Nathan Francis – a man with channel vision
“I’m so focused on the channel you’d think I was about to swim it,” quips Nathan Francis, General Manager of Tiscali Business Services. “Seriously, though, I’m extremely pleased with the performance of my team this year and now we’re perfectly set up for 2008.
“We couldn’t have achieved what we’ve done without the cooperation and strong support of our channel partners. Equally, our commitment to them grows by the day.”
The statistics show that Tiscali Business Services revenues are not only growing, they are an ever increasing slice of the Tiscali UK portfolio. More important to the channel perhaps, is that Tiscali Business Services is not only a realistic alternative to BT, but now a strongly preferred one.
“We’ve grown year on year and I expect 2008 to be no exception,” predicts Nathan. “Considerable investment in several areas of our business, such as Wholesale ADSL, is paying dividends for us, our resellers and their customers. Innovation is firmly at our core and feedback on the products we have been able to deliver shows that our partners find them extremely attractive.”
For 2008 and beyond, Nathan believes Tiscali’s strategy for the business sector is well balanced and as focused as it has ever been. “Our aim is to provide businesses of all shapes and sizes with communications services that suit them. They no longer wish to be, or indeed need to be, constrained by ‘old school’.
“We’ve already developed a strong presence in the enterprise marketplace through the channel and we are taking that experience into the SME sector, with voice, data and converged products. Furthermore, the recent acquisition of Pipex’s broadband and voice division further enables us to continue to offer partners competitive and innovative alternatives to BT.
“Our continued investment to date has enabled us to look at further investment in our LLU footprint and the growing opportunity to offer premium levels of service. We already have firm plans to extend this from the existing 800 sites to over 1000 next year. This unquestionably demonstrates our commitment to quality of service which will be a key asset for Tiscali in 2008”.
In the same breath, Nathan emphasises the importance of operational support to make this happen. “It’s all very well building a terrific infrastructure based on our LLU roll out and developing innovative products, but if the back office isn’t as good as it should be then infrastructure and innovation counts for very little. This is an area we’ve devoted enormous time and attention to – building not only an extremely robust fulfilment system but one with automated, flexible and clear access points that support our partners head on.”
With front and back end firing on all cylinders, Nathan believes that Tiscali’s business partners will be the main beneficiaries. “Traditional models for buying and selling communications services are changing,” he explains. “Forward-looking resellers understand this and they are adapting their businesses accordingly. Huge market and revenue opportunities exist, such as voice and VPN, as companies look to benefit from new products and cost savings associated with them.”
Nathan cites the recent launch of Tiscali’s ‘Voice Ready’ product as a prime example. “If you’re a relatively small business with one eye on communications costs and the other on ease of adoption and flexibility, ‘Voice Ready’ is a perfect fit.”
It has been a busy second half of the year for Tiscali Business Services. It launched Tiscali’s ‘all in one’ Wholesale Line, Voice and ADSL (WLVA) product and the corporate acquisition of Pipex’s Broadband and Voice Division has added another tranche of customers to the company’s portfolio. However, Nathan stresses that it is business as usual for his team: “Our focus is very clear and that is to support all our customers and their end users through the channel with the most appropriate products and customer interfaces.”
“We now have a very well rounded business with strengths in the key areas necessary to support a channel business. It sets us, and our partners, up nicely for 2008.”
Tiscali has targets for a higher exchange rate
“Product Management covers a lot of areas at Tiscali,” explains Tiscali Business Services Product Manager, Sonia Hanson. “My job involves research, development, marketing, training, and sales – essentially, the subject matter expert. I also spend a good chunk of my time with partners and customers, either directly or at seminars, really getting to the roots of what they look for from us.”
Sonia is one of a handful of Product Managers at Tiscali, a “very dynamic team” as she puts it.
It is this team which, working closely with other parts of Tiscali Business Services, has worked hard to ensure that the roll out of Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) is on target for 2007 and beyond.
With hundreds of exchanges already unbundled, the aim is to reach 803 by the end of this year, with a further target of 200 in the first quarter of 2008 to exceed the 1,000 landmark.
By deploying its own equipment in BT exchanges, Tiscali provides resellers with greater control of the end customer experience and the lowest possible cost base for the delivery of products.
“You could say we’re achieving where other companies have failed,” says Sonia. “This is due to several factors, but mostly because of our acute focus on the wholesale and reseller sector and our strong commitment to it. As well as building an infrastructure and developing products for the enterprise market, we’ve also more recently turned our attention to other business customers, particularly the SME sector through the channel.”
