Parallel Lines: Like starting over


Our company vision is be the single and trusted provider of mobile, fixed line, IT support, vehicle tracking, VoIP, and ancillary products like digital pens and lone worker solutions. It is to put all communications solutions through ‘one stream.’

This is why we renamed the business division of Digital Phone Company ‘Onestream’ in mid-2008. And it now seems to us to have been a prescient step.

We have worked since then to make that original vision a reality, and to put together the appropriate skill sets within the business to ensure we deliver on our promises.

Since Vodafone, with which we work closely, announced its ‘One Net’ converged offer for the SME market, we have felt considerable symmetry – the idea customers will get One Net through Onestream. We feel there should be an upsurge in business for us when the product launches this month.

Apart from the product name, why are we so excited about the launch of One Net? Well, for all the companies already offering their versions of unified communication, and there are many, take-up has so far been limited mainly to the corporate market, in bigger cities in particular.

The advantages of streamlined communications, and the operational benefits from improved working practices, have in the main not filtered down to the SME market – and especially not to the 5-30 area of the market. And it is this area that, arguably, unified communications can have the greatest impact.

Many businesses of this size do not have either an IT policy or a communication policy. They buy services as necessary on an ad-hoc basis, usually based on the lowest price on any given day. It gives rise to churn, which is not what either networks or dealers want.

And because of that kind of relationship, because some SME customers fail to build long-term relationships with suppliers based upon mutual trust and understanding, they often do not get best value.

This industry has for a long time been in an endless cycle of adding as many customers as it can at the front end, whilst seeking to minimise losses at the back end. Many ideas have been tried: lengthier contracts, incentives to upgrade, corporate hospitality, more bundled services to make customers ‘stickier’.

Vodafone One Net offers a real opportunity to approach SMEs of whatever size and deliver a genuine, simple-to-use ‘off-the-shelf’ unified communications package. Its simplicity will allow it to be readily understood by the client, who will benefit from the features of the system, as well as the savings on offer.

It will bring benefits that have long been enjoyed by corporates to much smaller entities that will really enable them to change their own working practices to incorporate more home-working seamlessly, say, or to communicate between offices more easily.

In short it will change the way Britain works and bring unified communications to the SME mass market.

We in the industry are immune to new technology because we take it for granted.

But I believe, in a way, we are right back in 1985, at the beginning of the industry, where almost every business is not only a potential customer, but a likely one for this technology; they just don’t know it yet.