The UCC market is moving from a vendor/product/transaction focus to a partner/solution/customer-success focus.

As indicated in my previous blog, 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.

Based on Gartner’s 2019 UCaaS Magic Quadrant, the integrated solutions that are leveraging this technology convergence come from either traditional collaboration technology (i.e. Google, Microsoft, Zoom) partners or traditional telephony partners (i.e. 8X8, Ring Central, Windstream). Most UCC customers are seeking collaboration-centric solutions.  Telephony functions and features are becoming enablers for the collaboration and are therefore do not drive the value proposition for the solution.  Partners from both technologies as well as master agents and distributors (i.e. Telarus, Sova) are evolving their programs, solutions, and services to leverage this technology convergence.

This move from product/service led sales to solution-based sales is shifting the power of the vendor/partner relationship in favor of the partners.  They are taking ownership of the true customer relationship.

In many cases, the customer may not be aware of which vendors are providing the components of the solution.  This power shift is forcing UCC vendors to take the SaaS vendor (i.e. AWS, Microsoft, Salesforce) approach to their indirect channels.  This includes taking a ‘partner first’ approach, which focuses on partner success, ease of doing business, and customer success.   Indirect SaaS channel leaders (i.e. AWS, Microsoft, Salesforce) provide partner programs that facilitate partner success by helping them build new competencies and improve their value proposition through accreditations.  Competency development and accreditation provides sales growth for partners and vendors, and it improves customer success, ensuring sustained recurring revenue for both.  The traditional partner tiering models based on transaction volume are being replaced by competency-based models.  UCC vendors like Cisco that have been running partner programs that support the SaaS model currently have an advantage in terms of partner value proposition in the UCC market.

The convergence of technology has also resulted in the convergence of vendors through acquisition, which has resulted in multiple lines of business that are run differently within the vendor.  This has created complexity and additional expense for partners as they spend a great deal of time navigating the different vendor processes (i.e. pricing, ordering, and fulfillment) across the different lines of business.  Master agents/Distributors and partners employ entire teams just to process and track orders.  Vendors that leverage the SaaS channel model to enhance ‘ease of doing business’ and focus on partner success will have the advantage in the UCC market.

Traditional telecom vendors like Verizon and AT&T are in the process of consolidating and simplifying their indirect channel programs in support of the SaaS approach.  UCC vendors that embrace the partner/solution/customer-success focus will develop stronger, long-term relationships with partners that will provide sustained revenue and consistent customer success.