Saturday, March 16, 2013

Going Global

I have many conversations about Vadacom going global with customers, suppliers and others in our industry. After all, VadaXchange is now recognisably a world class VoIP PABX system.  We also already have VadaXchange systems running in the USA, China and Australia - those systems are deployed for our New Zealand customers with the global  offices.

We have the unique capability to deploy and support VadaXchange systems internationally. However, up until now, we don't have any sales presence outside of New Zealand.

However, this year we achieved something entirely new - we sold our first system that is deployed internationally where the customer resides outside of New Zealand - that system is in the Kingdom of Tonga.

So what is stopping us from increasing our international sales and how would we go about it?

To find out I went along to Ken Morse's seminar "Global Sales Strategies for Ambitious Kiwi Entrepreneurs"

Ken is the co-founder of 3Com Corporation, Aspen Technology and a number of other global tech companies. I felt if I wanted to grow a successful international tech business, I need to learn form the best!

Ken didn't disappoint. I loved Ken's American, straight-to-the-point style. You can tell Ken knows how to grow sales. His message - sales are harder than technology. And it is true. I'm a firm believer that the ratio of sales to technical staff in a tech company should be 1:1.

Being in a small market, we often find ourselves selling our technology to small companies. Certainly most Vadacom customers at the moment have less than 100 people. So we often sell to the boss, or one person within the organisation who makes the decision.

Ken explained what it takes to sell to larger corporations - places where each decision is made by a bunch of people rather than just one. He calls them "The Jury". He shared with us his good, timeless sales techniques - from the first 30 second elevator pitch, through to building relationships overcoming objections and running  sales presentations.

Ken's message about focusing on vertical, rather than horizontal market did strike an accord with me and focused me on what it will actually take to take VadaXchange to international markets. This helped me focus on what is important in formulating our international expansion strategy.

If you interested to learn more about going global from the master, I would definitely recommend Ken's workshop - you can find details by clicking on the link here.

If you interested to learn more about Vadacom international expansion strategy, please first visit our website to understand what we do then give me a call.

Igor.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

iPhone vs. Android is Alien vs. Predator: whoever wins... we lose

Having had a number of discussions with my colleagues about iPhones and Androids recently I decided to write a follow up blog to the one I posted earlier with the same title

Much has changed in the last two years since my original post. Android platform is now much more widely used and is winning the market share. New entrants into the market, such as Windows Phone devices haven't really managed to take market or mind share and the dinosaurs such as Blackberry are slowly disappearing. So this is still very much a two-horse race. iPhone vs. Android.

Here at Vadacom we work with both the iPhone and the Android platform. We didn't back then. Here is my opinion on where the platforms are at from the business use point of view:

While Android is still lacking some critical integration features, it is certainly catching up to iPhone. The user interface on some of the newer devices feels as responsive as iPhone. The availability of the apps is certainly getting close. There are also some cool features that now exist in Android but not in the iPhone yet.

Much seems to be device and vendor dependant. Most Android phones are still falling behind because as they get older the vendor doesn't provide a timely update to the OS. So older iPhones hold up much better compared to the older Androids as the OS in those phones is usually more current.

Where is some of the new devices do now outshine the new iPhone 5 in features. The device to watch, in my opinion, is Nexus 4. One reason: apparently Google will keep this one up to date with the new releases. So, here are a couple of comparisons of Nexus 4 vs. iPhone 5:

10 Things the iPhone 5 Can't do that Nexus 4 Can

Google Nexus 4 vs iPhone 5 - Screen, Power and Software

Our clients are split fairly evenly in their business use of iPhones and Androids.

Here at Vadacom we turn your iPhone or Android into a Mobile Extension of VadaXchange VOIP PBX.

VadaXchange Mobile Extensions feature enables mobile phones to have the same features as other cordless phones attached to the VadaXchange PBX as an extension of the system. The call is made using a regular service, while it is billed to your VOIP account, so your business saves money which more than justifies getting a smartphone. After that you gain a lot in productivity.

While developing for iPhone using iOS SDK is still slightly faster, Android allows much better integration with the environment outside the VadaXchange App. With Android we are able to register VadaXchange as the default dialling application for contacts. We also put hold and transfer button right on the front of the standard phone app on the phone to allow call transfer of PBX based calls. This nicely and seamlessly turns the Android phone into the VadaXchange PBX extension.

I must confess that I believe iOS 6 and iPhone 5 made really underwhelming progress from the innovation view point. My personal view is that unless Apple is able to make a big leap with the next iOS version and the new range of the iOS based devices this year, we will see Android continuing dominating the market share to the point where iOS will become another niche player. That would be a shame as I am a great believer in having competition to fuel innovation.  Plus, I still love my iPhone.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

One entrepreneur's experience of building a new website.

About six months ago I embarked on a new project. We, at Vadacom, decided to redesign our website.

Have you ever built a new site for your business? Are you planning to build the site, or commission building of the new site? I felt sharing my experience - mistakes and all - could be useful for you. Please read on and let me know what you think. But first, please take a moment to have a look at my finished work:



Our old website looked like the image here.
It looked good and for seven years it served us well. However, we found some limitations:

The site was running in the old version of Plone. A great, open source content management system (CMS). Unfortunately it was a few versions behind and we couldn't upgrade it without re-creating all of the content inside the new version.

Because the version was old, it wasn't easy to add new forms to it. We had to pay for developers creating forms to capture marketing data.

I also couldn't add meta tags or other meta data so it was impossible to optimise it for search engines (SEO). We ended up paying lots of money for google ads in order to just be found on the web.

So we decided if we are going to change to a more modern version of an open source CMS. This is where I embarked on a project that I thought would take me a few weeks.

In our business, I am responsible for marketing, so the website content, look and feel falls under my portfolio of things to do. Once or twice a year when we have a new product, or a new marketing strategy, I spend a weekend or a few weeknights refreshing the website look and content. So in my mind, I thought - a few weeks and I will migrate all the site's content from the old site into the new one. This was the first mistake I made in this project.

Next, we thought that we might as well re-design the website. Even though it worked for us, the site looked dated. So we set aside some budget for a graphics designer only to refresh the look and feel. Setting the budget low was the second mistake in this project.

Next, we commissioned Swaytech to help us with the design of the website. Now, this was the best decision we made in the whole project and it had saved us!

Swaytech suggested to run a workshop to discuss what we wanted out of our site. Having designed websites before, I gathered our executive team and ran a pre-workshop workshop. This was extremely useful and helped me focus on exactly what I thought the team wanted out of the website. Having the workshop with Swaytech afterwards was invaluable. While the workshop was important for them to understand what we wanted out of the website, they also offered a wealth of experience and plenty of food for thought to challenge our original thinking: we completely missed out SEO part and also the biggest part of our business - our customers! So after this workshop with Swaytech we embarked on a very important exercise - asking our customers how they viewed our company and our product. This was extremely useful not only for the website, but also for our product development road map.

Being very clear about what the team wanted out of the website also helped the project for me, as it helped me to communicate clearly to the designers what the requirements are and make the right choices between different design ideas.

One great thing about getting the website templates back from Swaytech was that there were no usual "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet...." text in the templates - Mark from Swaytech went the extra mile and actually produced some fantastic content that we ended up using in the finished product. Mark also helped with more of the content later on and was extremely helpful. If I was to do this project again, I'd definitely get Mark to work on even more of our content. Swaytech also designed our website template such that it looks great on both the normal screens and smartphones small screens - the site design adopts dynamically towards the screen size.

Being a software development shop, we have some strict technical requirements so we had to implement and control our CMS in house. Vadacom development team implemented the website templates into our CMS. They did the excellent job of picking and implementing the site's content management system - I couldn't do this without having this great in-house expertise. We settled on Django Fiber - a simple, open-source, user-friendly CMS. Having easy drag-and-drop front-end CMS editing really helped.

Once the template and the content management were in, I started moving the content across. There I discovered another mistake - it wasn't all about copy and paste. I actually had to review content and re-create many of the images. This was starting to look like a bigger job than previously anticipated. However I felt I was up to the task.

Enthusiastically, I charged into the job and after a couple of weeks of having a go at it I decided to check on my progress. I calculated that I had over 50 pages of content to create, of which I managed so far ... a whooping 15! This was a shock to the system.

Clearly, it has taken a number of subsequent weeks, weekends and late nights to finish the project. Luckily, the team at Vadacom kept the business humming without me! (pays to have a great team). Having Django Fiber helped - I can't even imagine how many weeks it saved me.

So to my dear family, friends and work colleagues - if you felt like I disappeared off the face of the earth for a few months, this is why. And now I am back, and here is the result:




I had great feedback from our team so far. No wander they like it though - they helped me make all my decisions along the way. I'd like to get some feedback from people outside the business too.


