“Cloud Telephony” – Nomads at Last

“Cloud Telephony” – Nomads at Last
October 19, 2009 Joseph Paris
nomads

The New Nomadism

Apr 10th 2008, From The Economist print edition

At the Nomad Café in Oakland, California, Tia Katrina Canlas, a law student at the nearby university in Berkeley, places her double Americano next to her mobile phone and iPod, opens her MacBook laptop computer and logs on to the café’s wireless internet connection to study for her class on the legal treatment of sexual orientation. She is a regular here but doesn’t usually bring cash, so her credit-card statement reads “Nomad, Nomad, Nomad, Nomad”…

The above is an excerpt from a Special Report entitled “Nomads at Last” in The Economiston April 10th, 2008.  The report delved into how technology was not only accelerating commerce by bringing resources closer together – as so eloquently presented in “The World is Flat”, by Thomas Freidman – but also by freeing individuals and companies of their traditional trappings and allowing them to become untethered and more agile to meet the ever-changing demands of the global marketplace.

It has served as an underlying theme and drive of mine ever-since.

I have been working on streamlining XONITEK’s operations and reducing overhead for several years.  In “The World is Flat”, Friedman asserts that “Flattener #3, Workflow Software” was one of ten (10) reasons that the world became flat.

XONITEK has been a Value-Added Reseller (VAR) of Macola Software – a publisher ofEnterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software and solutions since 1988.  In February of 2001, Macola Software was acquired by Exact Software – a publisher of ERP software headquartered in Delft, the Netherlands.  It was soon after this acquisition that I heard of eSynergy – a web-based Collaborative Community Environment.

XONITEK implemented eSynergy in the summer of 2002 and immediately began realizing the benefit.  The need for our employees to congregate at our offices was greatly reduced due to their ability to collaborate on projects and business activities remotely.  Soon-after, we were able to shed 50% of our office space in Binghamton – from 8,000sf to 4,000sf.  We were also able to reduce our administrative staff by a similar percentage.  In all, the annual savings realized was approximately $175,000.

A second wave of overhead reduction and optimization was realized when XONITEK experienced the “perfect storm” during the spring and summer of 2008.  As you might recall, gas prices were near $4.50/gal and many of my employees expressed an interest in working from home (some of them had an hour commute each way).  We further leveraged the internet and communication technology so that working remotely was even more feasible.  In addition to gas prices being so high, the new owners of the building where we had our office were failing to maintain the building leaving our remaining employees in-doubt.

By happenstance, we were able to locate a new office and abandoned our old one. Again, we were able to reduce our rent overhead by 75% and our staffing overhead by 50% – with a combined annual savings of $125,000.

However, there were new challenges as we expanded our geographical footprint both in clientele and in the resources necessary to support their projects – namely telecommunications.

Our old telephone system was a traditional Nortel solution – with a central unit and individual telephones.  The challenge was the timely communication between our internal resources and the value-chain.  It was very difficult to respond in a timely manner when members of XONITEK’s value-chain would leave a message on one of the extensions and then have to wait for the internal resource to retrieve the message. This was a serious threat to our ability to grow the business practice and still be responsive.

I had seen many VOIP solutions over the years which could meet the challenges that I faced.  But I could never embrace them for several reasons – the biggest being an elusive ROI.  The thought of plinking-down $50,000 plus in hardware and software (in addition to the ongoing annual overhead and maintenance) made justifying the implementation of such a system impossible.

One-Box to the Rescue

Given the problem and being telephony-challenged myself, I charged my staff to find a telephony solution which was creative, cost-effective, reliable, agile and expandable – no small feat.

After a few months of research and discussion, they presented me with a comprehensive solution called One-Box Receptionist Enterprise from One-Box – a subsidiary of j2 Global Communications, Incorporated (NASDAQ: JCOM).

To put it simply, I was completely amazed.

Full Disclosure: XONITEK does not represent One-Box, j2 Global Communications Incorporated, or any other telephony solution.  What is being cited in this article is purely the experience and opinions of XONITEK.

Onebox Receptionist Enterprise is a hosted Virtual PBX system which fully automates the handling of your inbound calls. Callers are welcomed with a custom, professionally recorded greeting and connected anywhere throughout your organization.

For organizations with twenty or more people, you will enjoy all the benefits of a high-end PBX phone system without the capital investment.

Some benefits include:

  • Customizable and expandable.
  • A virtual PBX that requires no fixed real-estate
  • There was no need for a hard-wired telephone on your desk.  For your personal communication device, you can use your; mobile phone, Skype account, home phone or any other device with a telephone number – and these numbers and devices can change at-will.
  • Low cost of ownership, no hardware or software to install or maintain.
  • Pull together multiple remote offices with intelligent, virtual receptionist call routing and multi-level call trees.
  • Extend your call system globally and seamlessly no matter where your business takes you.
  • Professional, studio-recorded greeting and menu customized just for your business.
  • Auto-attendant virtual receptionist with multi-level call trees.
  • ACD queuing/holding.
  • Find me/follow me on every extension.
  • Includes Direct-dial voice and fax numbers for each extension.
  • Customizable music on hold.
  • Powerful call transfer features.
  • … See more features at the end of this article.
  • Annual savings realized, $15,000

How it works:

  • Per geography (USA, UK, NL, etc.), you are set-up with a toll-free number (we added a non-toll-free number in the 646/NYC area code also to support our international contacts).
  • Each “extension” is routed to the communication devices of the individual – per their preferences.
  • In my case,

– each incoming call is routed to my mobile phone and my Skype account simultaneously.

– After three (3) rings, my mobile drops off.

– After five (5) rings, my Skype drops off.

– If no answer, the system takes a voicemail and emails it to me as a .WAV file.  I can then listen to it
and respond/forward.

In this way – and regardless of the origin of the call and to what “local” telephone number the call is made – all incoming calls are routed through one global telephony system where all internal resources may be accessed.

The power of this system was made apparent one day over the summer when;

  • an incoming call for me came in on our UK telephone line (complete with UK-accented auto-attendant).
  • it was answered by the receptionist in the USA on her mobile while she was walking to the post office.
  • she transferred the call from her mobile to me.
  • where I answered on my Skype whilst sitting in Frankfurt, Germany.
  • … the caller couldn’t tell any of this – completely transparent.  In fact, there have been several occasions where the “receptionist” has needed to work from home – and One-Box was able to make this a reality.

XONITEK has currently configured our One-Box system to support the USA, Canadaand the UK.  We expect to roll-out NL, DE, and PL this quarter.

The Future

Our lease is up in December of 2010.  If I can find a reasonable solution for hosting our internal IT systems, my plan is to go completely Nomad and be completely without bricks and mortar.  If we can achieve such a feat, we will have reduced our overhead by almost 95% since 2002 – yet have actually increased the effectiveness and ability to communicate by a magnitude.

… THAT’S pretty “Lean”…

Who knows – maybe I will finally be able to sell “Spirit Stones” in Sedona and still run XONITEK…

Paris is the Founder and Chairman of the XONITEK Group of Companies; an international management consultancy firm specializing in all disciplines related to Operational Excellence, the continuous and deliberate improvement of company performance AND the circumstances of those who work there – to pursue “Operational Excellence by Design” and not by coincidence. 

He is also the Founder of the Operational Excellence Society, with hundreds of members and several Chapters located around the world, as well as the Owner of the Operational Excellence Group on Linked-In, with over 25,000 members.

For more information on Paris, please check his Linked-In Profile at: http://de.linkedin.com/in/josephparis

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