Countdown to the UC Summit
Coming up near San Diego is the UC Summit. This is, hands-down, the best conference to explore what’s happening in the UC channel. In a word: alot!
The conference is invitation only – but you can still apply! Desired applicants are dealers, VARs, system integrators, and consultants either actively in UC or looking to expand into UC. Most of the major vendors are on site to discuss their channel programs, and the UCStrategies Experts will share their perspectives on what’s working, what was working, and what is likely going to be working.
What makes the UC Summit so unique is its focus on UC from a channel perspective. The entire event is discussion and analysis of the opportunities and challenges in a combination of formal presentations, break-out sessions, and lots of networking opportunities. I do not recommend the event to anyone looking to lose weight though.
One of the reasons that the conference includes both resellers and consultants is because that line is blurring quickly. It was pretty simple when the resellers resold things and the consultant just offered advice and ideas. The lines are still pretty clear around something like a call manager, but that’s the exception not the rule.
For example, most enterprises that acquire Microsoft Lync do so their enterprise agreement obtained through a Microsoft Large Account Reseller (LAR). Then, they look to consultants and SIs to assist with implementing it. Or, organizations going after things like Google Apps or Amazon EC2 get pretty frustrated pretty quickly with the “reseller” options. It’s the same thing with wireless services which, at one time, was generally through the channel, and now generally direct. The reseller is finding its revenue from things it doesn’t sell is increasing – like iPads.
The ultimate insult to a reseller, VAR, SI, or even second tier distributor is to call them a "box mover." Them are fighting words, because it doesn’t take communications expertise, experience, and savvy to move boxes. Of course, that isn’t stopping box mover growth – they are all over, which is another reason why the channel needs to expand and develop their skill portfolio. In fact, some VARs are even telling their customers to buy product from a box mover – so then win the high margin aspects.
There are lots of shifts – we already saw VoIP, convergence, and UC. Now, everyone is talking about collaboration, social networks, cloud, and mobility. These are harder. I understood VoIP and convergence. I could explain it. But these new terms are more concepts than products. So part of the conversation is just trying to agree on what we are talking about – then comes the actual conversation, but it's like describing a pot while it is still on the wheel.
But I’m not really talking about terms – the bigger ideas are roles – what is the value add that VARs are supposed to add? How is it changing? And how is it charged? For a related post on this topic specifically, see this one about the SuperVAR. There seems to be a lot of confusion around Lync, but technically, but even more so from a channel strategy. Lync isn’t following on the rules the channel has developed over the years. The phones are available online, the installers and the dealers are often different, and the revenue opportunity isn’t really in the product. There’s also a lot of opinion and confusion around iPads – privacy, support, management, etc.
The problem with being a dealer is there are few you can really talk to. There’s the local CEO groups you can join, but they never understand the complexities of the business (they assume it is box moving). You can’t talk to other local dealers, as they are all competitors. Sometimes the vendors offer channel events, and they are usually great – but those events are about how great things are, no soul searching allowed.
The session that I am most involved with is the Show Me The Money session. Marty Parker and I will be discussing the sharp edges of the channel, and more importantly where the treasures are hidden. I also got on the agenda this year some Fireside Chats in the evening. These are a forum to discuss recent tech news. What people are thinking. It’s a break from the firehose, and I find some really smart opinions are busting to get out.
Some of the best conversations at the UC Summit are during the meals and other networking sessions. That’s when the peer-to-peer conversations become revealing and constructive. And, there is no shortage of these. I swear they feed you five times a day, not to mention the snacks between meals.
The event takes place in La Jolla, just to the north of San Diego, CA. The hotel is nice, the weather is usually spectacular, the company is good, and did I mention the food? This will be my third summit. Will I see you there?