So here are some key learnings for me from this experience:

  1. Don't underestimate the task. Get help if you can't afford the time away from the business.
  2. Do a workshop with the designers before setting your budgets!
  3. Get your team to help you focus on what is important to your business. At the end of the day the way your business is presented affects all of the people working in it.
  4. Make sure to pick a user-friendly content management system (let your web designers guide you if you don't have the in-house expertise)
  5. Talk to your customers about who they think you are - this is a most valuable experience!
  6. Get help with content from people who know how to create it
  7. Don't forget about SEO - (this is actually the bit of the site I haven't finished yet - so, work in progress)
I hope sharing my experience has been helpful. Let me know what you think.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Will you Bring Your Own Device?

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend has become quite a popular one over the last few years.

Why?


It all started with the iPhone. People loved iPhones. Corporate IT departments didn't. Main reason is that until recently, at least, managing iPhones was hard for the IT departments. Or at least such is the perception.

Then came the Android. While Android platform is more open than iPhone, the corporate IT integration still wasn't quite readily available.

However, despite the IT departments resistance, iOS and Android based smart phones and tablets are making their way into corporate networks. People just want to use them. 

When we introduced iPhones internally at Vadacom, our productivity significantly increased. It has given us an edge over larger, slow moving competitors. In many corporate organizations, senior executives understand this. So they bring their own iPhones and Androids despite IT department's best wishes, thus creating a headache for the IT manager.

Personally, I don't believe that BYOD is necessarily a long term trend. I think it only exists because people want to bring their own iPhones and Androids to work. This issue, for example, doesn't exist at Vadacom as we provide our staff with a choice of smart phones - iPhones or Androids.

So the trend will only continue until the corporate mobile device management (MDM) software catches up to all the latest iPhones and Androids.

Recently Apple has stepped up the game by quietly releasing a free Apple Configurator utility for OS X in March 2012.

You can find this utility by clicking here.


You can find a review here.

There are also Multi-OS Mobile Device management platforms available, such as MobileIron.

I've been watching the adoption trends of iPhone and Android with keen interest. Vadacom was amongst the first in the world to release unified communication client integration for the iPhone. The equivalent Android software is now also available in beta version.

One great thing about VadaXchange iPhone and Android software is that all the settings and security is controlled from the VadaXchange server.

I would be keen to hear more views from people - is BYOD here to stay or is it a temporary blip trend only relevant until such time as the corporate IT departments figured out how to control iPhones and Androids?

Igor Portugal
CEO Vadacom.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Vadacom Cloud Strategy


At Vadacom we launched our VadaXchange phone system offering in the cloud.

This is a simple statement, yet it is so exciting. What never ceases to amaze me is that you have the whole phone system in a virtual world somewhere. You don't have to own or manage anything other than the physical phone on your desk, if you choose to own one.

The VadaXchange in the cloud offering is unique. It offers to businesses the same experience as owning a PABX together with an advanced unified communications system, while not having any of the old TDM systems or servers on your premises. You get to have and manage the whole phone system, with phone lines, ability to fully manage your business call flow, a full contact centre offering with ACD agents, calling queues and reports, as well as call recordings and quality control.

We can also integrate VadaXchange into each unique business IT environment – you are not restricted at all by the fact that it is in the cloud.

As with our on the premiss VadaXchange system, Vadacom remains agnostic as to which ISP or phone lines are used. We are a software development company. We are committed to developing world class open communication technology right here in New Zealand. However we are not an ISP or a telecommunications provider. We leave the job of providing and billing for phone lines and data to our partners

Vadacom's cloud strategy includes two offerings: One for the service providers, where the whole solution end-to-end is delivered through one provider. Another one is for the businesses wanting to manage different providers themselves, where VadaXchange can be deployed in an approved VPS (Virtual Private Server) environment and the phone lines and the WAN are delivered by other parties.

Orcon is the first business service provider to roll out the end-to-end VadaXchange experience. Vadacom is in discussion with others.

Vadacom developed an approval process for the individual data centers. To date virtual systems have been deployed at Maxnet to run VadaXchange inside VMWare. Vadacom in the process of approving a number of other data centers.

We are committed to continuing to develop this amazing technology. In the last year we've doubled our software development effort. In my opinion we are developing the best phone system available on the market.

