Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Digium.com EC analysis

A short history of Digium.com

Asterisk is a software implementation of a telephone private branch exchange (PBX) originally created in 1999 by Mark Spencer. Asterisk is released under a dual license model, using the GNU General Public License (GPL) as a free software license and a proprietary software license to permit licensees to distribute proprietary, unpublished system components. Source (wikipedia.org)
“Necessity (and in some cases simply being cheap) is truly the mother of invention. In 1999, having started Linux Support Services to offer free and commercial technical Support for Linux, I found myself in need (or at least in perceived need) of a phone system to assist me in providing 24-hour technical support. The idea was that people would be able to call in, enter their customer identity, and leave a message. The system would in turn page a technician to respond to the customer’s request in short
order. Since I had started the company with about $4000 of capital, I was in no position to be able to afford a phone system of the sort that I needed to implement this scenario. Having already been a Linux user since 1994, and having already gotten my feet wet in Open Source software development by starting l2tpd, gaim, and cheops, and in the complete absence of anyone having explained the complexity of such a task, I decided that I would simply make my own phone system using hardware borrowed from Adtran, where I had worked as a co-op student. Once I got a call into a PC, I fantasized; I could do anything with it. In fact, it is from this conjecture that the official Asterisk motto (which any sizable, effective project must have) is derived: “
It’s only software!
Source (Asterisk* The Future of Telephony) oreilly.com

Market Spaces

Digium.com is the innovative force behind Open Source project Asterisk.org. Asterisk is a revolutionary PBX - fast and flexible - which nowadays competes directly with all the big call center manufacturers such as Eriksson, Cisco etc. By developing this product Digium has created a new private and public market space in Telecommunication technologies. All the below products and services are sold to both businesses and consumers.
Digium is involved in the market space as:
Front end / Back end component
  • a. Sellers - sell directly through the web. They have created a portal and they provide/sell digital products, hardware and services from that portal.
  • b. Infrastructure - they provide complete call center solutions, hardware bundled with software, or just hardware (TDM cards).
  • c. Support Services - provide from their portal support service contracts.
  • d. Training Services - provide from their portal training services.

The Digium business model is mostly “Online direct marketing” and “product and service customization”.

It is “Online direct marketing” because they sell their products directly through their e-shop. The e-shop contains a front end (portal, electronic catalogs, shopping cart, search engine, and payment gateway) and a back end system (inventory management, fulfillment, purchasing from suppliers, payment processing, packaging, and delivery). By having these facilities Digium can reach a global market and increase sales by selling more products or by creating new bundling services. Example: by buying a product you get a personalized account, special documentation and minimal support.

Besides the Call center as a bundle (hardware & software), the Digium business model is also a “product and service customization” model because they adapt hardware (TDM cards) and software (PBX) configuration to their customer’s special requirements.

Digium is connected with most of the social media. You can find *Digium in:

  • Connect Subscribe Discover
  • Digium Blog ,Asterisk Mailing List, Flickr
  • Digium, Asterisk Get Announcements, Friendfeed
  • LinkedIn Feeds - News, Press
  • Blog Google Reader
  • @digium, @asteriskpbx TMCnet
  • Asterisk Community, News Press ,@asterisknow ,@astricon ,Voip-Info, Youtube

The Digium blog is very interactive and you can ask questions from there and get answers directly from the developers. You can follow them on Twitter, you can join the Asterisk Facebook group, Linked in, Feeds, news & press and also YouTube for tutorials and so on. They are really ‘connected’ in the social media sense, but what benefits do they gain from all this?
In the next paragraph I will try to explain this newly created market space. We have the developers and skilled tech people sharing their know-how in blogs, forums, IRC, mailing lists etc. All these people help the community to grow but they are not the real customers. The real customers are the third category. The “low tech experience” people who understand the power of the product but are not able to install-configure it by themselves - Digium provides this solution.
So the power of social media is that Digium potentially increases its customer base. It makes the software more popular and increases brand awareness. Asterisk fans are able to communicate through all of these different forms of social media and the community continues to grow through the spread of information. One small disadvantage could be that Digium may lose some customers who are able to find solutions through social media however the same customers help the community to grow so any disadvantage is balanced out.

In terms of innovation Digium is a successful company. With Asterisk PBX Open Source they opened up the previously closed market of telecommunications. The business model they have is also very contemporary - they sell globally and have created their own channels of partners for asterisk distribution. In the field of call centers they will dominate the market in a very short time. We will follow this stream and see if, in the future, Digium will also succeed in converting this invention into cash.

www.asterisk.org www.digium.com

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