When it comes to Unified Communications (UC) mobile is often at the centre of the conversation, demand for UC is now coming from all corners of the market from an increasingly dispersed workforce. Many resellers will already be engaged with their customers regarding UC as customers are increasingly becoming aware of their options. As the need for flexibility from an always on workforce increases mobile is now the key component in any UC solution. Is the Channel making the most of this opportunity? David Dungay went to find out.
When it comes to making bold statements I always like to refer to the research. According to Logicalis, ninety five per cent of young people are now stating that they would demand mobile technology at work (Logicalis 2015). Research launched by Solar last month reveals that 40 per cent of SMEs find managing a more mobile and flexible workforce a challenge. As a result, SMEs are re-evaluating their traditional communications solutions and working out how they can adapt their communications solutions to support their changing demands and increased need for mobility.
There is no question, the way we work has forever changed and it is throwing up some pretty interesting questions about how your typical business IT/ comms/ mobile landscape will look in years to come.
Robin Hayman, Director of Marketing & Product Management at SpliceCom, commented “Mobility has always been part of the overall UC mix, but its inexorable move towards centre stage means that the terms voice, telephony and mobility will soon be thought of as a single entity. The day when traditional deskphones are completely replaced by mobility devices running IP Softphone clients is not far away.”
Jody Kennedy, CTO, Olive Communications added “UC is driving businesses to look at their connectivity requirements in a very different way. The ‘always connected’ expectation of today’s business users comes from their connected experience within their personal lives and the way they interact, for example, on social platforms with their friends and family. The successful deployment of UC solutions within the business environment has been enhanced by users’ willingness, whether they are office based or increasingly mobile/flexible workers, to adopt technology that allows them to quickly and easily access and/interact with who they want, when they want, regardless of their location.”
Knowing your Customer
Although we are entering an exciting new phase of evolution in the way we approach our working lives some things still remain. Knowing your customer is just as important as it always was and providing customers with a solution tailored to suit their needs is going to not just help them become more efficient and flexible but also dominate in their market.
Keith Bartlett, EMEA Director Business Development, Distribution & Inside Sales at ShoreTel says “UC mobility is a great opportunity for the reseller to focus in on what their customer is really looking for and tailor the portfolio to their needs, as each enterprise is likely to have a different approach. They really want sound advice from the channel, so a wise choice would be to make sure the portfolio contains flexible, simple solutions which can easily solve real-life business problems. What is more, UC Mobility is a great solution for capturing incremental sales such as security, Wi-Fi and virtualised infrastructures.”
Darren Standing, Head of Products and Marketing at Solar Communications commented “We’ve reached a critical time for resellers to evaluate their market approach. As new working practices and technologies really start to take hold, it opens up new opportunities for resellers as businesses challenge the traditional working environment. To differentiate from the competition, resellers need to focus on selling the business benefits and not the technology, positioning themselves as strategic partners who are ideally placed to help organisations navigate the ever-more complex technology landscape.
Standing continued “The opportunity that UC presents for the channel is huge, as interest expands beyond the large enterprise to SMEs. Resellers are in a position to bring together multiple technologies to deliver a truly ‘best of breed’ solution to customers, and couple that with first-class support and expertise to really differentiate in the market.”
Jordan Kirby, Unified Communications Manager at Node4 commented “Increasing demand for more advanced communications solutions presents a considerable opportunity for resellers. The appetite for UC is growing and the emergence of hosted UC solutions provides a compelling case for businesses to adopt these solutions.
It is through the hosted delivery model that resellers can really make an impact in today’s market, offering attractive prices and allowing customers to more readily adopt more advanced solutions as no up-front investment is required.
The real opportunity to differentiate lies in the ability for resellers to truly understand their customers, users and IT infrastructure and then create bespoke solutions that fit their unique requirements. UC lends itself well to a best-of-breed approach, in respect to the flexibility of the applications and the way they can be delivered.”
The Skype Effect
As resellers start feeling the increased demand from the SME for UC inevitably they will come up against consumer applications which workers have decided to use in the office. We asked a number of people how the consumer world is impacting on the UC business landscape.
Jordan Kirby stated “In the first instance, the wider range of end users apps that are available to communicate and collaborate can make UC a hard sell as people can usually work reasonably well with a number of different end users apps.
Yet what many organisations fail to realise is how much the constant movement between apps impacts time and productivity. Truly unified communications is not just a portfolio of apps, but an integrated portfolio that enables users to move seamlessly between channels and devices.
