Adding Value Leads to Profit

digital economy

Selling UC solutions or PBX should involve a lot more than the core applications. There’s a
host of add-on peripheral kit and applications that make user outcomes far more productive.

Recently Comms Business Magazine undertook a reseller survey to determine what products they were focussing on today and which products they anticipated selling in the next five years.

Rarely does a reseller focus on peripheral equipment; usually there is some larger – in terms of unit cost – application area being focussed upon.

If you have an understanding of what those application areas are then you can make a simple determination as to which peripheral products and applications are significant in the marketplace.

If you can go further than this by having an informed view of what these same resellers might be concentrating on over the next five years then we would suggest that such an analysis could prove profitable.

And if only life could be that simple!

The current responses to the question ‘What is your top product by value sold’ reveals unified comms as being the breadwinner.

Top Products Response %
Unified Communications 9.3%
Ethernet connectivity 6.6%
PABX 6.2%
Cloud based solutions 6.2%
Hosted IP Telephony 5.7%

So based on this table, if I were looking for peripherals to sell to drive up sales and profitability it would be the old favourites of Headsets, Audio Conferencing, Call Management and Recording and Telephony Endpoints.

Headsets
For some time, the business market for headsets has been riding on the back of steady growth in the take up of unified communications (UC) and the rise of the mobile enterprise. That trend looks not only like continuing but quite possibly also accelerating.
If you imagine that a UC solution is a bit like a train set that comes in a big box of bits that you have to fit together to get a working toy, then somewhere in the box you are highly likely to find a few headsets.

What are the trends in the headset market? Well, that depends on which vendor you talk to but one application area that leading manufacturers are looking at is a rise in advanced noise-cancellation technologies.
This comes as no surprise as more and more organisations attempt to tackle the productivity dilemma among knowledge workers. This challenge often stems from the way organisational structures are formed which encourage distractions from email and untimely interruptions and requests from co-workers.

Jabra carried out a study looking at the pain points that knowledge workers face in the office environment – 69 per cent cited disturbances in the open office as having a negative impact on performance. Such inefficiencies come at a cost to businesses. The loss in momentum caused by initial distractions and the time needed to restart have a significant impact on the output produced by staff. Advanced noise-cancellation technologies help in this regard, enabling greater concentration and focus, which in turn leads to higher quality and higher value work.

This necessity for noise-cancelling headsets, according to the vendor, is being driven by ‘Generation Mobile’. This new group of employees has transformed the way we think about working environments. Rather than remain confined to one location this new workforce is increasingly mobile, performing duties in off-site facilities such as coffee shops, public transport, rented office space or at home, supported by UC or mobility devices. Background noise is common and uncontrollable in these scenarios which adds weight to the argument for headsets that can block it out.

Conferencing
Conferencing is one of the key applications in the UC mix and the market is extremely dynamic with a wide range of devices – there are HD variants, SIP/IP models and mobile models to name but a few.

Whether audio or video based conferencing is a powerful collaboration tool that is available to use in an instant. All we have to do, as one distributor told us last year, is persuade customers to use it.

There is no magic recipe for a product to do well in the market place with many preferences and other IT influences encouraging CIOs and decision makers in different directions. That said, if you want a successful product, we should really focus on three measures: ROI delivered; how it is adopted by users and how it grows. If the latter two points are successful, then the first will definitely be realised. Any product that wishes to be a success, must be able to deliver on these.

Therefore, user adoption has to be the Holy Grail. Whatever a solution costs, if it cannot cross the user experience hurdle then at best there will be a drop in productivity as users struggle to navigate new technology; at worst there will be no usage ultimately leading to a wasted investment. To get this right, solutions must fit in the lives of the users. Outside of the workplace there is a growing ubiquity of video conferencing, especially with ‘Millennials’ where Facetime and Skype are widely used as primary communication methods.

The ability to deliver video to a user’s preferred locations and devices is key – it must evolve beyond the boardroom and extend past the desktop. The solution is to be current for the next generation of workers who already expect this ability to communicate, companies who fail to do this could risk losing out on the best new talent.

This time last year I wrote that one of the spanners that could fall in to the conferencing works in the near future could be the uptake of WebRTC where browser based conferences could replace some of the existing applications.
I said that I thought WebRTC has some time to go and one year on I still believe that to be the case but the longer term impact may be significant. We’ll see.

SIP Phones
More endpoints. The market is still driven by an unstoppable drive towards an all IP national network and the cessation of ISDN in 2025 by BT. However, whilst SIP trunk installations have slowed in favour of hosted VoIP deployment (See elsewhere in this publication) the outcome for SIP phones is unaffected.

This too is a dynamic market. Last year we were heralding the arrival of a new range of SIP phones from VTech and this year we have just seen that company purchase rival snom and Nycomm, the company that owns distributor Nimans, purchased Pennine, the UK distributor for SIP phone manufacturer Yealink.
The result is, for dealers and users, a wider choice of models for sale and a general increase in warranty coverage.

Call Management/Analytics
Today some people would have you believe that you should forget about call management and focus instead on ‘analytics’.
So, remember that UC train set we unpacked to find the headset? Take another look inside the box. It might currently be nearer the bottom right now compared to headsets but an analytics package is starting to make an appearance even in the SME sized train set boxes.

Big Data and Analytics fascinate me as numbers and their interpretation offer up so many opportunities for business. Of course many believe that big data is just for big companies and in a way they are right but if you look at how smaller firms can use Business Intelligence (BI) then you can see the relationship.

Therefore, when it comes to the SME I tend to equate Big Data with BI which is why I was fascinated last year to see how Tollring were positioning their iCall Suite within the technology themes that the Third Platform addresses.

I have always thought that call management was an undervalued product in that, sure it provided a record of calls made, but it offered so much more as well. It offered an insight in to how a company was performing and interpretations of the data it recorded and measured offered the business guidance and suggestions as to how to serve their customers more efficiently. That’s to say how to increase productivity and profitability.

As Enterprises large and small are finding that their business data is an increasingly vital ingredient in the overall business mix products that can extend that capability have a role to play in proving that whilst information is king that BI knowledge is power.

Having data on company performance is all well and good but how this data is analysed and interpreted is more important.

That is why, in this Third Platform era of IT and communications, enterprises need tools to both capture data and to provide flexible application features and reports that can be tailored to each business need to analyse the data for the betterment of their business.

Ed Says…

Resellers that realise the customer service excellence ethos involves selling their users peripheral applications and kit over and above the core application sale stand a better chance of retaining that company by showing users they understand how to maximise their key investments.