OTT Apps

In a business world dominated by mobile technology the mobile app is now powering many businesses through a number of different functions. File sharing, conferencing, email, and more recently social media and VoIP calling are just some of the functions powered by mobile applications. Is there an angle for resellers here? Bespoke apps are easier to develop than ever before and many businesses require assistance in setting up and managing their mobile app estate. Here we take a look at the OTT App space.

“Today, any organisation can technically be an app developer; however, as the market becomes more and more saturated, for resellers, we believe the best opportunity for growth is to partner with best-of-breed vendors who are white-label friendly.” - Patrick Harper, Chief Technology Officer, PGi

“Today, any organisation can technically be an app developer; however, as the market becomes more and more saturated, for resellers, we believe the best opportunity for growth is to partner with best-of-breed vendors who are white-label friendly.” – Patrick Harper, Chief Technology Officer, PGi

I’m not one for reminiscing but it’s hard not to when looking at how we are all using mobile technology in the workplace. As a point of contact you simply can’t beat a smartphone, people carry them at all times and are available on a number of Channels. It’s crazy to think that not very long ago to communicate with someone you had to either see them in person, call the office, or write a letter! Over the last 15 – 20 years having a web presence for every business has become exponentially more important. Now, we are seeing the same transition to mobile.
comScore reports have shown that the use of mobile apps is highest between 18-24 year olds but is also growing across other generations. It also shows that women spend more time than men on mobiles apps and this is increasing year by year. It is also interesting that 85% of users prefer a native experience to mobile websites, users have a higher expectation on mobile due to the screen size and their demand for immediacy.

Paul Lawrence, Director, Salpo Technologies commented, “Mobile is an integral part of business strategy regardless of the size or industry, most businesses have got a web presence, but they now need to extend this to mobile. Whether a mobile app is required will depend on the business, but everyone should have a mobile presence that allows customers to get information via mobile devices.
The major business case for apps is the ability to provide a mobile friendly extension for existing web presence. The surge of productivity apps focused on mobile workers who need access to business systems so that they can make updates from their mobile devices is a growing trend. Apps that allow tasks such as expenses, holiday requests and timesheet to be processed are becoming more and more popular.”

Patrick Harper, Chief Technology Officer, PGi added, “Business apps have become popularised by the need and expectation of employees to have more efficient ways of sharing, collaborating and getting work done. With digital transformation and globalisation leading the charge for organisational disruption, it’s more important than ever for enterprises to have effective ways of enabling their employees to work smarter across emerging technology and geographical regions. Whether it’s screen sharing to a team in disparate locations or file sharing sites that allow employees to collaborate on a single document, business apps have become an imperative part of how employees are getting work done today.”

Channel Vision

With the vast numbers of mobile apps now being deployed into businesses is this something the Channel can capitalise on? What kind of traction are partners having out there? I asked my experts.

Lawrence said “As for the channel, I see traction from three sides; the first are applications used by those running mobile fleets that need to support and manage these devices such as EMM, UC, Chat, Data Optimisation and the standard PIM. Secondly, the applications that businesses need themselves to make their users more productive such as CRM, timesheets and expenses. And then thirdly, the applications those customers need in attracting business using a mobile first strategy. These could be anything from a promotional app, commercial application, product catalogue, customer chat or interface designed to attract and maintain customers using mobile.

Shanks Kulam, Co-founder and CMO of X-Mobility, commented “Our B2B2C providers seem to be leveraging the app in the UC/FMC space as it’s an easier way to offer services via an app on an existing device & SIM v’s getting their subs to do a full SIM swap (which is much more friction).”
Harper added, “Our core business is in the UC&C space and we’re seeing growth and interest in desktop and mobile applications for enterprises.

Even though there have been more “freemium” OTT app models that have emerged in the past few years, we’re still finding that the quality of these free UC&C apps are not meeting the expectations of digital workers and enterprises.

For this reason, PGi has invested heavily in our own conferencing and mobile apps as we believe our quality of service, coupled with our HD audio capabilities (leveraging our global network) will be a major game changer for us and our partners. We all know that UC is here to stay, but with more than 1/3 of PGi patrons currently joining conference calls via their mobile devices – with that number expected to jump to 50% by 2020 – we believe that mobile collaboration and conferencing apps is where the industry is headed and, more importantly, where there is the most growth for the Channel Partners in the short and long terms.”

“Resellers want to typically extend their existing assets and services (IP PBX, call-recording etc) into a mobile offering, hence we see the opportunity is in simply enabling these existing services via a full white-label telco appVNO program…” - Shanks Kulam, Co-founder and CMO of X-Mobility

“Resellers want to typically extend their existing assets and services (IP PBX, call-recording etc) into a mobile offering, hence we see the opportunity is in simply enabling these existing services via a full white-label telco appVNO program…” – Shanks Kulam, Co-founder and CMO of X-Mobility

Is there room for partners to develop bespoke apps for customers?

