Glynn Jones, Vice President Advanced Technology Group for Polycom EMEA talks to Comms Business Magazine about why he feels that voice conferencing should be seen and heard and why selling voice is the foundation to selling UC.
Throughout 2016, all types of organisations, big, medium and small, have been considering how they can achieve a cohesive conferencing and collaboration environment as a business priority.
It is easy to immediately think of video and content sharing solutions when discussing collaboration. While it is true that they are more eye-catching, it is also important to remember that there can be no collaboration without voice. In fact, while traditional audio conferencing may seem like a less attractive sales proposition at first, the reality is that it is a great first step as it provides an avenue to upsell the trio of collaboration solutions (voice, video and content) further down the line.
Voice is a mission-critical part of any organisation, no matter how big or small, and it won’t go away. People need to communicate in order to do their jobs, regardless of their job role. All organisations need, at the very least, audio-conferencing systems. Everyone needs to have a phone. As all industries take the leap into the digital transformation, collaboration is the natural extension of that. It is becoming essential for companies to enable teams to collaborate in real-time, and people are embracing it. It is in our nature – we love group collaboration. Look at the rise of WhatsApp group chat; 1.6 billion users, sending 1.5tn messages a month by 2017 according to Ovum.
The conferencing market is already reflecting this: collaboration is the new buzzword, no one is buying conferencing these days without asking about collaboration as well. For many organisations, it has evolved from a boardroom ‘nice to have’ to a mission-critical application. This evolution takes conferencing far beyond the boardroom, to desktops and other environments, including mobile. Organisations are moving away from the traditional bowling alley format for meeting rooms. Open spaces where people can just sit and collaborate naturally, impromptu and as needed, are the new normal. This is drastically impacting the conferencing market as every space becomes a meeting space.
The rise of the huddle room is not the only trend impacting the conferencing industry. Flexibility is not just for office spaces. Mobility is also gaining traction thanks to cloud/as-a-Service solutions. This is driving growth in the conferencing market. Existing partners want more flexibility, and the cloud is the perfect solution. At Polycom, we want to be able to offer a services wrap for those organisations to whom conferencing is mission critical. This services wrap can be delivered by our channel partners as a managed services proposition. Partners can become trusted advisors for the customers by using analytics to identify underused parts of networks, sell adoption services, drive usage and drive ROI. Having cloud-hosted services means that maintenance also becomes less costly, so support services can easily be added to the package, offering more upselling opportunities for partners.
Cloud/as-a-service offers great advantages to big corporations, but they are not the only ones reaping the benefits. Unified Communications is no longer exclusive to big budgets – start-ups and small businesses collaborate and communicate in the same way, just on a different scale and they are now a growing part of the market. UC-as-a-service also represents an affordable route into a unified conferencing and collaboration environment for SMEs. Solutions that can adapt to the needs of the business, such as cloud bursting capabilities for all-hands-on-deck meetings or crisis response. Scalability and flexibility are strong selling points!
It is not just about the software; voice endpoints are adapting and evolving to offer the variety that partners need in order to sell across organisations of all sizes. Smaller, plug and play products that meet the demand for huddle room solutions are taking off in EMEA. Solutions such as Polycom RealPresence Trio or Polycom RealPresence Debut that pack the same HD quality of bigger products into huddle spaces are attractive for both customers and partners. Traditionally, conferencing solutions have been too costly to justify the install and maintenance in smaller rooms, so customers stuck to phones. Now, with more compact, plug-and-play solutions they can have HD quality voice and video that’s not prohibitively expensive, and solutions that are optimised for smaller meeting rooms.
Voice conferencing provides an opportunity for partners to evolve a customer relationship beyond the initial sale, by introducing video and content collaboration further down the line. It is important to remember that each element is an upsell of the last, and video and content are a natural evolution of voice. This results in an eventual move from pure voice to bigger, more complex unified communications and collaboration solutions. Yes, video solutions look sexier, but collaboration can still happen without video as long as there is good quality audio.