The days of unified communications (UC) being solely for the enterprise are long gone. Today, the majority of SMEs can benefit from UC, and the channel can also get in on the deal.
SMEs are more nimble than their enterprise compatriots. It is partly down to this agility that these businesses find themselves able to push technological change and innovation through faster. Yet, for this to be an advantage to the SME, it needs to be the right kind of tech solution, at the right time, to ensure ROI.
Due to the demands of small business service delivery — in which people often wear more than one ‘hat’ — and the increasing number of companies that are adopting flexible working, SMEs often have a largely mobile workforce. At the same time, they are under immense pressure to to deliver seamless customer experiences, in order to remain competitive, and have to be able to provide new ways for their mobile workforces to keep connected. Enter UC. The right UC solution can offer an SME more flexible service delivery options, not to mention enabling new ways of working, higher productivity and collaboration for and amongst staff.
Yet, the majority of SMEs today do not have the right UC solution in place. They operate on disparate, often unconnected, communications platforms. This can lead to a great deal of frustration amongst employees, who desire to stay connected and engaged with colleagues and clients alike. To right this wrong, the problem of course is that many SMEs do not have the in-house ability, or are not technologically savvy enough, to identify that they need UC as a solution, not to mention what products, providers or services they will need.
This is where the channel community can take a step up. Those that are partnered with innovative UC vendors, who have a passion for and understanding of working with small businesses, have a real opportunity. They can help SMEs revolutionise and modernise their communications infrastructure. They can introduce these small businesses to everything from simple telecoms to specialised systems that will help them to engage and collaborate better with their supply chains, customers and even their employees.
Being able to deliver the best UC solution for the SME community comes down to understanding the complexities of the small business. Channel partners, VARs and resellers alike, need to know what sales and communications tools these businesses already have, whether they have been deployed at different times, and if they are actually being utilised at their full-potential. This is critical, because the majority of existing systems can often be streamlined or overhauled to deliver something ultimately better. For the channel community, this is where the opportunity lies. As many of them are small businesses themselves, they will have first-hand experience of the challenges their potential clients face. This gives them the chance to become a critical and strategic business partner to the SME, providing invaluable guidance to the client during a time of rapid transformation.
UC for the SME
Implementing a UC platform can be very disruptive and expensive for any business if not done right the first time — something SMEs generally cannot afford. So, it’s critical for SMEs to choose the right channel partners to work with. At the same time, the channel partner will have to accept that there will be more pressure from the SME to do things faster than there is from larger organisations. That comes down to their own maneuverability and aspirations.
It is therefore important that the right technology solution for the SME fulfils this requirement. Some elements of the platform need to come pre-configured with basic UC out of the box, that is simple to deploy, fully scalable, and offers the easiest path to rolling out full, IP-based UC across the company’s user base. It also has to enable employees of SMEs, especially those companies that have multiple mobile workers, to access their communications solution, from wherever they are, at any time — keeping them in touch with their colleagues but also their clients and suppliers.
Ultimately, the right UC solution for the SME will be simple and yet powerful. It will also be user-friendly, and easy for the channel community to sell onto the SME market.
It’s all about ROI
To be of value to the SME community, channel players need to recognise that UC for the SME can become an important revenue stream for them. If they partner with the right vendor — who has technology solutions geared and designed for the SME — resellers can exponentially expand their business. This is because they can very easily create a sub-division within their businesses focused on this market within their existing UC portfolio. And, for those resellers not focused on the UC market but still serving SMEs, it provides an opportunity to expand their business and generate more recurring services revenue.
Another great thing about UC for SMEs is that it can also help resellers to overcome the traditional ‘feast or famine’ cycle of traditional reselling. This is because UC is increasingly moving into the cloud –– SMEs are often the early adopters of this type of technology, giving partners recurring revenue opportunities.
It all comes down to partnerships
Beyond seeing the opportunity for more revenue, channel partners also have to ensure they are in the right vendor partnership. The right partnership will not only provide the reseller with the most future-proofed and innovative technology for the SME market, but will also help train them on the intricacies of selling UC to the SME, whilst developing their team’s skills by showing them how to sell additional services.
To build a successful SME practice, channel partners need to focus on establishing partnerships with vendors that have a vision for the future of UC, and, more importantly, collaboration. The right partnership will, through education and constant development of products and services, help the channel to develop a winning sales narrative. This will open the doors to recurring revenues and higher margins.
UC today is for all businesses, whether large and small. The channel has a real chance to help the SME community become more connected, deliver new ways of working and enable true collaboration and higher productivity.
Rob Keenan, Head of Portfolio Readiness and Growth UK and EMEAR, Unify
Image Credit: Shutterstock/Brian A Jackson