The three finalists for the Leading Light award for Most Innovative Small- to Mid-Sized (SMB) Service are examples of how the telecom industry is enabling smaller businesses to make more effective use of technology to improve their productivity and gain the same advantages as larger players without heavy investments in capex and large IT staffs.
In many respects, SMBs stand to benefit most from the convergence of telecom and IT technologies as many of the popular business applications move from being expensive software licensing with heavy IT staffing demands to being cloud-based, on-demand tools paid for on a per-user or per-use basis and delivered in an easy to use form.
The three finalists for this year's Most Innovative SMB Service have all created packages of technology that these less-than-massive companies can consume. AT&T Mobile Office Suite, Broadview MyOfficeSuite and Panamx MobiFin are all making it easier to consume business applications and services -- as well as telecom services, in some cases -- in a way that matches business requirements.
Here's a closer look at our three finalists in this category:
AT&T Mobile Office Suite
Introduced this year at Mobile World Congress, AT&T Mobile Office Suite is a cloud-based mobile collaboration service bundle that includes everything SMBs need to give their employees to ability to work productively in the office or from almost anywhere else. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) combines features from both traditional wired and mobile services so that the full range of voice, data and conferencing services are part of one cost-effective offer, including commonly used Microsoft business applications such as Lync, Exchange, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneDrive.
AT&T Mobile Office Suite provides a way for SMBs to offer mobility and remote access that is secure and reliable without the hassle of setting up and managing the technology themselves. AT&T helps customers with transition planning and migration to the new service and offers 24/7 technical support.
One feature of the service that stands out is Voice Connection, the expanded click-to-call function for Lync Online, which lets small business users make and receive domestic or international voice calls while in the US, regardless of the call type. It includes calls from Lync, Skype, wireless and landline phones.
As more SMBs look to cloud-based services, what AT&T is offering them is a predictably priced service bundle that makes the transition easy and eliminates the need for them to do their own service integration and juggling of multiple bills and services.
Broadview Networks Holdings Inc. , a competitive service provider in the northeast and mid-Atlantic US, created MyOfficeSuite as a portal to centralize control of communications and hosted services for its SMB customers, who can make real-time changes to their accounts and all associated services from this one website. The portal is viewable from any browser and almost any connected device including desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Using what Broadview calls a "customizable dashboard of widgets," the portal allows SMBs to control its hosted and cloud services by managing employee permissions, settings and storage. It lets the businesses mobilize their workforce by re-routing calls, using auto-attendant features and giving each employee a customizable dashboard. Businesses can improve security and business continuity as well, scaling services on-demand when and where they are needed.
The portal also allows control of audio, video and HD conferencing, and enables collaboration through presence and click-to-call features that can be shared across a company or within specific groups. Customer service processes are also automated, as is new account ordering and bill payment and management.
Panamax is a diverse company with products and services that primarily target the service provider segment, but with MobiFin, the company is also reaching out to the banking and financial services and retail sectors with a product that enables mobile commerce. The service is also available to mobile operators and MVNOs.
Aimed at both developed and emerging markets, MobiFin gives both retail and service provider customers the ability to integrate existing heterogeneous devices, platforms and systems into a single system that provides comprehensive mobile financial services that are cash-less and highly secure.
MobiFin enables mobile versions of common financial services such as top-up (adding money to an account), bill payment, transactions, ticket, lottery and more, through either mobile or web-based portals. It is a completely cashless system that meets industry standards and certifications for security and integration with the broader financial ecosystem. The solution is scalable -- it can start small and grow, or start large, if needed.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading