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This is the final post in a special series of insights leading up to UC Summit 2012, which starts a little under a week from now. If you’ve been following these posts, you’ll know by now that the focus is on the channel and how they can have success with UC. Other UCStrategies contributors have been doing their own series of posts in this vein, and collectively there’s a pretty rich body of thought leadership from many perspectives over the past few weeks running on the portal. Hopefully you’ve learned a few things along the way, and these posts should also serve as a preview for what’s coming at the Summit.
To complete this series, I’d like to revisit a key takeaway from my first post, which asked the question “what business are you in?” After all, we’re writing these posts to help the channel sell UC, so you’d better have a good idea of what you’re really getting into here. By now it should be clear that you’re not in the hardware business, selling boxes, racks and cables. That was – and still is – a good business model, but it’s getting harder to build a practice along those lines. As you know, hardware is giving way to software, and while it’s less demanding physically, the business model is different and the economics less lucrative.
For the time being most of your clients will still need phones on the desk, but the software model is becoming supplanted by something even less tangible – applications. The more ethereal the tools of the trade become, the less connected they become to the LAN, which gives rise to the cloud and virtualization. As software and applications migrate off premise to a provider’s data center, your value-add becomes harder to articulate.
Over my series of posts, I’ve explored a few ways the channel could respond and even re-invent their business. I guess a lot has to do with your station in the market. If you’re closer to winding down the business, and not thinking more than 2-3 years out, then hanging on is probably your MO. You might even be looking to sell, in which case your book of business is the core asset. Unless you’re willing to embrace the full UC story – including the cloud – that asset is probably at peak value now, and will only decline. As UC becomes more demand-driven, it won’t take longer for clients to see a disconnect between their rapidly changing needs and your ability to address them.
Conversely, if your MO is to grow the business, you simply have to go with the flow. Sure, you can always trade down to serve the laggards and late adopters, but you won’t be happy there, and the upside isn’t great. If you see the value in UC to build up your practice, this is a very exciting time, but you have to be prepared to adapt around what clients value today.
To a large extent, defining that value for clients is actually key to your value proposition. The channel serves as the bridge between the vendors and the end customers, and to get beyond the transactional nature of the business, you add value by defining needs and matching them with the right offerings.
Without oversimplifying things, this brings me back to my first post. You can’t really say you’re in the hardware or software business any more, and I’m sure you very much believe you’re in the solutions business. Fair enough, but who are these solutions for? Before UC, IT was pretty much the target – you enabled them, and they took it from there. With UC, however, they have a new hat to wear – evangelist. No doubt you played a key role getting them to buy into UC, and you probably helped them sell it to management. Now the onus is on IT get an ROI from UC, but they can’t do that without end user adoption. UC is very much becoming an applications solution, and as the cloud starts taking network management headaches off of IT’s hands, there aren’t many levers left to get end users on board with UC.
As concluded in my first post, it’s all about the end user experience, and that’s where we are now in this post. To maximize the UC opportunity, you need stay ahead of the curve, and that really means knowing how to create, deliver and manage a great end user experience. This is definitely not IT’s forte, and the value-add potential here for you is very much here and now. The opportunity is new enough that nobody has all the answers, so it’s yours to take if you’re willing to invest in the expertise. Without end user adoption, UC will fail and by extension, so might your business. I can’t think of a bigger wake-up call for the channel, and if you’re with me, then you really need to be with me and the rest of the UCStrategies group at the Summit. The time is now, and your time will be well spent there, for sure.
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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.
Learn more at What is Unified Communications all about?