How Channels Can Own Collaboration (IT Toolbox Blogs)



For the last post in this series, I’m going to add a third stakeholder group that you may not have considered in terms of taking an ownership role with collaboration. The channel has an interesting role to play, and while not all businesses will use these players with UC, they can add value in ways that will appeal to both IT and employees.

Thinking first about IT, the path of least resistance for them – especially when resources are tight – is to use the self-serve model and go with a Web-based UC provider. There are many scenarios where this will appear to make sense, and the shortcomings will not emerge until later. Employees can also follow a self-serve path by cherry-picking the applications they like from the Web, often with little or no IT involvement. This will give rise to a different set of problems, and I touched on those in my previous post.

The channel has plenty of motivation as a collaboration stakeholder, mainly to ensure that their customers have successful UC deployments. Taking a broader view, with UC being new, this also sets the foundation for add-on services as customers look to extend the positive results further across the organization. All of this is good for the channel’s business, and here are two ways they can take an ownership position to realize those benefits.

1. Help IT deploy UC more effectively

First and foremost, the channel needs a strong enough relationship with end customers to ensure IT doesn’t go elsewhere for UC. Vendors generally deal directly with larger customers, but in many cases, the channel owns the relationship, and by extension will need to have some ownership in collaboration.

This is by no means a sure thing, as most channel partners – especially those serving SMBs – have a long history selling hardware such as phone systems. UC – and collaboration in general – is a very different value proposition, and I’ve written often about the challenges facing legacy-based channel partners transitioning to UC. 

Migrating customers from legacy telephony to VoIP is fairly straightforward, as there’s usually a phone system involved. Even here, however, there’s a risk of losing the end customer if they choose to go with an OTT – over the top – VoIP provider where the channel may not have a role to play. Presuming the channel has kept the customer, there will be a learning curve with UC, and not every partner will be willing or able to make the transition.

For those that do, there’s a great opportunity take an ownership stake, but it will likely require new expertise. The starting point is to do a needs assessment with customers, not just to understand what type of UC solution they need, but also where IT is going to need help. My research often shows that IT is ill-prepared for rolling out UC, since they normally don’t play an active role in driving end user adoption with new technology. 

This is the first way channels can add value, and anything you can do to reduce risk, minimize disruption and make UC easy to use will go a long way towards owning some of the collaboration opportunity with customers. It doesn’t matter whether you have the in-house expertise or it comes from the vendor; IT will be looking to the channel to make this work.

A second avenue is more proactive, and was cited in my last post. This has to do with analytics, and there’s very much an ownership opportunity here. Traditional ROI metrics don’t really apply for UC, and as part of the broader digital transformation trend, analytics are emerging that focus on measuring both workplace productivity and workflow efficiency. Channels don’t typically have this expertise, but ramping up here may be the best opportunity to provide long-term value with UC and beyond.

2. Help employees get great results with UC

This is really an extension of the above, but it requires a different focus. Channels can definitely add value by providing IT with metrics that track how UC is being utilized and its impact on network performance. While that is highly relevant for IT, end users have an entirely different set of needs.

Normally, channels don’t have much reason to support end users, but UC is different. Ultimately, the better the collaboration results with UC, the more extensively employees will use it. This should not be taken for granted, since employees are already using various applications for collaboration, but in a standalone fashion. UC won’t likely give them any new ones, but it will provide a platform to integrate these applications with a consistent user experience across all use cases. 

 

That’s a powerful concept, and IT will likely need help getting that message across. Not only does IT need end users to understand how UC can improve their collaboration experience, but some behavior change will also be needed to get them using the applications with the UC solution rather than the ones they’ve been using all along. Again, this is an area where the channel doesn’t have much native expertise, but it represents a new way to take ownership with collaboration.

 

About the Author

JonJon Arnold is Principal of J Arnold & Associates, an independent telecom analyst and strategy consultancy based in Toronto, Ontario. The consultancy’s primary focus is providing thought leadership and go-to-market counsel regarding IP communications and disruptive technologies. You can follow Jon’s everyday insights on his influential JAA’s Analyst Blog and on Twitter.

Source: SANS ISC SecNewsFeed @ March 2, 2017 at 05:12PM

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