Friday, July 27, 2012
There's one key reason that VoIP solutions of the past were slow to gain traction in many markets: they were often presented as a simple and cost-effective replacement systems for traditional phone service. While the traditional early adopters and some of those implementing new service were willing to make the leap, there wasn’t a real value proposition for others to make a switch. If current phone services were working well, few businesses were willing to experiment with something as critical as their communications systems. The incentives just weren't there.
To motivate buyers, there has to be a real value proposition, other than "try this, it's new." Steve Jobs and Apple proved that with the iPhone, offering an easy-to-use platform, combining Internet access, a mobile phone, a music player and, most importantly, applications that were useful and/or entertaining. Buyers responded in droves, and each new version has consumers clamoring to own one first.
The same principle that makes the iPhone so successful is what makes UC (unified communications) so valuable to the business community. Rather than an equal exchange of a landline for a Web-enabled phone, these systems become true collaborative platforms for an organization’s communications and business processes. With the right design and integration services, UC creates exponential value for the users, allowing business users to leverage a number of complementary applications and databases to maximize the value of client and prospect discussions.
UC solutions may start out with a variety of voice-related applications, such as VoIP, presence information, video conferencing, interactive whiteboards, speech recognition and unified messaging (integrated voicemail, e-mail, SMS and fax). A well-designed and properly implemented system will improve a business’ call time metrics and, more importantly, maximize their overall user experience and operational efficiencies. Of course, the collaboration value increases when the solution is integrated with a company's CRM and adds features such as a central management portal and reporting/analytics capabilities.
Success Requires a New Approach
Like many of today's IT services practices, to be successful in unified communications, providers must be able to master solution selling. That requires a consultative approach with each client, designing the most effective and efficient platform that meets their specific business goals, and convincing the key decision makers that its benefits are well worth the investment.
How does a solution provider build a viable UC practice and ensure their team has the skills needed to support their customers' future growth needs? That lofty goal is a frequent discussion among members of the CompTIA Unified Communications Community
, a group focused on the building best practices, business fundamental education and other resources for companies involved in this quickly growing technology segment of the IT channel. They'll meet face-to-face
at on Monday at CompTIA's Breakaway
conference to share the latest research and develop key initiatives to advance UC opportunities for solution providers and their partners, and to review the educational resources they’ve be instrumental in creating. The meeting agenda is packed with UC-related topics, including:
- Roll-out of an industry road map,
- A standards consultant presentation,
- An update on philanthropy,
- A Trustmark advisory presentation,
- An education update,
- VAR/agent partnering research and
- A community Wiki presentation and discussion.
The event features several of the group's efforts, including a session that details the opportunities and issues solution providers face when building a new practice. The CompTIA Quick Start to Unified Communications
workshop will walk attendees through the requirements for launching a unified communications practice, including actionable steps and best practices developed by experienced industry professionals.
In case you miss the discussions at Breakaway, the CompTIA Unified Community meets monthly (via a combination of conference calls and live discussions) and welcomes new members anytime. Or you can just enjoy and employ the tools and resources they’ve assembled to ensure greater UC success in the channel. To join or learn more about the group, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
. Brian Sherman is founder of Tech Success Communications, specializing in editorial content and consulting for the IT channel. His previous roles include chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and industry alliances director with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com.