Opinion

Resellers needn't sleepwalk into the converged world

In the latest of a series of industry guest blogs on Network Noise, Ian Kilpatrick, chairman of infrastructure security and convergence solutions VAD Wick Hill Group, responds to our recent blog on the problems surrounding the unified comms sale.   

In your blog, 'Cutting in on the UC conversation', you picked up on a major trend which presents very real opportunities for resellers. These UC (Unified Comms) opportunities are easier to pursue than they might seem. The learning curve is not very steep for IP literate resellers, especially if they can partner with a distributor who's willing to provide training, and support them through the first few sales.

You mentioned the difficulties in defining UC. You're not alone. Look on the web for UC definitions and you'll get over 450,000 results. We're not actually very keen on the phrase 'Unified Comms' and prefer to use the term 'convergence'.

You won't sell to most organisations by offering them an extensive, grand UC dream that claims to provide the universal business panacea. SMEs in particular want to buy a converged solution which meets their tactical needs today, at a very good price, and allows them to add further converged solutions that fit into their longer term strategy, as they grow, and as their expertise and sophistication increase.

Many resellers are already in the position of being 'trusted advisors' and they need to enlarge this role to incorporate advice on convergence, because, as you rightly point out, customers are already drifting into this area.

As a trusted advisor, customers will expect their reseller to be responsible for network performance, network security, and in many cases the network planning. So if something goes wrong, guess who they're going to blame!

One opportunity VARs can pursue is fixed and mobile phone convergence, a solution which offers reduced mobile costs, the ease of a "single" number  and true phone mobility in the office. This is a straightforward sale, offering cost-savings and improved productivity.

As a trusted advisor, customers will expect their reseller to be responsible for network performance, network security, and in many cases the network planning. So if something goes wrong, guess who they're going to blame!

One opportunity VARs can pursue is fixed and mobile phone convergence, a solution which offers reduced mobile costs, the ease of a "single" number  and true phone mobility in the office. This is a straightforward sale, offering cost-savings and improved productivity

Longer term solutions could include streaming media, web conferencing, multimedia applications, and so on.

Another convergence opportunity is smartphones, which, as you mention, are being widely adopted unilaterally.

As a trusted advisor, resellers can point out the security implications of unauthorised smartphone use, which are quite serious. Phones get lost very easily - a lot more easily than laptops. Many smartphones provide a direct link into the corporate network and contain significant amounts of sensitive corporate information, including emails and applications, as well as personal financial information.

Many smartphones are also completely unprotected or have nominal weak password protection. The VAR opportunity here is to discuss smartphone management, potential cost savings and security solutions with customers, so that the VAR becomes part of the customer's strategy and not just involved tactically when things go wrong.

There is definitely a strong move towards convergence and this presents great revenue opportunities. With help from distributors and vendors to extend their knowledge, resellers can take the initiative and work with end users to guide them in taking advantage of the cost and productivity savings that converged solutions bring.

From a customer perspective, IP-literate VARs provide them with the trusted knowledge route to converge their voice and data environments step by step, rather than with a big bang approach. From a channel perspective, this route generates current and future product, services and traffic revenues.

This was first published in November 2010

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