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Untangle the Unified Communications Knot

July 05, 2017

In today’s digital economy, people need to communicate and collaborate anywhere, anytime and from any device. That’s the promise of unified communications and collaboration (UCC). The market, which has been poised for growth for years, is now red-hot.

A UCC solution is woven together from many different components—and that means many different ways to make money. For one solution provider, the UCC market may be all about selling VoIP phones and a cloud service. For another, it might be installing room-based videoconferencing. Yet another may focus on refreshing a customer’s network infrastructure.

There are many ways to tap into a huge market, rich with opportunities for delivering business value to customers and earning better margins. Those solution providers who do not grasp the whole cloth of the opportunity risk selling customers an imperfect solution that doesn’t deliver as promised.

For instance, viewing a UCC deployment as just installing new business phones can lead to problems. “Often an implementation fails because it’s focused exclusively on the endpoints rather than on architecting the network for UCC,” says Jeff Yelton, vice president and general manager of specialty technologies, Ingram Micro.

Ingram Micro takes the broad view, defining UCC as a complete platform that enables communications anytime, anywhere, on any device. That means bringing all types of endpoint devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, IP phones, netbooks, laptops and even tried-and-true desk phones, and any mode of communication—voice, video or data—together, spanning on-premises and the cloud. Increasingly, UCC even encompasses the Internet of Things, such as sensors on a factory floor that send vibration data to a manufacturing system or a smartwatch that sends heart-rate data to a doctor. And increasingly, communications capabilities are integrated into key business applications, such as CRM and service desk, to streamline workflows and deliver a better user experience.

 Fueling a Growth Market
Most market researchers forecast strong growth for UCC. Last year, HIS predicted that worldwide cloud PBX and unified communications services would reach $15 billion by 2019. IDG Enterprise predicts a surge of UCC adoption in a survey that found that 49 percent of small and midsize businesses already use UCC, while 66 percent plan to implement or upgrade UCC solutions within the next three years.

With such a wealth of opportunities in UCC, Ingram Micro has woven together the hardware, software, security and cloud elements needed for a comprehensive solution under the Advanced Solutions Division to help solution providers capitalize on the growth—and earn better margins. Ingram Micro provides education, training, products and services to help solution providers deliver more customer value by offering a complete UCC solution.

“UCC is more complex than just an endpoint,” says Yelton. “We can help our solution provider partners provide all the infrastructure, education, change management and provisioning for their customers. They can then migrate their customers to UCC at their own pace.”

Aaron Anderson, managing partner of Simplifyed in Boca Raton, Fla., said he and his partner can combine Ingram Micro’s offerings with their software solution for for-profit schools and universities. The company integrates the software with several UC platforms, each sourced from Ingram Micro. Simplifyed also procures whatever hardware and network infrastructure equipment the client needs through Ingram Micro.

Jeff Hiebert, CEO of ROI Networks in Orange County, Calif., is seeing explosive growth for UCC. Customer demand has resulted in 40-percent revenue growth for the last two years. “For the first time in many years, UCC is top of mind with CXOs,” he says.

Beyond the obvious appeal of allowing people to communicate the way they want, Hiebert identifies an underlying market driver: the industry move to virtualization. As data centers and networks are increasingly virtualized and software-driven, it’s easier for the UCC stack to be virtualized and for the different components of UCC to be delivered as a service.

 ROI Networks is seeing strong demand for ROIngage, its cloud communications and collaboration platform, but selling UCC has bolstered other revenue streams. “We’re seeing sales that are adjacent that strengthen our top line,” he says. “We’re selling more carrier services, hyper-converged servers, and wired and wireless networks.”

 Heading to the Cloud
One of the biggest trends in the UCC market is the shift to the cloud. The IDG Enterprise survey found that 39 percent of SMBs already have some portion of their UCC capabilities in the cloud. That figure is forecast to rise to 47 percent within two years.

Many prominent providers of UCC have cloud offerings, including Verizon, Ring- Central, 8x8 and Vonage. That was one of the driving factors behind Ingram Micro’s recent acquisition of NETXUSA, a market leader in provisioning cloud UCC services for telecom service providers.

Yet even as solution providers grow their business with UCC products and services, the success of a UCC implementation also depends on how well it’s tailored to the needs of individual businesses and their workers. Specifically, that means configuring endpoint devices.

“Each type of worker has different communications requirements,” says Yelton. Someone who travels might need a high-performance laptop configured with softphone and videoconferencing capabilities while a call center worker needs a configuration more suited to answering call after call while quickly looking up customer records.

In fact, Ingram Micro learned this lesson firsthand as it rolled out its own UCC system over the last year. “In some cases, we gave employees the wrong configuration and they came back and told us that it was not conducive to their work environment,” says Yelton.

Customization to the work at hand makes the solution provider a trusted consultant, educating the client on the finer points of UCC. The ability to seamlessly combine a solution provider’s own expertise while leveraging Ingram Micro’s capabilities allows solution providers to expand their business in the growing UCC market while reaping better margins.

“You can approach clients with a broad offering and specialized knowledge,” says Anderson of Simplifyed. “When our clients saw the value, the traditional commodity, box-pushing element went away, and our margins increased.”

Ingram Micro Moves into Cloud UCC with NETXUSA Acquisition
Ingram Micro’s acquisition of Greenville, S.C.-based NETXUSA Inc. expands Ingram Micro’s presence in the UCC market, particularly in fast-growing cloud platforms.

NETXUSA distributes VoIP solutions and IP-based phones for telecommunications service providers and solution providers. It is a partner of BroadSoft and uses its software for provisioning and configuring cloud UCC, as well as handling returns and customer service.

NETXUSA has a dominant share of the cloud UCC market, providing white-label UCC services for 300 telecom service providers, including Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, RingCentral, 8x8 and Vonage. The company also offers consulting and integration development services.

“The acquisition of NETXUSA allows Ingram Micro to provide the hardware, services and support to the service provider community for unified communications,” says Jeff Yelton, vice president and general manager of specialty technologies, Ingram Micro.

Ingram Micro now can offer white-label provisioning, shipping and support of UCC phones to any of its solution provider partners, he adds. The acquisition also brings 13 new manufacturers, including Polycom, Edgewater, Digium and YeaLink into the Ingram Micro portfolio.

The acquisition fits well with Ingram Micro’s strategy to increase growth in high-value markets, according to Ingram Micro CEO Alain Monié. “NETXUSA has a strong and well-established leadership position in the U.S. UCC market and a history of robust revenue growth and profitability,” he says. “In addition, Ingram Micro gains immediate access to a new telecom service provider customer set, a relationship we expect to leverage across our global organization.”