Transformation in Action

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Comms Business Magazine talks to John Whitty, recently appointed CEO of reseller Solar Communications about market trends and changes that will impact thechannel and what he is doing to position his company to be in prime position to exploit new opportunities.

Comms Business Magazine (CBM): How is the market changing and what impact will this have on resellers?

John Whitty (JW): We have seen a tremendous willingness by all businesses to consider a move towards the ‘cloud’, and away from on premise solutions.

At Solar, we are always talking to our clients about business continuity, disaster recovery, flexibility, agility and moving from capex to opex. In most cases, these discussions are positive, and clients are ready to consider giving up the ‘perceived’ security of having their mission-critical communication capability located in house, in exchange for the benefits of the cloud.

We’ve recently seen first-hand the benefits that cloud agility can have for businesses faced with maintaining critical systems during a crisis. A number of our contact centre clients were affected by the recent flooding, but were able to continue servicing their customers during the peak retail trading period due to the agility provided by cloud solutions. We enabled them to re-route calls and establish a virtual contact centre away from their affected offices.

Many clients are now experiencing the benefits of centralised services such as call recording, PCI compliance and call analytics, all of which are now affordable as an ‘over-the-top’ service in alliance with SIP. The improvements made in the delivery and data transfer speed of connectivity means that SIP is now a truly tried and tested business-grade voice transport protocol, which provides a flexible basis on which all the subsequent benefits may be derived if delivered to the correct quality standards with correct resilience.

In today’s market, it’s becoming critical for resellers to reconsider their complete solutions portfolio, how they deliver services and what products they take to market. They could very quickly see their existing base disappear to the competition, leaving them with a far less valuable, and even distressed, business.

CBM: What are you planning at Solar in the way of transforming the company to meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities these market changes are presenting?

JW: Solar has recently performed a strategic review of what we currently do and how we do it. We have taken the decision to re-invent ourselves to ensure we stay ahead of the market. Although we’re planning to drive forward our plans for hosted solutions we also recognise that transitioning to the cloud can present challenges and that many of our clients will take some time to change the way in which they operate.
As such, we will continue to support existing customers with in-house systems to the same high standard as we always have, but educate them on how to move with the market and anticipate strategies when equipment becomes end of life.

For new and transitionary clients, we will provide them with the ability to take all mission-critical services from Solar, including hosted voice, wide-area networks, SIP, call centre and other value-added services.

We have identified products from key trusted suppliers that we will offer and we’ve put a robust strategy in place which will determine how we should sell, deploy and maintain them in life. The result is a focus on ensuring we provide the correct innovation and service that adds business value to clients at the right time and to the right quality.

It can be difficult for a traditional reseller to demonstrate to the end user how to add value above and beyond the base product. We at Solar are overcoming this difficulty by providing all the component pieces with a service wrap that helps the end user to consider Solar as an extension of their own business and IT team.

A lot of this is dependent on the accuracy and timeliness of information provided to the client, especially during periods where faults exist, which will always happen from time to time. It’s also important to ensure that we continually review the performance of these services in the background so that we can pre-empt faults before they occur. To provide this capability, Solar is investing in new end-to-end systems that include support underpinned by ITIL3 best practice.

Technology and systems are constantly improving, so we will ensure that the clients’ end-to-end experiences delivered via our engineers is of the highest standard. This service is totally dependent on the approach culture of the service provider, and we are currently re-aligning all systems, staff and processes to ensure the client and their mission-critical services are always the first thing we consider before performing any tasks.

Solar recognises that if we fail to deliver this USP we will be unable to cross sell and upsell to our existing clients. We will also be unable to obtain the references and reputation we need to foster the growth of new clients that we are determined to attain over this high growth investment period.
None of this transformation is an easy feat, but everyone at Solar is determined and excited by the fantastic opportunity ahead to be the best reseller and MSP in the market. To be successful we must have the right ethos, but also the best partners in the industry, who share our vision and determination to deliver the very best service possible.