Thursday, July 10, 2014

Landline Revenue Idea #33

Besides being awesome for Ethernet over Copper, Integrated T1's, ADSL2+, VDSL and such, the copper is still being used for landlines - and IOCs are finding ways to layer on value to give customers reasons to keep the landlines. There have been reminder services, wake-up calls, and other Hosted VoIP type services layered on the landline. [ITS in Florida was a good example.] It isn't like you couldn't sell a landline plus Find-me-Follow-me, voicemail-to-email and such. You could. I just don't see anyone doing it yet.


Frontier started as a pain-in-the-ass rural IOC. It bought Verizon's rural assets and now it is buying SNET in CT from AT&T for $2B. Frontier is adding texting to landlines from a company called Zipwhip.

Interesting Articles to Read

This is a great read: 5 Psychological Studies on Pricing That You Absolutely MUST Read


The average SMB is drowning in Apps. This article looks at the small business world, apps, the IT support problem and includes an infographic. BTW, this is an Opportunity!


A corollary to the app problem is the BYOD problem and mobile security. MDM or mobile device management is a great add-on sale.


Leads only last an hour!!! "Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which we defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer." [HBR]


When hiring salespeople or call center people, Are you using outbound people for outbound; and inbound for inbound?


The Top 7 Communication Trends of 2014 (Mid-Year Scorecard)


How to craft a sales pitch


An add-on:


How to Scale by @gapingvoid. See here. To scale, you have to let your employees solve problems for you (by themselves). Here is an HBR article about doing that.

4 Traits to Look for in Customer Service Reps

Just an example of the numerous emails I get from PR firms. At least this one had useful info.

Successful customer service calls depend on the agent, and good agents are hard to find. Pam Plyler, Contact Center Practice Lead of The Northridge Group, a management consulting firm, recommends looking for the following skills when hiring a customer service agent:


  • Technical skills – The more familiarity an agent has with the products and technology, the more they can help frustrated customers.
  • Ability to multi-task – Customers want agents who can listen to their problem and quickly solve them. This requires the ability to simultaneously hold a conversation and look up information.
  • Ability to handle difficult situations – It’s critical to know that customer service agents can adapt and successfully turn around a difficult situation on their own.
  • Problem-solving skills – Great customer service agents are able to see the root cause of an issue and solve it on their own.


You can read the whole article about Creating an Excellent Customer Experience Requires Great Talent.

Train your CSR (customer service reps) to upsell and cross-sell to your customers. Add revenue to your bottom line by selling deeper into each customer. Increase that ARPU! Webinar for CSR Selling Tips coming soon! Click here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

CLEC or ITSP

There was a session about CLEC versus ITSP (VoIP provider) at FISPA Live in Atlanta. Over the years, quite a few ISPs became ITSPs. Some of them then went on to get their CLEC license. What should you do?


8x8 is not a CLEC. RingCentral is a CLEC (at least in TX under the name RCLEC.) So there isn't really a hard and fast rule.


When deciding to get your CLEC license, there should be a business plan wrapped around it. Why do you want it?


Without a doubt, the number one reason is control. No more depending upon Level3 or other CLEC for LPN (porting numbers) and DIDs (phone numbers). As a CLEC, you can set up your infrastructure to get your own numbers from NANPA and can perform your own LNP. It's a hassle, but it is doable.


The other big reason many FISPA members are getting a CLEC license is ROW (right of way). They use ROW to put in their own fiber either buried or aerial. Building out your own fiber fits in to my Layer 1 or Layer 7 rule.


Other reasons include access to UNE in order to offer EoC, VDSL, ADSL2+ on your own gear. But then you are moving from OTT VoIP provider to network operator and VoIP provider. Other skills are required; you are relying on the ILEC for plant and repair; and you are dealing with ILEC billing.


The key is to determine why you would want the CLEC license. What does your business plan need for success?

Monday, July 07, 2014

You Need to Respond to the PBX Squeeze

Nice post by Rich from TMC/ITEXPO today about how the premise PBX - the main revenue of MITEL, Shoretel, Avaya, Toshiba, Zultys and several others - is being squeezed by at least 4 factors - open source, Microsoft, Cisco and cloud. Rich sees more of the Enterprise market than I do.


I can tell you that Enterprise is adopting and talking about Lync. I mean they get it included in Office365. I would never use it as a PBX replacement but then I'm not a CIO at a Fortune 5000 or Private 5000 or Global 5000 company. Yet each roll out is 10K plus seats - most cloud PBX providers would kill for an average of half that!


You will need to have a story about Why Your PBX solution instead of Microsoft, instead of Cisco, instead of Lync. (3 stories, go!)


