Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Do Unified Communications and VoIP Vendors Need New Channels?

After a couple of weeks of holiday and R&R it’s time to get going again. During my time off, in between dips in the ocean and naps in the shade I couldn’t help but ponder how the Unified Communications (UC) and VoIP market is changing. What’s happening? Where is the technology disruption heading? Is the channel capacity of the vendors wearing down? Who are the most suitable channel partners going forward?

One thing for sure, the indirect sales channel for Unified Communication (UC) and VoIP is a lot more diverse today than just 12-18 months ago. Today, Service Providers, IT consulting firms, System Integrators, technology VAR’s, vertical software & ISV’s, cloud/Saas providers etc. are all part of the collective sales channel for UC and VoIP. But, they are all selling and delivering customer value differently, aren’t they.

What the UC and VoIP vendors have been slow at recognizing is that the classic channels for “moving” product to the end customers are eroding or diverging. The vendor contest for market leadership will not be decided on technology alone but rather on who can develop the most comprehensive distribution paths for their solutions to the end customer. It’s all about reach, far and deep. Geographic coverage used to be the critical dimension for reach, but that is far from sufficient today. Delivery models, influence, capabilities and commitment are dimensions that also need to be considered. The vendors that can develop the most comprehensive and low resistant distribution paths to the end customers will benefit massively. You would think that UC and VoIP vendors already have a functioning model for selling through service providers, system integrators or vertical consulting firms. Not so, think again. There is still not enough focus or flexibility in most vendors operations and underlying infrastructure to accommodate different sales models and delivery models.

Heather Margolis at Channel Maven Consulting wrote a great article on the “New Breed of VAR” as an enabler of new routes to the customer. Ms. Margolis is spot on in her assessment. The technology disruption along with new delivery models (cloud or as managed service) and more sophisticated financing options have opened the market for a new breed of VARs that perhaps were not selling UC or VoIP before. However, recruiting this breed of VARs and enabling them to sell UC value in what ever way that suits them, with an attractive commercial proposition, is the responsibility of the vendor organization. This is an area where vendors are struggling. What new channels have Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya, Polycom, Shoretel or Siemens EC enabled today?

What do you think?


  1. Correct - at pbxnsip, we are recruiting Microsoft Voice Partners, Security integrators using voice, video and RFID technology, and other non-traditional channels to deliver our solutions. We have found that Managed or complete SaaS providers bring a higher level of Network expertise and support.

    We also help to bring the traditional telecom VAR into the new world by offering solutions that mimic the business practices of the old world. An example of this is our IP Communications software emulating a traditional "key system" functionality including features like Call Park on all extensions with a "line 1" light blinking for pickup. This along with simple administration enables the traditional interconnects to satisfy their existing customer while introducing them to the new capabilities of IP Communications.

  2. Well said Paul. Your real life examples illustrate that more reseller types are entering the space with some success. Some non-traditional channel partners have the influence while others have the capabilities. Together they can deliver real value.

    I also wanted to second your comments on the interconnects and bandwidth/connectivity providers. Providing voice (IP based and FMC) solutions is a perfect way for them to move higher in the value stack, and they need it.

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