Parallel Lines: Unified comms – who’s winning the race?

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Abzorb managing director Mike Walsh says the market will really start to take off and create new opportunities once there is a truly unified product-set from operators

‘Convergence’ and ‘unified comms’ are buzz words in the industry that have been doing the rounds for a long time. It seems to me different businesses in different quarters are taking different approaches to the new technology emerging, and to ways to convert to new tangible and profitable business models.

Players with foresight have already built a product portfolio of fixed, mobile and IT-led services and see the ‘cloud’ as a key component also. Essentially, all these types of products can be pulled together to create total solutions for businesses. It’s interesting to observe the different approaches from players in each core background.

Fixed-line resellers, for example, come from a background of selling PBXs, lines and calls. But they have started to recognise the role of mobile and IT in the provision of hosted IP products.

Mobile dealers have been driven for too long by connection numbers and little else. They have been slow to take a unified approach, and to integrate fixed line and IT products alongside their core portfolio. They are off the pace compared with fixed-line resellers.

The same can be said of them in comparison to IT and hosted ‘cloud’ services companies. They recognise the combination of fixed and mobile provision alongside their core expertise represents a fantastic opportunity to expand their sales. They have considerable technical expertise already.

These three sectors, all with different views on the market because of their backgrounds, initially are embracing the same converging product and services portfolios, albeit at different paces.

But do the offers that these players are putting together represent unified communications or a cobbled-together hotch-potch
of convergence?

Network operators can be quite sophisticated in their commercial approach to the market, and some have bolted together communications in imaginative ways. But for unified communications to really succeed, these operators must deliver more complete and robust offers to their sales channels.

Once we have a truly unified product-set from this level of operator source, then sales, revenue and profit will accelerate and create a new growth curve for the market.

The challenges for these three sectors are clear: recognising the need for an extended product portfolio and embracing the unified approach is one thing, but also introducing new products and services to your business and acquiring the expertise to go with them. This last element is the most difficult to achieve.

To imbed the necessary product knowledge into a business is commonly tackled with training of existing sales and back-office staff. Customer service elements are always key, recruitment of product specialists is a popular approach, too.

Given the complexity of the unified product range, technical support is vital and if done  well can provide a key selling point and differentiator. Whichever way, the journey is a difficult one.

But sales organisations need also to change their entire strategy and culture. There is no fast-track solution. Really interesting times are ahead. There will be successes in all sectors, and those who deliver quality products with quality technical support and customer service will always win.

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