Selecting your messaging platform? Answer these questions to reduce the stress.

Buyers’ remorse is a painful thing. Yet it’s pretty common. According to a recent survey, 74 percent of adults have experienced some kind or regret after buying items online.

But feeling bad about that bread maker you never use is pretty easy to get over. Can we say the same about buying a tech platform that not only costs hundreds of thousands of dollars over several years but also affects the future success of your business? Probably not.

This is, of course, the dilemma facing corporate buyers tasked with approving any significant purchase. And it’s certainly true for the telco executive with a decision to make about buying or upgrading his or her company’s SMS platform.

Why? Because A2P messaging is a growing and significant contributor to telco revenues. According to market analyst Mobilesquared, brands spent $25.7 billion on business messaging in 2022. CPaaS is also a strategic area for revenue growth and value realisation for 5G and digital enterprise services.

This is significant traffic for all the stakeholders involved. It will improve the product portfolio for voice and data companies participating in the SMS market. Meanwhile, for brands, the messages themselves are often strategically important. Indeed, Mobilesquared estimates one-time authentication passwords accounted for up to 40 percent of all A2P traffic last year. These are messages that must be delivered – quickly and reliably. Security is key here.

Messaging platform ‘overwhelm’: make it manageable

Here at GTC, we are keenly aware of the issues – and the nervousness around buying a new SMS platform. As an A2P SMS business consultancy, we have spoken to many service providers and MNOs who feel ill-equipped to handle such an important purchase. Typically, they cite the following reasons:

  • I have little or no previous experience in selecting a messaging platform.
  • I have no idea how to evaluate, even after extensive research.
  • I am uncertain about how my recommendation could affect future revenue for the company.
  • I don’t know how to integrate the new platform into my legacy services and systems.

It certainly can feel overwhelming.

So what can you do to make the process more manageable?

First, let’s explore the questions facing companies that already have a platform in place but are looking to upgrade. 

A good place to start is by thinking about the existing messaging platform. In short: what’s wrong with it? By analysing the reasons why you need an upgrade, you will be able to think more clearly about what you do want. Here are some of the most common problems we hear about:

  • Traffic has increased, and the incumbent SMS platform cannot cope with the new volumes.
  • The business plan has not materialised as planned, making message traffic unprofitable.
  • It’s unexpectedly expensive due to too many chargeable actions and additional fees.
  • The feature requirements have changed and the SMS platform cannot support them.
  • The messaging platform does not have a user friendly interface. It has a complex front end and command line configs. We need to train staff to use it.
  • The SMS platform is not fully ‘self-serve’. It misses UI modules, which demand human interaction with the vendor’s support for backend platform configurations.
  • Platform support is slow and/or inefficient.
  • The vendor is no longer a good cultural fit for us – or is no longer financially stable.

But don’t only focus on the negative. Consider in your assessment also what works well for your customers, staff and organisational structure.

Questions that lead to (SMS platform) answers

Having done the just proposed analysis should give you a better sense of your requirements. So once you have done your review, what next? We suggest you ask yourself the following seven questions.

1. Why do I need to switch my SMS platform?

Migrating to a new solution is a big step. Is it necessary? Are you just missing some features? Could you solve this problem by purchasing additional tools from your existing or alternative vendor?

2. What are my most important selection criteria?

OK, so you’ve decided you do need a new messaging platform. Now it is time to decide exactly what you need from both the vendor and the solution itself. We suggest you consider the following factors:

  • Supported features and protocols
  • Software user experience
  • Ease of integration with existing systems
  • Price and business model
  • The reputation of the provider
  • Quality of post-sales support
  • Redundancy
  • In-house or hosted solution
  • Location of data centre(s)

3. Will my new messaging platform be future proof?

Don’t forget to factor in your general sales or go-to-market strategy. For example, you might currently work only with the wholesale market. But what if you want to target enterprises directly? Will you have the right software tools and APIs to do so?

4. How important is the integration process?

Most vendors offer plug and play solutions based on platforms they host in their own clouds. These solutions can be suitable for companies that have modest product ranges, especially when managed separately. However, larger organisations have different requirements. In short, they need to consider carefully the integration of third party tools due to the sheer variety of products they offer. 

This matters most when it comes to finance and business intelligence. Why? Because it’s very important for large firms to manage all invoices and operational data for their customers in one location. 

Next to organisational reasons to have all data in one place, there are also legal regulations imposed for how long to keep financial data. This needs to be considered when a data retention and backup strategy is defined. Watch out for privacy regulations with all their complexities in this context!

For maximum efficiency, teams like NOC or customer support need central access to data from different sources, this applies especially to traffic quality and system health monitoring.

An omnichannel solution might need to be integrated for an upcoming enterprise offer. However, it’s important to note that there isn’t a single answer to the question of how messages are sent to the SMS platform and how credit control and invoicing are managed.

Overall, the integration of third party tools is important for everyone in the business. With all the benefits and downsides, you should carefully select what is best for your future platform.

5. What are my options for a new vendor?

With all aspects considered so far, it is now time to choose a vendor. For some execs, it’s tempting to fall back on known partners. But is it really appropriate to make such a big decision based on personal relationships? Similarly, you might be distracted by a slick marketing campaign or a high profile brand name without looking any deeper into what you are buying.

Instead, take time to review all the options. Generally, you can group vendors into four types.

  • Global platform providers with many decades of experience
  • Vendors from countries with low labour costs offering low-cost solutions
  • SMS aggregators that have developed their own platforms
  • Specialised software vendors, often with origins in the voice industry

There is no right or wrong choice. Any of the above could work for you. So 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 at some point in the future (for example, when it comes to SMS hubbing services)?

6. Will my decision have company-wide support?

Your choice of a new SMS platform will reverberate across your organisation. You must take steps to get buy-in from colleagues. So bring Sales, Technical, Finance, Marketing or Routing Departments into the project early on. Consider if a workshop is necessary to present the options, answer questions and gauge requirements.

7. Should I seek independent advice?

If you feel uncertain during the RFP and platform selection process, you can seek help from anyone that has been through the procedure before. You can ask: what was their outcome? What would they do better? Are they experiencing any remorse? What are the critical questions they wished they asked? These conversations will release a wealth of information that no research could ever reveal – if you have the right contacts with the needed level of trust.

When it comes to advice, GTC should be on your list. We have helped many telcos, CSPs and platform providers to navigate the complexity around messaging platforms and make the right choice. To find out more, 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.

Any questions?