On Tuesday 26th September, we hosted another iPECS Insights forum. These monthly webinars allow our global community of partners to share news and success stories, providing lessons and inspiration for each other on our shared journey.
This month’s session was about the remarkable success that our South African partner, Aria Technologies Africa (ATA), has found in promoting iPECS Cloud. Their story shows that even in countries with developing broadband infrastructure, the cloud revolution is possible.
A story of partnership
First, Inus Smalberger, ATA’s CEO, outlined the reasons for their success in South Africa. He began with a focus on ATA’s partnership with Telkom Group, which has been a key driver.
With customers ranging from SMBs to enterprises and government departments, Telkom Group is the largest fixed-line carrier operating in the South African market. Inus explained that the primary focus of the partnership was with Telkom SMB, the division that specializes in supporting smaller businesses. Partnership is key to business success, and this story was no exception.
A natural migration
Telkom had a large existing base of customers using on-premises iPECS solutions such as the iPECS eMG and iPECS UCP platforms. One of the first priorities was to encourage them to migrate to a cloud solution.
Users needed the migration to minimize downtime and disruption, so a speedy and seamless process was a priority. In addition, in order to save costs, there was a need for customers to be able to retain as much CPE hardware as possible, including handsets and networking components.
iPECS Cloud provided the most natural migration path for all customers using on-premises iPECS solutions, since it met all of these needs.
As well as on-premises customers, Telkom had a base of customers using competitor hosted communication platforms. The partners were also able to win many of these customers to iPECS Cloud.
This shows that iPECS Cloud is not simply a natural migration pathway from on-premises solutions. It also adds enough value to win customers over from rival solutions. The key reason for this success was the security and stability of iPECS Cloud, in comparison to others which have experienced technical and security issues.
A business model that works
Inus then described ATA’s business model for the introduction of iPECS Cloud to South Africa. A key part of this is the clear division of responsibilities between partners. ATA’s role includes the provision of hardware, as well as installation and maintenance of software.
This creates a clear value proposition, by assuming core technical responsibilities for ATA. While global partners will differ in the exact responsibilities they assume, ATA’s clearly defined division of responsibilities is a great example of how to ensure accountabilities for all parties.
Inus also showed the license model ATA is using. To simplify quoting and sales for both Telkom and the end user, they have created four license bundles to suit different user profiles.
In addition, thanks to third-party sales tools, they were able to provide customer quotes and proposals within five minutes. ATA customized the software further to allow Telkom to include their own services within the same proposal, including SIP trunks, network components and broadband.
This has created a complete process that works for ATA, Telkom, and end users, with clearly defined roles and fast, efficient quoting.
A brighter future
Inus concluded his part of the presentation with an optimistic analysis of the present and future status of cloud business in South Africa. He noted that iPECS ONE, our unified communications app powered by WebRTC, was also beginning to grow due to three major factors.
One is the COVID-19 pandemic, which accelerated the shift towards remote work worldwide. Secondly, the growth of BYOD policies, which Telkom has been instrumental in promoting. Finally, the security offered by the iPECS Cloud infrastructure is also key. This suggests that there is even greater potential for growth in the South African market.
Case study: South African Council for Education
Next, Inus handed over to ATA’s Head of Sales, Justin Laycock, to present a brief case study that was representative of ATA’s success. The customer was the South African Council for Education (SACE).
SACE is a professional council for educators that aims to enhance the status of the teaching profession in South Africa and was an existing Telkom customer using an on-premises iPECS solution.
Justin talked through their requirements in detail, which included the need for a networked, “as-a-service” model to power a small contact center as well as providing full unified communications functionality. In addition, like many Telkom customers, they wanted to retain as much existing hardware as possible.
This customer fits the exact profile that Inus had described earlier and provides a perfect example of how ATA has found success.
Justin’s presentation was followed by a Q&A session. Ahed Alkhatib, Ericsson-LG Enterprise’s Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing, began this by thanking Inus and Justin for their presentation.
Ahed observed that the South African market is not the most mature in terms of broadband infrastructure or cloud uptake. With this in mind, he wondered what percentage of ATA’s user base was on cloud.
Inus explained that there is an urban-rural divide in broadband availability. Major metropolitan areas do have the connectivity required to switch to cloud, and in these areas iPECS Cloud is increasingly popular.
However, even in rural areas where on-premises solutions are still required, ATA is able to futureproof customers. Since most iPECS hardware is compatible with iPECS Cloud as well as on-premises solutions, they can reassure customers that their investment provides good foundations for cloud migration when this is possible.
This gives him confidence that iPECS Cloud will eventually be the main solution when broadband infrastructure improves.
Yuno Jung, Head of International Sales at Ericsson-LG Enterprise, observed that ATA has seen exceptional growth in cloud seats recently. He asked how they differentiated themselves from competitors. Inus reiterated that the existing base of on-premises customers was key, as they were able to receive a seamless migration to cloud.
Even for other cloud customers, iPECS Cloud proved easy to sell, install, and maintain. Inus also mentioned that ATA had also invested in upskilling their sales team, and incentivized success in cloud sales.
Justin Laycock then added that their sales tool software has helped significantly in providing quotes quickly and efficiently.
Liam Tracey from GoldStar, our partner in Ireland, wondered whether PSTN and ISDN costs were a factor for users.
Inus observed that IP telephony offers significant savings, which justifies the cost of migration to many customers. For this reason, even on-premises customers generally prefer to use SIP.
Learnings from the session
Ahed wrapped the presentation up, thanking Inus and Justin for their presentation and congratulating them on their success. Yuno reiterated Ahed’s message and thanked all attendees, before concluding the session.
The primary learning from this month’s forum was that the cloud revolution is possible anywhere. South Africa is a developing economy, without the fiber infrastructure available in regions like North America and northern Europe.
Despite this, ATA has found a successful formula for cloud deployment in metropolitan areas where it is possible. In addition, it also has a pathway for migrating rural on-premises customers to the cloud at a later date. Not only is this a success story for now, but it is also a template for future growth.
We would like to congratulate Inus and Justin for this success, and thank them for sharing their story with partners. We are grateful to all attendees for their presence, and we look forward to hearing from you all again at next month’s session.