Your telecom ecosystem is complex, and necessarily involves a lot of players who can either make the system work great, or who can really mess it up. Organizational leadership needs to be very thoughtful about who the key contributors are, and how and when to use them. In general, you should have resources internal to the company, as well as outside expertise.
Internal Telecom Team
For the small to medium sized organization, ownership should definitely play a large role in defining and executing a telecom strategy. In addition to significant and often hidden cost considerations, there are opportunities to use telecom to gain a competitive advantage, whether through an integrated contact center, deploying remote workers, or implementing Unified Communications capabilities. Ownership will have the perspective about what is important to invest in.
Sales & Marketing is also important to have on board. Telecom can play an important role in attracting prospects and helping with company branding, and those charged with sales and marketing will have a good sense of what is required. Similarly, Customer Service and Support need to be involved as well. Keeping communications efficient with customers, especially when they have challenges with your product or service, is key to retaining customers and building a positive reputation in the marketplace.
And of course, your IT staff needs to play a key role. They will understand your infrastructure’s strengths and weaknesses, and have good ideas about how to deploy important communications initiatives.
Outside Telecom Expertise
It doesn’t make business sense for today’s SMB to try to implement telecom systems without outside help. It’s important that a business develop trusted relationships with companies who specialize in various aspects of telecommunications. The three main resources include value-added resellers or integrators, equipment manufacturers, and bandwidth carriers, and in a likely lesser role, consultants and even more rarely, equipment brokers.
We acknowledge that it is self-serving, but we strongly believe that perhaps your most important outside telecom resource should be a reliable and knowledgeable integrator or value added reseller (VAR). The reason is that these companies usually have a deep level of expertise across the telecom spectrum, and are also well-tuned to serving local clients. Look for companies who have a variety of factory-authorized certifications, a long list of satisfied clients, and a website presence that clearly explains their business expertise. A competent reseller can save your organization enormous amounts of time in analyzing and recommending solutions that will match your telecom needs. Because they configure, install, and maintain the systems that they sell, you can be somewhat assured that you are going to get a quality telecom system deployment.
Secondly, you will want to identify the manufacturers whose equipment you want to deploy on a regular basis. Understand that the market for telecom equipment is evolving rapidly, and there may be new companies whose offerings are compelling. As an SMB, it’s not likely that you will be able to develop a direct relationship with a manufacturer, but if you have a few primary vendors, you’ll be able to deepen your knowledge of their offerings and how they can benefit your organization. Your reseller can recommend solid manufacturers for you.
Third, you will want to develop a relationship with one or two bandwidth carriers. This is an area that used to have basically one choice 30 years ago (AT&T), but now there may be scores of companies that can supply various bandwidth services to meet your needs. You may be able to consolidate your data and voice bandwidth needs, as well as your mobile phone plans, but many carriers can also provide a variety of cloud services that may help your business. This is an area that is rapidly changing, and your reseller should be very knowledgeable about the various carriers that can provide services for your organization.
Finally, from time to time, you may want to employ the services of specialized consultants. They may be helpful in assessing strategic plans or highly complex implementation designs, but you should be cautious about investing too much faith (and money) in their recommendations, as they typically don’t have hands-on implementation experience, nor will they be able to provide much help if their recommendation fails to live up to your expectations.
Equipment brokers often represent that they can save you significant amounts of money by locating alternative sources of equipment, known colloquially as the “gray market”. Brokers don’t stand behind the equipment, they don’t install it, and the equipment is usually not covered by manufacturer warranties. For these reasons, we think that in general, buying from equipment brokers is a poor business decision.
What are your thoughts about assembling a telecom team?