Changing the Game?

Comms Business Magazine attended the official launch of the 8×8 services portfolio in London last month to find out what the firm was planning to do following their takeover of Voicenet Solutions at the end of last year.

This was the formal launch of the 8×8 service in the UK which will form the platform from which the firm will further expand in to Europe. In the UK 8×8 is headed up by Kevin Scott-Cowell the former CEO of Voicenet but visiting from US was ex-pat Huw Rees, SVP for Business Development.

During the event, 8×8 demonstrated its suite of cloud business phone service, unified communications and contact centre services which have been widely deployed throughout North America and, according to the firm, offers the industry’s highest levels of security, reliability, availability and redundancy.

Industry analyst Gartner rates 8×8 highly in terms of their vision and ability to deploy Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and they seem to be in the right place at the right time with Unified Communications market research firm Wainhouse Research predicting the European UCaaS market will experience 36% CAGR over the next five years.

“By taking advantage of 8×8’s technological expertise and knowledge of cloud-based UC, 8×8 Solutions will be able to allay the security and reliability concerns of UK businesses and help them move their costly, out-dated traditional on-premise communications systems to cloud-based solutions with confidence,” said 8×8 Solutions CEO Kevin Scott-Cowell.  “We look forward to working closely with our channel partners to deliver 8×8’s industry-leading UCaaS offerings to the UK and European markets.”

In terms of the product set 8×8 looks impressive as it offers a complete set of UC applications ready to go out of the box at an affordable price. When I say out of the box – there is of course no box.

Looking at the product demonstration on offer at the launch 8×8 Virtual Office appears to be an affordable, easy-to-use alternative to traditional business phone systems that allows users anywhere in the world with a broadband Internet connection to be part of a virtual PBX that includes automated attendants, conference bridges, extension to extension dialling and ring groups, in addition to a rich variety of other business class PBX features typically found on premises-based PBX equipment.

As a completely cloud-based service, Virtual Office also enables customers to rapidly deploy and easily manage enterprise grade telephony and unified communications capabilities, including full mobility, web and video conferencing, Internet fax and call recording, with no upfront capital expense and less administration required from in-house IT resources. For larger mid-market and distributed enterprises, the 8×8 cloud-based delivery model provides seamless connectivity across multiple worldwide offices and facilities.

The 8×8 Virtual Contact Centre is a fully integrated, cloud-based call centre solution that allows companies to quickly deploy and operate multi-channel contact centres within the Virtual Office infrastructure without the time and expense of purchasing, installing and maintaining CPE equipment. Virtual Contact Centre offers features such as skills-based routing, multi-media management, real-time monitoring and reporting, voice recording and logging, historical reporting, Interactive Voice Response, integration with third party CRM and ERP solutions and contact and case management tools.

Comms Business put some questions to Huw Rees, 8×8’s SVP for Business Development.

CBM: Is 8×8’s cloud based unified communication and collaboration solution going to fly in the UK and if so why?

Huw Rees (HR): I am convinced it will. We have been looking at the UK market for a little while and right now it is about two years behind the US market.

Going back two years in the US sales to the mid-market was just starting to ramp up for 8×8. Potential mid-market customers were saying that they were thinking about deploying, let’s say a Cisco on-premise solution, and were also just starting to look at the cloud, but cloud was not the dominant solution

Now two years later in the US, the mid-market customers are saying we are probably going to move to the cloud but we may also look at an on-premise solution. i.e. the cloud solution is now the preferred choice over on-premise based solutions.

CBM: Some companies are looking at hybrid cloud based solutions.

HR: Hybrid solutions may be a good way to go for large enterprise deployments where the large campus can be served by a premise based solution and the branch offices can be served by a cloud based solution. However, ultimately I believe even large enterprise will move entirely to a cloud solution.

CBM: From your presentation you said that you add approximately 1,000 new businesses each month – what is the average number of users per customer?

HW: The average size of a new business is approximately 17.5 users – with a large range across the entire base the lowest being 1 and the highest being more than 1000.

It is more interesting to look at the trend around how many subscriptions we sell per business over 3 to 4 years. This goes from around 9 to 17, showing the increasing penetration into larger businesses (though we still have a healthy business in the small business segment). .

CBM: Some would say the 8×8 solution looks good especially when you look around and compare it with Microsoft Lync.

HR: 8×8 knocks Microsoft’s socks off around overall pricing and around ease of deployment. With Lync you have to bolt on third party solutions to match 8×8’s complete offering.

8×8’s ownership of the technology means we can integrate the solution so that the experience for the end-user is consistent and seamless across all the different functions of the application. This means control over the voice, call recording, presence, web collaboration, Internet fax and even contact centre has a similar look and feel. Owning the technology also means 8×8 can provide superior quality and reliability as well as attractive pricing.

When 8×8 competes with Lync in the mid-market space we win most of the time. As mentioned above this is primarily due to better overall value for the customer and significantly easier deployment of the solution.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine