Software as a service, also known as hosted on-demand business applications, is providing a rare first-mover opportunity for telecom agents. Because SaaS is considered a specialty offering, you’ll face minimal competition and higher margins at this phase of the technology life cycle. By the time the major carriers enter into this market, you’ll be thriving with an established base of business, be a subject matter expert and continue to grow and diversify your business model.
By incorporating SaaS into your portfolio, you can build stronger customer relationships, increase recurring monthly revenue and most importantly, decrease the competitive threat to your core offerings. With proper research and very little expense, you have the ability to create your own software distribution business as an adjunct to the network services you’re presently selling.
Generally there are a couple of entry points in the distribution chain. You can partner either with a master agent that has a relationship with a SaaS aggregator or directly with the aggregator as a retail or wholesale distributor. As a subagent, you have little investment except time and resources. Being the online retail distributor requires a greater financial investment, but not nearly as much as does an online wholesaler. Regardless, there are several things too look for in a service provider.
Software Vendor Neutrality. Give your customers a wide variety of applications to choose from. Competition is good, and you never appear to be an exclusive agent for one specific vendor. Fortunately, there quite a few alternatives to the most popular business applications in use today by the enterprise. Try to find a partner that offers both options.
Level 1 and 2 Support. Vendor support is crucial. If it doesn’t offer it or charges an extra fee for it, move on. Poorly supported services can damage your reputation with your customers and/or subagents. Make sure that the support organization is skilled in handling help desk requests 24/7. Even better is if your partner is providing you with access to a sophisticated trouble-ticketing system that allows you real-time visibility through issue resolution.
Billing and Settlement. Select a partner that already has a billing and settlement engine built in to its platform. Even better if it’s a credit card transaction based engine — no outstanding invoices and everyone in the distribution chain is compensated quickly. This is typical in the SaaS environment.
Service Provider Type. Is the provider a hosting company or SaaS aggregator? There are many hosting companies that have reseller or agent programs, but they can lack self-management and reporting capabilities, requiring you to contact the provider to perform simple administrative tasks such as resetting passwords and adding and deleting users. In addition, margins and/or commissions tend to be on the low end. SaaS platforms from a dedicated aggregator will provide a more streamlined experience as well as better compensation.