A communications services marketplace solution is a software that aggregates multiple solutions and automates the process of comparing and contrasting between them. This method removes the potential biases that human agents have, creating a neutral environment to figure out what solution is best for an organization and simplifying the process. By automating the solutions available and laying them all out in a single platform, the buyer is able to take charge. We talked to three communications services marketplace experts to weigh in on the importance and impact of these solutions.


 

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Gary Storm, President & CEO at vCom Solutions

How do you define communications services marketplace solutions? What are they and who uses them? 

vCom believes there are 9 phases of an IT Asset—9 jobs that must be done in order manage the lifecycle of that asset—so we have built our platform to match those 9 phases/jobs. Phase 2 for us is called “Sourcing,” and we have built a Marketplace in our platform for our customers to do self-service shopping for IT services. You can think of it as an Amazon or Kayak-like experience for IT service shopping.

What are the current gaps/flaws/challenges with communications services marketplace solutions available?

We don’t see marketplace paired with the other phases of managing the Lifecyle of an IT Asset/Service/Expense. Our belief is that you really need to manage all 9 phases or it’s not true lifecycle management.

What is the value of using marketplace software versus working with an agent or directly working with CSPs?  

We fundamentally believe that humans should not touch the procurement of commodity services (Broadband, POTS, Mobile, etc.). It’s one thing to use an advisor for UCaaS and CCaaS, or even SD-WAN, etc., but we believe our customers want the ability to self-serve on commodity services and that you don’t need a live person to address these commodity procurement needs.    Once we enter their negotiated pricing and build their customized catalog, they are off and running.

Looking to the future, how do you believe communications services marketplace solutions will change sourcing and procurement for business customers?

Speed, simplicity, and personalization.

What business problems do you seek to solve with your marketplace solution? What are the differentiators? 

The ability to quickly shop and buy commodity services that are then ordered, inventoried, and paid for right from the same platform.

Who is your ideal customer and how do they benefit from using your solution?  

Our ideal customer is the mid-market, and they benefit from our solution by managing all of their Spend in a single platform—from Procure to Pay across Network, Mobile, Collab, Cloud, SaaS and Hardware.

What else should readers know about marketplace solutions? 

They should make sure they understand how the solutions work, where the data comes from, what products they cover, and if they are part of an overall strategy to manage the ENTIRE Lifecycle.


 

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Dennis Thankachan, CEO & Founder at Lightyear

How do you define communications services marketplace solutions? What are they and who uses them? 

A communications service marketplace is a software solution that allows you to identify, configure, quote, and potentially even procure communications services (connectivity, WAN, voice, colo, etc.) fully online in a way that is truly vendor-neutral. At Lightyear, our marketplace solution offers full lifecycle management capabilities (implementation management, ticketing, renewal handling, etc.).

If you’ve ever managed an enterprise network, you’re likely aware of the pains requisite to determine vendor serviceability, gather quotes, and the like. A good marketplace solution should help automate away the vast majority of these tedious tasks. The “user” of a marketplace solution is likely an enterprise buyer of network (think an IT or telecom procurement lead), although there are solutions out there many are built more for ISPs and channel partners rather than enterprises.  

What are the current gaps/flaws/challenges with communications services marketplace solutions available? 

When it comes to online telecom procurement, there are very few solutions available (I count less than five), and a majority of the solutions out there are not fully featured (i.e., ability to identify vendors but not procure, limited vendor support, etc.) and were built years ago with limited upgrades and investment in recent history. Most solutions are not well designed (you’ll feel like you’re using 1990s software), expensive, and severely lacking in features. We aggressively invest in product at Lightyear precisely because of this market need. 

What is the value of using marketplace software versus working with an agent or directly working with CSPs? 

Agents and CSPs are powered by humans that will play to their own incentives, while marketplace software ideally puts the buyer in the driver’s seat. With an agent, you’ll often be quoted vendors who are “preferred” and may pay out a higher commission, with limited incentive to negotiate down on price, and with direct-to-provider purchasing you’ll need to spend hours quoting tons of carriers to truly paint a fulsome picture of market pricing.

