in the industry is the sales model. Fifteen years ago, the standard process in “telecommunications” sales entailed selling central processing units from a customer's website or office: an on-premise solution. Today's model, however, is characterized by the customer's ability to expand their capacity by buying more licenses for the product instead of the outright purchase of ever more hardware.
At the same time, managed services and cloud services are coming to the forefront of the business. Managed service refers to a service in which the customer pays a monthly fee and the service provider affords the services, on site or via third party, similar to a cell phone contract but without the up-front purchase requirement. Managed services are easy for businesses to implement and can be used immediately after implementation. These services can be more preferable to some clients because it allows them to consume the products and services over a period of time, since there is no up-front minimum purchase required, and offers products that can adapt and update themselves: all included in a one price per month billing schedule.
Cloud services, on the other hand, are services in which the customer owns nothing: it is essentially a pay as you go service. For a monthly fee, all services reside in the cloud (2nd or 3rd party data sites) and an outside party takes care of the data management. In cloud services, network and bandwidth are the primary concern since there are no in-house upgrades as in managed services. For the business, this equals a low start-up cost, but higher (yet manageable) service cost.
Support requirements are also facing change. In the past, a customer could choose not to accept the standard support fees and instead manage the technology themselves. Now, however, manufacturer support is attached to licensing and is required for support eligibility, warranty and live replacements. Though this model has existed in the data world for years, voice networks is the newest industry to adopt the model for all but the smallest of systems.
The final significant change in the business communications realm is the increasing importance of networks. Today the majority of businesses cannot survive without solid network services, even if they are only small; in fact, the affordability of technology allows small businesses to compete with big players, and the accessibility of technology allows both large and small businesses to offer effectively identical services and ease of communication. From a technological standpoint, small businesses can operate in the same ways as large businesses, with a significant bonus: that they continue to adopt the industry changes as they emerge, just like large companies, where as in earlier days, they would have to wait until affordability came to them.
In the face of constant changes, customers will benefit from accepting these new services and embracing the direction of the industry’s future. These changes are more beneficial both financially and logistically for clients, as companies like Smart IP can attest to. However amidst the changing environment of voice networks, there will be less room for procrastination: those who do not adopt the new systems will most certainly suffer, while those that do will have a much greater opportunity to prosper.
Smart IP: The face of change
Smart IP best exemplifies adaptation to these industry changes. Smart IP is one of Canada’s leading independent full-service voice and data services integrators, providing an alternative to traditional telco companies. Their expertise lies in IP communications and related applications for business customers, and they operate across Canada. Smart IP embraces and adapts to industry changes, but what sets the company apart from the rest?
Primarily, the company is successful because they strive to be not just a service provider, but a trusted advisor. The company does not merely exist to sell the product, but rather maximize the benefits of the product for their clients. One way they achieve this is by maintaining an evolutionary training regime for their technical staff that is derived directly from the manufacturer’s technical expansion. The longest tenured technician within the company will reach his 30th employment anniversary in 2018: he has “forgotten more than some will ever know” as a result of the ever-changing technological landscape, and he is only one example of employee longevity. The company's technicians know voice communications both old and new, are highly certified, and have “experienced everything”, yet despite their extensive experience, they are never done learning and welcome the constant training. This sets the company's technicians apart from the rest.
Secondly, the company’s strategy mirrors the successful manufacturer product strategy. Avaya, using one example, has the whole suite of products that run end to end, meaning they do it all: they have done a very good job to have an evolution of product families, where its certain components can be retained across product families, resulting in significant customer savings. Smart IP utilizes a similar approach, as they follow a self-declared ‘one throat to choke model’ for installation project management: they strive to ensure their clients need only call one number for all of their needs or issues whether it be training, change, clarification, or other communication. Additionally, Smart IP is soon expanding further into the cloud business; the industry will see the launch of IP into cloud services with the key difference being that it will be a part of their products suite, which will be most beneficial for a customer who wants access to products but is not sure of their end goal.
In looking to their future goals, Smart IP remarks that “Our future in the next two to five years is that, we expect to get a lot deeper into the data elements and more the IT, [like] virtualization clients. Even though today we do 60% to 70% of our installs through a virtualized environment, a lot of customers are separating into a multi-vendor shop: [a one throat to choke model].”
In summation, when choosing a voice networks service provider, price, timing, and access to productivity enhancements all factor into the decision making process. However the bottom line is that it’s not merely a matter of making a decision, and it’s not just the final bill that the clients are paying: what makes the difference is the people that deliver the service.