The best place to learn about the requirements to be fulfilled by a product is to be on the street and meet your customers or prospects. This has been my primary pursuit in the last few quarters; and these journeys and interactions have provided a direction in which we need to possibly go in the next few quarters.
Our target market is the service provider. A service provider provides the last mile connectivity to an application and the first line of connect to a business. This product is something that can be consumed over the Internet / cloud by a business. An example of such an application is email, compute infrastructure, storage, messaging, etc.
Why is this last mile of connectivity required? Can the ISV’s who develop these applications themselves provide the last line of connectivity? Well, they could, if they
- Found a way to convey the use of the application without the technical jargon
- Are ready to integrate with another product from another ISV who could also be a competitor
- Are ready to accept payments for the services provided in any number of ways such as online payment, cheques, cash, offline payment, etc.
- Are ready to have a F2F conversation with a customer
But this is a near impossible task for an ISV that wants to grow big and be present in every corner of the world.
This is where the service provider comes in. He is in touch with the customers and can easily translate their business needs into a set of applications or products that they will need to subscribe to. These applications can be from diverse ISVs, but these are the ones that offer the best value to the customer.
So, what does a service provider need, to perform his role well? Some of the ones that come to my mind are a common portal where a customer can pick and order the desired services, a common back-end that can interact with all the different applications that deliver these services, and the ability to generate a common and consolidated invoice to account for the services delivered. Providing a single system that can process an order will help the service provider by not requiring him to build expertise on every application that he will deliver, and also not need to add up the cost of each of services before generating an invoice. This common platform is also called as a Cloud Broker, which is an emerging class of solutions and is gaining importance quickly.
This is what I think a service provider needs, to be able to successfully meet the requirements of his customers. What do you think?