By Greg Plum, VP of Channel, OBT Anywhere
Having just returned from a major IT conference and trade show, I am reminded of the “early days” when IT and telecom were completely separate worlds. This event was riddled with what might have previously been categorized as telecom companies. It seems to me that the best way to capture the essence of the industry and the players that populate this space is to consider them “technology” companies.
In the past handful of years, there have been significant changes. Applications companies have morphed into “cloud” companies, offering their wares on a subscription basis, and telecom companies turned their focus away from circuits to IP-based communications, giving birth to the terms “voice-over-IP” (VoIP), and more recently “unified communications” (UC). These developments have also fueled our appetite for mobile-first delivery of services.
What happens when your computer rings?
Non-traditional providers are starting to infiltrate the telecom space. Is the market ready for such a shift in mindset, trusting a cable company or a software company with their telephony?
We have all heard the warning, “Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.” The telephone system is a critical component of any business. Changing strategies with a core function requires thorough analysis, comprehensive design and strategic planning.
As a technology professional, should you recommend to your customers that they move their voice service to a provider not known historically for their telecom services? Well, that depends. Here are some questions to ask them:
- Do they want to move their telephony service to the cloud?(They may have answered this question already if they no longer have telecom equipment onsite at their company.)
- Are they already purchasing their email or software suite as a subscription service?
- Have they started collaborating with their colleagues via online collaboration tools, including VoIP, instant messaging, and screen sharing?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” they may be an ideal candidate for an integrated data and telecom solution.
How can you tackle the complexities of convergence?
As we have discussed, convergence is very real and is a part of all of our worlds. This does not mean that all telecom professionals have become IT experts, and vice versa. It just means that when helping your business customers, you need to be aware of all technology needs and how to best address them.
The options for this new service implementation remain the same as all other business strategies for channel partners: Build, Buy, or Partner. As a telecom or IT professional, you can:
- Build your own practice leveraging existing resources, specializing in hosted voice deployment,
- Buy (aka hire) an expert to assist with opportunity development and delivery, or
- Partner with another company who has already developed a competency with the technology.
While there is not one right approach, as a long-time channel strategist, my vote is to partner. Why? Simple – speed to market. By leveraging an established provider's resources, you have immediate access to expert talent without the fixed costs that accompany the buying or building options. The channel is more than a collection of companies and independent sales people. It is an ecosystem that provides an infinite number of ways to work together to meet your customers' needs. Partnering offers the ability to fully leverage the expert resources that can help your customers achieve their desired results.
When helping your customers address their voice needs with an integrated solution, partnering with the right resources can be the difference between a humming communications platform and dead air. Choose wisely.