The collaboration factor

Resellers must target a full set of collaboration and delivery goals if they are to catch the eye of ICT buyers in the future, says Atos Global Director for Solution Management Darren Gallagher.

In UCaaS, like all other areas of the ICT market, channel partners face certain change as technology reaches yet another inflection point, a juncture at which tech has become a true enabler of agility and competitive advantage. “We are at a point where machines can learn how to offload some of the day-to-day burden from their users and provide rich insights into what we should be focused on and why,” stated Gallagher. “Analytics can provide organisational wide cues on what the hot topics are, surfacing trends from customer conversations. Continued integration and automation of business workflows and processes, and how virtual assistants, AI and bots can boost the overall experience are trends of interest in this space.”

From a long-term strategy and planning perspective, vendors, providers and partner resellers that understand how these new use cases are realised will be highly sought after, believes Gallagher. “Those who can exploit the low latency and speed of 5G, those who know how to humanise and automate interactions between people and machines, and those who crack how to seamlessly integrate these advancements inside business workflows will flourish,” he said.

This is not a time to dither: Team collaboration is requested more than ever, especially in those countries that experienced early iterations of UCaaS, noted Gallagher.” The native functionalities of modern team collaboration such as audio and video conferencing, file and screen sharing, white boarding and recording are now seen as critical and differentiating versus those early UCaaS offerings,” he added. “Service providers are also looking at how they can differentiate and improve their customer loyalty and intimacy. Team collaboration offerings with persistent file and messaging embedded with conversation data can ensure strong retention rates in this space.”

Continued integration and automation of business workflows and processes, and how virtual assistants, AI and bots can boost the overall experience are trends of interest in this space

A closer look at the UCaaS and team collaboration markets reveals differing functional demands, adoption rates and pricing tolerance characteristics at regional and even local country levels, noted Gallagher. “Some countries in Europe are price sensitive when it comes to UCaaS services, often because they were early adopters of the first iterations and therefore have limited expectations of UCaaS, using bundled services that fill the capability gaps, such as triple play offers,” he explained.

“Some countries demonstrate strong loyalty to their local telecom providers and so vendors need to factor in those routes to market to meet that expectation. North America is a huge market but has an equally enormous cost of customer acquisition due to the sheer number of competitive vendors – more than 120 at the last count – despite the recent consolidation over the last few years.”
The one thing that cuts across these differences in market dynamics is that collaboration centricity is universally key, providing access to people, data and things through social, IoT and other data sources, while commercial flexibility is offered via a variety of different models from perpetual licensing to subscriptions and usage-based models and beyond, observed Gallagher.

“From a global perspective, customers are challenging and encouraging system integrator partners to take more responsibility and offer innovation that demonstrates joint leadership positions in partnership with the customer,” he added. “This often includes commercial investments and shared risk-reward agreements where both parties are invested in success, often targeting the acquisition of new revenue streams together.”

Building differentiated or truly vertical solutions to provide a complete package that blends partner expertise with customer data and collaborative workflows will increase loyalty and mitigate against churn, noted Gallagher. Atos is also enabling new conversations about video and adding a specialist service engineering offering. “We are refining how Circuit, our SaaS-based team collaboration platform, builds and grows communities and how it integrates with other applications through upgrading our provisioning, automation and management for partners,” added Gallagher.

He also noted that it’s no longer about buying ‘the thing’ but about buying the experience. Therefore Atos is currently focused on evolving its technology – the platforms and technology stacks – to ensure integration, interoperability and migration fluidity. “CPaaS and API consumption is becoming less complex through low and no-code tooling and is one of the areas where partners can demonstrate they are a vital part of the customer value chain,” said Gallagher. “If partners are not already investigating how they can embed collaborative technologies and combine their speciality in their customers’ workflow then I would suggest this deserves deep consideration.”

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