Cutting Room: Vodafone rallies channel to its cause


Vodafone looks to hook the dealer and reseller market up to its vision of advanced sales and unified communications, rather than wait for it to eventually come around

Certain things appear clearer on the road to this promised land of converged communications, where the sales channel is supposed to finally emerge from its difficult period of consolidation and cleansing as a conduit for advanced technology solutions. Where this old talk of ‘adding value’ and moving ‘beyond box-shifting’ will at last have meaning.

Firstly, and crucially, we are not there yet. We are, however, gaining speed along the road, and some are ready even to signal for the decisive turning. Vodafone is one.

“The channel is ready,” said its enterprise director Peter Kelly last month. “We are at the tipping point. The tipping point is right now.”

Vodafone, which has an expanding family of unified communications products to hype, considers this market essential to it reasserting buoyancy as leader and innovator in the UK.

Its brand in the business market, arguably its strongest asset, is being put against it – and also very carefully into the hands of selected third parties.

It is a very serious statement of intent from Vodafone, and the fruit of at least three years’ grafting and editing, and frustrated expectation for its ‘partners’.

But why is it the tipping point now, and is the market really ready? Because this does not just concern Vodafone and its partners.

Three things appear to encourage certain market protagonists.

Handsets have got clever with BlackBerry, iPhone and Android, and the broad user market appears receptive to mobile as a tool.

There is an urgency within the industry itself to find new revenues to replace fast-receding ones.

And there is a requirement within businesses now, because of the economic climate, to re-examine their cost bases and working methods, presenting a very clear opening for salesmen.

But are salesmen ready? Vodafone’s view is very different to O2’s, one supposes.

O2’s convergence-lite Joined Up proposition is an expanded and neatly-packaged box to shift, which its dealers have received very well.

Vodafone’s is a more complex solution, and if the unified message from its dealers (click here) says anything, it is that Vodafone has gone further and started to hook up its channels to its coaches, rather than wait for them to be ready.

For it, the riches of success might be bigger potentially, but the price of failure is higher also.