A world-renowned technology company, known for their innovative contributions to the communications and collaboration market, Unify have been changing the way we connect with each other for several years now. As part of our UC Insights 2018 series, we caught up with Rob Wiles, the Channel Sales Director for Unify in the UK and Ireland.
Rob shared with us the lessons that Unify have learned during the era of digital transformation (DX) that began in 2017, as well as offering some insights into what strategies the brand will put into place for the year ahead.
How Do You Help Partners and Customers Succeed?
In today’s competitive business marketplace, vendors like Unify need to support and facilitate their channel partners if they want to achieve incredible things. I asked Rob what the brand had been doing over 2017 to help their partners and customers succeed:
“2017 for Unify has been all about the shift away from being a direct business, into becoming an “indirect channel business”. At the start of the year, we only had a single digit percentage of our sales in direct. By the end of the year, we’ll have 90% of our revenue coming from channel partners. We’ve taken our company on an incredible shift behind channel partners to help them grow, particularly in midmarket and the cloud.”
This year of transition has been a very successful one for Unify, as they’ve focused on taking their partners with them on a journey of digital transformation.
“My job now is to keep the sales moving upwards, and get the strategy moving along quicker.”
What Have You Learned from 2017?
The last year has brought with it a lot of important changes to the unified communications sector. There’s been plenty of consolidation, tons of disruption, and lots of new emerging vendors to consider. I asked Rob what challenges 2017 had brought to Unify, and what they had learned from their experiences throughout the year.
“I think that we’re looking back on 2017 as a year of consolidation, with a lot of significant acquisitions that have the potential to change everything for new and traditional vendors alike. We’re competing with names that I’ve never heard of before, so it’s been a very good and interesting share. It’s been good to watch as a company that was acquired a while ago by Atos, we’re keen to see how other people move through the transition.”
With so much competition in the marketplace, Rob went on to suggest that there’s a “race to the bottom” happening in the current hosted provider marketplace.
“I think partners have struggled to differentiate this year. You can either explain why your system adds value, or you can just join the spiral to the bottom. We’re focusing on the value drive at Unify.”
What Opportunities and Challenges Do You Predict for 2018?
The future is brimming with potential from a unified communications perspective. We’ve got everything from interoperability, to cloud computing and security to think about. I asked Rob what he predicted we would see in the future of UC&C, as it continues to move up a CIO’s priority list: “I think we’ve done the journey with Unified Communications now, and the next step is collaboration. We’re moving outside of the traditional telephony marketplace or conversation.”
For Unify, 2018 seems to be the year of collaboration, something that naturally leads to a future of digital transformation:
“Collaboration can be in opening or closing a conversation with a customer. It scales all ways and involves all the strategies a partner uses to interact with an end-user. It could be a separate messaging platform or a telephony conferencing platform. Collaboration means different things to different people, which means that our partners have a lot of conversations and stimulate a lot of new opportunities.”
Rob went on to say that Unify’s focus is on enabling digital transformation strategies for their partners.
“The first step in the digital journey is moving to the cloud, and that’s our theme for the next year. We’re looking for ways that we can enable digital transformation and make it easier for our partners.”
“After all, our responsibility as a vendor is to show our channel partners the way, while giving them everything they need to take advantage of our skill set and portfolio.”
As the cloud becomes an ever-more important part of the digital strategy for many companies, Unify feels that they’re in a great position to really differentiate themselves:
“We’re lucky in the UK too, as we have a mature cloud telephony background. Most vendors have a lot of hosted telephony partners who need to start thinking about how they can re-monetize when contracts come to an end and take their customers on a digital transformation journey.”
What Are Your Top Tips for Partners in 2018?
Finally, I was interested to know what tips and advice Rob had to offer Unify partners when it came to addressing the evolving nature of the UC world for 2018. The first point he wanted to draw attention to was differentiation:
“Partners need to think about how they can take their product portfolio and turn it into something truly ownable. Whether that means creating a service wrap, a journey, or anything else that sets you apart from your competitors is up to you. I think that partners simply need to avoid the race to the bottom.”
Interestingly, Rob also drew attention to the upcoming BroadSoft and Cisco deal as an issue to be aware of.
Finally, our Unify representative offered some useful advice on security and privacy in the year ahead: “Of course, partners need to keep an eye on compliance too. GDPR is quickly approaching, and it’s not just about being able to meet a standard, it’s going to change the way our partners market to their customers.”
“We talk about the digital journey, and that journey must start with a digital relationship. GDPR is going to change the way that your customers buy technology, so partners need to be aligned with that, and understand their customer’s needs.”
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