Big SMB Market Needs New UC Channel Partners
Channel partners are key to the future success of hosted and cloud-based UC solutions. While most VARs and resellers have focused their UC as a Service (UCaaS) efforts on large enterprises, there is a huge opportunity to sell these services to small and mid-market organizations as well. Regardless of the size of an organization, end users need the benefits of UC to maximize the efficiency of their operational interactions. With hosted, cloud-based services, the huge SMB market is now in a better position to migrate quickly to UC. In fact, due to the fact that SMBs do not have big legacy investments to protect, it’s much easier for them to replace their existing systems with new cloud-based offerings, without the need to support large legacy systems. However, channel organizations need to help SMB organizations understand how UC will improve business performance over traditional telephony, and help with the planning, prioritization and migration of their key business processes.
Most SMBs have little, if any, internal technology expertise, and will therefore need the help from vendor channel partners to fully understand the benefits of UC, and to migrate from legacy telephony systems and services to new UC solutions. In some cases, UC migration may be complicated due to integration with the customer’s business process applications. Channel partners will need to help customers prioritize which business process applications to UC-enable for which end users.
UC, mobility, and Web-based online applications are subsuming legacy desktop telephony technology because of greater interaction flexibility and more cost efficient business communications for all types of end users inside and outside of every organization. Accordingly, channel partners, who are familiar with existing telephony needs of their clients, will be in an ideal position to help migrate these organizations gracefully to the new world of mobile and UC interactions. What channel partners will need, therefore, are new software solutions and tools that will support both mobile BYOD and desktop end users.
Step 1 – Selling SMB Clients on the Benefits of UC Over Existing Telephony Limitations (Including Voicemail)
The days of basic telephony for business communications are over, and multi-channel communications that support both deskbound and mobile users are now tablestakes. Telephone service has always been practical for person-to-person conversations, but really not very useful for efficiently exchanging information and messages required for business processes. Email, fax, and other modes of communication have long been more useful for that purpose, but when any contextual information had to be discussed in real time, it would usually require an inefficient two-step process for sending the information first, then scheduling a follow-up phone call to discuss that information. Voice messaging is not the most efficient way to communicate asynchronously, especially for message recipients, and email and texting have become more popular than voicemail for messaging exchanges.
With the rapid consumer adoption of mobile smartphones and tablets, as well as support for business user BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), the flexibility of unified communications can now be practically exploited by both mobile and desktop end users.
Perhaps the biggest argument for a small business to consider moving to UC-enabled communications will be considerations for more flexible and cost-efficient contacts with end users outside of the company. Rosenberg’s 21st law of business communications states that “the smaller the organization, the more it communicates and exchanges information with people outside of the organization.” A corollary to that is communicating with people outside of an organization will require greater communication flexibility than with internal users. This will be particularly true for customer interactions.
Step 2 – Moving to the Cloud
Once a customer understands why they need UC, the next step is planning to migrate from their current technologies. With cost efficiencies of IP-based, hosted services, there really is no good excuse for SMBs to keep legacy, voice-only systems that are more expensive to maintain and offer little communication flexibility to users within an organization, and more importantly, to users outside the organization (partners, customers).
There are several factors that make cloud services or UCaaS more attractive to SMBs:
- No IT/Telecom staff is required to manage and maintain the solution;
- Significant cost savings, and no capital expenditures;
- Flexiblity for mobile users and BYOD options.
- The ability to add and remove users as needed, based on seasonal fluctations or other business needs.
One notable technology vendor that is working with channel partners to support the growing SMB market is Fonality, which offers a hosted or hybrid UC service solution to replace legacy phone systems. Fonality features an easy to use “Heads Up” display application that supports all forms of business communications with a single user interface,. The “Heads Up” Display can be used for all person-to-person contacts at the desktop or mobile device, as well as for contact center interactions with customers. This will include video connections as well as the different forms of messaging available today. While some of its competitors are moving “upmarket” to larger organizations, Fonality remains focused on the needs of small and growing companies.
Working with Fonality, channel partners can offer their customers a cloud-based UC solution that will not only reduce costs, but also increase end user productivity, and improve business process performance. By selling a hosted solution based on monthly subscriptions rather than an upfront expense, VARs and resellers can have guaranteed monthly recurring revenues.
Channel Payoffs for UC Sales and Services
Unlike traditional telephony VARs, UC channels will have greater “value-add” opportunities in integrating, developing and supporting all forms of mobile and desktop business interaction software. UC-enabled online applications will require ongoing evolutionary support, especially by SMB customers, resulting in continual revenues to channel partners.
This paper is sponsored by Fonality.