In the telco world, upgrades are a fact of life. Products wear out. New and better options come along. It’s why MNOs spend millions trying to persuade their customers to upgrade their contracts or handsets every year. But sometimes, the telcos themselves are the ones doing the upgrading. And so we come to the topic under discussion: SMS platforms.
Over recent years, messaging has become more strategically important to the world’s carriers and communications service providers. In an era of flatlining voice income, the rise of A2P enterprise messaging has provided an important new revenue source.
Indeed, recent projections suggest the market could generate $74.7 billion by 2026. Meanwhile, market watcher Mobilesquared has estimated that total A2P volumes could reach 2.80 trillion messages this year.
Inevitably, this welcome rise in traffic puts pressure on existing SMS software systems – forcing telcos to look around for upgrades.
At GTC, we have seen this process up close. We’ve worked with carriers and OTT providers that have replaced their SMS platforms three times over five years! Obviously, upgrading your system is a big decision to make. Choose the right one, and it will support important business growth for years to come – as well as delighting the enterprise customers that come to depend on it.
Facts and logic, not ‘who you know’
We have also witnessed telcos that make bad calls. Their criteria are gut instinct or personal relationships, rather than hard facts or business logic.
We have come across well-informed buyers who still prefer to go with vendors simply because they have been their standard supplier for other services or because they met them at an industry event. Others are swayed by a flashy marketing campaign or a visible brand name without looking any deeper into what they are buying.
If you’re feeling the weight of responsibility for this decision, it’s understandable. It’s not easy to evaluate which vendor or platform will best deliver on your needs.
In a market with many competing solutions – many of which are very similar to each other – it is advisable to start by considering your vendor. In our opinion, they fall into three groups:
- ‘Monolith’ platform providers that established themselves during ‘the golden era of telco’ and remain highly visible.
- Attractive low-cost platforms were emerging from countries with low labour costs.
- SMS aggregators that developed in-house solutions and are now offering these platforms to third parties.
- Highly specialised software vendors, many of them having origins in the voice industry.
Along with the choice of provider, you will also have to factor in technical considerations such as how to:
- Adapt your processes for the new system
- Migrate connections and data over to the new platform
- Deal with system customisation
- Debug scripts
- Provide training about the new platform to employees
This is a lot to think about. We want to help.
In this guide, we aim to help you choose the right platform vendor and avoid the pitfalls of selecting an ill-suited software platform. We have used our knowledge of working with dozens of MNOs to summarise the advice down to six things.
1. Define your key selection criteria
This might sound obvious. But from our experience, we know that half of all carriers do not predefine their criteria when they choose an SMS software platform. Don’t make this mistake. Instead, consider the following:
- Price and business model
- In-house or hosted solution
- Licensing or rental
- Country and culture of provider
- The reputation of the provider (references)
- Neutrality of provider
- Location of data centre
- Versatility of platform
- Supported features
- Supported protocols
- Required business protocol components
- Openness of system
- Compatibility of system
- Quality of post-sales support
- Software UX
- Integration of testing and mobile number portability
- Additional VAS features
- Development power
2. Discuss your decision criteria with relevant stakeholders
Yes, the above is quite a list. So your next task is to assign different weights to the various decision criteria. To do this, bring in all your key stakeholders. Together you can identify the one-dimensional key decisions (such as price or local language support) and then assess the merits of various technology providers and their offerings. Are there forces driving you to go for the cheapest option possible? Make sure you consider the big picture before making a decision based on price.
3. Take your time
Don’t rush! Selecting a provider and a platform is not a simple box-ticking exercise. It will be among THE most important factors in determining whether your project is a long-term success. The provider you choose will become a long-time partner in good times and bad.
Judge carefully if now is the right time to launch SMS hubbing services. Yes, you might want to hurry if your existing (voice) business is on the decline. But this is a highly competitive market in which it is not possible to earn returns without investment. So be patient, and remember that no matter which platform you choose, there will be an element of distraction from your core business.
4. Involve all relevant departments in your decision
Resistance to change is natural in companies. Make allies of your Sales, Technical, Finance, Marketing or Routing Departments by bringing them into the project early on. This will be a time-consuming process, so consider if a private one-day workshop can help get these details sorted.
5. Get to know your provider in detail
Your platform provider will become your business partner. This is a very important relationship. Ask yourself: do we share a business culture? Is this company financially stable? Who are the owners? What is their long-term strategy? Is the company commercially neutral? Could your provider also be your competitor when it comes to SMS hubbing services?
These are important questions. So talk to other market players. Ask about their experience of working with your potential partner during the launch and expansion phases. Enquire about their customer support. Get a sense of their culture and how they do business on a day-to-day basis.
6. Seek impartial advice
You might feel uncertain during the RFP and platform selection process. Talk to trusted contacts. Ask impartial professionals about different existing solutions. Prepare your RFP by comparing multidimensional criteria and selecting the most relevant features.
If you are setting out on the daunting mission of choosing a new SMS platform, we hope this guide makes the process a little more manageable. GTC has years of experience here. We have helped many carriers to navigate the complexity and make the right choice. If you want to talk to us, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Global Telco Consult (GTC) is a trusted independent business messaging consultancy with deep domain knowledge in application-to-person (A2P) services. GTC provides tailor-made messaging strategies to enterprises, messaging service providers, operators and voice carriers. We have expertise in multiple messaging channels such as RCS, Viber, WhatsApp, Telegram and SMS for the wholesale and retail industry.
GTC supports its customers from market strategy through service launch, running the operations and supporting sales and procurement. The company started in 2016 with a mission to guide operators and telcos to embrace new and exciting opportunities and make the most out of business messaging. For more information or industry insights, browse through our blog page or follow us on LinkedIn.