Despite the progress of Tiscali’s LLU roll out, things are not always plain sailing. “Unbundling is by no means straightforward,” says Sonia. “We frequently encounter a range of technical and operational issues which need to be resolved before an exchange is successfully unbundled.”
“In the early days we underestimated the task,” continues Sonia, “but now our capacity planning team is able to do a fantastic job against challenging but more reasonable targets.”
With LLU developed on a wide scale, there are numerous benefits to partners and end users alike. As well as being extremely cost-effective – which means that resellers can make larger margins on their services – the quality of service to end users is demonstrably better than older technologies. It also opens up a range of future applications because the network is ‘future-proofed’.
Based on the LLU platform, Tiscali has been able to launch new products such as WLVA (Wholesale Line Voice and ADSL) and ‘Voice Ready’ Wholesale ADSL. WLVA is an ‘all in one’ fully unbundled service which provides the line, full traditional voice services and an ADSL based data connection. ‘Voice Ready’ is aimed at resellers wishing to provide guaranteed quality services to support real time applications such as Voice over ADSL, Video Streaming and Video Conferencing.
“Tiscali delivers both shared unbundling and full unbundling, whereas most providers do not have this capability,” says Sonia. “The significance to resellers is a potentially lower cost base. We offer differentiated products and therefore the reseller may do so to stay one step ahead of their competitors.”
Tiscali’s product portfolio now covers Soho, SME and Enterprises, having made a significant investment in infrastructure to enable the company to deliver IPTV to its consumer base. This has had a knock-on advantage to Tiscali Business Services, the network is future proofed with ADSL2+, QoS products for mission critical applications and then eventually IPTV.
Submerged in virtually every aspect of infrastructure and product roll out, Sonia Hanson describes her job as “flexible”.
“The term flexibility really sums Tiscali up,” says Sonia. “Unlike BT, the company can turn on a sixpence but our product strategy is crystal clear. It means my job is challenging, but I get to oversee every aspect of the job rather than one tiny part of it. I’m sure that this makes a big difference to the end product.”
An eventful month for Tiscali
October has been a busy month for Tiscali, attending and organising a total of five different events, exhibitions and awards ceremonies. We kicked off with a hugely successful exhibition – the Convergence Summit South 2007, in which Tiscali Business Services launched its new ‘Voice Ready’ Broadband product and the Full Unbundled service. The Enterprise VoIP Forum proved to be another useful promotional vehicle for Tiscali, and a great event for networking with leading vendors of VoIP solutions. At the Channel Network Awards, Tiscali celebrated excellence in the channel, and last but not least, the Tiscali hosted Corporate Golf Day turned out to be an extremely enjoyable day – well worth braving the elements for.
Tiscali Business Services, the headline sponsor of this year’s Convergence Summit South, used the summit, which has an enviable reputation for delivering one of the best educational seminar programmes in the industry calendar, to launch two very important new Wholesale products. Firstly, the new 'Voice Ready' Broadband product, designed specifically for the small to medium enterprise market, based on our well proven LLU and DataStream networks. Secondly, the new Full unbundled service, which allows resellers to deliver voice and data services over one connection provided by Tiscali.
“The summit was a huge success for Tiscali with the launch of two products – 10 line ‘Voice Ready’ and WLVA. It was evident that there are no other products like this in the market which clearly demonstrates our commitment to innovation in the marketplace. We basically have filled a large gap in the market and have given our channel unique capability to meet end customer needs,” says Lance Spencer, Tiscali Business Services Product & Marketing Director. “The exhibition was also great in terms of networking, and we now have a closer relationship with both Gamma and Griffin in selling the ‘Voice Ready’ product”.
Tiscali also used this year’s Enterprise VoIP forum, which aims to give end users insight into the issues relating to VoIP implementation and management, to create awareness of its well developed IPVPN services. The event’s highlight was Lance Spencer’s very well received presentation about the topic of Quality of Service (QoS) and the impact of voice ready services in the marketplace.
The Tiscali hosted Corporate Golf Day at The Grove, in Watford was also a great success and was perhaps especially memorable for the champions of the day – Chris Pearson, winner of the nearest to the pin, Matt Parker, winner of longest drive, and winner of the best team, Team Stableford, led by Michael Hill, CFO of Tiscali. A special congratulations also go to Roger Paul, Michael Hill, Geoff Gwynn and George Zaremba for achieving the best individual scores of the day.
The Sales Incentive Winners lunch, another Tiscali hosted event, was, according to Dominic Hughes, top channel salesperson at Tiscali: “a great success and a good opportunity to reward our channel for all their hard work”. The attendees were Roberto Veiga of ITC, Stuart Shearing of IZR, Neal Harrison of Convergence Group and Alex Ayers of Azzurri.