Luca Isola

by | Feb 12, 2019

What is your Cloud strategy?

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After two years of hard work with service providers, the Imagicle Business Development Manager describes his experience giving some hint on how to build the best Cloud strategy for any type of company…

 

I must admit I’m a lucky man.
Not only because I have a wonderful family in my private life and another one in the workplace, but also for the privileged role I play in my company.
My job is to develop the business with the Service Providers all over the world, and today I take the opportunity to talk about one of the two pillars of Imagicle’s business: the Cloud solutions.
In fact, at a time when Cloud services represent the future, this exciting experience allows me understanding, day by day, how the SPs’ strategies for the UCaaS offering evolve.
 

 

 

 

The UCaaS opportunity.

Before sharing my personal experience, let me put in a row just a few consolidated information coming from the many research on the UCaaS market:
 
  • Although we must bear in mind that on-prem solutions still represent a substantial part of the market, as a matter of fact the value of the global UCaaS market was estimated at USD 17.35 Billion in 2016 and is expected to grow up to USD 79.3 billion by the end of 2024, at the impressive Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 29.4% during the forecast period;
  • Cloud UC is a top priority for the IT Managers in their digital transformation strategies. Roughly three-quarters of them are planning to consider the SPs’ UCaaS offering in the next two years;
  • The expected growth of this market will be mainly supported by the increasing adoption of hosted telephony in several vertical markets (retail, financial services, telecom, logistic, healthcare, and hospitality) as a part of UCaaS solutions, that will hold the largest market share thanks to its compatibility with automated transmissions of voice, fax, or other information;
  • As it comes to the delivery model, although stand-alone services currently lead this market, the revenue generated by the growing demand for integrated services will soon overtake the unconnected ones.
It seems that we are faced with a considerable opportunity driven by telephony solutions, which already impacts most of the markets.
 
That is why Imagicle has always invested in developing additional telephony services, getting ready to support these applications when hosted by the Service Providers for their Cloud offering (especially when based on the Cisco hosted platform and Broadworks).
It’s no coincidence that the Imagicle AppSuite is certified with the latest version of the traditional CUCM but also with the HCS 11.5 release: this guarantees a smooth and seamless path while migrating customers to the cloud, which is exactly what is required to quickly leverage this business opportunity.
 
But let’s see: what exactly are customers looking for? Why are they so interested in moving to the Cloud?

Customer expectations.

As it happens in the definition of all successful strategies, first of all you need to understand what benefits your customers expect.
Now, let’s focus on mid-market companies and try to identify their needs starting from what we know.
  • Versatility. These companies require enterprise UC capabilities to increase their competitiveness, while they don’t want to lose their on-premise PBXs’ features.
  • Value for money. That means that they perceive Cloud solutions as a way to reduce their TCO with a simultaneous increase in reliability. In fact, 70% of IT Managers consider their current UC platforms too expensive to maintain.
  • Flexibility. Customers also expect to get more on-demand flexibility from a Cloud service. They want to be able to add new sites, easily enable remote workers and update their subscribed service or the user’s profile thanks to a business approach based on a pay-per-use model.
On the other hand, from the user’s perspective it’s important to get access to the same set of UC capabilities regardless of where they are working from; they need easy-to-use interfaces to increase their productivity and save time by using integrated tools to reduce their efforts.
 
What Imagicle is doing, therefore, is designing solutions that meet these precise needs. How?

By leveraging on two cornerstones: commit to providing additional enterprise-class features on your Cisco HCS platform, and keep the costs down through a single comprehensive suite deployed on a single VM, that, among other things, saves you the effort to deal with several vendors and to manage different integrations.

 

Imagicle Gadgets for Jabber – Call Recording

The full integration of the Imagicle AppSuite with the reference provisioning tools allows creating the required automation to offer the flexibility that a Cloud solution must have. 
Moreover, Imagicle apps are available both in a bundle o “à la carte”, enabling both to standardize the offer and to easily make progressive additions.
Finally, further improvement of the user experience comes from integrating the Imagicle capabilities with Cisco tools, such as Jabber or Finesse, able to provide user-friendly access to additional services from a single user interface.
 
Well, so far so good. Now we need a plan to make all this theory works.
 

 

Go to market

Let’s consider a medium-sized customer (250-2000 users) that wants to migrate to a Cloud UC solution. For sure, the users have different requirements depending on their role and responsibilities, starting from basic telephony needs up to the advanced UC tools for the top management, including “mobile workers” and CC operators.

At this point, the administrator needs profiles with different access levels, to be updated whenever new needs arise.
 
An easy-to-access Customer Portal shall allow defining or modifying these profiles; it means that such choices are automatically reflected in both the deployment and billing processes to activate the services subscribed and account them immediately.
Sure, these configurations must be standardized, but we also know that end-users love to be able to customize features according to their preferences: it’s necessary to provide access with controlled administrative credentials to manage this Auto-provisioning phase.
Furthermore, being a Cloud offer, it’s not possible to disregard from its total reliability: HA redundancy in a disaster recovery site must always be included, at least for critical services or when requested by customers.

In this optimization process, streamlining the resources by adopting a multi-tenant architecture where each customer still maintains its total independence can be really useful.

Looking at the Imagicle value proposition, then, you can notice how services as Advanced Directory management or the IP Fax Server are the baseline for every user profile whenever a customer migrates to the Cloud. 
After all, would it ever be possible to offer an innovative Cloud solution where services such as “Caller lookup” or calls reports are missing – or without replacing the old analog fax machines?
 
The integration of Imagicle ApplicationSuite with provisioning tools such as Kurmi Software allows automating the configuration of services, further simplifying the work for Service Providers.
You can also access the Imagicle AppSuite with different roles simply through a Web interface: customers can tailor services by themselves, such as creating a multi-level Auto Attendant menu with several options for voice messages.
This to say that, by serving multiple customers with a single instance in a multi-tenant environment, Imagicle represent a valuable enabling solution for HCS Shared Architecture: it provides some mandatory applications (contact separation, LDAP), highly recommended ones (Advanced Queueing, Fax Server), and others to enrich the offer through a single Virtual Machine.
 
This architecture is meaningful not only to improve the automation required, but also to offer customers the opportunity to test the Cloud service in a simple and fast way, enabling them on an existing HCS-SA.

Our experience with the Service Providers.

In the last two years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world, from San Francisco to Sydney through Europe, meeting dozens of Service Providers and discussing with them the several options to build a valuable UCaaS offer.

Despite the different geographical areas, cultures, and market types, a common need comes up every time we discuss a UCaaS strategy: that of a horizontal, scalable and reliable offer that provides users with everything they need in a flexible but cost-effective way.

 

HCS Business and Technical Summit, Lisbon

What can make a difference is the way to achieve these goals. Is it better to invest in Cisco or BroadSoft? HCS dedicated instances or shared architecture? Is it more convenient to invest in the cheapest or the most feature-rich offer?
Well, no answer suits everyone, but, for sure, those who have started with the UC Cloud offer are already getting those responses from their customers.
For example, it is often thought that keeping the costs down and adding the missing features as a second step may be a good start. Well, nothing wrong on paper, but focusing just on pricing usually doesn’t allow creating a comprehensive offer, while your customers may consider your commercial proposition not appealing.
 
The price war, indeed, it’s hardly a winning strategy in the long term, because it leads us to stingy customers with a low loyalty level (which becomes fundamental in a UCaaS model based on a subscription). 
I experienced it with a critical partner operating in Central America, whose main concern was to avoid adding costs. They started with an HCS-SA platform with the Imagicle applications just for the automation (Contact Separation and LDAP), and immediately began receiving customer requests for reporting feature and for the hospitality solution (leveraging the Imagicle Hotel application). Thanks to the high flexibility of the Imagicle AppSuite it was possible to recover the situation in a very short time, and today they are also considering adding Call Recording and IP Fax Server capabilities.
 
Purchasing bundled solutions right away can be a great strategy to anticipate your customers’ needs. Sometimes, however, it can be useful to differentiate the contents of the proposition, so as to stand out from the competition thanks to a unique offer tailored to the real users’ needs.
Many of our partners, from North America to the Middle East, have successfully understood this approach based on adding value to their offering.
 
And don’t be afraid of investing in additional features that would seem to be an extra cost: in the Italian market, the SP provides the Imagicle Full Bundle to each HCS-DI Customer with an attach rate of 90% and, in the Arabian countries, our local partners keep adopting the entire AppSuite also for the smaller customers enabled on HCS Shared Architecture.
Imagicle allows you to travel several ways and, as we reported in France, England and Benelux, some partners have chosen a middle ground: a set of à la carte applications (or a Basic Bundle on HCS-SA) to get essential features and some optional apps to be enabled on the Imagicle platform under request.
 
In the end, as I said, there is not a suitable solution for all types of business and customers, but, for sure, being aware of the trend of the Cloud market and identifying the need for standardization and customization of services are key factors to developing a winning cloud strategy.
Imagicle builds its solutions basing exactly on these factors. That’s why, whatever your platform, architecture and commercial offer are, it’s definitely the best way to make your customers happy.
 
Well, once again, what do you say? What’s your Cloud strategy?
Wanna know a little more? Write below.
We’ll talk about it together!
 
 
#stayimagicle

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