"Who ya gonna call?" is a question that's important not just for Ghostbusters, but for enterprises and organizations looking to deploy unified communications (UC) products, services and solutions. More and more vendors are turning to channel partners to sell, deploy and support their UC solutions, rather than doing it themselves. At the same time enterprises, and especially small and midsize businesses, are increasingly relying on vendors' channel partners for their UC product and service needs. These UC channel partners, or what UCStrategies calls Solutions Integrators (SIs), consist of resellers, VARs, system integrators, interconnects, dealers and others.
The UC channel partner generally has the ability to do the following:
- Identify and understand your business requirements and issues;
- Design solutions based on your business goals;
- Select appropriate vendors and products, including those outside of their vendor partners;
- Deliver and deploy solutions, including hardware, software and ancillary products;
- Train users on the new products and services; and
- Provide ongoing technical service and support.
The channel is generally the front line to enterprise customers, and they're the organizations and individuals that end-user customers will contact when making a purchasing decision and deciding between various vendors, or when they want to upgrade or enhance an existing product. Most enterprise organizations rely on Solutions Integrators/resellers (SI/VARs) for not only purchasing the solutions, but for professional services offerings, such as designing and customizing the solution, integrating various products that are part of their UC solution and ensuring that everything works together seamlessly. Perhaps more importantly, when there's a problem or service issue, enterprises are going to reach out to their resellers for service and support.
More about the UC channel
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MSPs and VARs offer unified communications services for the SMB
The role of the business communication reseller has been changing over the past few years, and has gone from selling PBX boxes to selling unified communications and collaboration solutions. UC is not a single product, but is a solution made up of various components and products, all of which have to be integrated together to make the solution work. A UC solution may include the UC server and elements such as conferencing and collaboration, unified messaging, mobility, desktop and mobile clients, and more; all of these components have to be tied in with the business' underlying network and carrier or services, which requires a good deal of integration work and expertise. It's important for enterprises to work with a UC channel partner that has experience tying together the hardware, software and network elements (gateways, session border controllers, etc.), and across multiple locations and regions, if required.
As UCStrategies repeatedly points out, unified communications is "communications integrated to optimize business processes." For organizations to get the most return on their UC investment, integration with existing or new business processes is key. Working with a Solutions Integrator that understands not just the various UC products and technology, but also your business processes, is an important part of a successful deployment. Whether it's a CRM or ERP application, or a specialized vertical application, it's vital to work with an SI/VAR that can seamlessly integrate the UC solution with these applications to enable click-to-call or click-to-conference, for example, from these applications.
Business communication systems are more sophisticated than ever before, and organizations need to work with UC channel partners that do more than "sell boxes." For good reason, a rapidly growing number of resellers are working to establish consultative relationships with their customers. By working with trusted partners that focuses on what's best for your specific needs, rather than which of the SI's primary vendor's product to sell, you're more likely to get the right solution. Look for UC partners that are willing to identify your business goals and objectives, current communication challenges and long-term communication strategy before even discussing a vendor's products and technologies.
Most UC resellers are tightly aligned with specific vendors, which may not necessarily be in your best interest. While many vendors like to "reward" resellers that represent only that vendor's products rather than carrying multiple vendors, I recommend working with resellers that work with multiple vendors, as they are more likely to recommend the products that best meet your specific needs. If a reseller only sells products from Vendor A, then that's what they're going to sell you, regardless of whether or not it's the best product for your specific needs. As trusted advisors, your UC channel partner should work to understand your short- and long-term communication and business goals, and develop a solution based on your needs.
As business communication systems have changed, so has the role of the reseller. As you move along your unified communication journey, make sure that you're working with a partner that does more than simply sell their vendor's products, but that is looking out for your best interests. The role of the UC channel has moved from sales to trusted advisor -- that's who you're gonna call!