Time for Channel Specialization
UC is inherently a general purpose solution. What most UC vendors and providers claim to be a market segment is better described as a coincidence. A vertical strategy is created by highlighting a few marquee customers which happen to be in the same sector, voilà!
All business organizations need a communications solution, and UC solutions are inherently universal communications. Put it this way, “we don’t offer a UC system for type of business” is not a phrase you will hear from most dealers. By universal, this is a little different than when Microsoft attempted to claim that term. Gurdeep was sharing a vision that extends communications well beyond the endpoints and apps of today. Regardless - I think most of agree that “unified” is not the right moniker for whatever it is that we sell.
There is a tremendous opportunity for vertical segmentation, but only a small part of this specialization is the responsibility of the vendors and providers. The vendors need to foster it, such as the security infrastructure that can drive HIPPA compliance, but the real opportunity lies in the channel. As in let the channel partners master the finer details of HIPPA compliance and certification.
The traditional dealer or VAR is no longer just competing with a handful of firms in the same city, but a globe of providers on the same planet. As products turn into services the margins disappear. What’s happening is the general practitioner model for business communications is getting strangled.
To date, the generalist strategy has worked well, but the sell-by date is imminent. In the broader, not UC context, the generalist disappeared ages ago. “The Last Great Generalist” is a title bestowed upon Alexander Von Humboldt (1769-1859). He was a multi-disciplinary scientist that believed no organism or phenomenon could be fully understood in isolation. Today scientists are forced to specialize because there is just too much to know. A generalist just can’t, for example, land a spacecraft on a comet. It takes an army of specialists.
Specialization allows us to defer the responsibilities of farming, law, medicine, engineering, education, etc.to the most skilled, best prepared people. Yes, specialization has its problems too. Tremendous “not my problem” issues are associated with specialization, but regardless that’s the current world we live in.
The traditional channel roles are disappearing. Organizations are performing their own research, evaluations, acquisitions, implementations, and support of their communications solutions. This is made possible by the web and simpler software. The opportunity exists for inter-application harmony. The number of applications a given customer may use are increasing, and the best strategy to conquer is specialization - either specific apps or more broadly by specific sectors such as manufacturing, retail, hospitality, government, education, healthcare, and so on.
One of the big promises of UC that fell short was CEBP. We expected every customer to integrate their UC solution into their line of business processes. This played out differently than expected. The UC apps were ignored while Twilio, an API provider, managed to become worth a billion dollars. Twilio specializes in making telephony accessible to non-telephony programmers.
Consider retail, the generalist conversation is about contact centers, comms-enabled websites, and IVRs. The specialist conversation could add physical and digital security, bluetooth beacons, big data, ecommerce, Wi-Fi, point of sale equipment, inventory management, and more to its “solution” conversation.
VARs must think less about products and more about solutions. This is not the same as an SI - their model is changing in a different way. SI’s are also product focused, and deliver integrated, large solutions. The emerging VAR opportunity is to integrate new and existing technologies on a smaller scale. SMB still exists, and although they can acquire their own solutions, each has unique integration requirements that can be accomplished with specialization and experience in specific sectors.