Welcome to the New Year, and yes – the title of this post is a loaded question. It’s simply no longer enough to be a “channel reseller” – if you want to build a modern, sustainable and consistently profitable business providing real time communications services to enterprises and SMBs.
It’s also no longer enough to provide a cookie-cutter service to all your customers, unless you believe you can build a nice niche business, with enough recurring revenue to keep enough of your team employed with enough margin to be able to keep your business afloat until you decide to pursue a different career, or even retire.
Sure, there will be phones and phone systems around for years to come, and enough inertia to keep a small but steady stream of “maintenance” revenues going. But how exciting can that be, compared to fully embracing the amazing changes and opportunities that Communications-as-a-Service which blows away the traditional notions of “Unified Communications” with so many new Internet and Browser-based experiences, so many new ways to embed voice, video and messaging into workflow, and so many industry-specific applications surfacing on a near-daily basis?
What we are enabling is no longer a “phone call.” Nor are contact centers the “800” number customer service rep pools they used to be. Still – some essential truths apply:
- Whatever the “end-point” the quality of the conversation has to be clear and consistent.
- Whatever the network architecture the security and compliance for sessions of all types needs to be rock-solid – today more than ever with so many attacks and other breaches.
- Whatever the approach, the end users we are serving need a simple, intuitive, and predictable experience.
- Whatever the business, business owners and the IT stewards responsible for keeping the communications flow going will want and need to see performance – contribution to business growth – and a reasonable “ROI.”
- Whatever the industry, knowing your customer’s customer and what make them competitive will always be key to creating solutions that they not only rely on, but become dependent on and addicted to in all good ways.
Today we have a lot of solid systems in place with PBX and IP-driven applications – many billions of investment worth – and those systems are workhorses. What’s working in the now are evolutionary approaches, where partners and their customers are able to overlay applications and new services over their existing networks – getting services to work on mobile devices for employees who work everywhere. There are many years of service left in these in-place investments, and the good news is, with new software advancements, a lot of the expensive maintenance and licensing fees can be eliminated, making room for adding things like mobile presence and more.
And this is why I asked the loaded question: will you be a channel partner or systems integrator, reseller or developer in this New Year and beyond?
We work with hundreds of the world’s largest CSPs (all the “household names” like AT&T, Verizon, BT, and more) as well as dozens of the world we used to call “Channel Resellers” who have now in fact become systems integrators, sometimes by default, but often by vision. We’re seeing many of these energetic, aggressive companies emerge with more IT depth, more IT professionals experienced as much or more in data than voice, and these companies are putting together a lot of interesting “sweetheart deals” with large CSPs who appreciate the experience and skill with which these partners are able to handle multiple enterprises and particularly SMBs.
These “SI’s” are becoming expert in new RTC solutions, and are close to business owners, so can translate what their business needs to stay connected into better and better solutions, which are pulling through a ton of connectivity revenue and more for the Tier Ones.
These companies are not simply “channel partners” –they, in fact, ARE the value and it is their relationships with the Tier Ones that is allowing them to generate more profitable margins for their own business, as they bring competitive pricing to multiple customers, and “bulk orders” to the Tier Ones. This new take on the economic ecosystem has been fascinating to watch especially in the last 18-24 months, and in 2015 we expect to see continued (rapid) growth in our own business as we provide the software and management systems with radically different pricing and bundles to these really smart companies.
There will always be a need for more and more bandwidth, and more and more ways to access that bandwidth. With the explosion in WiFi and the benefits of mobile backhaul for mobile CSPs – everybody who keeps their eyes on the ball, and knows how to “team up” – will win and win big. Those who try to insulate themselves from change – have everything to lose.
Now – are the emerging winners resellers, or developers? Well, they are actually a little bit of both, with “value added reseller” become redefined through the growth of Platforms-as-a-Service, which complement Communications-as-a-Service, and thousands of smart young developers coming out of high school and college straight into hackathons, making magic happen with the available APIs and SDKs rising from a more open community of RTC wizards.
So, for example, one of our enterprise and SMB systems integrators is in fact “reselling” our cloud (NUViA) as their own (rebranded, reskinned, and integrated with their existing management, billing and operating systems) and are adopting our WebRTC gateway to create their own user experience for the financial trading community. Their developers are inside our Kandy Platform-as-a-Service domain, so are able to easily build browser-based solutions for mobile devices – and desktops – that incorporate one-touch video calls, “hoot and holler” conferencing, market data integrated into a collaboration session, and more. So – they are in fact developers, with software from GENBAND being embedded into unique and extremely competitive solutions of their own making. This particular company ten years ago was a great Value Added Reseller and built up an impressive community of Blue Chip customers (banks, brokerages, hedge funds, exchanges, buy side and sell side) who now trust them to take them into an even more dynamic and productive world of trader communications way beyond voice.
It takes courage to take a leap into a more sophisticated business – but these solutions customers value – customers will pay a premium for – and will not want to move away from for many years to come. The good news is, while the businesses “formerly known as channel resellers” shift up into systems integration and development – there are more tools than ever to help them do so in less time, with less risk, and with more future upside.
2015 will be the “tipping point” for all this – we are seeing this at GENBAND, we are seeing this across our ecosystem of technology partners, and we are most definitely seeing this in the RTC for business world at large. Those of you who have known me for years (and decades!) know what an enthusiast and all-out geek I am when it comes to connecting people in real time – this is becoming as much of an art as it is a science, and the creativity is limitless.
As we kick off this New Year I want to thank all our partners, our customers, their customers, my colleagues and our management team – as amazing as the magic show seems when it is first starting to emerge – nothing is more exciting than seeing the vision manifest in real life – in real offices, on real trading floors, in real hospitals, college campuses and more. This year – we’re keeping it real – in real time. Stay tuned!