Unified Communications vendors are being driven to significantly leverage indirect channels to be competitive in the complex UCC solutions market.  The convergence of traditional communication services (wireline, wireless…) with IT services (Cloud, IOT, AI…) has resulted in comprehensive UCC solutions that are affordable for companies of all sizes.  At the same time, this convergence has elevated UCC from being an end user productivity tool to a business transforming platform that enables business success through greater communication and collaboration.

The converged UCC platforms are more modular than traditional UCC products and services which greatly facilitate the ability to develop customized application stacks.  This modularity allows for the development of tailored solutions that provide specific functionality for a customer, resulting in a better solution at a more competitive cost.  Another dynamic significantly impacting UCC is cloud technology, which greatly reduces the hardware investment required for UCC solutions. In addition to these transformations, new technologies like IOT and AI are leveraging UCC platforms to deliver their solutions, increasing demand and complexity of UCC.  The multidisciplinary nature of UCC, which requires facilities with networking, security, connectivity, software, cloud services, and system administration; make it a perfect fit for Solution Providers.  They can deliver the benefits of unified communications and collaboration to clients who could not previously afford the technical overhead of these solutions.

These dynamics are expanding the market for UCC.  As new capabilities are driving exponential growth in the enterprise market, the modularization and infrastructure distribution of UCC services, are providing price points attractive to small-to-medium size businesses.  To take advantage of this expansion, UCC vendors must leverage Indirect channel partners who can provide comprehensive solutions that require many components that UCC vendors do not have.  In addition to technical components, partners also provide subject matter expertise such as IOT and AI.  The indirect channel also provides access to the SMB market though established relationships partners have with these businesses.  Leveraging the indirect channel is not easy for UCC vendors.  Their sales culture and internal processes are built around a direct sales approach.  Changing this ‘direct sales DNA’ will require a corporate-wide commitment, from compensation models, to ordering processing.   Many UCC vendors that have begun this transformation have neglected to internally evangelize the value of the indirect channel, resulting in partners being viewed as competitors.

A successful UCC indirect channel program requires the following:

  • Executive commitment and support
  • Sales and Marketing strategies that include and support the indirect channel
  • Internal communication and training that conveys the value of this channel
  • Reduction/elimination of all channel conflict
  • Strong partner value proposition
  • Development of ‘Ideal Partner’ profiles focused on competencies and customer success
  • Channel program focused on partner success
  • Consolidated and standardized programs and contracts
  • Simplified, streamlined, and automated processes that impact partners (CPQ, ordering, fulfillment…)
  • Establishing, tracking, and reporting of key channel success metrics
  • Vigilant governance of channel policies and procedures
  • Continued development and evolution of the indirect channel

Keep in mind that establishing a strong indirect channel is not easy, and it is never finished.  Developing and running an indirect channel is a journey, not a destination.

In subsequent blogs I will drill into the points I have listed above.  I will also be publishing related blogs on ‘the shifting power dynamic in the indirect channel’ and ‘what partners should look for in a UCC vendor’.