Special Report: Why it’s time to remodel UC strategies

The future look of the channel’s UC and collaboration market winners is being reshaped according to industry experts at BT Wholesale’s Partner Plus event staged 28th February, Birmingham. A key insight session also emphasised significant UC-based growth opportunities and spotlighted the market trends that resellers would be wise to strategically consider today.

The UC market is becoming more multifaceted, increasingly competitive and a growing area of strategic importance for ICT resellers and MSPs, therefore picking the right strategy will be key to standing out from the pack and securing long-term success. And according to Gareth Bleasdale, Modern Workplace Lead, Microsoft, there are opportunities to deliver product categories into customers (including SMB) that didn’t even exist 12 months ago. “Think about how you can start that relationship by delivering a critical workload to a customer, like calling, then extending to tools such as AI-based meetings, generative AI like Copilot, cloud PC and videoconferencing,” he stated. “These are mechanisms to attach high revenue, high margin services and to build an ongoing customer relationship.”

Given the fast rate of market change Bleasdale also noted the importance of experimentation and agility. “Technology is evolving rapidly and the message to consumers is changing,” he added. “How we articulate the benefits and create commercial models is ripe for creativity. So explore different models and see what works.”

While the definition of UC is broadening and the opportunity to consider a range of models is growing, reseller and MSP challenges remain in terms of truly understanding customer use cases. This is proving to be a major block to higher cloud migration levels, believes Andrew Small, Director of Voice, BT. He strongly advocates a customer approach that is personalised to particular needs rather than delivering a pre-configured package off the shelf. “I speak to a lot of customers, big, small and medium, and use cases are key,” he stated.

“It’s easy to think that businesses are doing the same thing but the details around the edge are very different. Their business cases are not the same. Even within verticals use cases differ. We must collectively understand these nuances because the reason that many businesses haven’t moved to cloud is in their use case. Making sure we understand that is important.”

Cloud shift
Small noted that half of the market still hasn’t moved to the cloud but he believes that over the coming five years most of them will migrate. “In terms of opportunities, that is the big one,” he added. “Furthermore, people are working in more places while others are returning to offices that may not be equipped to give them as good an experience as working from home. This technology provision trend will also arrive at an equilibrium over the coming years. Companies of all sizes want their people to be more productive, more motivated and collaborate better – AI will help with that, as well as have an impact on security.”

Technology is evolving rapidly, the message to consumers is changing and how we articulate the benefits and create commercial models is ripe for creativity. So explore different approaches and see what works

Another key trend is the growing requirement for resellers to manage multifaceted priorities and strike the right balance between current and future customer demands, observed Jacob Brown, Head of Product, Daisy Communications. “Customers are presenting service providers with more complex requests, prompting the need for greater flexibility in their offerings,” he stated. “Additionally, there’s a call for service providers to simplify their plans to better accommodate customer demands, while ensuring that their products can effectively meet the evolving needs of their growing client base.”

According to James Macpherson, Collaboration Lead, Cisco, the coming five years will see the rise and adoption of ‘amazing immersive experiences’. “Most of the AI we are familiar with is text-based, where the AI looks at messages, email and documents,” he explained. “But with recent announcements around real-time media modules AI is expanding into audio and video. In the context of a meeting or conversation AI could look at body language, tone of voice, facial expressions and inflections. The tools that could be developed around understanding what occurred in a meeting and summarising are exciting.”

Macpherson also pointed to the rise of AI codecs where AI segments the speech elements of a conversation and manages the amount of bandwidth required for crystal clear audio, meaning up to 20 per cent less bandwidth while still getting super high quality audio. “Similarly, generative AI video codecs are doing the same for super high resolution video,” he stated. “The ability for us to deliver these high quality experiences to customers is not far away.”

Brown agrees that AI codecs will be ‘massive from a UC perspective’ but he also raised the question of whether many SMBs have the budget to invest in the next wave of AI-driven UC innovation. “AI is everywhere but we are seeing especially in the UC market that the price point isn’t there yet,” he cautioned. “Moreover, poor adoption of AI can have catastrophic impacts, therefore education is key.”

Education across the board is a strong driver of useful adoption and there is a significant opportunity for resellers and MSPs to make their mark by combining a programme of education with lifecycle service provision, according to Macpherson. He pointed out that in many cases the customer doesn’t really understand what they’ve bought, how to use and get the best out of their investment and expand the solution across their organisation.

“That makes renewal much harder,” he commented. “There is a whole raft of cloud technology we are offering and we need to ensure it is easy to buy, easy to deploy and easy to use. So make sure you are supporting customers not just around the sale but the whole life cycle. If we can help and support customers to fully adopt their solutions it creates a much stickier service and leads to a much easier and more valuable renewal.”

Bleasdale believes that a compelling UC and collaboration proposition will also help to overcome cloud solution inertia on the part of SMBs. “For many of these customers voice is a standalone application and we have to ask why that is,” he stated. “For some the return isn’t quite there. But we can offer a fundamentally different experience through UC and collaboration that, for example, enables real-time translation for non-English speakers, or enables contextual recall to jog minds on what has been said in a phone conversation.

“These types of features are helpful and the experiences are impactful for a business. AI and the contextualised use of AI brought together inside a platform that securely protects data is a great channel opportunity.”


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