And you will need to be able to explain why not just use FreePBX or Asterisk…. For those of you using Asterisk of FreePBX under the hood, that will be a tough one.


For some of you, this will be a challenging exercise, but that is good. It will make you think. It will make you examine your own offering. It will help you flesh out your message to your marketplace. Take the time - set an appointment with some of your staff - to do this exercise. (No appointment, not likely to get done.)


And if it too hard to craft the message, talk to some customers. If it is still hard, add something to the offering to make it stand out.


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Data Centers Popping Up All Over

I remember when there were just 4 data centers in Tampa - Morgan St., the beer can building (400 N Ashley), Qwest's Cyber Center and 655 N. Franklin Street (old Switch and Data facility and Hostway POP). Now, there are a number of them including 3 Peak 10 facilities in Tampa, DMS in Lakeland, Colo5 in Winter Haven and a couple of others before you get to Atlantic.Net's colo in East Orlando (almost Altamonte Springs).


And that's just Tampa. QTS just opened one in Richmond (to go with Wichita, Overland Park, Topeka, Miami, Suwanee, Santa Clara, Sacramento, jersey City - you get the idea.) Ascent is building a new data center in St. Louis.


Data Foundry opened one in Houston and one in Austin Texas.


All of the big carriers have bought data centers. Windstream bought Hosted Solutions in 2010. TW Cable bought Navisite. Cbeyond bought MaximumASP. Verizon acquired Terremark (aka NAP);
CenturyLink grabbed Savvis (and may be Rackspace soon). CincinnatiBell has Cyrus One. TDS (which is a smaller WIND) has made many small acquisitions including HMS, VISI and Bend Broadband. Data Center space is booming. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon have all built big data centers throughout the US. The NSA built a massive data center in Utah.


Coresite, Fibermedia, Latisys, Peer1, QTS, Telx, ViaWest are just a few of the big names. If you need colocation, data center, IAAS, PAAS, or VPS, call our office (813) 963-5884. We have helped many service providers and enterprises with their data center projects.

Cablevision Goes HD

Doug is all excited because a cable company has finally rolled out HD Voice. Doug has been waiting for HD Voice for a long time. Finally, Cablevision's Optimum service will be launching consumer HD Voice.


Doug hates when I say this but HD Voice is a lot like Fax over IP. It only works within a network operator's network. Those inter-connection points are where all things go to die - fax, codecs, HD, video, etc. (I have even seen where G.711 and G.729 exchanges don't work.)


A long time ago, during the Arbinet and Voice Peering Fabric days, all carriers should have joined exchanges to allow for better FoIP and HDV (and video), but those were still the heady days of inter-carrier compensation (that kept quite a few CLEcs afloat). It would be different today, since there isn't any ICC.


HD Voice is one way to distinguish your service - and during a Demo HD is a lot better than cell phone quality.


The other Cablevision division, Lightpath, added video conferencing to its managed services portfolio.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Consultants Explained

Hugh MacLeod's cartoon today was about Consultants. There are many types of Consultants. I am not the kind looking to convert a project into a W-2 (employee).


"The most common killer of change management projects is lack of follow-through. Consultants come in, they write up a bunch of nice looking reports...and then they leave. Nothing against them, but that's just how the gig goes," Hugh writes. I don't usually hand in a report. I usually take a project where I get to execute the report, usually with the asisstance of employees of my client company. That in itself is usually tricky because employees mistrust consultants. And consultants usually don't have the authority to do much. Conjole, negotiate, explain, demonstrate, befriend employees to join up and affect change, but no real authority. It's a problem (that I am actually face today). Employees who won't meet with me; employees who want to complain but not take any responsibility or make any hard decisions. You can't affect change that way.


"Change fails when companies treat it like an emergency room visit. Run the sirens a bit, stop the bleed, send everyone home." Change is about the Urgent, the loudest, the right now. Change happens when you focus on the Important, the Goal, and yes, even on the Outcome.


If you spend all day putting out fires, you don't actually get to catch the firebug who is starting the fires, right?


It isn't about the symptoms, but the underlying disease.


At the end of the day, I want a win-win. I want happy clients, growing their business. Happy clients make the best referrals.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

AT&T Becoming a Big WISP

Garyy Kim looks at it from a couple of ways, but it looks like AT&T may become the largest WISP in the US (especially if it can acquire DirecTV).


In their SEC filing for acquiring DTV, ATT writes about WLL (wireless local loops). Basically, fixed LTE like VZW is pushing too. Screw an antenna array to residence to pick up LTE signals for in-home broadband, especially in rural markets where building out any kind of fiber - FTTN, FTTP, FTTH - is out of the question for these regions.


