I can’t believe January is almost over and I haven’t said Happy New Year to the community yet! I guess I am still recovering from a fast and furious finish to the 2016 year when we continued our dizzying growth. I can’t thank the community enough for continuing the collective march towards making a difference in this space. I think Einstein did say that reaching maximum speed would slow down time, my (futile) attempt to defy physics continues I guess.
As I reflected on 2016, I tried to crystallize an answer to the question, “What did we do in 2016”? The following are a few salient categories I came up with:
1. We Reinforced Our Purpose
For those of you that attended the User Group Meeting last year, you probably remember my “soapboxing” regarding purpose! This is the notion that we as a community have a collective purpose, one that transcends a profitable business (which is an obvious requirement of what we all do) but rather points to a constant and persistent effort to innovate, differentiate, and maximize choice in a market that is currently dominated by a few large players.
We did this both within the organization by continuing to invest in people and processes and externally with continued client growth that we exhibited by adding more than 20 new client partners to the community. The term “resonance” comes to mind when I describe these clients, because these companies’ objectives strongly resonate with our purpose. We see continued acceptance for a company that does business the way we do business, a company that models their business in alignment and balance for mutual benefit, a company that focuses as much on culture and its people as it does on bottom line, knowing that it is ultimately best for all stakeholders and more importantly our client partners.
2. Invested in Foundation
2016 marked a year where we invested heavily in what I consider foundational elements of the operation specific to product delivery. We made significant strides in the areas of Quality Assurance, Client Services, and DevOps. These changes did create some transient and expected challenges that we continue to work through. We realize that this may create a “new normal”, however, we believe that these changes will continue to build a stronger foundation for all of us moving forward. These are systemic organizational changes we are trying to carefully manage so that they prove to be of sustainable value to all of us.
3. Grew Awareness
In 2016 we celebrated 10 years of the SNAPsolution. Even though the flagship solution has been around for a decade, I can honestly say that 2016 was the first year where I heard more people say they knew who we were than those that said they did not. That marked a critical inflection that pointed to a clear growth in the awareness of NetSapiens and our solution.
I recall a UGM from a few years back where one of the valuable pieces of feedback we heard from our client partners was their inability to compete against the likes of bigger name brand based solutions like Cisco, Broadsoft, and Genband because of our “no name” status. I commend and thank our teams and the client community as a whole with continuing to make NetSapiens a name that is mentioned in the same breath and is competing successfully against those aforementioned brands. It was in 2016, during a presentation made by a large market leader in the UC ecosystem, where I heard NetSapiens mentioned alongside only Genband and Broadsoft as one of the key players in the UC core platform market.
What about the year ahead?
I am not sure if it’s a case of hearing what you want to hear, but I heard something on the radio over the holidays that blew me away, because I am not really sure I had heard it before (at least not on the radio). On NPR, I heard an ad for IP Centrex, yes IP Centrex. What? Really? Yes, Cox Communications was advertising IP Centrex using words that I thought did not even exist outside of very dated marketing materials or deprecated wiki pages. In discussing this surprising approach to marketing with some colleagues, we wondered if indeed Cox is deliberately targeting those that actually remember Centrex service from back in the day. As technologists and service providers, our tendency is to trivialize the adoption of newer technologies, because we live in our own bubble. However, it’s these commercials that continue to affirm the significant “low hanging fruit” opportunity that is in front of us and presents us with the ability to continue to grow collective market share by utilizing the most simple communication needs as conversation starters.
When asking myself what we will do this year and challenging myself to summarize it in 3 distinct descriptors, I came up with the following three big picture themes:
As you will learn at our UGM this year, I want to emphasize the importance of evolution in our respective businesses. It sounds cliche, but the market continues to move and shift rapidly at an increasing rate and we as a collective group need to try and stay in lockstep with those movements. It is forcing all of us to evolve our businesses across all disciplines including but not limited to Product, Service, Customer Support, Business Modeling etc.
We want to continue to improve our communication within the organization, with our ecosystem partners, and most importantly with you, our client partners. As we all grow at a fast pace, it is critical that we are able to provide the information that is needed by all of you to operate as efficiently as possible and to make the best possible decisions for your business. This will also provide a channel for the feedback that we need from all of you.
With efforts to start practices within the organization such as Client Success, we want to translate the concepts of servant leadership into promoting the growth and well-being of our clients. If we do that first and foremost, everything else will fall into place. As Robert Greenfield said, “The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served”. As NetSapiens grows, we continue to believe that putting the community first will prove to be valuable for all of us in the long run. Partnering is a term that is used very loosely these days, but I would like to challenge our team and the community to take a deep look at what that really means and try to drive toward true mutual benefit. I will be asking the team to continue to challenge themselves in “serving” the community instead of just “transacting” with it.
A few closing words
I want to emphasize and encourage everyone to join us in San Diego next month for our 7th annual User Group Meeting. We will continue to share with you more details on where we are and where we are going. We want to have the opportunity to 1) open our minds to your feedback and perspectives 2) provide a forum for accelerated learning from one another and with the community in general and 3) to put faces to the names that we collaborate with on a daily basis, so that we can better the overall collective experience we provide to the end-user. We all have to constantly evolve to fulfill our purpose and this event will serve as a venue for that evolution – an evolution that spans across our respective organizations, the market, and the industry as a whole.