Partnering in Pencil

Partnering in Pencil

By Dave Michels June 17, 2013 2 Comments
Dave Michels JPG
Partnering in Pencil by Dave Michels

It is hard for any one firm to boil the oceans, that’s where partnerships play. In these disruptive times partnering is not what it used to be. It seems that every industry is undergoing some degree of transformation, and as it does so partners become competitors. We now commonly use terms like “co-opetition” and “frenemies.”

Last week HP announced a new partnership with Google. HP will resell Google Apps and package new tools with its PCs, printers, and IT gear to simplify implementations. HP is also embracing Android, and expanding its line of Google Chrome notebooks. HP’s channel and customer influence is a big win for Google, yet oddly the two firms don’t seem like natural allies. Particularly since HP and Microsoft have enjoyed such a long term mutually beneficial relationship. Is this a new strategy for HP? Or, perhaps a reaction to Microsoft’s moves to enter the hardware business with its Surface tablet and agreement to underwrite a loan to take Dell private.

Last week I wrote about how HP and Avaya are beginning to partner despite overlapping competitive businesses. It should also be noted that Google acquired Motorola with the intent to also compete against Microsoft (and HP) in devices.

The decay of long term partnerships can be seen everywhere. Even Intel and Microsoft. Intel has several key relationships with “WinTel” competitors such as Red Hat, VMware, and a new big one with Apple. Microsoft has agreed to open stores within BestBuy. How do other retailers feel about that? Partnerships are in flux across IT, and that includes UC.

Catalyst Telecom has always been an Avaya-centric distributor, at least until last month when it announced it would now offer voice, video, collaboration, security, and networking gear from Cisco. Mike Ferney, vice president of merchandising at ScanSource Catalyst, said “Business Edition 6000 really represents the first truly converged product, with voice and video on a single platform, and, for us, that's a great new offering."

There were always natural partnerships between PBX vendors and carriers, but that too is going by the wayside. On one level, UC vendors are getting into network services such as Mitel with its Network Solutions division that offers Mitel-branded MPLS, Internet, and cellular services. On the flip side, carriers are getting into UCaaS and directly competing with premises-based gear. The boundaries between carriers, service providers, distributors, resellers, and vendors – which were clear at one time – are increasingly overlapping.

This is very likely the new norm, and not just a spike of craziness during a transition. End users and vendors are interacting more directly than ever before. As end user needs arise, multiple organizations attempt to address them with varying degrees of success. As different firms have different competencies, there’s no clear formula on who will win at doing what. Throw in acquisitions and bankruptcies and there’s no end of these shifts in sight.

It isn’t that partnerships are doomed to short terms, but that long term alliances are becoming less likely and more turbulent.

Dave Michels blogs at TalkingPointz.


2 Responses to "Partnering in Pencil" - Add Yours

Roberta J. Fox 6/18/2013 9:54:07 AM

Dave: Great article on vendors, end users relationships, and how things are constantly changing. As consultants at FOXGROUP who help end user organizations acquire UC and carrier technologies, you totally nailed the challenges we face in helping our clients acquire and install next generation UC solutions. Many times the solution is obsolete by the time it is installed for larger distributed organizations.

Our biggest concern about the accelerated pace of co-opetition, frenemies, etc. is that there is little or no customer protection from theses vendor changes. (They certainly are not reflected in our vendor contracts we have reviewed).

Perhaps us end user consultants and customers should rise up and put forward our own terms and conditions to the industry players that suit us as the customer versus the vendors so that we are all protected from these various accelerated partnership/relationship changes? What a concept.
Kevin Kieller 6/18/2013 11:43:36 AM

The "fluidity" of vendor partnerships in the UC space is one reason that minimizing the number of vendors in your selected solution avoids "irreconcilable differences" when short-term vendors "divorce".

While choosing a single vendor for your UC solution has some "lock in" issues, it also improves the likelihood that the various pieces will continue to be supported and it reduces the chance of incompatibilities introduced by mismatched upgrade schedules.

No solution or approach is perfect. The "partnering in pencil" phenomenon is another reason to "do your homework" before selecting the solution for your organization.

As a VAR or SI, give thought to how you will support some of these multi-vendor solutions when the vendors stop talking with each other; your end customer will expect this of you.


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