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As a regular contributor to UCStrategies, this topic has been top of mind for me lately, and is ripe for discussion. I’ll start off with some basic ideas, and will continue the thread in my next post. So, if you’re in the channel ecosystem, let’s start at the top – what business are you in?
There are many types of vendors pushing into the UC space now, and chances are you’re only going to support a couple. Whoever you support, that vendor is putting trust in your ability to sell UC into your customer base. Not that long ago – before UC – you were selling hardware, and your role was pretty clear, as was your value-add.
We all know how hardware has become software, and software is becoming cloud. The less tangible the offering, the harder it becomes to understand as well as add value to. At this point, you’re likely offering UC as a service rather than a product, which puts you well along that path. Whether you’re a systems integrator, a reseller or a value-added reseller, as a group you’ll have widely-varying levels of expertise here.
To some extent, you end up being in the business that works best for your customers. Either you adapt and go with flow to keep those customers, and from there pursue new customers – or hold steady (more like hang on) and serve customers who don’t like change. I think this speaks to where you are in the lifecycle of your own business. If you’re closer to winding down, keeping pace with UC may not be an option, and you need to recognize the risks unless you want to re-tool, even if just for a short time.
I’d rather focus on the growth scenarios, and that all depends on how you choose to embrace UC. It’s still early days, and with UC being such a moving target, there’s a great opportunity for channels to add value for any type of deployment. For premise-based offerings, there will always be a need for interop and integration expertise, but that mainly applies to your buyer. Just as you need to sell IT on UC, they need to do the same with end users throughout their organization. In the days of selling hardware you could get by pretty much just with the former scenario. Now that UC is mostly about services and applications, the latter is just as important if not more so.
This raises the question as to what business you’re in. You can certainly add value on a practical level by getting UC running properly on the customer’s network, but the job doesn’t end there. Even the most demanding roll-out will go for naught if end users don’t adopt UC. Sure, you can argue that IT is your customer, but how much upside is there if you believe end user take-up is their problem, not yours?
UC is very much an open book, and there are no rules around how you define your business to support it. In some cases, you can do very well by focusing solely on the technical side of UC. Whether you’re selling premise-based or cloud UC, IT needs your help here, especially as vertical applications and mobility keep pushing the envelope in defining the value proposition.
I think there’s enough here for now, but you’ll need more for long term success. UC will probably never be a finished product – like a lot of Web-based services, it’s in a perpetual beta state. This doesn’t speak well to the sense of vision with today’s technology, but thinking selfishly, it’s good for business. There will always be new applications for your customers to adopt, and the learning curve you’ll require to support it will be worth the effort. That’s the upside to the virtuous circle of innovation that characterizes communications technologies.
Longer term, though, I think you’ll be in the end user experience business. You may be there already, and getting beyond the needs of IT is where the real payoff comes. If you’re not there, don’t worry – that’s what I’m here for. This is largely unchartered territory for the channel, and I’ll start to explore that in my next post. Don’t touch that dial.
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Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
UC integrates real-time and non-real time communications with business processes and requirements.
Uses presence capabilities for coordination, and presents a consistent unified user interface and experience across multiple devices and media types.
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