- Skype is the cornerstone for keeping Toronto-based b5media’s worldwide staff of bloggers, editors, developers and executives in touch via both informal and formal conversations.
- SeeWorthy gets an assist from Skype when communicating with their Taiwanese supplier (via an Alberta-based translator), North American and Caribbean agents, and prospective European distributors as well as their customers.
- A Canadian-headquartered resource company is using Skype voice and IM for communications with their operations in Asia; their biggest challenge involves time-zone issues. Skype chat’s inherent asynchronous nature helps to address that issue.
Skype itself claims that about 30% of all its user activity is business related. I often encounter small businesses who have a wealth of stories about how Skype contributes to their business success.
But during a recent conversation with OnState CEO Pat Kelly I learned about how Skype is stealthing its way into medium to large enterprises. Pat discussed two examples (who will remain generic until case studies are available):
- OnState received an enquiry from a major North American parts distributor whose operations involve agents, resellers and business customers spread out across North America. While this company has an internal IT team, the CFO was focused on significant cost reductions for their call center operations. He has now contracted OnState to provide voice, chat and other customer relationship communications activities that do not simply save money but provide additional communications processes such as IM with its inherent presence and chat features. Once the contract was signed, the CFO mentioned he would guide his IT personnel with their role in the implementation.
- A European country manager for a worldwide, US-headquartered business found that he was getting charge-backs for “corporate” communications services that did not meet his particular needs. He had enough autonomy that he investigated OnState’s services, went through not only the technical specifications but also the legal reviews and business process requirements. He is now meeting the communications needs of his business ecosystem using Skype and OnState’s other auxiliary services for call center and virtual PBX requirements. Subsequently other European subsidiaries of the same company are implementing OnState’s services. Yet this is a situation where the U.S. head office has yet to be contacted about what additional opportunities for Skype and OnState may exist within their business.
Pat’s key point is that, in today’s economically stressed environments, there’s a trend where CFO’s and business unit managers are making the key communications services decisions in larger enterprises in order to meet their financial goals. IT personnel are playing little or no role in the decision making although they may be involved to a limited degree in the implementation. What are Pat’s key observations?
- The consumer experience with Skype is stealthing its way into business implementations, not only with prosumers and small businesses but also at the business unit level within larger enterprises.
- Why? Skype just plain works. There are no firewall issues; OnState’s SaaS model eliminates capital investment for PBX’s and related infrastructure.
- It’s relatively easy to implement.
- Economic pressures are driving adoption.
- Where a business partner or customer has Skype also, HD Voice, incorporating SILK, provide for more productive voice conversations.
- It’s not simply about using a technical mashup across multiple services (Skype, Google, and Voxbone, for example) involved in OnState implementations; it’s a “business mashup” involving business processes and employee acceptance.
It’s a repeat of a trend that drove personal computers into larger enterprises twenty-five years ago. I recall one story where a Canadian bank Vice President found an employee with a PC that had a modem attached (with, at best, a 1200 kbps speed). The modem was ordered disconnected! Bank security was going to be upheld despite technology progress. Four years later that same bank ordered over 10,000 PC cards from my employer of the day for inclusion in their new, at the time, teller terminal system.
Bottom Line: Even if it’s not totally free it’s the raw cost savings that are driving Skype adoption, sometimes in co-operation with their business software partners. It’s about not only lower calling costs but also the elimination of capital asset costs. For some business markets Skype is stealthing its way into business communications infrastructure.
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