Nuvias UC Director of Innovation and Development, Aled Treharne, talks about how much the UC landscape has changed over the last decade.
10 years is a long time, especially in technology. It’s hard to remember what the unified communications landscape looked like a decade ago when we started Nuvias UC (then Siphon) – Microsoft was still working with OCS and struggling to find a foothold in the voice market. Gartner’s magic quadrant for the year had well-known names like Nortel, Aastra, Siemens, Avaya and NEC, and most service providers were still struggling to convince businesses that this “new” VoIP technology was just as reliable, if not more so, than the old PSTN lines they were still using. OFCOM had finished consulting on whether to mandate access to emergency calls over VoIP services – a consultation which pre-Microsoft-acquisition Skype had argued unsuccessfully against; and Autodesk made a big splash about their new Cisco Telepresence system which cost $350,000 to outfit a 6-person room. Polycom’s main product line was the SoundStation and SoundPoint IP handsets and Yealink was the new kid on the block. Cloud and “as-a-service” didn’t exist – “hosted” was the buzzword of the year.
Innovation has been at the centre of Nuvias UC’s strategy from the very early days when we saw a need for a system integrator to help bring expertise and assistance to a young but rapidly growing business VoIP market. We brought together a mix of vendors – well established, market-leading vendors like BroadSoft and Acme Packet and mixed in a good sprinkling of emerging technologies. The mix of solid and reliable products alongside cutting edge, coupled with our open and honest evaluation of the technology was a winning combination that we’ve kept over the last decade. Some of our early vendors have been incredibly successful, like IPTego whose Palladion service assurance platform was so good that we used to joke that when we ran trials for customers if we tried to retrieve the servers at the end of the trial, you’d see fingernail marks from where the engineers refused to let go! We still love the product, although having been acquired by Acme Packet and subsequently Oracle and had its name changed from Palladion to the Oracle Communications Operations Monitor, it’s grown and expanded far beyond our original expectations.
Innovation always includes an element of risk and some of our early entrants, of course, didn’t make it – some struggled to find a commercial foothold despite having great technology like Novitell who had an early and innovative fixed-mobile convergence solution. Others struggled in a highly competitive market, but through the whole journey, we held fast for our customers, providing honest advice and our open opinions and helping them navigate the turbulent waters.
When the business started in 2009, we immediately saw that there was a need to focus our efforts on the experience that users were receiving. As a result, all our services and the products we selected had a strong focus on the experience of the user of that service or product. This relentless focus on quality and driving a better experience is what resonated so much with our customers. Our original service packages – especially our Assure extended support and maintenance services – are still highly sought after today and form a key component of our core service offering.
It was the unique combination of skills and focus coupled with a close relationship with our customers that led us to acquire VCOMM in 2012 and move into distribution where we could bring our skills and broad services portfolio to bear on the distribution market. Our business approach was truly innovative, helping to disrupt the distribution market and bring about a new generation of UC distributors with a significant focus on understanding technology and the user experience. This focus coupled with our ability to execute is what set us apart from the rest of the market.
Throughout the last decade, we have ensured that our knowledge and skills give us the ability, coupled with a close relationship with our vendors, to deliver services and products to our customers that others cannot. Our technical and commercial conferences and seminars help our customers deliver their own innovation in improving user experience and our regular conversations with vendors, customers and key industry partners help us keep our edge – ensuring that the advice we give and the opinions we hold continue to help drive innovation in our sector. Through our innovative approach, we have become trusted partners for our customers and vendors alike, helping each side to understand the other and providing expertise in developing new technology.
That approach has led to Nuvias UC being recognised in many ways – as the first partner BroadSoft engaged with to provide delivery of professional services in EMEA; as the first and most capable partner for delivering consultancy and delivery services when Oracle acquired Acme Packet. Both as Siphon and as Nuvias we hold a raft of awards both from vendors and the industry. For 3 years running, Siphon featured on the Deloitte UK Technology Fast 50 list, demonstrating how the winning formula of innovation and delivery helped us grow. We brought in a range of new vendors and services over the last decade, enhancing our capabilities and finding new ways to improve that user experience. With vendors like AudioCodes, Jabra, Sennheiser and Panasonic providing a direct end-user experience improvement, we realised that one of the key requirements of our customers was scale and so in 2013 we launched our high-volume Order API which, coupled with an ongoing investment in automation and integration technology gave us the ability to scale the company rapidly and efficiently. We also developed our own device provisioning system in 2013 to provide customers with a no-touch experience out of the box for service enablement, focused on providing hosted UC customers with a pre-provisioning service for integration with their own platforms. Today, almost 70% of our orders are received directly over an API and we provision a significant volume of devices annually across multiple warehouse locations
Later, we realised that the growth of cloud-based services like Dubber, BroadSoft BroadCloud, Lifesize and BlueJeans provided a range of complementary services to those hosted or cloud service already offered by service providers who were now struggling to keep up with the pace of change while developing their own services. Our skills and knowledge helped us once again here, allowing us to become a key enabler of these services and helping our customers deliver an ever-improving experience in the delivery of their own service.
In 2015 we decided to enhance our capabilities again. Finding that we and our customers were dissatisfied with the onboarding experience of devices with their services, we created a software development team within Siphon. Charged with establishing an industry-leading capability for automation and delivery of service, the team evaluated a huge range of systems already available and, recognising that none provided the functionality and technical advancement we needed, we decided to build our own. In 2016 we launched our award-winning Dovetail service, providing a full provisioning platform to all our customers and Hub, our own multi-tier, channel-focused portal for providing our e-commerce facilities and other integrations. Reflecting our deep understanding of our customers, not only do these platforms both provide services to our customers, but they also allow our customers to use those services to reach their customers. This innovation helps drive our success through our customers’ success.
In 2016, the company was acquired by Nuvias for the exact reason we were so successful – our innovation, our focus on experience and our ability to execute aligned us perfectly with the ethos of the Nuvias group. With the acquisition came the ability to provide our services across EMEA as well as the ability to provide new services such as the Nuvias Device-as-a-Service, allowing customers to acquire hardware and services on a subscription model. We have continued to keep ahead of the market, launching an end-user focused customer service centre and continuing to develop our automation and services with new APIs and functionality. In 2019 this led us to launch our partnership with Dropbox, to become the first independent distributor signed to cover the key Northern European markets, along with enhanced support in Hub to streamline the enablement process. This demonstrates our continued commitment to help our channel partners tap into new revenue streams and strengthen existing customer relationships.
The market landscape has continued to shift over the last decade, with new vendors and customers alike appearing, others exiting the market and still others merging to form new organisations. User expectations have increased dramatically as a new generation of professionals enter the workforce, cloud services have enabled an entire industry to realise the benefits to our people of options to work remotely and flexibly. Our continued focus on innovation and striving to deliver an experience that surpasses all others to our customers and through them, their customers, has allowed us to expand and succeed.
We are incredibly excited as we enter a new decade to engage with new challenges. We’re already preparing to launch new business propositions and new vendors in 2020 which, enabled by our own software, our focus on automation and delivery, and our technical and commercial skills and knowledge will continue to set the tone into a new decade in driving excellence in user experience and innovation.