Skype For Business – Indications of New Directions

This afternoon I was directed to the March issue of the Skype Developer Program newsletter, which, in some ways, is probably the last newsletter for the current program. Two items stand out:

(Interim) head of SDP, Peeter Pl. "Wolli" Mõtsküla, admits that, despite over 50 million Skype Extras downloads, the Skype Extras program has not exactly been a revenue success story for Skype. It appears that the Partner program will be transitioning to come under the Skype for Business group in London. In this regard, Peeter has announced that as of April 1, Skype’s share of a Partner’s Extras revenue will drop to zero, at least to the end of 2008. He ends with "Whatever you make will be yours to keep — with one exception: if you make our business customers happy, we’ll keep them".

This is followed by an item by "Guest Writer", Shane McNulty of the Skype for Business group who talks about how, in spite of initially growing up with a consumer value proposition at its heart, Skype’s customer base has seen the emergence of a "community of Small Businesses (SMB’s) getting value from Skype".

Skype can track a segment of its Business Community by looking at those who subscribe to the Business Control Panel and download the Business Version of Skype (www.skype.com/business). This Business community contains a highly concentrated number of Skype customers that contribute disproportionately high levels of activity. In addition to this segment there is also a much larger community of business customers that are leveraging Skype for Business purposes. Through research Skype has discovered that approx 30% of Skype customers are business customers.

Further along Shane states:

In addition to Skype Products, Skype for Business is aware of the need for strategic partnerships with Hardware & Software Vendors to provide complete solutions. Skype will continue to develop relationships with those partners that provide additional benefits to Skype customers. With these partnerships we can offer even richer solutions that reach out to more potential customers and satisfy the different set of needs that businesses have. If you have a solution that would benefit Skype Business customers then lets hear it, we want your valued input.

The Skype for Business team is integrating into the competitive landscape in the SMB space and, therefore, understands the need to articulate the Business proposition offered to both existing and potential customers to increase the breadth of our business customer base and increase the satisfaction of those that have already seen the light. So keep your eyes open for more to come from Skype for Business.

Reading between the lines it would appear:

  • The Skype API’s will continue to evolve and be supported. But a new roadmap awaits the direction of the Skype for Business team.
  • Skype is placing its hardware and software Vendor Partner relationships with the group that can own the relationship from a business perspective, instead of simply a technology partnership.

One of the pleasures of my past two years writing for Skype Journal has been the opportunity to meet many of Skype’s Vendor Partners. These entrepreneurs see the potential for Skype and want it badly to succeed. Many have invested six and seven figure numbers in the development of both hardware and software platforms embedding Skype. They envision the potential for both the technology and its impact on business processes.

Having been on the management team of a corporate restructuring many years ago I am seeing many parallels at Skype. New management needs to get a full picture of the business environment, instill business disciplines – including marketing and business development discipline – and execute on a new plan. These newsletter posts would appear to confirm that each segment of Skype itself is coming under review and looking for the business justification.

Skype is a very high profile case of excellent technology — with ongoing improvements demonstrated by High Quality Video and many aspects of the Skype 3.8 beta released last week — but business operations that need the application of Business 101 basics. I am encouraged by the appointment of a CEO who is not a telecomm executive (don’t need experience from failing former monopolies) and his experience and success with other startups. [Disclosure: I have never met Josh nor spoken with him but have used Evite.com many times.] It is the hope of all Skype’s fans – consumers, business users and business partners — that Josh can find the formula for taking Skype to the next level and, at the same time, result in a "delightful user experience". That would also delight the many business partners who have invested their time, effort and money in becoming part of the Skype ecosystem.

Tags: Skype, Skype for Business, Peeter P. "Wolli" Mõtsküla, Shane McNulty, Skype Developer Program, Josh Silverman

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.
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