Harper commented, “Today, any organisation can technically be an app developer; however, as the market becomes more and more saturated, for resellers, we believe the best opportunity for growth is to partner with best-of-breed vendors who are white-label friendly. This will enable resellers to cut down on precious go-to-market, testing and planning time. It will also enable them to put smart collaboration and communication app technology in front of their customers quickly so that it can be implemented into their organisations immediately.”
Lawrence added “There is a tremendous opportunity for resellers to develop apps for their clients but they first need to understand what they do well. Most resellers I know are very good at understanding their customer and the challenges that they face. This is where I think resellers have an advantage; they work with the client to create a mobile first strategy and then partner with a development company or application framework that has a track record in producing mobile applications.

I see a massive opportunity for resellers not only to develop apps but also combine existing off the shelf applications & SaaS services; a reseller could create a suite of business applications and wrap these up as part of the service offering. If combined with EMM then the reseller can provide a seamless delivery method to those company based mobile device users and ongoing management which can attract additional revenue.”Kulam agrees with Harper, he said “Anyone with the budget, time and resource could develop their own apps, but you must question why most SPs would take this difficult time consuming path versus leveraging an existing white-label offering.

Resellers want to typically extend their existing assets and services (IP PBX, call-recording etc) into a mobile offering, hence we see the opportunity is in simply enabling these existing services via a full white-label telco appVNO program reflecting their full brand, and integrating into their existing core offering.”

Consumer Apps

According to Pew Research Center, 46% of smartphone users are active on one to five apps every week, whereas 35% use six to ten. That’s a lot of apps going on in our personal lives. So what kind of impact are these apps having on the business app space?
Harper commented, “In many instances, our personal and professional lives are completely intertwined. Many digital workers are opting out of using two phones, computers and tablets and are combining their usage into one or so devices to streamline their daily lives, both at work and outside of work. It’s not uncommon to find consumers checking their personal social media pages and email on the same phone that they’re sending professional documents and using collaboration chat applications to discuss projects with their colleagues. For this reason, we believe that the consumer app space is impacting how resellers approach their enterprise customers.

Additionally, business applications sometimes have a negative stigma when it comes to the functionality and user interface. As applications continue to be the norm for personal and professional use, engaging UI/UX will be the cost of entry for any business application. Further, from an IT perspective, security measures, interoperability capabilities and ease-of-use/functionality will be crucial components to the application experience resellers present to their customer base.”

Kulam added ,“We view popular consumer apps that are used in the reseller space as a good example of the big guys educating the market on the value OTT app’s can provide, hence they’ve covered off the education part, giving the opportunity for Enterprise OTT app offerings to provide more value versus having to educate the subs on the benefits.”

Lawrence says “The app stores and the ability for consumers to access apps directly will be affecting the resellers, but by doing the above, they can now be the ones offering the advice and managed services. Customers will be coming to them for advice on what mobile applications they should be delivering and how they should be operating moving forward.”

Can your current offering extend to apps?
• Unified Communications – Making/receiving calls from the company IP-PBX into the dedicated ‘work’ mobile number on the app
versus having a separate SIM card/device.
• MiFID 11 compliance – offering call/SMS-recording via the business mobile number on the app
• Offering multiple mobile numbers (via an appVNO) on the existing subs device

Apple Business Chat
Launched recently, and unusually quietly for Apple, Business Chat is Apple’s attempt to take on the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger with their iMessage offering. The new service allows iMessage chat conversations to be opened from third party apps so customers can interact with businesses. Going one step further than just chat Apple is also enabling appointment and meetings to be scheduled from the integration. Details are still fairly light on the ground about Business Chat but we know Apple are encouraging businesses and developers to start integrating the chat function into their own apps.

Ed Says…

There is a lot to consider before jumping into the world of mobile apps. Customers will have needs to translate their current business environment to an app but that could potentially be a costly exercise for partners. Take a look at the cost of hiring developers, salaries start at £50k and can go a lot higher. The white label route is going to probably suit most resellers, at least at first. The other side of the OTT app coin is to translate or extend some of the services you already deliver via an app. Our business and home lives are so entwined these days that being able to offer business services over an app which can sit on a device will appeal to those people that want to be able to look at social media one minute and take a business call the next on the same device. It is also useful for dealing with the BYOD trend where instead of issuing new employees with a new device you can just allow them to download an app which they can use for calls, texts and other business needs. The bottom line is, most businesses have a need for a mobile presence or need to communicate via mobile applications. A reseller told me recently if he manages to sell five different services into a customer he knows he’ll keep them long term. Perhaps an app could be the service that gets you to that magic number!

The following two tabs change content below.

David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine