Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Over and over, MSPs and VARs ask me how to know when their clients can benefit from UC (unified communications). The answer is easy – and complex at the same time. First of all, ‘unified communications’ is not a product or a group of products. It is a strategy for integrating elements of voice, data, video, and mobility to provide solutions for a wide range of customer business issues and other organizational problems. Second, depending on the customer issue that is being addressed, a ‘UC solution’ could include elements of just voice and data; or voice, data, and video; or voice, data and mobility….well, you get the picture.
At the crux of the answer is how the MSP or VAR relates to their customer. Is the sole point of contact the IT manager? In today’s environment of converged technology, the IT manager may be the point of entry, but it is the line of business manager who understands the pain points that can best be resolved by UC solutions. These are the types of situations/pain points you want to uncover
- Does the sales department have mobile workers who need information that resides in the office and is needed to be readily accessible to customers?
- Does the claims department in an insurance firm need to speed up the claims process to remain competitive and improve customer satisfaction?
- Does a doctor need a way to collaborate with other medical specialists?
- Does a school district need to give their teachers more time to teach by reducing the time they spend traveling to district-wide meetings?
- Does a small business need to appear larger that they are to compete in the global markets opened up by the internet?
Consider that in today’s tight economy; the IT department’s budget for new technology purchases may often be nonexistent. But if an MSP or VAR can show other departments how to do more with the reduced staff they have in place while keeping their customers satisfied and loyal, a UC sale is likely! Or if they can show a school district how to reduce travel and time expenses associated with district-wide meetings, once again securing a project is highly probable!
IP telephony products (VoIP) can often be a difficult sale. Why? Because a VoIP phone system doesn’t really solve a business problem, unless the customer is moving or has outgrown their existing phone system. However, the UC business applications that are typically implemented with VoIP will
provide real value to the customer.
So how do you answer the question concerning when a customer needs UC? The true response is that you’ll only know if a UC solution is appropriate after you uncover issues or problems that can best be resolved with integrated voice, data, video, and/or mobility applications. The opportunities for this technology can be found in most vertical markets and business segments from SMB to enterprise customers. Just identify the opportunities with your clients and watch your revenue and your margins move higher and higher. Pam Avila is founder of the Sierra Summit Group and chair of the new CompTIA Unified Communications (UC) Community. She has more than 11 years of experience in the converged technology industry and provides channel strategy consultation for companies such as ShoreTel, Cisco, Siemens, Mitel, and Interactive Intelligence