Moving unified communications (UC) into the cloud has produced a dizzying range of UC options, but one industry player believes customers are missing out as resellers and integrators cling to outdated service delivery models that limit choice.
Those models, Tradewinds Technology Brokerage ANZ vice president Tony Heywood believes, evolved years ago when resellers focused on building vertically integrated solutions using a handful of products from one or a few vendors.
“Companies call themselves trusted advisors,” he explains, “but how can they be a trusted advisor if they’ve only got one brand?”
The approach may have served its purpose by helping resellers constrain staffing, training, and investment requirements – but it left customers choosing from a limited array of solutions that may not have suited the size or sophistication of their business requirements.
Now that the unified communications market has transitioned to being almost completely based on cloud-based services – a model known as UC as a service (UCaaS) – it has become much easier for resellers and managed service providers (MSPs) to mix and match hundreds of cloud-based options into a solution that suits each customer’s requirements.
The new model has shifted the burden of technical integration and service administration away from the channel, allowing partners to mix and match appropriate solutions no matter what vendor they come from or which inhouse skills they have.
Tradewinds supports those partners as an intermediary, maintaining relationships with multiple vendors and facilitating a commissions structure that rewards resellers and MSPs for customer referrals.
Channel partners earn evergreen commissions that are, because they don’t require ongoing support, 100 percent profit for as long as the customer continues paying for the service.
“From a partner point of view, the model is very simple,” says Heywood, who several years ago joined Tradewinds – formerly known as Telarus – with a remit to build out an ANZ channel for digital products.
“They’re identifying and qualifying rather than identifying, qualifying, selling, supporting, implementing, managing, and invoicing.”
“That means they can spend a lot more time finding new opportunities rather than implementing opportunities – so their cost of sale is almost zero once they’ve qualified an opportunity.”
Building a broader service offering
Set up when the model was still in its startup stages, Tradewinds has expanded its partner network – and its service offerings – dramatically in the years since.
Although UCaaS solutions such as voice, collaboration and contact centre platforms still lead the conversation, Heywood says, Tradewinds has also built strong relationships with providers of hosted SD-WAN, security, connectivity, and infrastructure services.
The result is a menu of solutions from nearly 40 locally supported vendors including telecommunications bellwethers like Avaya, Vonage and Mitel as well as infrastructure operators like Equinix and Megaport, collaboration vendors like GoTo and Zoom, and cybersecurity firms such as IGI, eSentire, and ThreatProtector.
There are contact centre as a service (CCaaS) options, cloud services, a full roster of UCaaS options, and more – providing a menu of premium services that resellers and MSPs can use to construct full solutions without figuring out how to support them.
The Australian infrastructure as a service (IaaS) market was worth around $1.74b last year and the percentage of hybrid cloud users expected to grow from 65 percent to 85 percent.
That makes it a significant part of an overall cloud service market that grew by 37 percent last year to be worth $252b ($US178b) worldwide.
By 2025, Gartner has predicted, more than half of enterprise IT spending will have shifted to the cloud – compared to 41 percent this year.
At that point, the firm has predicted, around 66 percent of enterprise IT spending on application software will have shifted toward cloud technologies – up from 57.7 percent this year.
This type of growth has made Heywood bullish about the prospects for the Tradewinds model, which he says is all about upside to the channel without the risk of former integration-based business models.
Channel partners “are no longer dependent upon having expertise in the supplier that they’re representing,” he explains, noting that having brokered access to many brands frees channel partners from “wedging” customer requirements into one of a small number of solutions that they support.
“Not all platforms are the same and UCaaS isn’t necessarily addressable from one user to 1000 users with every platform,” Heywood says. “Because our channel partners are used to a resale environment, it’s a very different experience.”
Because cloud-based solutions are being continually upgraded by their developers, customers embracing UCaaS, CCaaS and other cloud-hosted solutions are likely to remain customers for much longer than when they would previously ditch an old solution and jump to another reseller.
“Our goal for partners is to help them develop recurring incomes that are extremely solid and resilient and last a long time,” Heywood says. “We’re finding that in the cloud space, particularly with UCaaS, average customer length is increasing all the time.”
“In the past, they would normally upgrade their phone system once every four to seven years – but in this model, it’s the last phone system they’ll ever have to buy.”