Resellers are ideally placed to educate their customers on the difference between apps for the consumer and UC solutions for the enterprise – and why they need to be viewed completely differently. “
Kirby continued “Consumer products also have no guarantees attached to them. Businesses need reliability and consistency and a robust, business-grade UC solution will include SLAs and guarantees on network uptime, for example. Products for the consumer market are inherently price driven too, so taking a few minutes to make a FaceTime call is a reasonable pay-off for a free app. However, if a business user can’t pick up the phone and make a call within seconds, that’s a serious problem.”
Stephen Wright, Contact Centre Product Manager at Azzurri Communications added “Consumer app adoption makes it harder in some ways, but easier in others. For example, desktop video is now commonly used as a result of Skype, which in theory should make it an easier sale but business has not yet embraced it. In a sense a lot of the technology has already been adopted among consumers – from Skype, to ‘presence’ – so they know their way around it. The difficulty lies in where the consumer sees these tools as different parts, and so have not recognised how it can all combine.
When asked if consumer apps make UC a hard sell Jody Kennedy, CTO of Olive Communications, said “No, this does not make UC a hard sell. In fact, more than ever the ‘consumerisation’ of the marketplace makes UC a very easy sell.
The expectation of business users for access to the technology that delivers the same ‘always connected’ environment which they have become so accustomed to in their person lives, makes it easier than ever before for businesses to easily engage with them and convince them to adopt UC solutions.
Consumer apps such as Skype are a perfect example. Skype has been around for a number of years and its transformation into Skype for Business shows how ‘consumer’ apps are becoming an integral part of a UC solution within a business environment.”
When it comes to the UC killer app the Channel is definitely divided. However there is always one solution which is probably talked about more than most.
Nigel Dunn, Managing Director of Jabra UK & Ireland commented “Microsoft Lync has always been the most talked about application and it has driven the trend for UC to a large degree. Skype for Business will further capture the focus of potential end-customers, as people are familiar with this household name.
Dunn continued “However other UC providers are also seeing uptake of their applications and although Microsoft may have market-share currently, Cisco, Avaya and Mitel have a strong presence in the call centre and will no doubt be considered as this sector looks to rip and replace PBX with UC during the next 12-24 months.”
Jordan Kirby thinks a little differently, “There is no such thing as a killer UC application. Successful UC is about bringing together the right technology with the right implementation to create a tailored solution for a customer. Responding to the requirements of the deployment in this way makes a killer application hard to define because of the differing ways people and businesses use technology.”
Director Portfolio Strategy of Logitech commented “Within the last 12 months we have seen a significant increase in UC applications that continue to enrich and further integrate with UC offerings. I wouldn’t say that there’s a dominant application, whereby it has become the go-to solution; however, there are some new, innovative cloud-based services that are re-imagining the way we collaborate which are making the dominant players seem old fashioned. Agile players are also complementing vertical solutions.”
Again, when it comes to the either the single vendor approach or the best of breed third party applications route there is no clear answer which is optimal for customers. Dunn points out that it isn’t as simple as one or the other.
Dunn said “It’s the responsibility of the channel to provide a solution that works best for their customers. In some instances this will be a single solution and others customers will want to cherry-pick elements from multiple UC vendors to create the full UC experience.
The key here is to still ensure that training, advice and support are provided so that users can get the most out of their solution, hybrid or otherwise.
Supporting the optimal solution with quality devices that are compatible with the voice application is also critical, as poor audio experiences will only serve to deliver a negative user-experience and subsequent low consumption levels. ROI will not then be achieved and costs will actually increase as unsupported users fall back on their mobile phones for communication. “
Stéphane Delorenzi, Director Portfolio Strategy of Logitech, agrees with Standing, “Solutions from a single supplier will blend together much better than piecemeal applications and tools from different suppliers. The single supplier is ideally placed to provide a truly unified solution, mixing applications from multiple vendors to create bespoke solutions, removing inefficiencies in time for sourcing and cost, and complexity.”
Jody Kennedy, CTO, Olive Communications “Interestingly, in some cases, early adopters of UC select a solution from a single vendor, almost as a ‘toe in the water’ with a new technology. However, in Olive’s experience most businesses require a flexible solution, which requires integration with multiple technologies and quickly adopt additional add-ons of multi-vendor applications in order to achieve the fully connected services they desire.”
Darren Standing, Head of Products and Marketing at Solar Communications “At Solar, we are strong advocates of the single-supplier approach, and we have just launched a report based on research findings that demonstrate the issues that multi-supplier relationships are causing for SMEs in particular. Key challenges are not having one billing point for all IT and communications and no central point of contact for technical information.”
When it comes to UC mobile is increasingly at the centre of the debate. It’s important for resellers to be equipped with the knowledge to arm their customers with flexible/ mobile ways of working for the modern age. When selecting a single vendor or best of breed approach it’s worth keeping your customers in mind as their needs should dictate your course of action.