IT insiders may recall that “SaaS (News - Alert)” – short for “Software-as-a-Service,” a deployment model where vendors host an application through the Web, saving time, overhead costs and licensing fees – was coined in a white paper written in 2000.
But sound, cost-efficient, quality technology, like anything else, often develops organically before emerging as a trend that earns a name or – better still – its own acronym.
SaaS is no exception, and few people know that better than Bill Svien, executive vice president of an Everett, Wash.-based enhanced 911 – or “E911” – solutions provider. E911, the subject of an increasing amount of legislation at the state level, generally uses location-based services to help emergency responders pinpoint the whereabouts of distressed parties.
Svien’s company, 911 ETC, was formed in 1997 and its flagship solution always has been what companies today call “hosted” – a software model, he recalled, that was once referred to as “service bureau.”
“We saw our competitors basically selling boxes and using the customer as the manage point, where the software in the box on-site is used to manage the database,” Svien told TMCnet in an interview. “So we approached it differently. We decided to be the total, turnkey solution and because we added automation, ours evolved as a hosted solution model.”
Since then, E911’s solutions – for PBXs and VoIP systems, for example – have led to long-standing relationships with IT stalwarts such as Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner Telecom, eTelemetry, Avaya and Nortel (News - Alert). They’ve also attracted customers, Svien said, mainly because of their reliability, automated component, reduced customer liability and ability to scale with federally mandated standards.
911 ETC began to take shape, he said, when the company’s founders saw an opportunity to provide an end-to-end solution that leveraged the expertise of its staff in handling the entire E911 implementation process, and in ongoing management of coming back from the telephone companies during a 911 interface (telcos typically hold the database that helps PSAPs identify the ultimate destination of the critical 911 information).
“So instead of the user needing to error-flagging and correction, our service people would take responsibility for correcting and then retransmitting to the telco,” Svien said. “That alone shifted the responsibility away from the end-user client to a third party, which was us.”
Lo and behold, more and more business started coming 911 ETC’s way, Svien said. Part of that is because enterprise organizations began to staff fewer employees in their telecom departments, so many people simply decided that it was too much to manage an additional 911 application.
Automation also was key. By automating the process behind the scenes, and “scrubbing” and verifying the data before shipping it off to the telcos, Svien said, 911 ETC found a way to quickly discover where an error occurred and then fixed that error on its own. That ensured data integrity – a key component of an E911 solution.
“So a lot of our success is owed to that automated system, combined with real human service behind the scenes for when errors require human intervention,” he said. “We surpassed boxed solution sales, and grew tenfold. And as we added more and more clients, our ongoing recurring revenue sort of formed this perfect business model for us.”
According to Svien, 911 ETC’s long experience with that business model has taught the company about the intricacies of automation between his company and the “end point,” the telco database. The company takes data feeds behind the scenes, makes sure that the information matches and then uploads it immediately.
“And as we have matured over 12 years, not only do we have expertise to automate our process against virtually any platform out there, but we have gained industry knowledge of telco interfaces that is surpassed by none,” Svien said.
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Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Michael Dinan