Communications outsourcing has arrived – choose your provider well

Communications outsourcing is an idea whose time has come.

April 10, 2014

Communications outsourcing is an idea whose time has come. Techniques like virtualisation and the availability of affordable fibre-based broadband make it possible to provision a first-class managed communications service, on- or off-site.

It further makes business sense to pass on the risk and cost of purchasing, owning and running your own communications infrastructure. If you’re still not convinced, consider the following developments.

DIY is hard
Increasing complexity in communications infrastructure, platforms and applications makes outsourcing to a managed or cloud-based provider a must for many organisations.

Complexity is further inherent in the heterogeneous network environments that many companies support. In addition, enterprises are under pressure to support multiple mobile communications platforms and flexible working arrangements, causing major headaches for their ICT organisations.

Lastly, organisations frequently devote separate skilled resources to managing their network and PBX assets, often with little communication between them, which also complicates the issue.

Growing market
In these circumstances, the skills to procure and set up the right communications solution; provision services that scale to demand; run a reliable, secure service; and manage the investment are beyond the capabilities of many organisations – large or small. It may be better to be rid of the problem entirely.

Mirroring international trends, South Africa is seeing sustained growth in the hosted (outsourced) market. BMI-Techknowledge’s latest report (South African PBX and Emerging Voice Market Report – 2013) predicts continued runaway growth for the next four years until 2017, when the market will be worth R405 million – an estimated compound annual growth rate of 148%.

“On the evidence of such strong underlying market growth, we are taking a bullish view of our own growth potential,” says Connection Telecom MD, Dave Meintjes.

It’s for providers too
While many end-user organisations have adopted outsourcing, it is less well known that service providers can also reap the benefits of this alternative service delivery strategy.

Leading communications providers are increasingly entering into ‘white label’ arrangements with others, a strategy that enables them to sell their service into a wider client base.

In the service provider realm, reselling comes into play when the superior scale, technological maturity and experience of the solution developer exceed that of the reselling partner. Again, you might be better off piggybacking off another provider’s strength.

Choosing the right partner
For an excellent outsourcing partnership, your outsource partner should be able to tick the following boxes:

Service assurance
Your provider should utilise dual data centres, featuring all the trappings and redundancies required to offer business continuity, preferably within the country’s borders. In addition, it should provide quality of service assurance. Fibre is the transmission medium of choice for Voice over IP (VoIP), but lesser access technologies such as ADSL can oblige with techniques such as class-of-service prioritisation.

Market experience and strength
Market dominance is a good indicator that your outsource provider’s technology and business strategies have found favour in the market. This sort of market strength can bring the cost of procurement and hosting down, which can be passed on to customers.

Case studies
Does your communications provider have white label arrangements to resell its solutions? This can be an indicator of market authority.

Transparency
Many of the costs of managing one’s own communications are well hidden. One strategy of South African organisations struggling with high communications costs is to use telecoms advisory companies that analyse and rationalise their costs. An outsourced provider whose call reports are accessible and ultra-detailed provides valuable business intelligence and makes extra partners unnecessary. What intelligence does your provider supply?

Stick to that knitting
Outsourcing your communications can give you a quality, reliable managed services platform and serve to future-proof your communications at manageable cost. It frees up organisations to focus on their core undertakings and reduces IT complexity in the face of economic pressure.

As for service providers lacking the scale to compete with market leaders, it offers a chance to focus their efforts on taking innovative products and services to market.

That being the case, why reinvent the wheel?