Welcome to the November issue of the Tiscali Business Services newsletter.
There is no doubt the credit crunch has serious implications for the telecommunication industry, however, the way I see it, ‘hard times’ bring a major opportunity for positive change. Right now, thousands of businesses will be thinking about how to save money, improve their operations and beat their competitors by deploying and using technology innovatively. This month’s highlight is a case study on TUI travel – a brilliant example of a company that has used innovative technology to better meet the changing needs of its customers. Thanks to the Tiscali and T-Systems partnership, the travel agency now offers an in-store travel experience like no other.
Secondly, we turn the spotlight on Coms Plc, a new partner of Tiscali, as another example of a company that doesn’t let the credit crunch get in the way of innovative thinking. Its newly launched Coms Office 10, a service that combines Tiscali’s SDSL-M broadband internet connection with a business VoIP system in one integrated package, is not only a unique carrier class telephony solution, but is also a highly cost effective solution – a true win-win situation in today’s economic climate!
At Tiscali we are constantly striving to improve our operations and customer service, perhaps even more so in times of adversity. In the last article I share my thoughts on why I see change as an opportunity to test out new ideas and new technologies.
I hope you will enjoy this month’s update and find it useful. Any feedback on our featured topics will be greatly appreciated.
Product and Marketing Director
Tiscali Business Services
T-Systems and Tiscali help to make the TUI WiSH come true
Eureka! Coms Office 10
is born out of Tiscali Annex M
Economic adversity – the best time for future planning
12th, 13th & 14th
Tiscali are a
Next month's edition:
Warren Potts, Head of IPVPN, talks about Ethernet
T-Systems and Tiscali help to make the TUI WiSH come true
Thanks to the combined expertise and innovative approach of T-Systems and Tiscali Business Services, TUI Travel customers now benefit from an in-store customer experience like no other.
Tiscali & T-Systems give a live demonstration of the TUI WiSH application at the Convergence Summit South. From left: Jon Davies, (TUI Account Manager) within T-Systems, Lance Spencer, Product & Marketing Director and Dominic Hughes, Account Manager at Tiscali.
Formed through the merger of First Choice Holidays PLC with the Tourism Division of TUI AG, TUI Travel plc operates in over 180 countries worldwide serving more than 30 million customers in over 20 source markets offering a wide range of leisure travel experiences.
When TUI Travel decided to offer an in-store travel experience enabling customers to experience holiday destinations before choosing to buy, much depended on whether or not the bandwidth needed could be supplied. Trusting the advice and experience of its long-standing communications provider, T-Systems, TUI Travel put pen to paper with a view to implementing a unique new project for its customers in 2008.
TUI Travel plc has been a customer of T-Systems International since 2004. T-Systems already supported its EMEA MPLS network to all European locations as well as providing networks to retail locations in specific countries. In October 2007, T-Systems signed its first local agreement with TUI Travel to support the roll out of a new DSL based IP-VPN network to all UK stores and its ground-breaking WiSH (web in shops) application.
WiSH is an innovative service that enables customers in-store to experience the sights and sounds of a potential holiday destination via streaming video to the desktop.
The success or failure of the project largely rested on the specific requirement to deliver adequate bandwidth to Retail outlets to support high quality multiple streams in each store. T-Systems turned to Tiscali Business Services for their advice, expertise and support.
“This really was a key strategic implementation for TUI Travel and the success of the project would define whether WiSH should or could be considered for roll out to other European countries,” explains Dominic Taylor, Service Manager for T-Systems in the UK.
“It was evident that the minimum bandwidth requirements for WiSH in any store would require a guaranteed downstream bandwidth – not just any IPStream based DSL connection.” explains Lance Spencer, Product and Marketing Director for Tiscali Business Services. “Tiscali Premium Voice Ready Broadband supports this requirement and so we were very happy to get involved.”
The T-Systems UK technical team hosted several workshops with TUI to help define and clarify the requirements before proposing a number of options and models.
“Tiscali was involved from an early stage, once it became clear that BT wasn’t flexible enough to provide a solution to meet the requirements of the WiSH project,” says Dominic. “We had extensive pre-sales support and engagement from Tiscali and their involvement in client meetings undoubtedly increased confidence within TUI that the project could be a resounding success.”
The initial rollout to over 600 Thomson / Lunn Poly stores was completed in just four months, “a relatively simple and pain free operation given that only the ADSL was being migrated,” commented Dominic.
The First Choice rollout of 360 Stores was slightly more complex.. “This was more complicated due to the fact that new PSTN circuits and routers were required for each site,” says Dominic. “The timescales were tight for First Choice as a Hardware Refresh was driving our schedule. That said, we completed the project in under three months.”
Now in place, the new solution for TUI has enabled the company to extend the WiSH application to all of its stores and will allow them to do the same for First Choice. “This is a very important product for the future strategy of TUI,” says Dominic, “as well as having WiSH, TUI stores now have a much faster network in place upon which they can introduce other new and innovative applications.”
Jon Davies (TUI Account Manager) within T-Systems commented. “The innovative and open nature of this network has opened up a number of further opportunities with TUI around voice, contact centre strategy, future MPLS technologies, and so on. Travel is a very exciting market and companies like TUI are pressing the boundaries to bring new services to customers.”
The project was a success thanks to the effective collaboration between Tiscali and T-Systems. “This was our first opportunity in the UK to deliver services directly on a local contract and I am delighted to say that it was a success,” concludes Jon.
Keith Newman (TUI Chief Information Officer) commented that “In the last 18 months T-Systems has provided leadership, flexibility and a highly collaborative approach in supporting TUI Travel plc. The network solution implemented has enabled TUI UK to deliver an unrivalled and innovative media experience to our customers. T-Systems were highly responsive and supportive of the recent merger activity between the tourism division of TUI AG and First Choice Holidays PLC and quickly deployed the standard solution across the combined retail estate, demonstrating the value of a strong local account team relationship. T-Systems and Tiscali have demonstrated the collaborative approach that TUI UK promotes with all its suppliers, supporting a service-led experience that allows us to support current business strategies delivering increased value to our customers and shareholders.”
Please click here to view the T-Systems, Tiscali & TUI Travel Network Topology
Eureka! Coms Office 10 is born out of Tiscali Annex M
What sparks innovation? Is it when several members of a product development team sit around and ‘brainstorm’ new concepts? Is it when you have been asked by the boss to ‘think out of the box’? Or is it that Eureka! moment in the bath when you suddenly think, ‘hang on, we can do this a different way”?
The fact is that innovation manifests in a variety of ways, and when something new arrives chances are it will have a positive domino effect.
Recently, Coms Plc, a provider of internet telephony solutions for business and a partner of Tiscali, announced the launch of its all inclusive business package, Coms Office 10. The service combines an SDSL-M broadband internet connection with a business VoIP system in one integrated package.
Coms Office 10 delivers 2Mb SDSL-M broadband as well as the Coms fully featured hosted VoIP service for up to 10 users, all for the amazing price of just £99 a month. In addition a ‘Pay As You Grow’ feature means customers of Coms plc can extend their network at the click of a button.
Coms Office 10 is available through the company’s reseller programme and this new and innovative service, designed for businesses with up to 50 employees, has been made possible because of Tiscali’s innovation.
“Combining the new Tiscali Annex M products with the Coms hosted platform enables us to reduce capital expenditure and operational costs whilst providing a true carrier class telephony solution,” explains Terry Martin, CEO of Coms. “Customers have access to advanced features, and as we develop the platform they can take advantage of new developments without costly upgrades.
”We spent a long time reviewing broadband offerings. Our objective was to partner with a company who could provide us with a range of products providing service level assurances to guarantee bandwidth and low latency from the customer’s local exchange, through to the Coms VoIP servers. Tiscali was the only supplier who could meet all of our requirements.
So what, exactly, drove this innovation and thinking behind Coms Office 10?
“Have you looked at a BT bill recently?” asks Terry. “You need a degree in acronyms to try and understand what you are paying for. There is no transparency and that is the way the traditional fixed line and mobile companies like to keep things. In this challenging financial environment, customers just want to pay for what they use, at a reasonable cost. When they add more users it needs to be simple, speedy and the costs need to be transparent.
“For customers to get a business class telephone service, they have traditionally had to invest in a PBX and BT ISDN lines. Not only that, they have had to commit to long term contracts which tie them into costly (both capital & operational), old technologies. Our objective was to offer a ‘Dual Play’ solution combining both of these elements in a new and cost effective solution.”
So this is innovation making a real difference, and don’t just take Terry’s words for it.
Matthew Line, Director of Craft Publishing, a customer of Coms, said: “We have been with Coms for over a year while we established the business. The Coms ‘Pay As You Grow’ model has enabled us to build our business without investing in communications infrastructure. We have now moved into a new office and with Coms Office 10, we were up and running on day one as soon as the broadband went live, again without investing in costly or potentially obsolete infrastructure.”
So, out of a Eureka! moment that Terry claims was not whilst he was in the bath, it is a win-win-win situation.
Economic adversity – the best time for future planning
I’ve given up reading newspapers, listening to the radio and watching the news. It all looks so depressing.
The credit crunch continues to bite, the housing market is in a state of collapse, inflation is higher than a kite, even the Government is admitting that things are worse than anticipated – it seems that bad news just never ends!
But hang on a moment. As seasoned business professionals in the channel, we all know that, as far as the economy is concerned, smooth follows rough follows smooth. Good and bad times are cyclical, typically over a seven year period in recent times. So it will get better.
Every business is affected by a changing economic environment, some more so than others. Companies best placed to take advantage of the eventual upward curve are often those who deal with difficult economic periods innovatively, constructively and by sticking to good old fashion basics like offering quality of service at prices that are appropriate and reasonable.
It is also a fact that economic adversity and ‘hard times’ often bring about positive change. You do what you have to during business survival. Change is often a good facilitator, particularly as you have to think more intensively about the bottom line and how to adapt.
Right now, thousands of businesses, including your customers, will be thinking seriously about how to improve their operations, save money, achieve more with less. The same thinking probably applies to your business as well.
The way I see it, the channel is actually presented with two fantastic opportunities in the short and longer term.
Now is the time when customers are asking: “How do I achieve more for less? I’m not in a position to spend money at will, so how can I beat my competitors by deploying and using technology innovatively? What simple steps can I take to ensure that my business is well placed on the upward curve when it returns?”
Putting aside the hard and gruesome facts, economic uncertainty also leads to hysteria, hyped sometimes by the media and hysteria has a habit of making people and businesses take hasty and ill advised decisions and actions. “Inflation is going up so we should also put our prices up.” “Unemployment is rising so we should freeze our recruitment drive.” It’s a flock mentality.
With a cycle of uncertainty economic facts and fiction can become misconstrued and magnified and things appear worse than they are.
So what should we be doing?
Many new ideas originate during times of adversity, and as technologists innovation must be our first port of call because it is a major opportunity for positive change. Change presents us with an opportunity to test out new ideas and new technologies which are available and emerging. So during this period, let us all embrace change and innovation and find new and better ways of doing things, both to improve our own businesses and to better meet the rapidly changing needs of our customers. New ideas that in times of stability may not be considered may just make the difference to one of your customers.
Second port of call is pricing strategies. Just because inflation is on the up does not necessarily mean that prices should rise. Of course it’s a balancing act, especially if your business is susceptible to costs, but customers have long memories and everything you can do for them during adversity is a tick in the box down the line. How can you support customers with a more innovative pricing structure? How can you re-structure contracts to make them more reasonable, perhaps providing greater flexibility and fewer risks.
And finally, there is simply no substitute for good service, regardless of the economic climate. Service is delivered by well motivated staff using well honed processes, underpinned by the most appropriate systems. At Tiscali we are constantly striving to improve our operations and customer service to the channel and also pay very close attention to our people through training and re-skilling.
So, on reflection, I will turn the TV back on and read the paper after all. The difference is that I will see economic adversity as an opportunity for future prosperity rather than doom and gloom.