Review of 2012
2012 will be remembered as the year the Olympics came to Britain – although for the Channel, this is not likely to be a happy memory, with many projects being held up until after the games had ended. However, the good news is that 2012 was overall a stronger year, with the prevailing “if it isn’t broke don’t replace it” strategy employed by many potential customers finally fading.
This has proved particularly true for Unified Communications (UC) technology, with the warnings around congestion from this year’s Olympics bringing its advantages to the fore, with UC software selling in larger scale environments than ever this year in the channel.
This shows the movement from UC’s usual home in the SMB space into the 250-1000 user mid-market. These companies are opening up to the concept of UC - to keep their costs down as well as to keep pace with their smaller rivals. Integration with key productivity software such as Microsoft’s Outlook has become more important than ever as these larger companies investigate UC.
Sneak preview: 2013
Whilst we certainly are not out of the recession-fueled business climate, it is great to see 2012 as a year highlighted by a general trend towards investment in IT than by a few isolated success stories as we saw in 2011. In particular, there are a few opportunities for the channel to take advantage of that deserve a more in-depth look:
Let’s begin with the obvious: The cloud is still continuing to turn from hype to a real and tangible offering to customers.
I believe we are now firmly at the stage where the technology itself is mature and generally accepted as safe – the problem is it will not “sell itself”. The cloud is in many ways the biggest challenge and opportunity for the Channel’s sales teams: the company that can deliver a clear and understandable solution will reap the benefits in 2013.
This will likely mean a greater degree of sales personalisation than ever before. The channel will have to move to become experts that can guide the customer to the correct cloud solution, as well as clearly detail the commercial advantages which ultimately secure a sale.
Bring your own device (BYOD) is another well-known enterprise trend that simply continues to gather momentum. The amount of devices that now connect and interact with a company, both internally and externally - continues to balloon upwards. With connectivity and bandwidth generally increasing on these devices, monitoring and regulating these devices is one of the greatest challenges an IT department now faces, and one the channel is well prepared to meet.
I personally see this as a huge opportunity in 2013. With a huge range of devices and operating systems set to compete more fiercely than ever for consumer attention, this will inevitably become an enterprise problem. This large variety of operating systems and display formats will make a client agnostic, flexible solution critical for the channel to then be able to take advantage of BYOD in 2013.
Finally, the channel has a real opportunity to add value in this space: seamlessly integrating BYOD into an enterprise environment remains a tricky technological challenge. The channel partners that are able to address customers concerns around security, network capacity and availability by working closely with vendors will make significant gains in this space in 2013.
Finally, and somewhat specifically, there is SIP Trunking. An alternative to the traditional ISDN line, SIP Trunking has been undersold in previous years, but the barriers towards this are lifting. The price of bandwidth is reducing rapidly as availability increases, and in line with this it appears that guaranteed Service Level Agreements (SLA) are becoming both more common and coming in at a lower cost to the customer.
This, combined with the lower calling costs, transferrable dialing codes and other benefits of SIP Trunking could mean that 2013 is the year the technology really takes off, especially in the Call Centre market.
2013 appears a great opportunity for the Channel, much more so than previous years that have been embattled by a global recession and the Olympics. The first signs of progress are being seen as the crucial mid-market opens up to innovative cloud and communications technologies, a trend I see continuing as we head into 2013.