Effective communication is a vital foundation for both happy customers and engaged employees. In today’s cloud-first and mobile-first world a company’s communication solution needs to evolve to meet today’s key challenges of doing more with less, enabling flexible working environments, reducing complexity and providing customers with a fantastic experience.

The increased popularity of outsourced cloud-based solutions, means unified communications are no longer a luxury afforded only to larger enterprise; they are available to even the smallest business, helping them provide more responsive engagement with their customers, reducing costs by integrating with existing solutions end users are used to, lowering travel costs and providing a more flexible modern workplace.

Increased popularity of outsourced cloud solutions means unified comms are no longer luxuryClick To Tweet

Capitalising on the opportunities for the Channel

An important point consider, is where the big opportunities lie, and assess how prepared channel partners are to exploit them. Microsoft estimates that Skype for Business Online is a $50 billion+ opportunity for the channel over the next 3 years, and that’s a pretty big statement to make. However, it is understandable when you look at the facts. There’s no doubt that unified communication solutions such as Skype for Business Online are a huge opportunity for the channel. It’s also becoming increasingly clear that tens of thousands of old on-premise PBXs (private branch exchanges) will need to be replaced over the coming 3-5 years and partners that aren’t harnessing the opportunity as an ‘in’ to new customers risk getting left behind.

Microsoft estimates that Skype for Business Online is a $50 billion+ opportunityClick To Tweet

There are more people working for SMEs overall than for large organisations and the SME segment is one in which channel partners can add real value due to the inherent complexities of bringing together IT and Telephony in to a single unified communications solution.

Channel partners who invest in understanding both the IT and traditional telephony worlds are well-placed to address SMEs’ concerns and provide businesses with independent, tailored advice and UC (unified communications) offers many different solutions from fixed and mobile telephony, collaborations tools and so on.

Next steps for the Channel

Profit from unified communications is driven by profit. The first step for any reseller is to deploy an UC solution within their own business, so that all employees experience first-hand how UC solutions, such as Skype for Business Online, can help increase productivity and improve customer service all whilst lowering the overall costs.

The first step for any reseller is to deploy an UC solution within their own businessClick To Tweet

However, for many partners, there are many new complex areas for partners to learn when they first investigate UC solutions, and so picking the right solutions and delivery partners is key to helping take advantage of the massive opportunity ahead. Knowing which technologies can meet the needs of customers in the simplest and most easy to use ways is vital. Although, simplicity is not the only key, it is equally important that the products work with the existing IT infrastructure and tools that end-users know and use every day. Reseller should look to build a fully integrated solution, complete with ongoing Managed Services which offers the full unified communications package right out of the box.

How can vendors help channel partners along the way?

Unified Communications vendors have a pivotal role in helping the channel prepare to exploit this massive opportunity from understanding how the different solution elements connect together, to simplifying how the solution can be deployed and end-users on-boarded.

Vendors should work closely with resellers to offer flexible ways for them to migrate customers to the cloud in a way that suits them, for many organisations a hybrid on-premise/cloud world will exist for many years to come. Furthermore, operational revenue from collaboration services requires billing and a trained customer service team. Vendors can provide a range of supporting services, often on a 24/7 basis, to ensure partners can provide the tools, and the IT to support their customers.

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Michael Frisby, Managing Director, Cobweb Solutions Michael’s early fascination with technology led him to a BSc in Computing. With over 20 years of IT and cloud sales and business development experience with PA Consulting, HP and Microsoft, Michael’s expertise lies in combining technology and customer requirements into commercial solutions. At Cobweb, he is responsible for leading the company's transition as a value-add cloud aggregator. He previously lead Microsoft’s SMB Managed Reseller channel across Western Europe, accelerating the transition to selling cloud services, and building the Office 365 Syndication business to one million users. He is an enthusiastic squash player and avid Formula 1 fan.