Value-added resellers (VARs), like the technology vendors they partner with, are under increased pressure to find new revenue streams as their customers are stuck with flat IT budgets. So it's no surprise that a growing number of VARs are considering the transition to Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC). The good news, whether delivered by voice, instant messaging, or video, is that it is clear that UCC is a great area to get into. Partners need to adopt a UCC strategy and understand from their customers what their business transformation strategy is from a sales, deployment, and adoption perspective. The market has changed as employees expect a greater level of collaboration and the flexibility to work across multiple devices from multiple locations.
The type of collaboration system varies by business, from integrating office phones and mobiles to a full suite of collaboration tools, including mobile, video, and network connectivity. Resellers are in the best position to advise their customers to ensure they get the best UC solution to suit their business needs and to show the business benefits that UCC present. Resellers that appreciate the key business dynamics of the customer, the specific business processes and interactions, and the ways in which cost is incurred by the business will be the most successful. Partners must understand the importance of the core business applications and processes to be able to show the value in a UCC deployment.
The challenge for a reseller is to make sure UCC is not only understood, but can be explained to customers in terms of the benefits it can bring. After that, it’s a case of ensuring the UCC components are in place, the marketing collateral is ready, and the required training has been completed, before it is taken into the field. Ways for VARs to fully understand UCC and effectively offer it to their customers include understanding:
Target Markets – The small to medium enterprise (SME) and the mid-market are particularly strong spaces, in terms of opportunity, for channel partners to address. While it was previously thought that UCC was mainly for large enterprises, the mid-market is demanding UCC technology as organizations start to understand how enhanced communications can help them stay nimble and keep pace with their competitors, improve business growth, and make staff members and teams more efficient. This is a major opportunity for partners since there are more people working for small and medium companies overall than for large organizations. This market is also one in which channel partners can add real value to customers, which will lead to longer and more profitable relationships. The biggest challenge in selling the SME businesses is the ability for partners to educate companies on the value that UCC brings. Resellers need to ensure they are ready to play a consultative role and be prepared to invest the time in educating new business opportunities on the range of benefits they can gain by adopting UCC.
UCC Adoption Barriers – Two major challenges that are preventing UCC adoption, especially for SME and mid-market customers, is an underestimation of how it can increase productivity and an opinion that it is an expensive outlay that struggles to offer significant return on investment (ROI). The channel is in a good position to address these misconceptions, with independent and tailored expertise, that differs for each customer, to improve their understanding. The challenge is even greater when it comes to ROI. Research from Frost & Sullivan suggests companies expect a return on UCC investment within two years—and some within six months. These assumptions are something the channel has to overcome by educating customers on the long-term value of UCC and its ability to scale.
UCC Transformation – UCC is going through a transformation, as many UCC companies are focusing their products and strategies on software rather than traditional hardware. This is beneficial to the channel, because there are fewer up-front costs, and the growth of cloud-based services will also allow them to be less reliant on physical products and to become more flexible and scalable. This has also meant that VARs have had to change their sales force to include employees who are more comfortable selling software, creating an initial challenge in making sales to the SME market. If VARs are willing to make the investment for growth and training in their staff, they will gain rapid success in this market.
Channel Opportunities – For resellers that believe UCC is difficult to offer and complex to implement, they may not be fully vested in selling these solutions. The cloud has streamlined the delivery of unified communications, allowing resellers to offer Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). Built into a wider cloud offering, it provides resellers with a complete service to sell without the installation and capital expenditure issues. Some resellers may believe UCC sales are low-revenue or too much of an investment risk. Operational revenue from collaboration services requires billing and a trained customer service team. Channel partners might not have the time to do this in-house or the visibility of the revenue stream to support it. For these reasons, UCaaS is one of the biggest developments in the UCC market of late and may lead to its widespread adoption and mitigation of the risks of up-front investments for the channel. A recent MarketsandMarkets report stated that UCaaS revenue is expected to double to almost $8 billion by 2018. Channel partners can prepare by offering white-label, subscription-based solutions in their portfolios so that they can bring their own connectivity to their offering without relying on other cloud providers. Vendors can work closely with partners to offer flexible ways for them to migrate customers to the cloud in a way that addresses their needs.
The message about the potential for UCC is clear and straightforward. Now it’s up to channel partners to use their own communication channels to convey that message to their customers.
Does your company have other methods of making collaboration systems a value to your business? Please comment below.