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 Alison Diana Telecommunications Firms Answer the Call for CRM in the Cloud

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 By Alison Diana

More Telcos Partner with Leading CRM Developers to Deliver Apps

Looking to differentiate themselves, boost profits, and better-serve their clients, telecommunications companies increasingly are partnering with SaaS CRM developers to expand their B2B enterprise opportunities in the cloud.

After all, enterprises and smaller companies alike are investing in both cloud and CRM technologies to support their rapidly growing mobile and remote work forces, and to stay competitive at a time when customers typically demand high-quality service in an often lower-margin world. In fact, two-thirds of businesses say they need to increase their Internet bandwidth in the next 12 months to keep pace with business needs, signaling rising bandwidth demand that will test the current limits of broadband subscriptions, according to research conducted by Altman Vilandrie & Co.

"As long as you have the ability to provide that bandwidth, they're coming back to you early and saying, 'I need more.' In some cases the service provider—whether telecommunications or cable provider—may not be able to deliver more if they're relying on legacy technology," said Stefan Bewley, director of Altman Vilandrie, in an interview. "You need to be able to make sure you can service customer demand."

Telecommunications companies are servicing these clients not only by providing much-needed additional bandwidth, but through complementary cloud services. In fact, AT&T often is included in publications' ranking of top cloud service providers, joining the ranks of companies such as Carpathia, CGI Group, and Amazon. Yet some telecommunications businesses are newer to the cloud services business, and are expending resources to ramp-up their offerings and their marketshare, according to industry executives.

"The telcos are also just coming out of proof-of-concept. They see the cloud opportunity," said Tom McCafferty, vice president of marketing at Vyatta, developer of an enterprise-class routing and security suite for virtual and cloud environments, in an interview. "Because of the position they're in, providing the connectivity for all their customers, this is a trusted advisor position for them. You've seen them all either acquire or build out these [cloud solutions] over time. They're in a power position today."

Calling Customer Relationship Management

Leveraging their investments in cloud infrastructure, a number of telecommunications businesses have inked agreements with CRM software developers that allow the communications firms to resell and support the cloud business applications to end-customers.

In March, for example, Verizon began offering SAP CRM through its cloud, allowing its customers to access SAP's CRM solution from their desktops and mobile devices.

"Verizon and SAP have joined forces to harness the true potential of the cloud by delivering proven enterprise applications that enable workers to enhance their ability to serve clients and do better business outcomes. Together, we are opening up a whole new world that allows clients to truly work without boundaries," said Kerry Bailey, group president of cloud strategy and services at Verizon, in a statement.

This month, British Telecom struck a deal with open-source CRM developer SugarCRM, and announced it will begin providing Professional and Enterprise editions of Sugar through its cloud. This is not the first time the British telecommunications giant has struck such an accord: In 2008, BT began offering NetSuite CRM, ERP and e-commerce software to SMBs in the United Kingdom and Europe.

More recently, European telecommunications provider SFR began offering Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) after implementing a CRM solution from Hewlett-Packard.

And Verecloud, developer of a cloud-brokerage platform, in January announced a partnership to include Intalio's Cloud offering, beginning with the vendor's on-demand CRM software, on Verecloud's Nimbus CSB platform. Designed to address the service demands placed on telecommunications companies' operational support system (OSS) environments, the integration of Intalio CRM marks the first of several steps in the partnership, said Ismael Chang Ghalimi, Co‚Äźfounder and CEO of Intalio.

CRM & Telecom? A Growing Partnership Trend

Telecommunications companies are wise to offer business customers one-stop shopping. After all, it is businesses' desire for bandwidth-hungry applications, accessible by employees on-the-go and around the world, that is encouraging companies to invest in more sophisticated networks with more capabilities and power. Already supplying many businesses with bandwidth, telecommunications companies have a leg in the door and are a natural fit to provide companies with additional business services and applications, especially corporate-wide, mission-critical software such as hosted CRM, executives said.

Other capabilities in telecommunications' arsenals may include information security and unified communications. With their experience in delivering widespread service to customers ranging from home users to multi-location conglomerates, some experts say telecommunications businesses are well-positioned to capitalize on the continuing boom of cloud services. By 2015, communications service providers will account for $8.2 billion—and 23%—of the $35.6 billion cloud market, according to Forbes.

Telecom providers do, however, face extensive and growing competition from managed service providers, hosting companies, cable companies, and traditional service providers now moving into the cloud space. Registered IT partners (including one-tier agents, two-tier agents, system integrators and resellers)—at 39% and $14 billion—make-up the bulk of the cloud market, followed by IT and application vendors—at $12 billion and 36%, according to Forbes. Managed service providers are predicted to represent only 2%, accounting for about half a billion in sales, the report found.

Telecommunications are hearing the call for cloud-based CRM solutions, and enterprise software developers are eagerly pursuing mutually beneficial partnerships that could help secure them seats at businesses around the globe. Now, will customers answer the call? End

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Telecommunications companies have no greater desire than to grow their enterprise business. And with cloud-based CRM solutions continuing their aggressive growth, telecom providers already have a leg in the door and are a natural fit to provide their customers with additional business services and applications. Verizon resells SAP CRM in the cloud, BT offers SugarCRM and NetSuite to its telecom base and Verecloud offers Intalio CRM. The symbiotic relationship between telecom and cloud-based CRM software companies may help continue the growth for each.


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