See more at:












Friday, June 15, 2012

Vadacom is selected Finalist in AUT Excellence in Business Support Awards

Dear customers, colleagues and friends

I am delighted to announce that Vadacom has been selected as a finalist in the 2012 AUT Excellence in Business Support Awards. 


http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-lRThlWihK9o/T9p5TUpyLAI/AAAAAAABCVI/QJtXahhCyWk/s320/Blog_2012_AutExcellenceBusinessSupportAward.jpg


Recognised for excellence in the technology category, Vadacom and 2 other finalists in our category will join a total of 49 finalists in this years’ AUT Excellence in Business Support Awards – a record number in the awards seven year history.

The robust entry and evaluation process of the awards enables finalists to reflect on how effectively their organisation achieves business excellence in all key areas including leadership and planning, customer and market focus, provision of business support, evaluation and improvement, and business results.

We wouldn't get to where we are without our customers believing in that not only we offer them the best technology available, but that we will also provide them with the excellent service. I would like to thank all of our customers for your trust in Vadacom's abilities and the opportunity you presented to us to provide support to your business. Thank you.

Vadacom would not achieve this excellence recognition without a top performing team of professionals working within the company. Our bigest strength is our people and we have the greatest team! I am proud of our team and our ability to deliver the best business telephony solution to our customers. Well done, guys, we are being recognized for our good work.


Having made it to the finals is an achievement. We will now wait in anticipation to find out if we won.


Finalists now have until 6 July to submit their final applications. The winners will then be announced in October at a black-tie gala dinner in Auckland. The Supreme Award will be chosen from the category winners.

Evaluation of all nominations will be overseen by The New Zealand Business Excellence Foundation, including evaluators for the management department of AUT Business School. Excellence will be assessed using the international Baldridge criteria.


Best Regards,

Igor Portugal
CEO, Vadacom Ltd.

Vadacom official press release here.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

How much could PABX fraud cost your business?

I recently came across this article discussing PBX security issues:


http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1109/S00390/how-much-could-pabx-fraud-cost-your-business.htm


This is so true. Many of our customers constantly refer letters to me that they receive from their phone line providers that state the following:

"An unsecured PBX system can be compromised via an insecure voicemail system (or similar), that allows incoming callers to dial extensions directly and sometimes even outside lines. Hackers have targeted these systems, across the world, sometimes resulting in a large volume of international calls being charged to the PBX user’s account."

When I get alerted to this, my normal response to our customers is:

"VadaXchange PBX is configured with the best security measures in mind. The passwords generated on the system are secure. The system is patched against all known vulnerabilities as a part of your SLA with Vadacom.

The only step you need to ensure you follow is when creating new log-ins on the VadaXchange system to use "generate" button to generate secure passwords as opposed to make passwords up yourself."

I'd like to elaborate more here on security of telephone systems.

If you own or manage a phone system there are two types of attacks that you need to defend:


  1. Attack from the telephone line that exploits the ability of phone system to relay calls via voicemail and interactive voice response systems.
  2. Attack from the internet where computer based telephony is hacked in order to make calls.


The interesting thing is that both security risks affect both traditional TDM systems and the new IP systems.  This is contrary to many statements made by old-school telephone sales people, who don't often understand IP phone systems and have even less understanding of IT security. Last thing you want to do is seek IT security advise from a telephone sales person.

I need to establish my own credentials here. Although I would not call myself an IT security expert, I do have a background in IT security, having (a) a tertiary qualification in IT and (b) having run a business before who's principal product was a firewall and service was looking after business computer network security.

To defend yourself from both types of vulnerabilities you do need to follow the guidelines that were provided by Telecommunication Carriers' Forum:


1. CHOOSE A STRONG PASSWORD

Voicemail and Direct Inward Systems Access (DISA) passwords should be changed on a regular basis, avoiding factory defaults and obvious combinations such as 1234 or the extension number.

2. CHANGE IT

Make sure all security features – passwords, PINS etc – are changed following installation, upgrade and fault/maintenance. Don’t forget to reset password defaults.

3. KEEP IT CONFIDENTIAL

Keep all internal information such as directories, call logging reports and audit logs confidential. Destroy them appropriately if no longer required.

4. REVIEW REGULARLY

Review system security and configuration settings regularly. Follow up any vulnerabilities or irregularities.

5. VENDOR TERMS AND CONDITIONS

Make sure you have the right terms and conditions reflected in your contracts with your PBX, VoIP and/or voicemail maintainer in order to keep your system regularly maintained and serviced to stay safe.


At Vadacom we provide regular security patches to our customers. We monitor vulnerability advisories. We also provide tools for generating secure passwords.