I have been working at End to End Networks since we opened our doors 16 years ago. This blog, my first, has allowed me to get some of my thoughts on “paper” about the state of our company and the great opportunities that lay ahead.
The superior quality of End to End’s managed service business is demonstrated by the 90% retention rate of our customers over the 16 years we have been in business. Customer losses are usually the result of acquisitions by US companies ultimately leading to a centralized IT staff run from the US head office. Many customers have returned after experiencing the less personalized and effective managed services of our large slow moving competitors. The flexibility of our 24×7 live-answer NSC (National Support Center) and customized escalation procedures make our Managed Services second to none. The tools used by our Technical staff are made available to customers on our eView Portal, complete with Device and Asset Management, NBR (Network Based Reporting), Real Time Monitoring, Contract Management, Trouble Ticketing, Downloads and much more. End to End recently got accepted into the Cisco Managed Service Channel Program after undergoing a rigorous Managed Service Audit to ensure our Processes and Procedures regarding Change Management, Incident Management and Problem management met or exceeded the accepted industry standards. A minimum CCNA certification is required for all new technical staff in our National Support Centre and all are encouraged to obtain other industry and vendor certifications. Our Lead security specialist Victor Dean recently obtained his CISSP, the highest regarded security certification, a task that both Victor and our organization are very proud of.
End to End have a large contingent of technical staff and a small but effective administrative and sales team. We have built a Wholesale Managed Service business that led us into white labeling our eView Portal and delivering managed service on behalf of our wholesale clients. With slow and steady growth End to End has positioned itself between the small managed service startups and the established giants, giving us the ability to customize our services and at the same time provide a consistent and reliable experience to our customers.
As technology changes, so do we, constantly evolving our services to meet the need of today’s complex and converging networks. Keeping all of that data flowing requires expert staff in all areas. No longer do we have the luxury of a line that can be drawn between the network and the servers, or between the phone system and the database server. Voice, video and data together, in one stream descend upon your network, with the potential of playing havoc with phone calls and database queries. The network is the application and the application is the network and we must treat it as such.
We must also remember that the technology is only an enabler for a real business need. Technology for technologies sake is not why we have networks. One of the biggest growing areas in technology today is collaboration and the argument is strong as to how this is a real business enabler. Companies will be communicating in ways we have not yet thought of and it will be a real change in the business to business landscape.
Our real challenge as a Managed Service provider is to take the Data centric management tools that we have created and extend those to effective Voice and Video management. As traditional Telco’s have always offered a “pay as you play” service for Legacy phone systems, developing an effective managed service, pricing it correctly and delivering the tools to both the technical staff and end users is a difficult task. Our first lead into Voice and Video managed service tools, was our development of our IP SLA polling engine. This tool displays graphical reports to end users on the performance of Voice, Video and Data between two end points. This is all done by utilizing the IP SLA, formerly known as RTR processes in a Cisco IOS device. Since Cisco IOS is everywhere it is a great tool that helps End to End ensure that Carriers meet their SLA to our customers. It can also help identify weak spots in the network even before a phone system is deployed to ensure the WAN link is up to the voice and video challenge.
I am certainly excited about some of the new tools we are developing and hope that our customers and prospects will see the value we bring to Managed Services. What I have found interesting is how these tools are adopted but our customer base. Some dive right in, others, don’t even log into the portal and that is the beauty of our Managed Services. The data is there if you want or need to use it, but if not, no worries, that is our job. In our efforts to create a self service portal we have come to realize that’s not what all customers want. In fact it is only about 20% of our client base that uses the portal regularly and generally the majority of that is the larger clients with a dedicated technical staff.
The challenges we face are probably no different than any private organization of our size. How do we get the word out? How do we get people to think “End to End” when they think Managed Services? Traditional advertising has its place, but without the budget of a large marketing organization it is difficult to really get out to the masses. Web 2.0 may help, Cold Calling may help, and targeted phone or email campaigns may help. We have tried and are trying it all. So what’s the bottom line, Word of Mouth appears to be the key. Whether it is a current client referring us to one of this suppliers, or an IT manager that has moved on to another company and given us a call to help straighten out their network or a client that needs to communicate with another vendor, these are the things that have enabled us to continue to grow year after year.
So as we move into the second half of 2009 and the downturn in the economy seems to be continuing, what are we to do about it? Not run and hide that’s for sure. End to End is taking this opportunity to upgrade our phone system to a Cisco Unified Communications System, arm out staff with new communications tools, streamline our procurement and ordering processes and hire more developers to help us get where we need to be. By the end of the year we will be communicating with our customers and each other in the most effective ways possible, thanks to new technologies and a Company willing to move forward even in these tough times. I have never been more proud to be part of this company, a company that has been emerging for 16 years and is now on the cusp of greatness.