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Monday, September 18, 2006

The Small Business Market - Web 2.0 opportunities for telcos

At the Big Brainstorm on 4-5 Oct we'll be demonstrating a number of Web 2.0-type applications that IMS service designers need to know about. One offers 'Voice Over GPRS', another 'Carrier-Independent PSTN + VOIP' and another, which can be white-labelled by telcos provides Webex-type collaboration tools to SMEs (Small, Medium sized Enterprises) for a fraction of the cost and hassle. Here's a taster of the latter:

"Organisation development consultants tell us that a satisfying day at the office is completing what you need to do and going home early. [I'm still at my desk at 10pm, still fighting through the in-tray, so I can agree! - Ed.]

95% of UK businesses employ less than 10 people - that's 25% of the workforce. Throughout the rest of Europe (large markets like Spain, Germany and Italy) it's a bigger proportion. However the Small and Medium Sized Enterprise ('SME') market is perhaps the most unloved and underserved segment by telco’s and service providers and can benefit the most from next gen ICT tools and services that increase productivity.

In a survey of SME's conducted by Yuuguu (www.yuuguu.com) 90% said they used Skype regularly, the ones that didn’t were too busy to install it. But most SMEs sell into large companies who block Skype and so the benefits of greater connectedness and lower friction are lost. Transaction costs therefore go up. Enterprise collaboration tools like WebEx, GoToMyOffice, IBM Sametime, Microsoft Live Comms work well for larger corporates but don’t meet the needs or wallet size of SMEs and distributed solo knowledge workers (a growing market).

'Going Bedouin' is the buzz term – all you need is a WiFi-enabled laptop, smart phone and Starbucks for the infrastructure to set up a '2.0 business' with your colleagues. So how come service providers are so slow to respond to this trend? Here’s a clue in Conway’s Law - ‘any organization that designs a system will inevitably produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s own communication structure‘ – old school can’t play by the new rules.

So for next gen services for SME's to be compelling our survey said they have to be:

· Low cost and high value. Why has Skype been such a success? Because it’s free – although interviewees said they would pay £10-20 month on top of a monthly flat rate for bundled services provided they could see the ROI.

· It has to work out of the box and zero touch setup

· It must have a great user interface – and be intuitive to use - we don’t want WAP all over again

· It must be accessible from any device – like the Martini advert of the '70s – anytime, anyplace, anywhere

· And be secure – interviewees are put off by the fear of unsolicited VoIP calls and being flooded by viruses and junk mail.

· And finally customer support with a human touch.

A the IMS Services Brainstorm on 4-5 October in London, Anish Kapoor, CEO and co-founder of Yuuguu, will be talking about what this primary research really means for telcos, and demonstrating some new applications that support a.) the needs of SME customers and b.) the needs of Telcos to offer valuable (high margin) services today."

The Editor, IMS Insider

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