Buried in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission is this interesting promise: "the combined company will commit to deploy fixed wireless local loop (“WLL”) technology to bring high-speed broadband to approximately 13 million largely rural customer locations." [Gary Kim]


This is the promise to the FCC and DOJ: AT&T Might Add 12M High Speed Access Locations Outside its Fixed Network Footprint. MAY add. Yeah.


It's all part of the story that copper is unwarranted, useless, ancient. LTE is the wave of the future. Oh, and while you are at it, please give us 500 MHz of spectrum to deliver this on.

Monday, June 23, 2014

HIPAA HITECH Overview

Just some notes from a discussion on HIPAA and HITECH compliance.


HIPAA is about having policies in place to protect patient info - all patient info (paper and digital).

HITECH is an add-on law that imposes heavy penalties and fines for non-compliance and security breaches. HITECH went into effect in 9/13. The federal agency OCR does compliance audits of covered entities.

Even with faxes and paper files, healthcare covered entities must treat the paper with written and trained policies and procedures to protect against a breach. If I walk out with a fax that contains a patient's blood test, that doctor is liable for fines. (Not all doctors get this).

There is always an unsecure endpoint (especially the smartphone). Voicemail, faxes, email - all have ePHI stored somewhere insecurely. The Business Associate assumes some responsibilities for the security of the data via a BAA. The BAA spells out the duties of each party.


Some possible vendors:


BOX will offer up a business associate agreement.


some info from eFileCabinet


Microsoft only gives a BAA for MS Office365 and Hyper-V and only with volume licensing.

Ma Bell Cherry Picking NC

A flurry of press releases about ATT and GigaBroadband in the past month.


AT&T and Town of Cary Reach Agreement to Deploy Up to 1 Gigabit Network


AT&T and City of Raleigh Reach Agreement to Deploy Up to 1 Gigabit Network


"The agreement stemmed from a North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN) initiative. The NCNGN is comprised of six cities, four leading universities, and local business leaders working to encourage development of high-speed broadband networks in the state." This after the state signed a bill preventing any more muni broadband networks like Wilson's Green Light. There is also a couple of public-private fiber networks that run around the state of NC.


"U-Verse with GigaPower - currently approved in Durham and Winston-Salem, and pending ratification in three other North Carolina areas – Carrboro, Cary, and Chapel Hill." Ratification??? Is there state money going into this? How is state credits and incentives to a private company really different than a muni network? Except that it is state sponsored winner picking.


I think in the race for jobs and re-election, politicians have forgotten that corporations will do what is best for profit despite incentives. Let's also not forget that the ILEC gets rate increases based on expanding broadband. Where's that money go?

74 Ways to Launch Your Journey of Change Now.


I think my readers get that I like Tom Peters. I like his writing, his thinking, his presentations, his style - and I was lucky enough to meet him last year when he was the emcee for TEDx Manchester Village in Vermont.


So Tom wrote a 100K word mashup that morphed from "Some Stuff" to "Excellence. No Excuses." It is a 700+ page PDF about "Overcoming resistance to change." In other words,74 ways to launch your journey of change and march on excellence.


From Tom Peters about the book: "I’m not wholly insane—I don’t expect you to sit down for the weekend and read it cover to cover. But I do hope you will dive in from time to time and cherry-pick an idea to be used “Monday morning.” Or some such."


Tom isn't a stranger to very long publications, his McKinsey presentation booklet that In Search of Excellence was based on was 600 pages. His MOAP - Mother of All Presentations - on Excellence Now is a "23-part, 4096-slide, fully annotated PowerPoint presentation of "everything I’ve learned"."

Meetings Have Real Cost

This calculator will tell you how much a meeting costs in payroll dollars: here. It was referenced in GapingVoid's cartoon Friday, along with this INC magazine infographic of what an unproductive meeting costs.


All the experts agree that meetings should have an agenda, be short, be structured, start and end on time, and this: No Chairs, No drinks, No phones, No laptops. Why? Stay focused, don't get settled in, Just Get it done.


INC says have "purpose, benefit, check", clear goal and an ask.


I have been in meetings all day at some companies. That's fine since I am only in town for a short time. Yet when I was on longer projects in Cali and Chicago, every day was filled with meetings. Meetings that were useless, mandatory, and some canceled after the start time. It's a sign of a dysfunctional organization and a lack of leadership.


I am all for a 12 minute meeting standing up. Harvard Business has a one-pager on meetings.


How other tech companies handle meetings including Google, Apple and 37Signals.