UCStrategies and the Channel – From the UC Summit to a New Channel Study
Those of you who’ve been reading UCStrategies lately know the importance we place on the channel, and that we see the role of VARs, resellers, and SI’s as being critical to the success and growth of the UC market. For the past five years, UCStrategies has held an annual UC Summit, focusing on the needs of the channel. The UC Summit has been a way for vendors, channel partners, and end-user consultants (not end users) to hear from each other and discuss ways in which they can better work together. The UC Summit has helped channel partners understand ways in which they can be more successful and make money in a UC world, and hear from vendors, analysts, and consultants about the trends and topics impacting the market. The type of networking and interacting provided by the UC Summit is crucial, and helps all the parties involved.
Beyond the Summit, UCStrategies is going a step further to help vendors and channel partners better work together, and will be conducting a comprehensive study to identify some of the challenges facing the unified communications and collaboration channel, and what they require in order to be more successful.
Here’s some background: Early in 2000 a team of veteran industry analysts from the telecom and datacom space, formed the IN-Fusion Group in order to create a study on how the market for converged voice and data products (CT) was developing. The study focused on the resellers, systems integrators, consultants, and others that represent the indirect channel, who we called Convergence Resellers (CRs), reflected an industry in transition. While we had heard the viewpoint of the solutions vendors for this area, we knew we would get a better picture if we talked to the people in the trenches, those folks who market, recommend, sell, install and maintain both the hardware and software. We launched a study of the resellers, systems integrators, consultants, and others that represent the indirect channel for these products.
For the quantitative portion of our research we surveyed participants by using a web-based questionnaire. The quantitative portion was followed by phone interviews with approximately 30% of the participants. The purpose of these interviews was to gather more specific information on areas not easily covered in a written survey.
Here’s a sampling of some of the survey findings:
- When asked what could help them be more successful, CRs ranked “More Customer Demand” highest. “More Vendor Support Resources” ranked second and “More Tightly Integrated Solutions” ranked third.
- Regarding the issue of vendor assistance with business issues, CRs ranked “Employee Training and Certification” at the top, with “Service Delivery Methodology” following close behind. There was little interest in vendor assistance on issues such as “Best Practices Guidelines”, Business Planning”, “Strategic Planning”, etc.
- Comments in our phone interviews would suggest that many CRs don’t want their vendors involved in their business other than to provide and support the product, generate leads and provide training. Responses in the survey also indicate this. Under Sales and Marketing Support, “Lead Generation and Qualification” ranked most important, with “Competitive Analysis”, “Proposal & Presentation Templates” and “ROI Models” falling in the next three highest ratings. Of least importance were “Manufacturer End-User Ads” and “Annual Meetings”.
- In the area of Technical Support, “Technical Training” ranked as most important. “Post Install Support”, “Support Training”, and “Certification” were the next highest ranked support issues. Ranked at the bottom were “Training of Customer Trainers”, “7x24 Dealer Support Outsourced by Vendor”, and “Power and Cabling Help at Site”.
- VAR comments strongly suggesting that vendors need to do more on their part to support them. Of utmost importance are having the appropriate and available technical support on the back end to help the VARs, and the right amount of sales and marketing up front. This includes sending the VARs good quality and timely leads.
- In order to gain a critical market acceptance for new solutions it is essential to not only build customer awareness of their existence, but also to gain credibility by creating good high-reliability installations. You can’t do this without good vendor marketing or technical support and training for channel members.
- Finally, VARs voiced their concern over being treated equally and well in VAR programs. Whether this involves having access to good technical support, or being able to get help when they need it, they want to be treated as valuable partners, and not a sales conduit.
Now, twelve years later, converged technologies have evolved to unified communications & collaboration (UCC), and the convergence resellers have evolved to Solutions Integrators (SIs), yet many of the channel challenges remain the same. Several of the IN-Fusion Group team are now part of UCStrategies, which will conduct another survey, focusing on the business needs of the solutions integrators and the key factors driving their success in the UCC market. As before, we will be measuring how vendors are meeting the needs of their channel partners. The study will consist of both a quantitative online survey as well as qualitative phone interviews with solutions integrators. The SIs participating in the study will represent a cross section of the various UCC vendors.
The first objective of the study is to gain knowledge of the reseller sales organizations, their relationships with clients, and the key sales operations processes. Specifically, we will be gaining insight into the skills and sales competencies necessary to identify opportunities in this complex sales environment. This data will be in the context of their company background, size of the organization, types of solutions they are selling, and the quantities they are selling. We’ll measure Solution Integrators’ satisfaction with the market and business opportunity.
Our most important objective will be to find out how the SIs could be more successful and how vendors can help them achieve their goals. Survey participants will be asked questions about their businesses in a number of areas, including vendor support, assistance on various business issues, sales and marketing, and technical and customer support issues. They will be asked to evaluate whether the actual support that they have received in those areas lived up to their expectations. SIs will also be asked to comment on which vendors are easiest to work with, and to list freely any comments they have regarding vendor-related issues.
The results of the study will be used to help vendors better understand their channel partners interests and concerns, and identify how to better support their partners. Vendor sponsors will also receive objective insights as to how well their channel partners feel the vendors are meeting their needs and where they are lacking.
We encourage you to participate in this study. If you’re a vendor, there are a variety of vendor sponsorship levels. If you’re a VAR/reseller/SI, you can participate in the online and telephony survey.
If you have questions or would like more information in how you can participate in this study, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Together, we can help you be more successful in the UCC market.