Comms Business Magazine Editor Ian Hunter talks Sally Ainsley, Head of Account Management at Chatham based billing firm AKJ, about opportunities for resellers in the BYOD market.
Comms Business Magazine (CBM): The trend towards Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) brings with it both challenges and opportunities for the channel does it not?
Sally Ainsley (SA): Indeed it does. Resellers are acutely aware that some companies like the concept whilst others are against it. BYOD is not new – it’s just that it has mushroomed. For many years the CEO in a company has turned up at his desk in the morning and called his IT department with a request to ‘connect’ his latest gadget. Sometime later the Technical Director pitches up in the CEO’s office holding his own personal connected gadget and proceeds to ‘break the rules’ for both of them by hooking up the chief’s device to the company network. The explosion of smartphones and tablets in the retail sector has just multiplied the potential for this rule breaking and even without a policy in place people are doing it.
A recent report by Ovum sponsored by Logicalis showed that nearly 60% of employees in mature markets are using at least one device for work and personal use.
CBM: What does this mean for business?
SA: There are a number of issues for business. For example, if the employee has purchased say an iPhone via the retail route then he or she will be paying a retail rate for calls. If the cost of these calls is passed on to the company then they will be paying a higher rate than a typical negotiated business call rate. Administration will be fragmented in handling the claims and if in a 100 user company where up to 60% were using their own device the costs would soon add up.
CBM: How can resellers turn this in to an opportunity?
SA: There are a number strands to answering this as well. A reseller could go to that 100 user firm and say, ‘I’ll do you a deal on all your handsets and costs including the BYOD devices.’ Instead of going to Tesco’s for their BYOD devices the reseller may well end up with the order. Resellers can offer a range of phones and tablets thus turning BYOD in to Choose Your Own Device.
Resellers can also offer businesses ‘Personal Call Tagging’ where they can claim back from the employee the cost of their personal calls and monitor and manage the correct VAT. At the same time there are reporting tools the reseller can supply to help businesses better manage usage and educate them on how to optimise call costs such as roaming charges. Does the business realise it is cheaper for them to call the employee who is overseas than the other way around? There is a lot the reseller can do in terms of tariff innovation all adding up to a bigger overall opportunity.
CBM: What about billing services? How can they help?
SA: Having a hierarchical billing solution will help. Here you can make an overall bill out to the company but provide separate cost records for departments and branches as well as store all the user information such as what devices they use and their contract details. I know many regard BYOD as a threat for resellers but really it should be seen as an opportunity and with billing solutions such as our own Affinity CRM platform as well as the bill we can handle personal call tagging, integrated provisioning with the major network carriers. This means that rather than a reseller going to say an O2 portal they could use one screen – our AKJ Affinity portal which seamlessly links in to O2, Vodafone/EE and Transatel.
CBM: What other billing considerations are there to for the reseller to consider overall in an integrated and converged services market?
SA: One of the key issues for resellers is how to achieve a consolidated services billing solution for their customers. We all know that selling more products to individual users makes the customer more sticky so sales of fixed line, mobile voice and data, SMS and text plus providing visibility of roaming, monitoring SIP trunks and VoIP plus the PBX and other hardware mean a reseller really needs a single platform to bill all of these products and services.
CBM: How are your services provided these days? What are the typical deployment models?
SA: This has changed in recent times. It used to be that resellers deployed our billing solutions in a hosted model with AKJ doing in for them in a bureaux type service and then, as the reseller grew and expanded their customer base they took a bespoke system on rental from us.
Today we are seeing more and more of those larger resellers looking once again for us to manage their billing for them as it becomes more difficult for them to manage their own multi-service offerings in a converged services market.