I recently caught up (a never –ending battle) on a lot of my industry reading, including a much that my colleagues at UCStrategies have recently written. In particular I read much of what Pam Avila had written on channel partners. On the UCStrategies team, Pam is the one with the most direct expertise in all things channel, and although I work with SOFTEL, who Pam wrote about in one of her articles on leveraging core competencies, I was still amazed at how well she was able to encapsulate the true value of a reseller in the whole sales/development and implementation of a voice/data project.
In her most recent article on January 10th, entitled Finding Those Channel Partners Headed for Success, Pam talked about the difficulties vendors have had in converting the channel to selling UC and other business solutions from the traditional model that we have seen of selling straight data and telephony. Changing the way that a reseller sells from boxes to software, applications, and complete solutions is one half of the battle. The other is changing the mindset of the customer too.
In support of that, I thought I’d chime in on the value proposition that resellers have, for better understanding by the end user. So I called up John Cognata, at SOFTEL, and asked him a number of questions as to what SOFTEL is seeing for 2011, what types of things customers are asking for, and what SOFTEL brings to the party for the customer. I decided it would be fun to do an interview, and here are the results:
Nancy: “John, what is the general feeling you and your colleagues at SOFTEL have about business in 2011?”
John: “We at SOFTEL are cautiously optimistic for a number of reasons. The economy really never slowed down in our space, and we have seen a lot of churn from old to new technology, particularly with the changes at Avaya and Cisco. And where spending didn’t slow, the way that money was being spent in 2010 changed. Some projects were put off, and more had to be justified. Also, larger organizations were the first to cut capital expenditures, and yet what we saw in 2010 and now is a trend for technology to be upgraded and improved. We also see where there is a shift happening where social media is taking the attention of the enterprise too. Previously social media was consumer driven, but it is now being brought in by the enterprise, so we have added that to the technology mix.”
Nancy: “What types of solutions are your customers asking for these days other than social media? “
“Social media is clearly an area we are seeing a lot more opportunity in. But we are also seeing growth in SIP technology as well. SIP is all part of leveraging the Telco network to drive more cost- effective value to the customer. Historically you had CPE technology, but how can you deliver that to the cloud? With SIP being a protocol it is a whole lot cleaner and better. You can tie in voice, with messaging, and multimedia, and mobility. SIP is helping facilitate the true value of UC, and enhancing the value of the network for making it easier for applications to be offered across multiple locations across the enterprise.
We are also seeing tremendous opportunity in hosted, SaaS solutions as well, particularly in the government sector. Essentially what we are seeing is in government, especially in state agencies, where there is very little money to spend, but they still need services and they need to upgrade, replace or add technology. There is a lot of activity there. So we are using SaaS as a way to replace, or add. SaaS is a more cost effective way for them to upgrade technology without going through the whole capital expenditure scenario.
SaaS is also growing because vendors, particularly the Telcos are trying to drive more network revenues and they see SaaS as a way forward. They are benefiting from situations where state agencies don’t have a way to spend, so they need to look at solutions and ways to make it affordable for agencies to upgrade solutions. It’s almost two worlds colliding in a perfect way. You have Telcos investing in SaaS services to add values to their networks, and state agencies that need to upgrade services and refresh technology, but don’t have the budgets to fund capital expenditures. So they turn to pay as you go. So the economy and the dire situation that the agencies are in is driving growth in SaaS.”
Nancy: “John, you mentioned Telcos, but they are only one partner of yours. The equipment providers, such as Cisco and Avaya are also partners, so how do your partnerships play out?”
The Cisco, Avayas, and others are all intertwined. They sell to the Telcos who sell to the end user customers. They are creating SaaS services through the channels, primarily Telcos. So the Telcos engage us to implement the services, and customize the solutions. We take business processes and align them with technology. A Cisco, Avaya, or Genesys will provide technology to cloud-based customers, such as Telcos. But at the end of the day, there is always an element of business process optimization, etc. that you have to do to take those cloud services and customize them for the customer, and that requires the kind of service SOFTEL delivers.
While the Telcos have their own professional services, the value we bring is that we are quicker, less expensive, and have multi-platform experience, and a large percent of customers have multiple platforms within an enterprise. So our intent is not to sell products so much as to make the technology work for the customer. It’s not to say that we don’t have close relationships with our partners, such as Cisco and Avaya, – we do. It’s that we aren’t in the business of reselling just one product or another from our partners. Our core business is getting the solution to work for the customer, no matter which platform or combination of vendor applications and products. In addition, we also have the expertise to create solutions or products or our own to supplement partner products when there is a need.
Our core value is in systems integration and solutions integration, and our value is to remove the pain and make it work.
Nancy: “John, thank you so much for taking the time to be my reseller guinea pig on the value of the reseller.”