Marketplace software like Lightyear will automate your quote experience, ensuring an exhaustive search is run on your behalf and that data is utilized to get you the best possible pricing without you having to lift a finger. Lightyear will also automate the post-quote lifecycle on your behalf, helping with installations, inventory management, ticketing, and renewals. Agents and CSPs are disincentivized to do anything post-install that could stop a service from billing. 

Looking to the future, how do you believe communications services marketplace solutions will change sourcing and procurement for business customers? 

Telecom procurement should be optimized, automated, and done using software. If you believe that in 10-20 years businesses will be picking up the phone 10 times to quote a single DIA circuit, I’d call you crazy. 

What business problems do you seek to solve with your marketplace solution? What are the differentiators? 

Lightyear is a fully featured telecom software solution that captures the entire enterprise telecom lifecycle. Our software is free to use and allows you to configure, quote, manage installs, track inventory, handle tickets, and handle renewals across 1,000+ vendors spanning the globe for the full suite of telecom services (internet, WAN, colo, voice). We have a comprehensive data set in B2B telecom and utilize that data set proactively to get buyers the best possible pricing every time. We’ve also raised >$22M in venture capital from top investors and are actively adding features to our product every month.

Who is your ideal customer and how do they benefit from using your solution? 

Most of our customers are mid-market or large enterprises, although we have many SMB customers as well. Enterprises who use our solution save >70% of the time they’d spend on telecom procurement activities and >20% on the cost side given the ability to leverage data and exhaustive search capabilities in their decision making.


 

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Ben Edmond, CEO & Founder at Connectbase

How do you define communications services marketplace solutions? What are they and who uses them?

Communication services marketplace solutions are cloud platforms that enable search, availability, quoting and ordering capabilities for the comm services industry. Marketplaces can be run from a neutral or branded position, but enable a real time shopping experience. They combine the shopping marketplace solutions and offer sellers tools, analytics and access. An example of this would be Connectbase and our Connected World platform that enables real time serviceability, product availability, quoting and the ability to place an order throughout the service provider community today.

What are the current gaps/flaws/challenges with communications services marketplace solutions available?

The gaps currently in the market with the 100 plus we track around the world is the lack of participation in buy side or sell side, and a lack of transparency in the market and model. Connectbase believes it has uniquely solved this at scale and with transparency to both buyers and sellers.

What is the value of using marketplace software versus working with an agent or directly working with CSPs?

There’s value in both. Software should add value with data, automation and access, and should complement the agent relationship or direct relationships a client has. Connectbase has chosen a model where the buyer decides how they want to transact but gets to leverage the power of our data and software agnostically.

Looking to the future, how do you believe communications services marketplace solutions will change sourcing and procurement for business customers?

I believe they will fundamentally change the majority of sourcing as they have in other industries, shining a light on the inefficiencies and cost of the current models, and inherently improving next generation needs like real time changes, dynamic machine driven spend, analytics and optimizations with decision making capabilities not just around price, but also around customer experience, security and performance.

What business problems do you seek to solve with your marketplace solution? What are the differentiators?

We seek to solve market opaqueness and the friction in buying and selling connectivity. With over 11,000 last mile owners—more than 2,300 in the US alone—the distributed enterprise has never been more dependent on connectivity while having the most complexity. We seek to solve transforming connectivity buying to be enabled not just in real time, but also with data to improve customer experience and value, performance and security.

Who is your ideal customer and how do they benefit from using your solution?

Our ideal customer is significantly more geographically-distributed business that has high value in the ability to connect and communicate, and they believe cloud and digital are inherently a part of the economy going forward.

What else should readers know about marketplace solutions?

They should know that there are many differences in how they are built and supported, what optimal outcomes and natural bias is being represented. They should care about a complete solution, in product support, geographic support and end to end workflow that they can embeds their rules into. Think of Amazon’s shipping preferences, buying preferences etc. The communications services marketplace should be data-driven, intuitive, and drive an amazing experience.

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Tim is Executive Vice President at AOTMP®

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