I was not very familiar with Telesphere until I got a chance to sit down with its CEO at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Orlando last month. I was so interested in what Telesphere is doing I went to its offices a week later to get more of the scoop on this cloud-based business communications company.
First off, here is what Telesphere does: It offers an enterprise-scale, cloud-based communications platform that delivers voice, video and data to any device you are working from. Yeah, I bet you are thinking, “I have heard that before." Well, that was my first impression, too; however, when I went to their offices and saw their Network Operations Center (NOC), shot the breeze with the CTO and saw a demo of their systems, I saw first-hand that this is not just marketing hype around the popular “cloud" moniker — it is actually real.
As is the company and its strategy. CEO Clark Peterson has some deep chops in running and scaling a business in the communications space. He was the president of major markets at Clearwire, where he led a lot of the growth strategy, getting the company to 88,000 customers and taking it public. He also worked at players like XO where he led sales growth and strategic planning. End result — the guy knows how to drive a business with long-tail growth in mind based on his past experience. Telesphere is counting on the indirect channel to drive scale; it currently is skewed 60:40 toward indirect sales. Its close rate is very strong with new customers, and a lot of that success comes from the customer interacting with their systems. Check out my video interview with Peterson to get some skinny on the company.
A secret ingredient of Telesphere’s cloud strategy is its operations system – an intuitive management platform that lets the customer optimize their communications plan and scale per their needs. This is the beauty of cloud-based communications from my point of view — use what you need and optimize it for your company. This beats the heck out of buying an on-premises PBX (even if it is a really expensive and nice) because you end up using only a portion of the capacity needed for your company, but paying for the whole thing. The difference in a cloud scenario is that the customer can manage how much they need, when they need it and not overpay for capacity and systems they do not need. As a channel partner, your discussion with the customer just got a lot more interesting because you are selling a solution, not a box.
Another key consideration is the security of a cloud-based vs. on-premises solution for communications. Telesphere has baked in a robust, in-depth security approach to protect a customer’s data. As you consider representing their solutions as a channel partner, get details on their approach. Telesphere CTO Sanjay Srinivasan wrote a bit about this in a recent Channel Partners Digital Issue on security. In my recent blog, “Business Value of Proactive vs. Reactive Security," I talk through how a channel partner can help their customers think about security from an “in-depth" perspective by defining the critical assets of the company and creating layers of security around them. Telesphere seems to share this point of view on protecting critical assets for its customers, which means that as a channel partner you can scale the discussion to focus on both the customization aspects of this approach, but also the protection it can enable for their critical information.
On the user side, I see a lot of business value through the collaboration capabilities of the system. We literally used the system to conference in an executive from her home in San Francisco for a video-based discussion on their company. Not too shabby, as it worked cleanly and I was able to see the benefits of the system in real time. Consider this from a channel-partner perspective when you are working to sell this system to a customer — almost all enterprises (small and big) have users that are in remote and home offices, and they are challenged to manage communications with these employees. Further, many employees are road warriors — spending a lot of their time out of the office. As a channel partner positioning this to an IT or communications professional at a customer, you can outline the value of this integrated communications approach to help manage their business process of communications (wherever the user is, from the same phone number). And it can be positioned for less money than an on-premises solution while also scaling up and down per the needs of the business.
As more and more vendors flock to the cloud, make sure you are not being fooled by “shiny pennies," and that you are focused on the architectural approach their cloud is bringing to communications within a business. Also, be sure to align the solution with the business needs of the company — that approach goes beyond how much it costs and focuses on how the customer works and where/how a solution like this can make their process easier. Finally, have the architectural discussion with the IT person — many of them are still concerned that a cloud strategy will eliminate the need for their position. I don’t buy it; the company needs someone who understands how to harness the power of the cloud system, and optimize it for its business. Make the IT person the champion, and help scale their profession.
John Siefert is CEO of VIRGO , the publisher of Channel Partners.